Feb. 1, 2022

What it Means to "Run Lean" and Why You Should with Crista Grasso

What it Means to "Run Lean" and Why You Should with Crista Grasso

Strategic planning expert Crista Grasso is joining us today to help you get clarity on what you should be focusing on to grow a business. Plus, she’s helping you ditch the procrastination and overwhelm as you learn the business growth systems you actually need to scale.


As you’re trying to grow a business, what are you focusing on that’s truly moving the needle?

 If you’re ready to get clarity around the business growth strategies that will make the biggest impact, today’s conversation is a must-listen for you!

My guest, Crista Grasso is the go-to strategic planning expert for online entrepreneurs who want to learn how to scale a business but don’t know where to start.

BY THE TIME YOU FINISH LISTENING, YOU’LL DISCOVER: 

  • Crista’s 4-part “Lean Out Method” and why you need it to successfully run and grow a business
  • Why goal setting and planning are the key to scaling and the business growth strategies you need to adopt ASAP
  • The 3 fastest ways to reduce overwhelm in your business and how to overcome procrastination
  • How to scale a business with Crista’s two-part strategic plan to hit your revenue goals over the next 90 days  

If this episode inspires you, leave a review and share your biggest takeaway with me. And while you've got your phone out, make sure to follow me on Instagram @thecourtneyelmer for more quick tips on how to streamline your business systems and spend more time in your zone of genius.

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Transcript

Courtney Elmer 

Welcome back. It's the System's Made Simple™ Podcast. This is episode 107.

Courtney Elmer 5:00 

Krista is the go to strategic planning expert for online entrepreneurs who want to scale using their business systems. But who don't know where to start, she created a tool called the lean out method. This method is designed to help you do is to trim the fat to cut through the noise that you're currently dealing with in your business systems and get the clarity on those core things that you need to focus on over the next 90 days to make the biggest impact.

Courtney Elmer

You might have heard me say this before, the key to success is not doing more, it's not hustling harder. It's not growing your team quickly. The key to success is doing less, but better. And I can think of no one better than Crista to share why that is and how to do it.

Courtney Elmer 6:09 

Krista, welcome to the System's Made Simple™ Podcast

Crista Grasso

Thank you so much for having me Courtney Elmer. I'm really excited to be here today.

Courtney Elmer 6:15 

We talk about business systems here on the show, about streamlining your business systems, we talk about simplifying things. Chances are if you're listening, you want to have simplified, streamlined business systems. Courtney Elmer

But when you're so busy running your business, it can be really difficult to figure out, how am I going to get to that place where I am running the business systems? Crista, I want to hear about your philosophy for simplifying business systems. And running lean. So let's start there. What does that mean?

Crista Grasso

Absolutely Courtney Elmer. So lean is something that's really popular in the manufacturing space. And over the years, it became popular in software development as well. But it's something I don't hear coaches and consultants and online entrepreneurs talk about a lot. And I think it's something that's so important, because when you do want to have that simple and streamlined business systems that isn't causing you to overwork and be in a state of overwhelm all the time, I feel like lean is the answer Courtney Elmer.

Crista Grasso

And what that really means is you want to make sure that you're laser focused on the things that actually are providing the most value to your clients, the most profit to your business systems, and that are in alignment and personally fulfilling for you in you want to eliminate everything else because all of that other stuff is just noise in complexity in the stuff that causes the overworking overwhelm, isn't actually making a difference in your business systems.

Courtney Elmer 8:28 

Absolutely. And I feel like so many of us can probably relate to this, where we've got all of that noise. And it's all of that stuff that we feel is urgent and we feel is important. But it's not necessarily serving the greater purpose of the business systems or serving you and meeting your goals. So when we talk about leaning out business systems, then tell us about what that process looks like. What do we need to look at first?

Crista Grasso

There's really four pillars, four stages, if you will, in the first one is what I call context. And I think no matter what you're doing, whether it's in your business systems, in your life, I think you always want to know where you're going and why it's important to you in so I think when you want to have a lean business systems and you want to lean things out, the first step is to get really clear on what the future looks like, what is that big, bold vision that you have for your business systems as far into the future, as you can see today? 

