There is one resource that we are all given equally: time. What you do with yours in business can be the difference between success, failure, or plain old mediocrity.
Many business owners decry a lack of resources to grow, chief among them being time. Whilst it is easily received, time is devilish to manage.
Once they transition to self-employment, many entrepreneurs have been effectively “institutionalised” by former employment: they come to miss the corporate framework that gave structure to their workday. Despite the fact this structure was one of the factors they had longed to escape!
The wide-open spaces of business ownership may give the appearance of freedom. What this grass-is-greener vision doesn’t convey, however, is that there is no escaping the responsibility of business ownership when pay day and monthly bills fall due.
Getting the basics right is key to ensuring your time is spent wisely and productively:
Goal-setting: Managing time requires setting goals. The more time spent on a task, most likely, the more output. If nothing else, at least time working for the business is time invested in the business.
Efficiency: An honest assessment of skills is a great place to start. What are you the business owner really good at? Maybe a skill that required years to acquire is the essence of the business plan.
Analysis: The concept of skills as an asset sometimes gives sole traders a license to work overtime. They do so because no analysis has been made of what the business really is – a service company undertaking a task that could in part be delegated to a lesser-skilled person.
Big picture view: This could be the first step to freeing up the business owner to expand the business. A complete review of the business plan may reveal that rather than being on the tools, the business owner is best placed to sell the service and also has the skills to train others to undertake lesser-skilled tasks.
Ensure you know your clients. Take time to mystery shop your own business.
“The customer is always right” is a phrase pioneered by Harry Gordon Selfridge, John Wanamaker and Marshall Field in around 1905: “Every one of their thousands of employees are instructed to satisfy the customer regardless of whether the customer is right or wrong.”
The customer always wins the argument. They can silently vote with their feet. As such, time spent learning how your relationship is perceived by your customers is time truly invested.
A single customer inclined – or better still, enabled – to give repeat business is an asset. The person with the most to gain from good customer experience is the business owner.
Take time to mystery shop your own business. Ring and ask for service. If the response is not as you would wish, invest more time in improving how your company appears to the community. It is perhaps the best time investment for any business owner.
Presenting your business for sale to yourself can deliver a rude shock. All those things that need fixing; the professional appearance (or lack thereof); what could be improved if only you had the time.
Step back and critique your overall operation. Compare it to not only your direct competition but to other businesses too.
This will take time, but the rewards may well be that your business looks and feels better than the competition. Your customers and staff will notice. As will any prospective future buyer.
What is the most valuable asset the business owner has to invest to generate the maximum return? Time.
“Time is money,” as Benjamin Franklin reportedly espoused in 1748. Yet similar quotes date back at least the 5th Century BCE, when Greek biographer Plutarch described time as the “most costly outlay”.
Another short but powerful quote that should ring in the ears of every business owner is “business is business”, paraphrased from US President Calvin Coolidge (1923-29).
When undertaking any time commitment, ask yourself: Is this an investment or a waste of time? Will it assist the business?
Devote your time and effort to where it will bring the most rewards and the rest will follow. As Hollywood executive Samuel Goldwyn once said, “the harder I work, the luckier I get”.
Alan Manly OAM is the CEO of Universal Business School Sydney (UBSS) and author of The Unlikely Entrepreneur. To find out more, visit www.ubss.edu.au.