A manifesto

This is an evolving set of statements that attempts to encapsulate what We Sort is and why it is. It is a published declaration of intentions, motives, and views. In many ways, this is for me; though you may find it useful.

It includes some pragmatic working practices to encourage a steady cadence of progress.

Last updated: May 2024

I believe that every small business should be and can be: calm, profitable, satisfying and sustainable.

That good livelihoods are born out of a natural curiosity and a compulsion to work on a certain type of problem. A problem that the business monetises with substantial value for both the business and the client. A symbiotic relationship where both sides are keen to work together.

That profit is the net result of processes functioning well. Make the processes better and the profits will follow. Striving for better daily admin is rightfully an obvious place to focus as admin is sometimes tedious, often unbillable and a distraction from the primary offering of the business. But when done well, admin is a well considered set of processes that provides structure and predictability. Good processes allow us more time for what we want to do.

That our best work is a cycle: ideas > plan > do > learn > ideas…

Where continuous improvement is self-evident with a steady cadence of small, incremental steps towards clear, relatable ambitions that are both written and accountable to a timescale. Where we try new approaches, and persist with those that yield the best results. That momentum comes naturally from real problems, not presumed problems. Steps taken from data that has been learned from our specific and nuanced context.

That running a business is, at its core, the work of getting better at predicting and adapting to the future. That we should be cautious when predicting the future, but rather set our intentions and stay cognisant of assumptions. Working with expectations but accepting that things may change. And when they do change, reacting reasonably.

That by default, honesty and transparency tend to be the correct approach. In the context of prediction, we must aim to be honest with ourselves and seek out ways to reveal our biases and blind spots.

That sometimes we must work hard, but generally it’s better to find ways to work smart. To learn from experience and do whatever will give the best results that are aligned with our aims. Hard work alone is tiresome and unsustainable for extended periods of time. That said, hard work can be a multiplier of privilege and luck.

That collaboration is far superior to management. I find that we are most effective when those who do the doing are the same people who are planning the doing. Ideally, a good representation of stakeholders are inherently involved across decisions and actions – be that small stuff or wide reaching. It’s for this reason that I’m drawn to working with micro organisations.

Good work is interesting to those who do it. Success is best measured against our own clearly defined aspirations - these may align with our peers, but not necessarily. Defining and evolving what is good enough helps us to find satisfaction and to progress.

Some guidelines:

~ To work regular hours (typically weekdays, ~40 hrs / week)

~ Have regular holidays (at least every other month, 5+ weeks per year, at least one that’s 2+ weeks)

~ Earn comfortably and increasingly build up savings (short and long term savings, earn between 80-90 percentile for UK income - ref: gov.uk…gsheet)

~ Have a good balance of clients (6 to 10 separate clients within each monthly cycle, across a few sectors)

Some definitions:

~ “small business”: actually, I mean micro, 1-10 people

~ “profit”: refers to excess finances as well as surplus time and effort, energy, enthusiasm

Some influences:

~ The Toyota Way, by Jeffrey Liker

~ The Goal, by Eli Goldratt

~ The Lean Startup, by Eric Ries

~ No Rules Rules, Netflix

Some quotes:

“What is measured, improves.”
Peter F. Drucker

Perfect is the enemy of good.” eg: The idea of perfect gets in the way of done or progress.
— Voltaire

Determining what to do with my opinions is your choice and I want you to make up your mind. When I do give feedback, it’s to be helpful. It’s not to tell you what to do.
— unknown consultant

____ is the price you pay for substandard _____.
— various

  • Advertising is the price you pay for substandard product.
  • Admin is the price you pay for substandard process.
  • Management is the price you pay for substandard people. (eg: Look first to the manager, then to the managed)

That Fatal Assumption: if you understand the technical work of a business, you understand a business that does that technical work.”
— Michael E. Gerber, from The E-Myth: Revisited