In Seth Godin’s book “The Practice” he writes about constraints. So does Scott Berkun in his book “How Design Makes the World.” Constraint is a word which has freed us to do better work at Marshall+Viliesis even though Peter Viliesis and I don’t often use it. But it is there every day.

There are always constraints in anything we set out to do. There is only so much time, resources and money. This is why we budget for all of these things and more. Once we know the constraints of our work then we can pursue a solution as creatively as possible with the limited resources we have. With them we do better work.

One of my favorite books is “Moneyball” by Michael Lewis. With one of the lowest team payrolls in baseball Billy Beane assembled a winning team. The payroll constraints forced Beane to find a better solution for the Oakland Athletics by finding undervalued players the team could afford to pay. Constraints make the work we do better so we embrace them.

Here are some examples of how we use constraints in our practice.

  1. We first use constraints to help us define those businesses we can work with and help and those we cannot. In a recent post, Who are Our Clients, we identify those business owners we can help with two pie charts. With the first pie chart we seek to establish the importance of the business to the business owner. If the business is a significant portion of everything someone owns and is the primary source of income for the family then we might be able to help the business. This is the first pie chart. If the business owner says “yes this is me” then we can go on. But we are not done yet.

    Most business owners who can identify with the first chart can also understand the second pie chart which lays out what is at risk if they have not done proper planning. If this is a large enough concern for you the owner then we can proceed with a valuation of the business as the start of the planning process. If the timing is not right then we resist the temptation to pitch an idea as an alternative to doing good work.
  2. Our next constraint is our process. Sticking to the process moves the planning forward. The process is designed for you the business owner so you know what you need to do and so you can know where you are in the process. The process allows us to establish a budget for time and money.
  3. Finally for this post there is the constraint of what we do at Marshall+Viliesis. We protect the value of your business. When you and your business are protected you are free to pursue growth goals. So our mission is to get our job done for you the business owner and you will know what the work is.

Constraints free us to do our best work for you because they help us focus on the job at hand and the resources available to us. They help us focus on you.

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