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Frequency illusion

January 14, 2014 -  By
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: Sonny Abesamis/flickr.com

Have you ever had one of those days or weeks where multiple bits of information—all with the same message—seem to materialize out of thin air, like they’re screaming, “Hey, you! Pay attention to this!”

It feels like fate, but it’s really just a matter of the brain’s ability to recognize and call attention to patterns. It’s called frequency illusion or the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon.

This recently happened to me. I’m taking the message as a cue to improve the way we do some things around here at Landscape Management (I won’t bore you with the details of the magazine production process) and the way I do some things at home (paying bills, cleaning the house—also boring, I know).

What’s not boring for a business owner, I’m sure, is operating an unsystemized business. In fact, if you’re in this camp, it’s probably downright chaotic and draining for you and for your employees. As for your clients? We probably don’t even want to know what they think about your erratic procedures.

This topic—the disorder caused by a lack of standard operating procedures—is the one that’s been following me around all week.

First, I came across this quote from legendary process improvement expert W. Edwards Deming: “If you can’t describe what you’re doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.”

Interesting, I thought, and true.

But wait, that sounds a lot like the message from the cover story I’m finishing up on the Weed Man USA way: Start with a solid plan and create systems to support it.

Then the other day, when I was refamiliarizing myself with the tenants of The E-Myth in preparation for the February issue of LM, I got that not-quite-déjà-vu-but-still-kind-of-strange feeling that comes when you can’t avoid a piece of information.

The concept that seemed to be hitting me over the head became clear: Business systems and processes breed competency, structure and scalability—and, in turn, less stress and more profits.

Although this idea seems fundamental, apparently it’s not.

Landscape Management research shows as many as 40 percent of Green Industry firms don’t make an annual budget. The Benchmark columnist Frank Ross cites a study showing less than 10 percent of construction contractors plan out their years compared to 80 percent of manufacturers. Pair those facts with various research revealing anywhere from half to 80 percent of small businesses fail within the first few years, and you get the picture: Many companies, in the landscape industry and otherwise, are flying by the seats of their pants.

If you’re not currently operating this way, congratulations. You’re probably a recovering pants-seat flyer, aren’t you?

If you are currently improvising your business as you go, let my case of frequency illusion—and lessons shared throughout this issue—serve as the catalyst to get your company’s process-development program in place. Otherwise, you risk leaving your growth to fate.

Photo: Sonny Abesamis/flickr.com

Marisa Palmieri

About the Author:

Marisa Palmieri is an experienced Green Industry editor who's won numerous awards for her coverage of the landscape and golf course markets from the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA), the Press Club of Cleveland and the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE). In 2007, ASBPE named her a Young Leader. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism, cum laude, from Ohio University’s Scripps School of Journalism.

2 Comments on "Frequency illusion"

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  1. Chris Heiler says:

    Hey Marisa, check out http://www.SweetProcess.com, a handy web-based app for documenting standard operating procedures. It’s pretty slick. We’ve been using it to document processes for all aspects of our business from marketing and sales to admin to operations.

  2. Thanks for sharing that link, Chris! It looks like an awesome tool.