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Posted on by Mike

Time, Time, Time

Time, more than any other asset including cash, is critical to the success of your business.  How you use your time spells the difference between success and failure.  Businesses that grow organically routinely turn time into cash flow.  Businesses that squander time cannot get it back at any price.

 As 2013 rolls to an end and 2014 emerges, let’s take a serious look on how best to effectively manage the time we have.  For most business owners there is never enough time.  Worst still, for most business owners, wasting time translates to losing money or missing hard fought opportunities.

How Much Time?

Looking at any given year, time is a strictly limited resource, 365 days and if it’s a leap year, you get one more day.  Now start subtracting your planned “time outs”.  Like weekends, holidays, personal or “sick” time and you wind up with approximately 230 days.

Start with

365

Days

Subtract

-104

  For Weekends
Subtract

-9

  For Holidays
Subtract

-10

  For Vacation
Subtract

-12

  For Personal Time

230

  Available Work Days

Two Basic Kinds of Time

Consider the distinction between working “in your business” and “on your business”. For start-ups and small businesses, I recommend working “on your business” 20-30% of the time.  Choosing 25% translates to 57 days working “on your business”.  That’s a day and a half per week, leaving 173 days to work “in your business”.

Most small business owners work more than 8 hours per day, so let’s arbitrarily pick 10 hour working days.  Restating your annual work time then comes to 1,730 hours “in your business” and 530 hours “on your business”.

How is Time Used 

Setting time aside and think about how best to spend that time to advance your business goals.  Most new startup companies work “in their business” almost exclusively.  If you are new, you will likely spend your time:

–  Selling
–  Manufacturing
–  Designing
–  Servicing
–  Etc.

All of these activities are essential and are intended to lead directly to income (revenue) that supplies the cash flow you need to live.  All small business owners should be spending most of their “in business time” doing these things.

The “on your business” time should focus on growth and increasing sustenance (business’s longevity).  These kinds of activities are more indirect like the following:

 –  General Planning
–  Marketing
–  Accounting
–  Procurement
–  Hiring
–  Training
–  Operational Efficiency
–  Avoiding Risks
–  Etc.

The benefits of “on your business” time can’t be overstated.  They turn “hard work” into “strategic work” or more purposeful work.  Owners who commit dedicated time to work “on their business” will improve their sale’s performance; leverage expenses and capital-spend more, and likely avoid surprising disruptions (risks and threats).

Routine By Cycle

The best way to optimize the use of time is to develop the discipline of routine.  Routines are the building blocks of healthy business activity cycles.  There are several cycles that occur throughout a business year:

Cycle Typical Example
Daily (Examples could be: Open the business, run the business, close the business, sell)
Weekly (Examples could be: Payroll, scheduling, ordering materials or supplies, sell)
Bi-weekly (Examples could be: Payroll, ordering materials or supplies, sell)
Monthly (Examples could be: Payroll, Accounting, Performance Reporting, sell)
Semi-monthly (Examples could be: Payroll, ordering materials or supplies, sell)
Quarterly (Examples could be: Payroll Tax Reporting)
Annually (Examples could be: Income Tax Reporting, New Year goal setting & budgeting)

So these and many more activities (not listed) can seem daunting.  Not to worry: routines will save the day.  Once routines are in place most things get done easily and consistently.  You will do some yourself, you will outsource some and you will team with others to complete the rest.  Routine reduces stress and assures quality and compliance.

So how are routines established?

For each activity cycle:

    1. Identify which business goal is being achieved
    2. Define the objective that will be reached at completion
    3. Identify the activity
    4. Identify dependencies, pre and post requisites
    5. Estimate the time
    6. Define the priority
    7. Determine who will do or participate in the effort to reach the objective
    8. Define the measure of quality that you will evaluate

Test Your Estimates and Definitions

If you’ve never done this before, it is more than likely that you will not identify all of a cycle’s activities or get the time estimates as accurate as you’d like.  So review your initial definitions and estimates and ask a colleague to review and challenge your work.  Also, each subsequent year you should review and revise your cycle routines based on the previous year’s experience.

Once the steps above are completed for each cycle:

  1. Measure the sum of the estimated activity cycle time for feasibility
  2. Test whether reaching the objectives really contributes to the goals you’ve set
  3. Sort the activities by your defined cycle priorities and confirm those priorities
  4. Confirm the availability of others you will depend on

Make any adjustments required to make the activity cycle achievable.

Translating Goals and Objectives to Routine Cycles

The table below illustrates ALL activities required to achieve you business goals and its easier to design, and more strategic to order the activities by those required to attain your business goals.

 

Goal

Objectives

Cycle

Priority

Effort (Hrs)

Description

Pre-reqs

Post Reqs

Evaluation Criteria

1

A

Daily

X

HRS

Text

Text

Text

Text

1

B

Weekly

X

HRS

Text

Text

Text

Text

1

C

Monthly

X

HRS

Text

Text

Text

Text

1

D

Quarterly

X

HRS

Text

Text

Text

Text

Then sort the activity definitions by priority within each cycle.  A theoretical example of a “daily cycle” is shown below.

Cycle

Priority

Effort (Hrs)

Description

Pre-Reqs.

Post Reqs.

Evaluation Criteria

Daily

1

HRS

Text

Text

Text

Text

Daily

2

HRS

Text

Text

Text

Text

Daily

3

HRS

Text

Text

Text

Text

Daily

4

HRS

Text

Text

Text

Text

Daily

5

HRS

Text

Text

Text

Text

Daily

6

HRS

Text

Text

Text

Text

Total

HRS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

North Star

Anyone who’s founded, operates and tries to grow a business understands that day-to-day work can get fairly hectic, even chaotic.  Time management planned in advance, serves as a “North Star” when ordinary disruptions turn you around or leave you disoriented.  Like the North Star, routines allow you not only to answer that question, “Now where was I” but since they are ranked by priority, you are likely to attend to the most critical activities should you run out of time.

Have a great new year and take the time to get rid of the stress!




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