Time Management Tips for Small Business Owners
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 finding out exactly what products or services are driving business. Focus most of your energy on the important things, and cut back 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 good old time management advice to tackle the most important projects first. Teach this strategy to your employees so that everyone finds the time to complete important projects. Once you rank your activities in order of importance, give yourself a set amount of time to complete them. For example, set yourself a time limit for returning phone calls and responding to emails, and try not to exceed it. Sticking to some sort of schedule will help you stay focused on important projects instead of getting lost in the mundane activities that don’t really drive your business forward.
Make a “to do list” every day. You may think that you don’t have time to write a list every morning. However, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of tasks a small business owner faces every day. Last-minute interruptions and distractions can cause the most focused business owner to forget to finish a task. A short but carefully prepared “to do list” will remind you of what you need to do that day. This will prevent you from forgetting to call your important customer back. Don’t 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 you finish the list.
There comes a point in any business where the owner must learn to say “no.” Whether you’re dealing with an employee in need or a difficult customer, overextending yourself isn’t 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’s tempting for small business owners to waste time micromanaging every aspect of their company. However, there are tasks that do not require the presence of the owner. Teach employees to act and make decisions within the limits of their jobs. This is extremely difficult for the micromanager, but it gives you time and energy to focus on other activities that are more important, like 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 save 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 business 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 deadlines with them each week and make sure they contact you with any updates. Stay connected with your clients and try to avoid any miscommunication affecting end-game projects.
Make sure you take some 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 designed 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 overstressed 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 reaching them. Look at which strategies are moving 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 regularly put off examining their goals. However, constant evaluation can save you time and money as you discover which methods work for you.
It’s tempting to try to save money by doing everything at home. However, outsourcing is often more cost-effective than doing everything yourself. For example, the time you spend working as an accountant could be better spent on following up on leads and building relationships. When 35 percent of small business owners lament that they don’t have time to really grow their business, it’s clear that small business owners are taking on too many mundane tasks.
Outsourcing specialized projects not only frees up entrepreneurs to work more effectively, but can also benefit a company’s image and profitability. For example, hiring a graphic designer to create a brochure will likely yield 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 interested in graphic design might have a better job than you, and this person might be willing to work a little cheaper than a professional, for the experience.
Staying busy is not growing a business. Every business owner needs to evaluate their schedule. Yes, a responsible owner knows what’s going on and will have to put in quite 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 venue? His time is valuable and he must use it wisely to move forward. Some of the time management tips above may seem counterintuitive or costly, but consider the loss your business faces when you can’t find the time to spend with your customers. A business owner is the face of his company. People buy from owners they trust. But if the owner is never seen, how can customers get to know him? Landing a sale will probably more than make up for the $10 an hour you pay for a contract employee. Learn to use your time wisely and grow your business while improving your quality of life.