Crista Grasso

Because I think when you know that vision, it helps you to understand, am I working on the right things? Am I working on things that are directionally correct, and ultimately going to take me to where I want to go. And however, you know far off into the future. Your vision is it's not like you have the entire path perfectly mapped out because that's the nature of entrepreneurship and the journey that we're on. We figure a lot of this out as we go along. But it does give you those bumpers of, yes, this makes sense. And this is directionally where I want to go or no This doesn't make sense. And this isn't something that's right for me that I need to be investing any time money or energy into.

Crista Grasso

So I think first you want to start with that longer term vision. And then you want to get clear on your near term goals. So if you know where you're going long term that's Is this the right thing for my business systems and for me to be focused on. And I think when you set those nearer term goals, that helps you understand, am I working on the right things right now? The things that I'm investing my time, money and energy in? Are they the things that are most important right now, when you look at what are those goals that you have for this quarter or for this year?

Courtney Elmer 10:29 

I want to go back to something you said a moment ago about how sometimes we don't know exactly all the steps and exactly how it's going to play out. And that we figure that out as we go. And I think this is really powerful just to hold on to for you listening right now. Write this on a sticky note somewhere and put it by your desk, where you're going to see it.

Courtney Elmer

If you have clarity on the vision, that will always reveal the plan. It's been true in my business systems. The moments that I've been most murky and muddy and confused and overwhelmed and frustrated is when I've lost sight of my vision. So to have clarity on that first and then reverse engineer that process that is gold right there. So take us through pillar number two, then.

Crista Grasso

Courtney Elmer, clarity is the second pillar. Diving into what are those right things right now at a deeper level. So you've got your vision, you've got your goals, what is it that you actually need to be doing in the next 90 days? What is that clarity of what's important and what's not important. And that's where I recommend people build up what I call a lean strategic plan. I think strategic planning, really important, but a lot of people avoid it. When they think of strategic planning, they think of something that's very restrictive, they think of something that's a ton of work. And I think it doesn't need to be that way. Crista Grasso

When you look at your plan for the next 90 days, you just want to take that goal that you have and break it down into, I consider two pieces, there's projects and marketing campaigns. And you can call these a lot of different things. But to me, the projects are the things that you or you and your team are doing behind the scenes in the marketing campaigns are more of the customer-facing things that you're putting out there. And typically, any goal that you have, you have both of those components, there's the stuff that you need to do behind the scenes, maybe you're launching something, and you've got to build your sales page. And you've got to set your offer up so that somebody can actually invest in it.

Crista Grasso

Then there's the marketing side of it, where you're creating your actual emails, and your social media posts and maybe even delivering a workshop or a masterclass or something in so as you set your context, you've got your vision and goals and you move into clarity, you're just starting to break that down as to what are the things that are going to make this goal a reality. So I know that I can actually achieve it in the next 90 days. And I think the most important piece of that, which takes us also into the third pillar, Courtney Elmer, which is commitment is how much do I want to work in this next 90 days? What does that look like for my business systems? And can I achieve this goal with a plan that I have within the capacity that I have? Not with working? 24? By seven?

Courtney Elmer 13:23 

Absolutely. About that capacity part. I think this is something too, I know, I can at least speak personally, that I have a tendency to overestimate. And I get excited about things. And it's like, Okay, I've got this vision, and now we're breaking it out. And now I'm like, I just want to achieve it and go go go.

Courtney Elmer

And then oh, I realize halfway through the quarter that Oh, I overestimated my capacity, I'm starting to feel a little bit overwhelmed and burnt out how do I need to reposition and readjust. So is there any recommendation that you would give as to how we can prevent that when we're in that commitment stage, and we're taking a look at our capacity? What are some of the things we need to take into consideration?

Crista Grasso

I believe in doing more of a capacity based planning, and that to me is part of that lean strategic planning process and what I recommend, and a lot of times people will say, There's no way. But if you can find a way to do this in your business systems, it really will serve you very well. And that is create a minimum of 30% of unplanned time in the upcoming 90 days. So if you work 40 hours a week, you're only actually committing to 28 hours a week of actual activities. And the reason for this is it's not that you have all of this bonus time leftover at the end of the week. 

Crista Grasso

It would be great if you did, but we tend to underestimate the amount of time that things take in so it gives you a little bit of buffer if your estimates were off. Life happens, business systems happen. No matter how amazing you are at planning. Things are always going to come up that aren't in your plan. It gives you some of that capacity and come up with some of that space to account for it when that happens. So what I usually do is say, look at your plan and break it down.

