Time Management Tips For Small Business Owners

Most business owners probably already know that 20 percent of their product comprises 80 percent of their sales. Save time in the long run by discovering exactly which products or services are driving the business. Focus the majority of your energy on the important things and cut back on the time you devote on the other 80 percent.

Learn to prioritize. Just as 20 percent of your product drives your business, some of your activities are more productive than others. It is an old but good time management tip to tackle your most important projects first. Teach this strategy to your employees so that you will all find the time to complete the important projects. Once you rank your activities based on order of importance, give yourself a set amount of time to complete them. For example, give yourself a time limit to return phone calls and reply to emails, and try not to go over it. Sticking to some sort of a schedule will help you stay focused on important projects rather than get lost in the mundane activities that do not really drive your business forward.

Make a “to do list” every day. You may think that you do not have the time to write a list every morning. However, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of chores that face a small business owner each day. Last minute interruptions and distractions can make the most focused business owner forget to finish a task. A brief but thoughtfully prepared “to do list” will remind you of what you need to do that day. This will prevent you from forgetting to call back your important client. Do not go beyond the day’s work when writing the list, and set reasonable goals. Getting ahead is great, but you can work on that when the list is finished.

There comes a point in every business when the owner must learn to say “no.” Whether you are dealing with a needy employee or a difficult customer, spreading yourself too thin is not good for your business. Yes, you need to make customers happy, but sometimes they will ask for the near impossible. Consider whether or not doing something is good for your business before saying yes, and learn to delegate.

It is tempting for small business owners to waste their time micromanaging ever aspect of their company. However, there are tasks that do not require the presence of the owner. Teach employees to take action and make decisions within the boundaries of their positions. This is extremely difficult for the micromanager, but it does provide you with time and energy to focus on other activities that are more important, such as bringing in more customers. Should an employee call you about purchasing equipment? Yes. Should an employee call you because someone was two minutes late to work? Probably not. Creating parameters that define the extent of each employee’s decision-making authority will keep a small business owner from having to put out minor fires. Having clear boundaries will also build up employee morale. In all honesty, people generally hate being micromanaged. You hired your employees for their talent, so why not put it to good use?

Communicate with your employees and be aware of your business’ deadlines. Small business owners are still in charge, and they need to communicate with their employees in order to ensure that they are on the same page. Discuss the deadlines with them each week and make sure that they contact you with any new developments. Stay connected to your clients and try to prevent any miscommunication that will affect projects late in the game.

Be sure to take some time for yourself. This feels counterproductive. Many company executives and small business owners are guilty of confusing busy with productive. However, human beings need time to rest and decompress. Numerous studies have shown that taking short breaks actually improves overall productivity. The brain is not wired to work nonstop. People who take breaks make fewer mistakes and work faster. A study by Dr. Coker explains that people who take short breaks online are nine percent more productive than their overly stressed colleagues. So relax a minute for the good of the company.

Stay focused on your goals. What do you want from your business? Set aside some time each month to examine your goals and how you are getting there. Look at what strategies are moving you forward and identify which ones are dragging you back. This might sound easy, but many small business owners are so focused on the day-to-day activities that they put off examining their goals regularly. However, constant evaluation can save you time and money as you discover which methods work for you.

It is tempting to try to save money by doing everything in house. However, outsourcing is often more cost effective than doing everything yourself. For example, the time that you take working as an accountant could be better spent following up leads and building relationships. When 35 percent of small business owners lament not having the time to really grow their businesses, it is clear that small business owners are taking on too many mundane tasks.

Outsourcing specialized projects not only frees business owners to work more effectively, it can also benefit the company’s image and profitability. For example, hiring a graphic designer to create a brochure will probably yield better results than simply typing something into a Word document. If you really cannot afford to outsource a project to a professional, look inside the business. Chances are that you have a multitalented staff. Someone with an interest in graphic design might to a better job than you could, and this individual just might be willing to work a little cheaper than a professional would, for the experience.

