Most business owners probably already know that 20 percent of their product included 80 percent of their sales. Save time in the long run by discovering exactly which products or services are driving the business. Focus most of your energy on the things that matter and cut down on the time you spend 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’s an old-time board of directors but good at tackling your most important projects first. Teach your employees this strategy so everyone can find the time to complete important projects. Once you rank your activities in order of importance, take some time to complete them. For example, set a time limit for returning phone calls and answering emails, and try not to pass it. Sticking to some kind of schedule will help you stay focused on important projects rather than getting lost in mundane pursuits that don’t really propel your business forward.
Make a “to do list” every day. You may think you don’t have time to write a list every morning. However, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of tasks a small business owner faces each day. Last minute interruptions and distractions can make the most focused entrepreneur forget to finish a task. A short but carefully prepared “to do list” will remind you of what to do that day. This will prevent you from forgetting to call your important customer again. Do not go beyond the day’s work when writing the list and set reasonable goals. Moving forward is great, but you can work on that when you finish the list.
There comes a time in all businesses when the owner must learn to say “no.” Whether you’re dealing with a needy employee or a difficult customer, getting too far apart is not good for your business. Yes, you need to make customers happy, but sometimes they will ask for the almost 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 time micromanaging all aspects of their business. However, there are tasks that do not require the presence of the owner. Teach employees to act and make decisions within the confines of their positions. This is extremely difficult for the micromanager, but it gives you time and energy to focus on other activities that are more important, such as attracting more customers. Should an employee call you to buy equipment? Yes. Should an employee call you because someone was two minutes late for work? Probably not. Creating parameters that define the scope of each employee’s decision-making authority will prevent a small business owner from having to put out minor fires. Having clear boundaries will also increase 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 company’s deadlines. Small business owners are still in charge and need to communicate with their employees to make sure they are on the same page. Discuss the deadlines with them each week and make sure they contact you with any news. Stay connected with your clients and try to avoid any miscommunication that affects projects at the end of the game.
Make sure to take time for yourself. This feels counterproductive. Many business executives and small business owners are guilty of confusing busy with productive. However, humans need time to rest and decompress. Numerous studies have shown that taking short breaks actually improves overall productivity. The brain is not programmed to work non-stop. 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 over-stressed colleagues. So relax for 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 review your goals and how you are achieving them. Look at which strategies are driving you forward and identify which ones are dragging you back. This may sound easy, but many small business owners are so focused on day-to-day activities that they put off regularly reviewing their goals. 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 at home. However, outsourcing is often more profitable than doing everything yourself. For example, the time you spend working as an accountant could be better spent tracking leads and building relationships. When 35 percent of small business owners lament that they don’t have time to really grow their businesses, it becomes clear that small business owners are taking on too many mundane tasks.
Outsourcing specialized projects not only frees up business owners to work more efficiently, it can also benefit the company’s image and profitability. For example, hiring a graphic designer to create a brochure will likely produce better results than simply writing something in a Word document. If you really can’t afford to outsource a project to a professional, look inside the business. You most likely have a multi-talented staff. Someone with an interest in graphic design might get a better job than yours, and this person might be willing to work a little cheaper than a professional, because of the experience.
Staying busy is not growing a business. Every business owner needs to evaluate their schedule. Yes, a responsible owner knows what is going on and will have to put in a few hours. But are the hours being spent in the most productive way? How much time do you spend putting out fires and running around the place? Your time is valuable and you must use it wisely to move forward. Some of the time management tips explained above may seem counterintuitive or expensive, but consider the loss your business faces when you can’t find the time to be with your clients. The business owner is the face of your business. People buy from owners they trust. But if the owner is never seen, how can customers get to know him? Getting a sale will likely more than make up for the $ 10 per hour you pay for an outsourced employee. Learn to use your time wisely and expand your business while improving your quality of life.