Small Business Owners: Welcome to the world of self-sufficiency! The biggest difference between an entrepreneur and an employee is an attitude toward preparation. The employee shows up and works the prescribed hours… and leaves. The entrepreneur then prepares for the employee’s next shift; this includes an assessment of capital – will they have everything they need for their next shift(s) – and preparation of space – from the power bill to janitorial, not only do the employees need work to process but a clean, safe place to do it. For the entrepreneur, this is their investment. Even if you are self-employed and have no employees, work occurs in two distinct stages: preparation and performance.
A focus on preparation is a focus on needs. Time is our only fixed variable at 168 hours per week; enticing an employee to work more than 40 hours can be expensive; not having enough for them to be occupied for at least 20 begs the question of why have an employee.
Before we can be productive in our small business, we need to limit our focus to our core importance: what are we providing and can we do so profitably? In all business, profitable means sustainable, so we need to be particularly careful about preparing in such a way as to make the production time efficient. Welcome to the art of saying “no.”
Business people, particularly small business people, where mistakes are felt more profoundly, need to limit our focus to what turns the crank of the business. Marketing, advertising, and relationship building are not the drivers of business but very costly components. Too much time on a two margarita lunch, every day, is a danger to the business, no matter how important your lunch buddy is. Focus on the key process of what is being sold: supplies divided, improved and sold; hours divided and billed, information processed and distributed, the “crank” of the entrepreneurs’ machine is taking something whole, dividing it, adding value as you do, then charging a premium for dividing and adding to cover the cost of the whole, plus your profit.
Something to Think About: On paper, list and prioritize each and every key task in your business and then apply good sense to limiting anything else from your productive day. All financial incentives must focus on these tasks, and all money spent must directly address these tasks. Networking, advertising, rent, employee benefits… they must all have a direct tie to a task result.
Dave Ramsey, a personal financial guru, talks about developing “gazelle intensity,” when tackling problems; Dave talks about the focus prey has when running from a predator and, when survival is your incentive, we perform with clarity and with grace. We are not multi-tasking!
Here are five tips for time allocation within your small business:
1) Set aside hours each week to prepare for each task, each employee, each session of productivity. Like building cardio or learning piano scales, consistency over time trumps last-minute-binging.
2) Start with your own personal week of 168 hours and eliminate food, sleep, and grooming time – what is left and how do you plan to allocate it? (7 hours a night x 7 nights leaves 119 hours, less meal time… 110 hours is a safe starting point for a dedicated warrior).
3) With your work allocation, which should be at least 55 hours (roughly 1/3 of 168 or ½ of 110), where is your time most valuable and where can you hire someone more efficient than you to perform other tasks?
4) Build in a rest allocation. Small businesses are time consuming monsters and without scheduled breaks for rest and reflection we lose our creativity and sense of well-being.
5) Build in some experimentation. We learn from failure. Encourage new ideas, playful applications of your work, and chasing wild dreams – for an hour or two each week.
What are your favorite time allocation tips? BizCentral USA would like to hear! Please share below.