Endless energy, continuous ideas, a multitude of opportunities – all descriptions that might be vivid images of the owner or manager of a small business. One item that is usually missing in such a description is an overabundance of time. This resource – time – is not an infinite commodity. There is no time machine that can add eight hours to each day, but there are ways to make the most of the hours that we do have in each day. Freeing up valuable hours for productive use in small business operations should be a priority goal for every owner or manager strapped for time.
To some owners, however, time is not a factor. For those in this category, they are fortunate. For the many other small business owners who are pressed for time, reviewing the following time management tips may alleviate some stress.
Set goals and monitor progress
Establish clearly defined business goals and how each will be achieved. Put these on paper, a computer, or other electronic device. The important thing is not to just have business goals in your head. Then create some type of tracking mechanism to measure the progress of each goal identifying and addressing deviations early on that either cause the goal to be completely missed or create a major problem. Small departures from anticipated results are much easier to fix than major issues that take considerable time and effort to resolve. Depending on the business goal, keep involved employees informed so everyone remains focused, motivated, and on track. And, of course, it never hurts to celebrate progress. Your biggest and most important goals can only be tackled in the quantity that current team resources allow such that no one individual has more than one number one priority or then you have two number two’s!
Keep a list of priority goals
It would be wonderful if every goal could be worked on and accomplished immediately. The reality is, however, that goals must be prioritized taking into consideration what will have the greatest positive effect on the business with the least amount of effort and/or business disruption. Therefore, brainstorm with both higher and lower-level employees involved in particular goals discussing issues, resources, and important items that need to be accomplished to achieve the intended goals. Rank all of the goals as being:
1. Urgent – must do
2. Important – should do
3. Worthwhile – nice to do
4. Valuable – able to delegate
5. Unnecessary – possibly eliminate
After completing the identification process, work can begin on the urgent and important goals when energy levels are high and everyone involved is totally focused on accomplishing certain results. Avoid spending time working on non-essential items, otherwise, the workday passes without any meaningful accomplishments. A Chief Operating Officer can do this for your entire organization, or a small business consultant can help you make these lists based on an effort-to-impact scale.
We all know one thing about technology. It offers mixed blessings. On the positive side, there is increased efficiency and productivity. On the negative side, however, there is wasted time and attention spent answering personal emails, surfing the Internet, social networking, texting, and cell calls. Although some individuals can multi-task better than others, even small interruptions create a loss of continuity in thinking that prevents the ability to totally focus on tasks to be achieved. As a countermeasure to these issues, establish timeslots during the day with no interruptions and distractions. Likewise, you can set aside certain times to review emails, make calls, or tend to personal business. The most important thing is to stay focused without undue distractions.
Although small business owners many times want to do everything themselves, this is not practical or prudent. As a business grows, employees must be groomed to handle additional responsibilities and talented individuals with perhaps different skill sets hired to manage certain aspects of the operations allowing the owner to work on higher-level management and planning activities. Conceivably in the early stages of a business, an owner might be able to micromanage, however, there comes a point in time when micromanaging must be avoided to achieve maximum efficiency. Mentoring and training are important aspects of business growth and success.
Efficiency Is The Key
Efficiency is a key factor to operating a successful and profitable business and is a byproduct of having all employees knowledgeable in their particular area of responsibility. How efficient is it for a business to operate with only a handful of employees knowing how to handle certain business functions? Answer: Not very efficient at all!
Procedures run the gamut of activities in a business. To operate efficiently, each procedure should be accomplished the same way all the time regardless of who performs the particular function. The question is, “How does a small business get to that point?”
Written procedures are important to operational efficiency as they do the following:
- Standardize each separate business function.
- Allow review of each business function by others for possible improvement.
- Simplify the process of cross-training employees in different functional areas.
- Minimize delay when one employee takes over for another employee.
- Permits management to follow up and review procedures to ensure company compliance.
The process of developing, writing, testing, and improving procedures is a continual cycle. Once written, procedures should be periodically reviewed for possible revision and improvement. Change is a never-ending process in a business; therefore, procedures also need to be changed to improve operational efficiency.
Some Better Than Nothing
Currently, no written procedures? Don’t worry about preparing all procedures in writing immediately. This can be an impossible and discouraging task.
- Start by preparing written procedures that are most critical to the company’s performance.
- Have the written procedures reviewed by as many employees as possible that work with the particular procedure.
- Compile all written procedures in a binder or accessible computer document for easy viewing.
Change is Inevitable, and Beneficial
Rather than thinking of written procedures as a luxury when time permits, they are really a necessity for the long-term success of a business. Things have probably always been done essentially the same way for years. Perhaps, during the height of the pandemic, some things changed out of necessity. For many businesses, the changes produced positive results. This could be and should be a starting point to make more changes in the business with the goal to improve overall operational efficiency.
If changes are going to be made, (1) all procedures should be reviewed and (2) final procedures put in writing. Keep in mind that all businesses operate with some type of procedures from the time a business opens until it closes whether it’s a brick-and-mortar business, Internet-based business, or some combination of the two.
With only 24 hours in each day and seven days in each week, hopefully the tips above will let you make the most of your available time. Why not use some of your new free time to have a complimentary 15 minute introduction and learn how SBG Consulting might be able to help your business reach the next level?