QUESTION: I operate a small service business. There are only so many hours in a day and I find I am overwhelmed with all the demands on my time. Any suggestions you may have will be appreciated.
ANSWER: Time is the one resource most small business owners wish they had more of. It is not enough to work hard; you must also work smart. Scores of articles have been written on effective time management and are readily available by 'Googling' the topic on the Internet. However, I will try to limit my comments to the issues most small business owner face on a daily basis.
Fortunately, one of the most effective time management tools is also the simplest ? the basic 'to do' list. Each day, jot down all of the things that need to get done, all on one sheet of paper. Then check the ones that are the highest priority 'must do' items. This will help you focus on and complete specific tasks, thereby giving you a sense of accomplishment.
Technology can assist you in this endeavor. Www.TimeTiger.com provides a Web-based to-do list that helps you monitor your project and non-project activities.
Effective use of subordinates is often an underutilized asset of which many business owners fail to take full advantage. Owners accustomed to 'doing it all' find this exceedingly difficult. Time spent in training employees to handle specific tasks will pay big dividends in the long run. Outsourcing is another option to consider. Bookkeeping and payroll are two time-consuming functions that can be outsourced for a nominal fee.
Get the 'monkey' off your back and place it where it belongs. When an employee comes to you with a problem, they generally want you to solve it for them. Turn this situation into a learning experience by asking them "what do you believe is the best way to deal with this issue?" If their response is reasonable, praise them and let them deal with the 'monkey.' It is also a great confidence and morale builder.
Learn to minimize distractions. No matter how well one plans their day, phone calls and walk-in customers will wreak havoc with your 'to do' list unless you take control of the situation. If you must take the call, be sure to stay on point and conclude the conversation as soon as possible. If a subordinate can handle the customers' needs, be sure to bring them together. Explain that he or she is responsible for that function. This lets the customer develop a relationship and comfort level with others in your company.
Time management is not just for the boss. It should be stressed at every level. Divide the day into small time blocks and record what you and others were doing in each block. Compare this real use of time to your goals, expectations and priorities. If they do not align, you need to take action. Time management must be part of the culture of a successful business, and leadership, by example, must start at the top.
Gray Poehler is a volunteer with SCORE Naples. Business counseling on this and other business matters is available, without charge, from the Naples Chapter of SCORE. Call (239) 430-0081 or visit https://naples.score.org/mentors .The SCORE business office is located at 900 Goodlette Road North, in the Fifth Third branch bank building.