Staying busy is not growing a business. Every business owner needs to evaluate his or her schedule. Yes, a responsible owner knows what is going on and will have to put in quite a few hours. But are the hours being spent in the most productive manner? How much time do you spend putting out fires and running in place? Your time is valuable, and you must use it wisely to move forward. Some of the time management tips explained above might seem counterintuitive or expensive, but consider the loss your business faces when you cannot find the time to be with your customers. A business owner is the face of his or her company. People buy from owners they trust. But, if the owner is never seen, how can customers get to know him or her? Landing a sale will probably more than compensate for the $10 an hour you pay for an outsourced employee. Learn to use your time wisely and expand your business while you improve your quality of life.

When is the Best Time to Sell Your Business?

When to sell a business is the most common question among business owners. The time to sell is when you want to move on to the next challenge or retire. If you don’t move on when your heart is no longer into it, you may do harm to your business. Don’t worry about if you’re selling when the market is at the top because no one really knows where that is; or how far it may go down. Efficient markets price everything from gasoline to cheese fairly and your business is no different. This is true as long as there is a liquid market for your business; meaning there are enough buyers and sellers to create an efficient market. People worry about not getting enough money for their business instead of worrying about their buying power. In a buyer’s market, buyers demand a discount so you may get less for your business, but you also get more buying power from the sale of your business. In a seller’s market, you may collect more money at closing, but you will have less buying power as goods and services are priced at a premium. As long as you create an efficient market for your business, the time to sell is whenever you are ready.

A strong business is worth more money than a weak business. Every business owner should always be strengthening their business to enhance its value. Don’t worry if your business isn’t perfect, none are and the imperfections in your business may be just the thing that gets it sold. People like to buy businesses with the right things wrong. If a manufacturing company had a great line of products but poor marketing, a marketing person could buy the company and maintain existing product line and add strong marketing. The business would be more valuable for the new owner after marketing was added.

Your business must be presented in a way to create an efficient market so you get maximum fair market value upon sale of the business. This process must be done without anyone knowing your business is for sale until you leave the closing table. Failure to do this could result in the loss of key employees, customers and vendors.

Business brokers or business intermediaries are commonly used to connect buyers and sellers. Business broker typically collect a fee of 10-12% of the sales price, but some will negotiate depending on the circumstance. It is possible to sell a business on your own, but you must carefully plan how you will present the business to the largest amount of buyers while maintaining complete anonymity so no one knows it’s for sale.

If you are considering selling your business, the probable sales price of your business will be important. All businesses are valued based on their capacity to earn income and how reliable the income stream. Businesses are sold on some multiple of earnings. The multiple is dependent on the quality of earnings. The corner sandwich shop may get 1 times earnings while Google gets 30 times earnings. The market is pricing Google’s earnings 30 times more than the sandwich shop because the sandwich shop could go out of business for many reasons, but it is unlikely that Google will go out of business or stop making money in the foreseeable future. As the earnings prospects change, so will the multiple.. It’s critical that business owners constantly increase the value of their business, regardless if you ever decide to sell.

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The Meaning of Business

What is business about?

If you are in business, whatever the type, it would serve you well to understand the reson d’ĂȘtre, or reason, a business exists. Anyone who ever participated in an economics class back at school would have learned this ‘basic principle’ of business. I admit, from experience many business owners have forgotten it, and surprisingly, even more business owners are not aware of it.

Business is all about selling a product or service in order to make a profit.

This is powerful stuff if you can make it your guiding principle behind everything that you do – but as I said, I have been surprised during my consultancy work that many business owners are completely unaware of it.

But I go one step further in assisting business owners lay down the foundation stone of their business. I have added some extra words (critical points) and a fourth element to motivate clients to continue achieving great results with their businesses. So here are my reasons why a business should exist:

A business (1) specialises in selling (2) specific products or services with a distinct point of difference in the market, (3) to make a profit (4) sustainably and continuously.

I have highlighted the critical words (which I have added) to the age-old economic phrase. My thinking behind customising the reason for a business’ existence lies in my belief that it is simply not good enough for a business to offer the same goods and services as the bulk of other like minded businesses, and nor is it good enough to experience industry benchmark returns/percentages of profit. Furthermore, the actions of every member within every business must be tuned for the long-term (sustainable and continuous) growth in profit.

