Keep It Simple, Stupid: Applying The KISS Principle To Reports, Marketing And Beyond
I’ve based my business off of the KISS (keep it simple, stupid) principle and require my co-workers to do the same. Why? Because simplicity is key to business success.
People don’t read instructions or pay attention when things get too long, drawn-out, or complex. I’m talking about your customers, employees, investors, and yes—even you. None of you want to waste your time wading through excess junk if you don’t have to.
Systems should be as simple as humanly possible in business. So from one entrepreneur to another, read on to learn key areas to apply the KISS principle.
How To Apply The KISS Principle In Business
Lighter. Leaner. Simpler. These are the three words that are always at the forefront of my mind when it comes to my accounting software and payroll business, Patriot Software. Our customers want an easy-to-use solution that isn’t overly complicated (otherwise, what’s the point?).
So, we make a very deliberate and extreme attempt to keep things simple when it comes to our software. But, the simplicity principle doesn’t only apply to software. Less is more in every business, regardless of the industry.
Take a look at the following five business areas you can apply the KISS principle:
Every business regularly comes up with and launches projects. There are generally a few basic phases to every project:
- Start with an idea
- Define the idea and start planning
- Launch it
- Monitor and measure it
- Close it up
Sounds simple enough, right? Wrong. Some projects can be absolute bears to tackle. And sometimes, it’s because there are too many hands in the honey pot.
Instead of pursuing giant projects that require all hands on deck, shoot for smaller, more clearly-defined projects. Put in more time upfront to define:
- What’s the purpose
- Who’s involved
- What are the deadlines
- What the project management process is
Simple communication, tools, and a plan make for a more streamlined and effective project. And, make sure you don’t have a team member who’s making things overly complicated to look smart or monopolize the project.
Three words: Crumple paper empires.
The end (ha!). OK, I know you might be thinking, Mike, what the heck are you talking about? Let me step back for a moment and explain myself.
When I first graduated from college, I held a corporate job. There, I saw people build and protect their “paper” empires, which were the systems they used to help them perform their jobs.
You know what I’m talking about—employees who manually and painstakingly create a system for carrying out certain tasks and follow that system to a T without ever asking if things could be done faster, smarter, and more efficiently.
So when I say it’s time to crumple paper empires, I’m talking about doing away with these little instructions and systems scattered everywhere. That means less paper. Fewer spreadsheets and digital documents. Less folders. Less data entry. All in all, keep it simple.
Supercharge your processes by not only crumpling paper empires, but by also making your and your employees’ processes more agile. And to help you do that, you can turn to automation.
If you aren’t already, you can simplify some real clunky processes by using the following tools:
- Accounting software
- Payroll software
- Project management software
- Email marketing software
- Social media management software
There’s a reason big food and beverage companies advertise things like “Now with fewer ingredients!” They know that less is more. They know that some of those complicated ingredients go right over peoples’ heads.
So if you’re selling products, consider whether there’s a way for you to simplify anything relating to it (e.g., its use). For example, you might think about:
- Scaling back some of your offerings
- Removing overly complicated features
- Taking out unnecessary ingredients
- Simplifying the instructions
Whatever the case may be, think about your customer. Do you receive questions about the same product-related thing over and over again? Maybe it’s too complicated as is (it’s not them, it’s your product).
Many businesses are attempting to sell their goods or services to people without ever having a conversation with them. Sometimes, that’s a tough nut to crack. You need to keep your marketing efforts, like your website, simple.
In my company, we need our website to be easy to navigate and consistent so our software makes sense to people who have never spoken with us. That’s why we try to lay out everything our viewers would want or need to know. The same goes for our other marketing efforts, like sending out email campaigns or doing radio ads.
So whether you’re a marketing software company or retailer who sells clothing, my advice is the same: keep your marketing message simple and easy to understand.
Customers should look at your website, read your email campaigns, or hear your radio ad and know what you do. That means making (at least) the following perfectly clear:
- What you sell
- How to buy
Keep it simple, friends. Don’t make customers’ heads spin when they’re trying to research your business’s products or services, navigate your website, or understand prices.
P.S. In keeping things simple, you also boost transparency, which consumers love!
Managers, investors, and lenders, and you don’t want to sift through overly complicated reports. If there’s too much data, you’re going to have a hard time capturing your audience’s attention.
As a result, you could lose out on financing opportunities. Heck, you could even lose out on knowing whether your business is doing well or not. Complicated reports can easily be misread and misinterpreted (and nobody wants that).
Let’s look at accounting reports (i.e., your financial statements). Business owners base decisions on the numbers. Investors and lenders choose to give money based on the numbers. If those numbers aren’t clear, you’re going to have some issues.
Whatever the reports you’re putting together, they need to be simple enough that someone who isn’t on the inside can accurately understand them. To help, consider using software to automatically generate easy-to-read reports and create graphs and charts.
Not Quite Sold On KISS? Consider This…
I’ll leave you with one last thought on the importance of keeping things simple in business, courtesy of business magnate Steve Jobs:
“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
So yes, keeping things simple sometimes takes a little more forethought in the beginning. But once you learn to streamline your workflow and simplify your processes, the time you give will have a greater impact (and you too can move those mountains!).