I talk to dozens of business owner/managers every month, and when I ask them what are their greatest challenges, the same three themes consistently emerge. Time. Team. Money.
There aren't enough hours in the day to do all the things that need doing. They can't seem to find (and keep) the right people. and cash-flow is nearly always tight.
But while team-building and financial management may be important issues, it's nearly always the shortage of time which most inhibits a business's growth. Why should that be?
Could it be that many (most?) business owners don't trust their staff to do a job as well as they themselves would? If that's the case, they've either got the wrong people on board, or they haven't adequately trained them in how things need to be done.
Many business owners find themselves working ludicrously long hours, while their competitively paid staff swan around on a nice little 9-to-5 earner. If I had a pound for every one of them who who isn't even the best-paid person in their own business, in terms of hourly rates, I'd have £10.63
So what prevents them from being able to trust their people to just get on with the job they are paying them to do? Probably they haven't invested some initial time in developing systems and processes that the village idiot could follow. (Whatever happened to the village idiot? Are they a dying in-breed?) As a result, they waste aeons of their own time later, doing it themselves, "because no one else knows how to do it like me."
Investing in time management courses is often the next (or indeed first) port of call, but frankly, to use the immortal words of Basil Fawlty, most of it is just "special subject the bleeding obvious."
THE GREAT ENEMY
To continue the Fawlty Towers theme, if you want to get things done, instead os spending time "squabbling with the guests," as Sybil put it, there are a number of basic principles that you need to adopt, which are straight out of every time management module.
1. Learn to prioritise what is really important to the business's financial health. If it's not urgent and not important (even if you enjoy doing it), don't do it. If it's urgent but not important, get someone else to do it. If it's urgent and important, then obviously get it done. But concentrate on identifying those tasks that are not urgent but important.
2. Make 'To do' lists (daily/weekly/monthly) and make sure the really important stuff is at the top. Then tackle them in order. Even if the one at the top is not your forte or to your taste. (Read Brian Tracy's "Eat That Frog" for a full expose of this philosophy). Do the most difficult task(s) first.
3. Apply the three D's to as many of these tasks as you can: which ones can you realistically Delete, Delay or Delegate?
4. Understand and apply the Pareto Law to your business: 20% of your activity will deliver 80% of the results. If you can identify what that core 20% is, then obviously your time is best spent right there.
5. Don't have anything to do with that multi-tasking drivel. Concentrate on one big important thing at a time, and don't be deflected until it's done.
6. Make plans. Write them down. And stick to them. These include daily activity plans (aka lists: see 2. above) with time allocated against the important tasks. And stop putting things off: it's called self-discipline.
8. That's about it.
That'll be £2.50 each, thank you very much. Yes, that's what I thought you'd say.
Taking time out, to work on your business rather than in it, is of course the key sub-text at work here.
Any time you want to explore the possibilities, I'll be here on my sun-lounger, planning my own next five years or more (and putting those plans into action, of course.)