Most business owners probably already know that 20 percent of their product comprises 80 percent of their sales. Save time in the long run by discovering exactly which products or services are driving the business. Focus the majority of your energy on the important things and cut back on the time you devote on the other 80 percent.
Learn to prioritize. Just as 20 percent of your product drives your business, some of your activities are more productive than others. It is an old but good time management tip to tackle your most important projects first. Teach this strategy to your employees so that you will all find the time to complete the important projects. Once you rank your activities based on order of importance, give yourself a set amount of time to complete them. For example, give yourself a time limit to return phone calls and reply to emails, and try not to go over it. Sticking to some sort of a schedule will help you stay focused on important projects rather than get lost in the mundane activities that do not really drive your business forward.
Make a “to do list” every day. You may think that you do not have the time to write a list every morning. However, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of chores that face a small business owner each day. Last minute interruptions and distractions can make the most focused business owner forget to finish a task. A brief but thoughtfully prepared “to do list” will remind you of what you need to do that day. This will prevent you from forgetting to call back your important client. Do not go beyond the day’s work when writing the list, and set reasonable goals. Getting ahead is great, but you can work on that when the list is finished.
There comes a point in every business when the owner must learn to say “no.” Whether you are dealing with a needy employee or a difficult customer, spreading yourself too thin is not good for your business. Yes, you need to make customers happy, but sometimes they will ask for the near impossible. Consider whether or not doing something is good for your business before saying yes, and learn to delegate.
It is tempting for small business owners to waste their time micromanaging ever aspect of their company. However, there are tasks that do not require the presence of the owner. Teach employees to take action and make decisions within the boundaries of their positions. This is extremely difficult for the micromanager, but it does provide you with time and energy to focus on other activities that are more important, such as bringing in more customers. Should an employee call you about purchasing equipment? Yes. Should an employee call you because someone was two minutes late to work? Probably not. Creating parameters that define the extent of each employee’s decision-making authority will keep a small business owner from having to put out minor fires. Having clear boundaries will also build up employee morale. In all honesty, people generally hate being micromanaged. You hired your employees for their talent, so why not put it to good use?
Communicate with your employees and be aware of your business’ deadlines. Small business owners are still in charge, and they need to communicate with their employees in order to ensure that they are on the same page. Discuss the deadlines with them each week and make sure that they contact you with any new developments. Stay connected to your clients and try to prevent any miscommunication that will affect projects late in the game.
Be sure to take some time for yourself. This feels counterproductive. Many company executives and small business owners are guilty of confusing busy with productive. However, human beings need time to rest and decompress. Numerous studies have shown that taking short breaks actually improves overall productivity. The brain is not wired to work nonstop. People who take breaks make fewer mistakes and work faster. A study by Dr. Coker explains that people who take short breaks online are nine percent more productive than their overly stressed colleagues. So relax a minute for the good of the company.
Stay focused on your goals. What do you want from your business? Set aside some time each month to examine your goals and how you are getting there. Look at what strategies are moving you forward and identify which ones are dragging you back. This might sound easy, but many small business owners are so focused on the day-to-day activities that they put off examining their goals regularly. However, constant evaluation can save you time and money as you discover which methods work for you.
It is tempting to try to save money by doing everything in house. However, outsourcing is often more cost effective than doing everything yourself. For example, the time that you take working as an accountant could be better spent following up leads and building relationships. When 35 percent of small business owners lament not having the time to really grow their businesses, it is clear that small business owners are taking on too many mundane tasks.
Outsourcing specialized projects not only frees business owners to work more effectively, it can also benefit the company’s image and profitability. For example, hiring a graphic designer to create a brochure will probably yield better results than simply typing something into a Word document. If you really cannot afford to outsource a project to a professional, look inside the business. Chances are that you have a multitalented staff. Someone with an interest in graphic design might to a better job than you could, and this individual just might be willing to work a little cheaper than a professional would, for the experience.
Staying busy is not growing a business. Every business owner needs to evaluate his or her schedule. Yes, a responsible owner knows what is going on and will have to put in quite a few hours. But are the hours being spent in the most productive manner? How much time do you spend putting out fires and running in place? Your time is valuable, and you must use it wisely to move forward. Some of the time management tips explained above might seem counterintuitive or expensive, but consider the loss your business faces when you cannot find the time to be with your customers. A business owner is the face of his or her company. People buy from owners they trust. But, if the owner is never seen, how can customers get to know him or her? Landing a sale will probably more than compensate for the $10 an hour you pay for an outsourced employee. Learn to use your time wisely and expand your business while you improve your quality of life.