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  • Productivity Champ Spotlight — Applying Systems with Gary Smith

A community is only as strong as its members, and The Dojo (our online productivity community) is no exception.

There are some members who are new on their productivity journey, and there are members who are extremely experienced and are willing to lend a helping hand.

In our Productivity Champ series, we highlight people from the AE community who are action takers regardless of where they are on the productivity experience spectrum (like we did with Alice who shared her story how she became more productive), and today we’re thrilled to feature Gary Smith, one of the most helpful members of the community.

Gary also joined us on the podcast in TPS140: How to Find Balance While Working in a Corporate Culture.

As you’ll see, Gary has “seen it all” when it comes to running businesses and helping others reach exponential growth. We’re excited to have him in the AE community, and we’re really excited to hear his story.

Introducing Gary Smith

Tell us a little bit about who you are and what you’re up to.

I’m a Christian, a husband to Martha (married 42 years), a father to three amazing daughters, and a grandfather to an 18-month old little girl named Grace.

I started my career as an engineer and after 15 years in various engineering positions, from project engineer to engineering manager, I earned an MBA in operations management and switched to business operations, eventually running companies, mostly in growth or turn-around circumstances in a manufacturing environment.

In 1998, I started Optimum Performance Technologies, LLC with the goal of optimizing both personal and business performance through the appropriate use of technology. Although I was initially involved with manufacturing companies, diversification came quite naturally, and today my clients include individuals from all walks of life, as well as businesses in the insurance, legal, healthcare, sales, and manufacturing arenas.

Today, I work as both a consultant and business/personal coach, helping organizations and individuals improve their productivity and profitability by creating systems that allow them to live more effective, efficient lives filled with peace and happiness. I also am a professional speaker, a John Maxwell certified coach and trainer, and the author of three books.

What ignited you to get started on becoming more productive?

Manufacturing, the actual process of making products, is driven by continuous improvements in productivity aimed at reducing costs and improving profitability. Unfortunately, the back-office operations that support the manufacturing process are often (interpreted, nearly always) extremely bogged down and inefficient. Lack of good workflows, numerous redundant processes, and overall poor communication hinder the growth and development of corporate entities.

I became intrigued with streamlining support operations in a manner that created very responsive organizations focused on serving both internal and external customers. In the process, I realized that organizational productivity started with personal productivity. Focusing on these areas opened the door for business growth and improved profitability through the reduction of overhead costs.

Optimum Performance Technologies became a natural extension of this process to a much wider range of businesses – and eventually to individuals seeking to improve personal performance.

From a personal perspective, productivity came somewhat naturally to me. As an engineer, I tend to be very structured in my thinking, so coming up with an achievement system that worked for me was like solving a puzzle – all I had to do was identify my strengths and weaknesses, and then develop a plan to capitalize on strengths and mitigate the weaknesses through systems and discipline.

Was there anything that stopped you from accomplishing what you wanted?

I think that there were two problems that initially hindered my progress. The first was that senior management of companies did not see the value in improving back office support operations – or they did not believe that there were effective ways to improve office-type workflows. Also, many non-manufacturing businesses didn’t even know where to begin and so that were skeptical.

And second, there was not a lot of research or published materials on how to create effective systems in the business and personal environments. There were fragments of systems, but no one had taken the time to synthesize them into something comprehensive.

What was the epiphany you experience and discovered?

I began taking the same principles used to improve productivity in manufacturing operations and started re-configuring the concepts for use in non-manufacturing environments. As I got some experience with doing this, I realized that manufacturing principles have a wide-ranging use in every business – but that most non-manufacturing businesses (and individuals) are not even aware that these principles exist. I’m referring to ideas like:

  • Process mapping
  • Identifying and removing bottlenecks in the process
  • Defining metrics that are critical to success and then charting them and monitoring trends
  • Developing continuous improvement processes
  • Creating single-piece flow

Bottom line – basic manufacturing principles can transform non-manufacturing businesses and dramatically improve performance and profitability. And the same is true for individuals. Getting focused and organized around one’s highest priorities can change one’s life forever and for the better!

What was the transformation you experienced?

In the last 20+ years, I’ve helped numerous businesses and individuals change their lives and organizations in truly transformational ways by helping them achieve exponential growth in their productivity. As a result, people are happier, less stressed, more fulfilled, and achieving more with their lives than they ever imagined possible.

If you have one piece of productivity advice for someone who is struggling to make progress toward their goals, what would it be?

My one piece of advice would be to take the time to truly, deeply understand yourself. As John Maxwell says, “You have to know yourself to grow yourself.” Achieving your goals is not as much about attaining something as it is about the person you become in the process.

Start by doing a really deep dive and asking yourself questions like:

  • What is my real purpose in life? Why am I here and what legacy do I want to leave when I am gone?
  • Are my current goals in line with my purpose? If not, what needs to change?
  • How do I think and process information? (This is crucial to being able to create effective achievement systems)
  • What is currently working in my life and why?
  • What isn’t currently working in my life and why?
  • What are some things that need to happen for me to begin experiencing true inner peace?
  • Who am I willing to become in the process of seeing my dreams come true?

Starting with some basic questions like these can help you make light years of progress toward your goals in just a few days.

Want To Be A Productivity Champ?

Thanks Gary!

Gary is an example of what we call a “productivity champ” — someone who constantly looks for ways to improve himself, and someone who embodies the AE core value of “pull others up”. We also had Alice, who runs a non-profit, share her story of how she became more productive.

If you want to go from desperately struggling to keep up to feeling superhuman and using your time like you want to, here are some suggestions:

  1. Ask yourself a few of the questions that Gary poses above, and give yourself time to mull them over (do an initial brainstorm and then come back to it the next day). See which changes you identify, and pick one action item to schedule. Don’t try to implement everything at once!
  2. Review our TEA Framework, and become familiar with the 3 Pillars of Productivity.
  3. Take our super-quick Productivity Quiz. It will only take a few minutes but will identify time-saving opportunities for you that you can take action on right away.

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Thanh Pham

Founder of Asian Efficiency where we help people become more productive at work and in life. I've been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, and The Globe & Mail as a productivity thought leader. At AE I'm responsible for leading teams and executing our vision to assist people all over the world live their best life possible.

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