Time: The smallbusiness owner’s biggest competitor
Cape Cod SCORE
Question: How can I use my time more efficiently when there is so much do in managing my small business.?
Answer: Small business owners face many challenges and issues that are not understood by those that have never walked in their shoes. Owning and managing a small business is a complex job since most of the functions that are delegated in larger organizations are manifest in the owner. We often say that sales and cash management are the principle roles reserved for small business owners and cannot be delegated if you are to survive. However, many other functions from accounting to purchasing to marketing and promotions are in the purview of the business owner as well since there is no one to whom you can delegate. Aside from having to manage the inside of an organization, a small business manager is also the face of the enterprise to the outside world.
The owner/manager of a small business is accountable for the success or failure of their enterprise. What is their greatest resource? Time. How to allocate time so that energy and resources are focused and concentrated where it counts is the challenge. This element of small business ownership is also an issue to assure that you have a life outside of the business. Time management is never taught like accounting, finance, marketing, law or personnel management.
So identifying what is urgent and what is important in your business and your life is the first step. All the techniques for time management are lost if you cannot identify what are the must do and what are those do’s that can wait.
Porter and Nohria at Harvard Business School conducted exhaustive research into executive time management. Let’s refocus the results of their studies on how small business leaders can manage their time to manage their businesses more effectively.
Small business management is all consuming. In their study, Porter and Nohria found that leaders worked just short of 10 hours per day. 79% worked on weekend and 70% worked while on vacation. As any small business owners
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already knows, they never stop thinking about their businesses. All good managers delegate, but some activities demand faceto- face contact with customers and staff to “provide direction, create alignment, win support, and gather information (about situations) needed to make good decisions.”
Making time for personal wellbeing.
Managing your business is all consuming, however those that are effective and efficient, create “me-time” so they can preserve their health, their personal relationships and keeping ties with their families strong. Me-time can be defined as adequate time to sleep, exercise, extend their life-long learning by reading, listening to pod-casts and YouTube webinars.
Management by Walking Around.
Tom Peters in his landmark book, In Search of Excellence, brought us the concept of managing by being present – physically.
They work face-to-face. 60%, on average, of a managers’ time is spent interacting with their team and their customers. The is the way effective managers “exercise influence, learn what’s really going on and delegate….”
This is how they learn the facts of their business, coach their team and connect with their customers. How they spend their time is directly translated into what is “urgent” for the business’s employees. They know what is really going on in their business by being present in the life of the business.
Don’t fall into the email trap.
Porter and Nohria found that 24% of executives spent their workday engaged with electronic communications. When you fall into the email abyss, you reduce the amount of time you are engaged face-to-face. Email is a business disrupter if you don’t discipline yourself to manage the time you read, sort and answer emails. The work of small business is accomplished through discussion, not emails. If manager’s hide behind their digital communications, they are not fully engaged in the life of the business. Again, this is an area where the mantra of “concentration where it counts” since most emails are dealing with issues that are not “urgent”. They are merely informing not focused on action. One solution is to set the standard for what emails you will receive and which ones you don’t need to even get a copy.
Don’t hold or attend meetings without agendas. Meetings are the anathema of business efficiency.
By having a specific agenda circulated in advance of the meeting so attendees can think about each topic and be prepared to discuss them makes the time together more efficient and effective. The agenda sets the priorities of the meeting. Those that are not as “urgent”, but “important” may be carried over to the next engagement. A leader’s agenda for the organization is demonstrated through the preparation and adherence to this tool at every meeting. When there is an agenda, the meetings are normally shorter and more effective in addressing the issues facing the organization.
Be proactive, not reactive. The study found that 36%, on average, of manager’s time was spent being reactive. The issue is the same as determining your agenda. What is “urgent”. Which of the unfolding situations appear to be small, but could “balloon” into a larger devastating problem. The challenge is when to intervene to assure that small issues don’t become larger problems. Being proactive vs having to react to a larger situation whose solutions are more complex is the challenge. There are times when managers just find themselves having to address emergency situations. Hopefully the number of hours per week, month or year when crisis management is the mode, is limited.
Delegate – rely on your team vs.
doing it yourself. We often refer to small business ownership as a “24/7” engagement. Unless you are a solopreneur, it doesn’t have to be that way. You can actually create leverage for your personal effectiveness by learning the skills, talents, interests of your team and delegate to give you time to focus on what really counts – sales and cash management.
Hand-in-hand with delegation is trust and support. Trust in the team member that they can and will undertake the tasks and support from you, management to assure they have the tools to accomplish the mission. When effective delegation occurs, then management feels good about their time. Good that their time is spent where it can do the most good for enterprise.
It’s all about people. The business of management is people.
The value proposition of every organization is driven by the people who make up the employees of a business. Managers who are leaders are committed to their team by giving them the tools to make them successful in their work, as well as grooming the next generation of leaders. Leaders create a culture that becomes the brand of the company. When leaders pay attention to their people, support them in their work and defend their actions create a supportive team culture.
Time is a small-business owner’s greatest competitor.
Learning how to manage one’s time creates an environment the yields success.
Contributed by Marc L. Goldberg, certified mentor. Sourced from “How CEOs Manage Their Time,” by Michael E. Porter and Natin Nohria, Harvard Business School.
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