Crista Grasso

Assuming that you're working only 28 hours a week, if you have that 40 hours in if by some small miracle you estimated perfectly. And if you didn't have anything unexpected happen, you have plenty of other things in your backlog that you can pull forward and get started working on. But that protects you so that you don't go into a week or into a 90 day period thinking, I've got this, this is going to be great. And all of a sudden, you're working until midnight every night, because all of those unexpected things happened, or you just simply didn't estimate how long things were going to take in the right way.

Courtney Elmer 15:45 

That's very smart. We do tend to overestimate how long our underestimate how long things will take. And we tend to overestimate our expertise and business systems. And I also tend to overestimate my ability to get things done under the wire. So I have a tendency to procrastinate. And so my the thought as you were sharing that where my mind went was like, Okay, great. 

Courtney Elmer

Now I'm going to have this extra 30% You know, unplanned time. And I know exactly my own pattern. And maybe someone listening can relate to this. But my own pattern will be well, I have this unplanned time. 

Courtney Elmer

Now I'm just going to wait till the last minute to try to like kick things into gear and get those things done that I need to do. So any tips there on, you know, for those of us that tend to procrastinate, my hand goes up here. What we can do to to avoid that?

Crista Grasso

I would say front load your week. And so one of the really effective work styles and ways of working that I absolutely love is working in focus blocks and batching a lot of the work that you do. And so if you look at your week, and how you can structure your weekend, give yourself those big focus blocks, something that's really nice as the focus block might actually show is somewhat open time on your calendar, but you have a particular focus for it. Maybe you have a four hour focus block or even a one hour focus block around content management or business systems optimazation. And so maybe you're producing some of your content, whether that's a podcast episode or a blog post or social media. And you don't necessarily have anything prepared going into it. You know you're going to spend that hour creating your content for the week, or maybe for the following week, if you work ahead, and you just simply work until the hour is up or until you've actually achieved that outcome. 

Crista Grasso

If you finish in under an hour, that's fantastic, because you actually got it done, go take 10 minutes and you know, go have a cup of coffee or read a little bit of your favorite book or something more often than not, you work until the end of the hour and say you know what, I'm going to go another 30 minutes, because if I do, I actually can get ahead and do two weeks worth of content. And so I think that gives you really good momentum when you work in those blocks. 

Crista Grasso

I love the idea of it's a lean concept called limit with. So limit your work in progress. And so if you start your week with your most important activities, and you work on it until it's finished, and then pick up something else and work on it until it's finished. You typically either don't actually procrastinate because you did your most important thing first. Or if you do have any space left over, you've got that space left over at the end of the week. And that's where you can make that judgment call of do I want to take Friday off this week? Because boy, I haven't seen a Friday off in like two years? Or do I want to get started on something for next week to really set me up for success.

Courtney Elmer 18:27 

I like that concept. I hadn't heard of that before, either. And I think that is something that when put into practice can really help you gain momentum and the start of your week. And I can you know, this week was a week where I did block off the beginning of my week for focus time.

Courtney Elmer

I had specific tasks that I had set to do during that time. And this week was 10 times more productive than the last four weeks combined. But I did that, and I did it intentionally. Now I don't do that every week. That's the part that I have to get better at doing. But I can see even just from having done that. 

Courtney Elmer

And maybe for you listening, you have done that time, you know, maybe you have a launch coming up. And so you've had to have that planned and focus time and you got to get this done and this one and this done. And then you can feel that momentum start to build. Just imagine if every week could be like that. I mean, that's what I'm hearing you say, Krista is that if we plan our weeks this way, with the 30% unplanned time, we're front loading our weeks, we've got those focus blocks, and we're limiting our work in progress, meaning we're not picking up a project and putting it down and picking up another one and having like four projects going at the same time.

Courtney Elmer 

We're seeing them through to completion, we're actually saving time along the way. And it's it's creating that space for us not only to feel more focused to feel more in flow, but maybe by the end of the week, like he said, Come Friday, we could take the day off

Crista Grasso

The other thing too is I think so often we end up just so busy in our business systems and we work so hard on things, but the reality is you don't actually get value from something from working on it. You get value from something from finishing it in the worst feeling on Earth is to have it be that time you're done for the weekend. 

