ESCAPE VELOCITY – Reaching your Strategic Orbit
As we begin to emerge from the Covid lockdown restrictions, you may be thinking about ways to change your business once again.
Will you go back to the office? Will you continue to work from home? Or you may be erring towards a hybrid between the two.
Perhaps you’ve tried new ways of working over the past year that have been very effective. Perhaps you have seen your business in a fresh light. More likely you’ve been severely stressed by the whole situation, either due to lack of work, or too much as you’ve been trying to keep the business afloat with a skeleton staff, whilst having to furlough employees and save costs. It’s been a distressing time for every business owner and their employees.
But, as we’re beginning to ease out of lockdown, now is the opportune time to seek out the positives, emerge stronger and more resolute, towards a better, improved future. It’s an opportunity to shake off the old (bad) habits, and decide what needs further refinement and evolution. Where can you make things more efficient and easier to run? How can you make yourself and your team more productive?
This is your chance to really optimise your operations and ensure the best possible work-life balance going forwards. If you can rethink your systems and processes and get them in place now, it’ll free you up to set aside time to focus on the projects and growth plans that will take your business to the next level.
In the past you may have felt unwilling to delegate or outsource, thinking no-one else can do things as well as you can. Maybe you feel a lack of clarity on which roles would be required in the business and when to recruit or outsource (and how many hours). And how often have you felt that taking a holiday, or time off for health reasons, has been difficult as it causes your business to grind to a halt?
As the world starts spinning again and business begins to pick up the pace, how will you ensure that you don’t just get stuck in the gravitational pull of the day to day operations of your business, finding yourself back at square one? This could be your perfect opportunity to break that vicious circle, dedicating a solid percentage of your time to focusing on a more strategic orbit to rebuild your business, on stronger, more solid foundations.
Your Sacred Time – spend it wisely!
My previous blog Live to Work or Work to Live explored how to stop and take stock of your current business situation. Review all the day to day tasks and activities you’re involved in and evaluate how much value they’re contributing to your bottom line.
The proactive and important tasks to prioritise in planning your day or week are those that lead to generating revenue. If not, they need to be streamlined, automated, delegated or avoided all together. You need to reduce the amount of your sacred time you’re sacrificing to the reactive, urgent or low value jobs in your schedule.
In this blog I’m going to expand on this theme, but from a slightly different perspective of rethinking, or designing, the job roles that your business may need to recruit or outsource, to let you eliminate them from your To Do list and calendar, all together! You will free up more time to dedicate to your ideal business design and growth.
Task & Time Tracking – Yes, It’s a Valuable Exercise!
Whether it becomes a permanent system, or just for the sake of getting to grips with what you should or shouldn’t be doing, the first step you HAVE to take is logging the tasks you are working on, and the TIME it’s taking you to complete them. We all hate it.
Lawyers, Solicitors, and Accountants are renowned for logging work in 6 minutes chunks (that’s 10 slots an hour they have to account for), but despite how petty or detailed this may sound, there’s method in their madness.
Productivity requires output to be measured against input. That is, how much work you or your team produce, or turnover generated in the time you’re paying someone to do it. If your qualified accountant is costing your business upwards of £20 an hour, you should ideally be getting some sort of reporting or feedback as to how they’re spending their time because if their output is not billing sufficient turnover to cover this outlay, then it’s costing your business money and eroding your profits.
So if you’re a business owner, either working on your own, or with a small team of employees, you’ve got to understand the nitty gritty detail in order to start designing your escape route out of the detail and into your strategic orbit.
Hours Tracker App – no I’m not on Commission
If you’re not already using a similar technology or your existing software doesn’t have the functionality, one simple solution I’ve been using for the last 6 years is the Hours Tracker App.
I’ve unashamedly included a screen shot of a recent weeks’ log to demonstrate what it gives you (whilst protecting the innocent – there’s no client information visible). This was during lockdown, so not exactly pumping out 10 hour days.
The app is so easy to set up with different tasks and Client jobs, to monitor the time you spend on their projects or services. The set up would be completely dependent on the key activities for each job role you’re needing to track. Once it’s set up though, it’s a simple case of tapping the screen to log in or out. If you set up location finder it will even log you in and out automatically if you go to visit a supplier or client’s premises, so you don’t have to worry about logging time when you’re out on the road.
