Finding your Olive – marginal gains in business

aggregation of marginal gains in business find olive

We are all looking for ways to get our business to the next level – that step-change that increases sales and profits beyond our current horizons.  The truth is that for many small businesses that is elusive – we don’t know what it is – possibly costly, and probably time-consuming.

We can seek inspiration in the world of elite sport – and particularly British Cycling – and the concept of the Aggregation of Marginal Gains.

Team GB was already performing well at the top level – but wanted to reach higher.  All the teams had the obvious in their sights – a Better Bike or whatever.  However what British Cycling did, with Sir Dave Brailsford at the helm, was to look at things in a different way.

The Aggregation of Marginal Gains hardly trips off the tongue – but essentially it means that lots of tiny improvements, over time, will contribute a huge boost to performance.

In the cycling example, making a huge change to a bike is costly and takes a lot of time, but making a small change can happen quickly and easily, and could shave a few milliseconds off a lap – over many laps that can make a difference.  Now improve the helmet, the suit, the shoes, the socks.  A few more milliseconds per item – which now multiplies up over several laps to maybe half a second.  And at that level – that’s the difference between a Gold medal and Silver.

We mustn’t forget the athletes’ diet and nutrition, training plans, conditioning, rest, all the factors – each of which can gain another few milliseconds per lap. 

And that’s it – lots of tiny marginal gains, all added up – Aggregated – to make a big difference!

So it is in business.  There is the opportunity to make small changes – to save time, or reduce costs – which will aggregate to bring bigger returns!

If you can save 10-12 minutes a day on a task – that’s an hour saved a week!  If you work 48 weeks of the year that’s the equivalent of 6 working days.  What’s your day rate?? So if, for example, you could find a tool that could save you that time, would it be worth it?  Even if it was £10/month?

If you are a manufacturer or in hospitality then don’t overlook the possibility of making huge savings simply by cutting back on one ingredient or component – or eliminate wastage.  Often that might be a case of simply weighing or measuring instead of guessing.  McDonalds allow something like 7g of ketchup per burger.  I’m not saying you should downgrade the quality of your product  – just use the optimal quantity.

So – finding your olive?!  In the 80s American Airlines worked out that if they removed one single olive from every salad the customers wouldn’t notice.  They did so and saved $100k a year!  What small changes can you make in your business that will bring a great return.  And if you can’t find one single thing, then make small changes to a number of things and watch the savings tot up.

finding your olive - save time and money in business gains

So what’s your Olive? You might like to spend some time thinking about how a small amount of time or money saved will add up over time?


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