Crista Grasso

I worked so hard. I'm so exhausted, and I finished nothing this week. It's like the most demoralizing feeling ever, right. And so imagine Courtney Elmer how it would feel instead, if you actually finish something on Monday, finish something on Tuesday, maybe finish something again on Thursday, and then give yourself the option on Friday, do I want to take on and finish something else or give myself a day. And I think that's the beauty of actually limiting your whip and trying to get things done. Another lean concept that couples with that is stop starting, start finishing. So finishing the things that you're doing most important things first, and it just I feel like it shifts your entire week. And it makes you end the week feeling really accomplished and really proud of what you did, instead of really drained and really frustrated that you worked really hard. But don't feel like you have anything to show for it.

Courtney Elmer 20:49 

What I like about everything you're describing is how simple it is. It's very simple. These are not difficult things. It's just a matter of taking a look at our workload, taking a look at our week, taking a look at what we are currently doing, and moving things around making a few simple shifts to our business systems, prioritize things better to optimize things better optimize our time, specifically.

Crista Grasso

Courtney Elmer, the fourth pillar is a lean word, it's a lean concept called kaizen. And it's all about making small continuous improvements in changes in business systems for the better in so to me, this is where a lot of growth comes in. This is where optimization comes in, is a lot of times in our business systems, we ignore, until something gets so bad that we kind of throw it out and start over again. And Kaizen is just constantly be looking at the things that you're doing in your business systems actually measure, look at what's working, look at what's not working, make those small improvements, and continue to experiment to try to get better results. And if you just figure out the thing that seems like it's working best in your business systems, and continue to optimize it, and continue to make those small, continuous improvements, you're frequently going to get much better overall results and faster results in your business systems, then if you're constantly reinventing and doing something new, or you're constantly spending all of your time focused on the things that aren't working, that you honestly probably should eliminate and cut anyway.

Courtney Elmer 22:19 

Chances are, we've all had that experience where we just feel like alright, I want to burn the bridges. I want to burn the boats and burn anything related to my business systems and just be done and throw in the towel. I had a moment like that this summer where I was like, Damn, I'm just done. I'm over it.

Courtney Elmer

I had to just really get quiet, and reconnect with my why, and reconnect with what was important to me, I take a look at what wasn't working that was causing me to feel that way. Because when you stay continually connected to what is working, what isn't working, then it's not a matter of having to have this huge business systems overhaul, once every six months or once a year to fix all the problems and plug all the holes. 

Courtney Elmer

It's little tweaks and little things that can be continually tweaked along the way versus this big catastrophic problem that needs to be fixed or thrown out altogether. So you have a planner as well, right?

Crista Grasso

Everything that I walked you through Courtney Elmer is what we do in the planner. And the reality is I wanted to be able to help more business owners with their business systems. I think every single business owner, every single one should lean out their business systems, because who doesn't want to get more time back in their business, increase their profitability and do more of the things that they want to do. And so I thought about how can I reach more people in a really impactful way. And since I help people with planning a lot, a planner seems like a really great way to do that. So I created the lino planner, which, as you said Courtney Elmer, is a 90 day planner. 

Crista Grasso

It takes you through those four stages. You start with setting your context, you define the vision that you have long term for your business systems, you define your vision for the next year, you break that down into your goals, you look at your different habits and your different lifestyle goals that are ultimately going to support you. You look at some of your mindset blocks and the things that might get in your way, or you might hold yourself back or slow yourself down. Then you take that and you break it down into your plans. 

Crista Grasso

You're going to create a roadmap for the six months Courtney Elmer, then you're going to break that down into a specific plan for the next 90 days with goals and revenue targets. And then you break that down into a monthly content calendar each month. Then you have your weekly and your daily plans as well as reflection points for business systems all throughout, for that Kaizen in your business systems to constantly look at where those continuous improvement activities are. I've got some of my like great tips in there. One is Chuck, which is looking at and evaluating everything in your business systems to see what you should cut, hold change or keep. So again, trying to keep you laser focused. on what matters most and eliminate all of the waste and the things that aren't really helping you achieve your vision and goals. That's a lot of what I go through in the planner. It's the self paced version of what I do with a lot of my coaching clients, and there's training videos that go along with it as well Courtney Elmer.