You can add activities and times manually. I sometimes spend 5 or 10 minutes at the end of the day adding bits and pieces that I may have forgotten to log at the time. The minute by minute detail isn’t too critical, it’s the bigger picture of how much time you’re spending on specific clients jobs or your key, goal achieving, PROACTIVE tasks that’s important to monitor.
At the end of each period, whether you want to see it weekly or monthly, regular reports can be emailed to your inbox with a complete summary. It’s also extremely powerful to look back at how much time you’ve spent on the things that you probably shouldn’t be doing. The most common time thieves distracting you from the proactive, high value work that’ll generate revenue are emails, business administration (paperwork, filing etc), accounts and bookkeeping, order processing and invoicing.
The time logs will give you a reality check as to where you may be spending a disproportionate amount of your valuable time on low value work. In turn this will sensitise you to scheduling and planning your time better to focus on the proactive, valuable stuff that’s going to make you money.
But the question still remains as to how to get this reactive work completed so you can get into strategic orbit. The main advantage to collecting this information, even if it’s just over a month or two, is that you’ll have the foundations of determining what job roles you may need to bring onboard, or what to outsource to make better use of your own time.
Recognising the Threshold Point
And this brings us neatly to the beginnings of designing your Business DNA processes and structure. The time logs serve to identify whether the amount of time you’re spending on the low value administrative tasks have reached the threshold point of undermining your value to the business. Using the information of the tasks needing to be done, how much time you roughly spend on them, you can establish what resource to buy in to free yourself up. It may prove a bit of a wakeup call when the stats show you the reality.
The most obvious starting point for most SME business owners, is administrative support. Flexibility is key in finding a suitable candidate that can offer a range of skills including the paperwork, data and bookkeeping, invoicing, order processing – essentially, the back office admin that is essential to keep the work pushing through and the cash flow buoyant but can be delegated to a cheaper resource than yourself. You don’t have to fall into the trap of perceiving every job has to be a full-time permanent position. If you have measured the time required for all the tasks you want to bundle into creating a specific job role, that same detail will highlight whether this is 1 day a week or even just a couple of days a month, and you can calculate the salary and advertise the job accordingly.
The important point here is that with the information you gain from logging task and time you are gathering valuable intelligence to build your business in a controlled and efficient way, to enable you to step away from the day-to-day minutiae and find time to work on strategic projects.
Define Your ‘Company Way’
The second major benefit of documenting and tracking the time spent on tasks is taking the opportunity to draft a step by step procedures of HOW you want the work to be completed. Where do you want the data storing, how do you want documents filed, what are the time frames you need things done by to avoid backlogs building up, or to achieve your client service delivery expectations etc.
This lays down the foundations of your future business processes, procedures and policies designed to ensure standards and quality of service will be adopted by new staff members. Getting these things documented in writing (such as a Company Handbook), makes onboarding new employees quicker and stress free. They will have a crib sheet guiding them through how to do the job, so you know it’ll be done to your preferred best practice, defining the “company way”, and avoiding you paying for a new recruit to reinvent the wheel.
Don’t think this has to stifle creativity. If the team feel there are better and more productive ways of doing something, then they should be encouraged, and a forum created, for ideas to be nurtured. The processes or procedures manuals can be updated and improved on as the jobs evolve and the business grows. Without procedures, individual employees tend to muddle their own way through, which may not be the most efficient, best quality and is not easy for someone else to pick up if they are on holiday, off sick, or leave the company. Those businesses that don’t develop their processes and procedures are invariably the ones receiving countless customer complaints, have a burnt-out frustrated team, and a business owner who spends their life fire-fighting.
Don’t fall into that trap. For a few weeks or months of putting in time and energy to apply yourself to designing how your business is going to operate, building the right job roles to deliver that model, and positioning yourself to manage and lead rather than do, you will reap the rewards. Find your Escape Velocity and you can reach your strategic orbit the business needs you in, to deliver the long-term goals, achieve your financial aspirations, and the work life balance you deserve.
YOUR NEXT STEPS TO GREATER PRODUCTIVITY
Alluxi is here to offer you support through these times of change, bringing a facts and figures approach to evolve your business and realise your goals.
As a first step towards identifying your current business challenges and evaluating where your future opportunities exist within your business, we invite you to complete the in-depth Alluxi Business Success Scorecard delving into the 10 key critical success areas.
Take 15 minutes to respond to the scorecard and get your results within minutes. You’ll have the opportunity to book a follow-up Productivity to Profit Breakthrough Session to find out how you can implement rapid and measurable improvements.
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