By its very nature, a small business requires an owner to wear numerous hats. You are the CEO, Sales Manager, Operations, Maintenance and the person who is doing all the work. You put in long hours devoting yourself to building the business and providing excellent customer service. You change clothes and talk to your banker, your attorney and your CPA. You have been up since 5:00 AM and it will be 8:00 PM when you walk in the door at home. You are tired, hungry and frustrated, but know invoices have to be prepared, verified, and mailed. You need to review your Accounts Receivable to see who is past due. You know you have to get some checks written or you will be getting collection calls. Oh, you also have a wife and family that want to see you.
Perhaps the scenario painted above is a bit over dramatic, but sometimes the pressures of running your business can prevent you from managing your business. As I hear the screams and jeers from the readers asking “What am I supposed to do, I have to keep the business running”, please give me a bit more patience and read on.
Everyone, from Larry Ellison from Oracle, Warren Buffett with Berkshire Hathaway, Bill Gates from Microsoft, Michael Dell from Dell, to you and I have the same 168 hours in each week. We have to eat, sleep, bathe and take care of personal hygiene. We usually have a commute time between the home and office. We talk to friends and colleagues, read and send e-mails, check our portfolios and generally do what we want to do. The rest of the time is spent dealing with the business, some form of relaxation and some interaction with our families. As a result, we spend the rest of our time with customer demands, emergencies, problems and the normal day to day requirements of running a business.
As a small business owner, you must make the important decisions. Possibly the most important is to take personal responsibility fro your schedule. Go ahead and list everything you are doing or think you should or could be doing if you just had more hours in the day. And by everything, I mean exactly what it says. Get a personal diary, allocate two or four pages to the things you are doing and then write down every activity for at least a month and record it in the diary. Also, if you find yourself stating, ‘I wish I had time to do X, Y or Z’, then writ it down as ‘Possibilities’. If you don’t know or cannot remember what you did, starting from the back of the diary and list the activity under the heading miscellaneous.
At the end of the month, take a three day break. Get you wife and kids and go somewhere you can be pampered, taken care of and relax. On the first day, do nothing associated with business or the diary. On the second day, spend up to four hours totaling the time spent on each activity. On the third day, spend up to three hours breaking down the miscellaneous activities. Then head home, relax, enjoy your family some more.
The next day, remain incommunicado behind a locked door at the office. Study your results and calculate the percentage of time for each activity. Ask yourself, “Is this activity beneficial to my family, my health or my business? If the answer is no, then ask yourself, “Why am I wasting my time?” If the answer is yes, toss it into one of three baskets: ‘Absolutely Vital’, ‘Critical’ or ‘Important’. When you are finished, you will have to grid out a month, perhaps on an Excel® spreadsheet, and see if you can fit everything in. If you do not have enough slots to accomplish everything, you will have to sort the information into some form of priorities. You may have to delegate some activities to an employee. You may have to contract with an outsider for some responsibilities. The goal here is to create order out of chaos. The key is to identify the Absolutely Vital components of your life so you can focus on completing them in a timely and efficient manner.