Courtney Elmer 25:16 

I think that's the question that that pops up into my mind. So I can assume for someone listening, it's probably in their mind to like, wow, this method sounds great. I like these four steps. I want to be able to do this, I want to simplify my business systems, but now how. And so the fact that you've developed this planner is just it is a beautiful fit into what you do and what you teach and how you help and serve your clients. Because it is the how to it is the implementation. 

Courtney Elmer

I think that's the thing that we tend to struggle with is we have these great ideas for many of us as entrepreneurs, were great visionaries. Oh, yeah, we we can see the vision, we know what we want to do. And we have all these ideas and all these amazing things that we want to bring to lif with our business systems. But the implementation is where we tend to get bogged down and just to get hung up over all the little bitty decisions that have to happen along the way. And really can create that analysis paralysis. So your planner sounds fantastic, because it's the step by step. It's the how to, of how to implement this and to streamline your business systems. 

Courtney Elmer

And sometimes your business systems doesn't need a whole overhaul, it might just need a few little tweaks, it might just need that moment of reflection for you to actually stop and sit there and say, Okay, this is what we've been doing in the business systems. This is what we feel is going well with the business systems, and this isnt going well with the business systems. This is the thing that's draining me to do the things that I actually enjoy, and to begin to mold your business systems to fit your desires and to fit your life versus the other way around. So that's beautiful. 

Courtney Elmer

Thanks for sharing that, Krista. 

Courtney Elmer

I have a question that I asked every guest who comes on the show. And it's really fascinating because the answers are never the same. It's fun because I feel like alright, what what's our guest today going to say an answer to this question. So given everything that you've just shared, I'm curious to hear. What would you say it means to live an effortless life?

Crista Grasso

Oh, I love this question Courtney Elmer. So for me, honestly, I think an effortless life is all about alignment. I'm spending my time doing things that I love. And I'm surrounding myself with people that I love to be with. And I think in my business systems, it's alignment with that big vision that I have, in my personal life. It's alignment with the personal vision and bucket list and the things that I really want to do. 

But I think at the end of the day, you know Courtney Elmer, when you're doing something that you love, and when you're with people that you love, time flies by, you could do it all day long every day you love it. And when you're pushing against and doing things that are out of alignment, that's when things feel draining. And that's when things feel unfulfilling. And so I think effortless when I think about that word to me, it's all about if I could spend my time in 100% alignment, I feel like everything would feel effortless and just completely fulfilling.

Courtney Elmer 28:08 

Yeah, that's beautiful. it's interesting, because I've had people challenge me on that, like, well, it takes hard work to grow your business systems and you have to work hard to grow successful business systems. And I'm like, Yeah, of course, we're conditioned to believe that. But when you also agree that when you have those moments of what you said alignment, I call it flow, a lot of times when you feel that we call it, you know, a flow state. 

Courtney Elmer

And I think that's even a term they use in psychology where you just, it just feels good. And it doesn't feel like work. Because you're doing what you love what you're good at with the people that you love. you're surrounding yourself with those people. And it's just a different way of working. And so you said it so beautifully. So thank you for sharing. Krista, where can people go to connect with you online?

Crista Grasso

Courtney Elmer you can find me at leanoutmethod.com. And once you're there, you can find the planner, you can find my podcast, which is lean out your business podcast, and you can find all of the things about business systems. So leanoutmethod.com

Courtney Elmer

Thanks for being here today.

Crista 29:06 

Thank you so much for having me Courtney Elmer

Courtney Elmer

We just relaunched our podcasting program, the effortless podcasting formula. If you are curious about how a podcast might be able to help you save some time on your marketing, position you as an expert in your industry, and generate a steady stream of leads and sales to your business systems without you having to do a whole lot of work for it. 

Courtney Elmer

Without expensive ad campaigns or dancing on Instagram rails, then you need to go to systemsmadesimple.co/podcastworkshop you can get all of the details there. 

Courtney Elmer

If you're listening to this episode after the fact if it's after February 2, don't worry I've got you, you can still go to that same link and get on the waitlist to be notified when the doors open again. And when you get on the waitlist I will also send you my free guide. Courtney Elmer 's Five things you need to know before launching a podcast of your own. So you can find out if you're really ready to start one if a podcast is really the right fit for your business systems.

Courtney Elmer

Did you know that the tones in your voice can either attract or repel your ideal clients? What you say isn't nearly as important as how you're saying it. That's all coming up next week. Until then, go live your EffortLESS Life®.