photo by dimnikolov
Being a business owner often feels like being in a race…only it’s a race that never ends and it seems like you have to keep running harder just to keep up as you go!
The one thing that most business owners fantasize about, maybe even more than having more money, is having more time! Think about an average week for you – how much time did you have to just sit and kick back without your mind racing, or the phone ringing? Staring at a list of 100 things not getting done doesn’t count!
Imagine if you could find a way to free up 1 hour of your week while still getting the same amount of things done? What about 10 hours a week? What would you do with the extra time?
Most business owners can find a way to squeeze some time out of their regular schedule of stuff. The problem is that it will take time and effort up front to find the longer term solution, however if you can get past that initial hurdle it will definitely be worth it in the long run.
How to find some extra time
Think about something that you do on a regular basis (daily, weekly or monthly) that takes a bit of time, doesn’t really require any special skills and isn’t something that you enjoy. Common candidates might include some sort of bookkeeping function, maybe some kind of reporting or some sort of marketing.
Once you’ve got a couple of candidates, the brainstorm how you might be able to get them out of your schedule. Here are a few questions to consider:
- Is this task something that actually has to be done? What if you just stopped doing it?
- If it has to be done, does it really have to be done by you? Can you carve any of it out and hand it to an employee? How about to a contractor or outsourced resource? Maybe a virtual assistant?
- Is it a candidate for some sort of automation? Have you looked into software or technical support that could do the process for you?
The goal is to find a way to streamline, eliminate, delegate or automate processes. If you isolate the obvious candidates, you will free up time…and even as little as a few hours per month starts to add up pretty quickly.
Another common excuse for not doing this is that most solutions will cost additional money (either up front or just cost more going forward because someone else is doing it). The right way to look at is is to calculate what your time is worth versus what it would cost to do something else. As a business owner, you’re time is worth hundreds of dollars an hour (or you’re not doing something right). If you can offload the monthly accounting entries for $30 or even $40 an hour, you are getting a huge return on your investment!
A couple of examples
For my Peer Group Advisory Boards I send out monthly invoices to all of the participants. The good news for me is that number of participants has consistently gone up over time, but where I originally pulled those invoices together by hand and sent them out individually, the increased volume really made that a pain (and took up to a couple of hours).
My solution came up when I upgraded Quickbooks. It turns out that Quickbooks Pro allows you to memorize transactions, batch them up and send them electronically! (who knew!). So now when it’s time to invoice for the groups, I run the memorized transactions, hit send on the batch and email them all out. Total time to run the group? Maybe 1 to 2 minutes!
My second example is still in process, but it will be a real time saver for a client. This particular client is doing some advertising and driving leads to an online landing page, where interested prospects can download a report in exchange for entering their name and email address. Since these are people who are interested in the topic and they’ve given permission to be marketed to, the next step is to start contacting them, giving them more information and making offers they might be interested in.
The drawback right now is that the follow-up portion of the work is all manual right now. So as an example, my client had 30+ new contacts last week that he is following up with…all manually so far. At the current pace, it will be challenging, but probably achievable to keep up, as long as he doesn’t get busy. However the whole point of the marketing is that he will get busy (with new clients) and that the pace will pick up, leaving him with a nice problem to have, but a problem none the less!
He has a couple of choices – the brute force approach would be to hire someone (could be local or virtual) and give them the access and the direction they need to do the follow up for him. A better choice would be to automate the majority of the responses using a tool. One of the tools that I’m looking at using is InfusionSoft, which can do a lot of really cool, smart automation stuff.
Right now, this follow-up is going to take him a few hours a week, but with either outsourcing or automating, he can free up all or at least most of that time!
What would you do with the time?
Back to the question of the day – now that you’ve hopefully identified a likely candidate for improvement, what are you going to do with the time you save? Ideally you’d use it to relax a bit, but if you’re like most business owners, I’m sure you’ll fill it with additional work!
What could you automate or delegate? Have you been able to free up any time lately? I’d love to hear your thoughts, share them in the comments below.
Shawn Kinkade Kansas City Business Coach