Decluttering has recently become a popular phenomenon brought on by Marie Kondo, an organizing consultant and author from Tokyo, who wrote the bestseller, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing in 2014.
Marie Kondo’s book was such a hit, that it even sparked a Netflix original series titled Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. In each episode of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo helps a family declutter and organize their space by following the self described KonMari method, in which belongings are decluttered by item type rather than location.
Marie Kondo’s recommended order is:
4. Komono (This encompasses kitchen, bathroom, and garage items as well as anything miscellaneous)
5. Sentimental items
The goal is to then look at each possession and determine if it “sparks joy.” A key part of this process is to think about “your ideal lifestyle and the life you aspire to live” and ask yourself “does this item have a place in that vision?”
Kondo’s show and overarching philosophy and attitude towards organization has proven to be useful for many on a personal level, even going so far as to spark a wave of increased donations to thrift stores. However, as I watched the show, I found myself thinking about how I could relate this to entrepreneurship and small businesses as a whole.
KonMari for Your Business
I then realized, that just like it is important to keep your literal space decluttered and organized, the same can be said in a metaphorical sense for your small business. While in the literal sense, it can be tempting to simply get rid of certain tasks that do not “spark joy” such as reconciling your receipts, making sure your calendar is up to date, or cleaning out your email inbox, ultimately, they still need to get done to ensure the success of your business.
Additionally, while those things have to be completed, they don’t necessarily have to be completed by you. However, not everyone is in a position to outsource more tedious elements of their small business.
So, what do I mean by keeping what sparks joy in your business?
If we take Marie Kondo’s methodology and apply it to our small business, we can transform it from focusing on literal objects to looking at what we are made of and what we offer. By regularly taking an inventory of everything to see if it “sparks joy” for your business you can see opportunities for optimization. Often, we can get bogged down in the many options that exist and try to offer something that we are not.
As an extreme example, imagine a restaurant that tried to expand their offerings by offering oil change services right in the dining area. I think it would be safe to say that they would not be a good restaurant nor a good place to take your car to!
In fact, throughout the course of researching for this article, I found that I was not the only one who had a similar thought. There are many entrepreneurs who subscribe to what is generally referred to as Lean Thinking and focus on the “3Ps” or People, Process, and Product. One of the most notable among them being CEO Marcus Lemonis of CNBC’s The Profit. Additionally, Tom Ehrenfeld, a Senior Editor at the Lean Enterprise Institute, even wrote a book review of Tidying Up in 2014! I think that Tom Ehrenfeld summarized it very well in his book review, “The point is not to be tidy as endgame; the point is to tidy up in order to get to where you want to go.” By keeping the things that “spark joy” or add value to your small business, you can really begin to thrive.
An Entrepreneurial KonMari
Instead of the earlier categories for a household, by focusing on the following three categories, you can optimize your small business by seeing what “sparks joy.”
Of the “three Ps,” this one is perhaps the trickiest to think about in terms of the KonMari method. Certainly we don’t want to “throw away” people! And you don’t need to read an article to tell you that if someone isn’t doing the work they need to, that it can be detrimental to your business.
In keeping with my earlier example of a restaurant doing oil changes in the dining area, imagine if you had your head chef now working as a mechanic. Unless they were particularly interested in cars previously, the odds are that they would not be good in that role. Additionally, the mechanic would probably not be the best person to manage the kitchen if they have no experience cooking in a commercial setting before. By making sure everyone involved is performing something that plays to their strengths, they can do the best job possible which is a win for everyone!
Processes are often the unsung hero of a small business. We might not think of processes very frequently but they are what determines how we carry out what we need to do to ensure that our customers are receiving the value we are promising we can deliver.
At our “Oil Change Restaurant,” a pretty glaring area for improvement is that the oil changes are being done right in the dining area! While it goes without saying why this is not a good idea, looking at this and thinking that the automotive work should be separated from where food is being prepared and served is an example of a way to refine a process so that it adds value and “sparks joy” for your business.
Last but certainly not least is product. If you are not able to offer something of value, you won’t be in business for long! A product can encompass many things. It can be a simple widget that you sell or a wonderful customer service experience (more on this later!)
Part of maximizing your value is to make sure that everything you are able to provide is within your wheelhouse so to speak. In the case of our restaurant example, it is a perfectly valid question to step back and ask yourself, “Am I able to provide excellent food and wonderful car repairs at the same time?” The answer doesn’t necessarily have to be “No” but it is worth reflecting if doing both at the same time is serving to distract you from the other.
Overlap Among the 3P
It is also worth noting that the 3Ps can have some overlap in terms of value that they add for your business or customer. If you are selling a similar product to a competitor, you may offer a superior customer service experience. While this would be addressed by your processes, it is certainly something that you are selling as part of your brand!
To relate this to the KonMari method, if you have a hat that your grandmother knitted you, while it would technically fall under “clothing,” it could make sense that it would fall under “sentimental items” for you depending on how attached you were to the hat or the memories it brings up.
The important thing is not necessarily to get caught up in the designation of everything that can provide value but rather to see that much like everything has its place in your home with KonMari, everything in your business should “have a place” as well where it can serve as a way to maximize value for your business and customers!
In a sea of businesses and so many things to do, it can be easy to become overwhelmed with what you have to do and what you offer. Don’t be afraid to get rid of things that are not bringing you value and helping your business live its “ideal lifestyle!” By applying the KonMari method to your small business or startup, you can extract as much value as possible for not only yourself but the customers you serve as well!
Originally published at the EID Visions Blog on October 16, 2019.