How often do we hear the saying, “time is money”… and how often do we actually really listen to it?
What I’m talking about here is of course time management: prioritisation of decisions by profitable outcome, and balancing the value of all the opportunities that may come your way while deciding which ones to chase, be present at or simply to turn down. Enterprise and building a company are really demanding endeavours, particularly in the early days where the business is in the start phase and there is so much to do across so many different areas.
Do we all practice the Pareto principle? Do we stay focused enough, do we constantly review progress knowing that 80% of our revenue will come from 20% of our customers? Do you really, in a fully costed way know which 20% of your clients are your most profit generating – when you’ve properly allocated all the time and effort to support them? Do you ever look closely at the things you do on a daily basis, to evaluate whether they’re really worth your time or whether that customer (the one that does not follow a clearly defined order process that all others do), for whom you are often running round to the detriment of other opportunities, is really profitable as you think they are – or has emotion clouded your view?
It’s easy to get so caught up in the day-to-day that we never take a step back to really look at the processes and procedures we use, our routines and habits which we perform daily which may or may not be moving that sales needle. Once I started to build my lists and prioritise on profit, I began to allocate planned diary time to critical tasks, and the valuable outcomes accelerated.
Essentially, any time you’re not selling is dead time; it’s time where you’re doing something and not getting money back for it. If a customer is accessible, if a prospect could be available find them and sell to them. No matter what line of business we are in, we should all be selling every single day: networking; making calls; sending emails; passing out samples; educating the consumer; talking to existing customers. All of these things should be at the top of your list every single day to ensure your business remains profitable. Everything else that you do is worth nothing, if you’ve nobody to whom you can sell your product. This is not a chicken and egg conversation; without proving the sales of a product nothing else is needed. Sell first, invest in your sales expertise and in my opinion don’t run a company if you cannot competently sell.
With that in mind then, these are my time saving hacks to help you free up more time for selling:
- Open your emails early in the morning. Ideally before the working day begins. This gives you the chance to read and respond to emails and put the ball firmly back in someone else’s court. You can clear down your emails without more dropping in on top as can often happen during business hours.
- Stay out of your email. You don’t need to be in your email all day; get into the habit of keeping your email closed, and going in only a couple of times a day to read and respond. Indeed if you are running a good appointments diary the routine should be forced on you, only perhaps have a few minutes during the day to sense check. Admin during the day is slowing your growth.
- Be ruthless with emails. Be ruthless about the email lists you subscribe to. If you find yourself archiving or even deleting emails more often than you’re actually reading them, just go and unsubscribe from the list. Your inbox should only have emails you want to receive.
- Get to the point. How often do you have a meeting or telephone call with someone, and spend the first ten minutes on idle chit-chat, discussing the weather or your weekend plans? You need not be rude but this is business and when it makes good sense get to the point; people will appreciate your polite efficiency. Cut to the chase! You should have planned the critical messages you want to put across already; make your pitch, propose your request, get your response and then conclude the outcomes. I don’t mean we should all be rude to each other, but honestly these long drawn-out conversations about how everyone is feeling waste time for both people.
- Exercise. What? To save time? Yes. Study after study has shown that those people who exercise regularly are more productive. No matter how busy I am, whatever I have going on at work or in my personal life, my exercise is non-negotiable. I make it a habit to exercise on a regular basis and I believe you can’t be successful in business if you’re not physically fit. Looking after your wellbeing is an investment in your effectiveness. Even if it’s just a brisk walk before you sit down to make sales calls, it will make a difference.
- Outsource. Life is too short to waste time scratching your head over your new website design or organising rotas. One of the most important things you can do in business is be honest about where your strengths and weaknesses lie. If you’re rubbish at bookkeeping, hire someone who is great at it and enjoys it (these people do exist!). It might sound counterintuitive, in a blog about how time is money, but really you can’t make any money if you’re bogged down in the rubbish you’re no good at. Learn this please: If you can sell, and you convert and make profits, you can work out how long it takes to make a sale and the profit you make. This gives you an hourly rate of return for your efforts. You should be able therefore to calculate that the higher profit of you selling for bigger returns is better than you fiddling around doing admin tasks you can delegate to people by the hour.
- Avoid distraction and get some focus. Close the extra tabs on your laptop and switch off notifications on your phone. Always aim to focus only on the task at hand. By removing distractions and focusing on the thing you’re doing right now, you will be able to get it done so much more quickly, and to a higher standard.
- Work longer hours, but smartly. There are no prizes for who spends the most time at their desk; the prize is in how well you use that time. If you’re at your desk early in the morning or late at night, you can use that time to make contact with suppliers and customers in other countries in different time zones. I’ve already mentioned that it’s worth catching up on emails while everyone else is asleep; outside of normal office hours can often be the best time to get things done as there are fewer distractions. This is enterprise and with all brains perhaps being equal then perhaps only the hardest working can triumph time wise. Certainly time invested in learning to be the best is time well invested. Read about your industry, your sector, your product, competition, but read when you cannot be selling.
- Plan ahead. Don’t wait until you’re stuck on a train or plane for three hours to think “what shall I do with this time” – plan ahead and ensure you have relevant work with you that can be done during that time. Catch up on reading reports or industry relevant articles, or even work on your business plan. A long flight can be a great place to focus your attention on planning without distractions.
- Communicate effectively. Make sure every member of your team knows what is expected of them, what desired outcomes are, how they can do well in their role. If you do this properly and regularly, you will find you spend less time tidying up mistakes or redoing work that could have been done right the first time. Communication is key in business.