This means that a static profit percentage following a predictable bell curve, leading to a flattening of growth, then decline, does not have to be law so long as the business focus is on integrating ‘different’ methodology, structure, and philosophies guaranteed to deliver solid sales growth. These approaches shun the ‘normal’, and widely accepted, asphyxiating year on year practice of draconian fiscal restraint and/or cutbacks. (Incidentally, it is my firm opinion, proven by 100′s of success stories, that the carte-blanche razoring of inputs and operational expenses of businesses actually diminishes sales over periods greater than 12 months). In other words, the actions of most business owners actually damage their business because they do not appreciate fully the implications of my description of why a business exists.

So, let’s look at these 4 elements and critical words in sequence.

1. ‘Specialises in selling’: – many businesses involved in other industries such as real estate, new and used vehicle sale, telecommunications etc, readily accept the absolute necessity of ongoing and innovative training in sales. It accepted without second thought or complaint. All businesses are in the business of selling, and that is a fact!

However, when it comes to Food & Beverage sector businesses, most business owners believe they don’t have to focus on training staff to sell. The highly organised multi-nationals are not included in this group, but without any doubt in my mind, it defies belief as to how many staff members of F&B businesses HAVE NOT been trained in sales methods, techniques of up-selling, on-selling, cross promotions, local area marketing etc.

If your first ‘link in this chain’ – which is to become a specialist sales focused business – is made strong, with an unassailable level in your local market, then it must follow that the last ‘link in this chain’ will improve dramatically.

2. ‘Specific products or services with a distinct point of difference in the market’: – it is simply not enough, in the 21st century, to offer products or services to the same level of quality (or value) to the bulk of other like-businesses out there. In my mind, it is inexcusable. We live in a day and age where everyone is seeking a better look, a better experience, a more up-market vehicle etc. Times have changed from the days where any old car would do! If it were not so, then their would be little interest in the great many lifestyle programmes on television – they seem to engulf most of our viewing time – which exalt the sophistication and value of quality.

Quality, when it comes to the Food & Beverage sector, is a point of difference! The reality is that the bulk of businesses continually scour for suppliers who can supply the lowest possible cost of goods. Whilst I am not advocating going berserk with spending on quality raw materials, there is a weighted balance towards better quality supplies that I do advocate. For instance, if you buy a basic computer, you get what you pay for. Spend a little more, and the number of features you can add to the ‘base’ model rises exponentially. Of course, there is a point you reach where for every dollar spent thereafter brings minimal (noticeable) improvements to the user. Like computers, food and beverages fall into the same pattern. I admit, that having worked in Asia, that making many business owners understand this is largely predicated on their ability to quantify or discern a significant difference in quality of somewhat more expensive inputs – e.g. Coffee. The reality is that the Asian palate, and the typical Asian consumer is not, on average, a sophisticated coffee drinker. Much the same could be said for wine – both liquids being well and truly entrenched in western culture for many years. What is significant is that in western cultures the pursuit of quality over price has come at a time of maturation of these markets, and the adjustment of palates able to taste quality differences.

In an immature and improving market, a shrewd business owner can take the ‘jump’ on all their competitors by borrowing this mature market approach, and deliver an overwhelming point of difference in all products/services delivered to end consumers. It may ‘cost’ a little more (and I prefer to call it an ‘investment) but it delivers primacy of place in your market and a huge uplift in sales since customers instantly acknowledge a vast improvement in value for money.

3. ‘To make a profit’: – no need to labour this point. I think we all know that we need to make a profit otherwise we will soon be out of business. Whilst this is a fundamental understanding, it is not so easily achieved when I emphasise it should always accompany the following element.

4. ‘Sustainably and continuously’: – making a reasonable profit is okay, but if it is a benchmark result (i.e. in keeping with industry averages) then how is it that you or your business is any good? There is no way anyone can convince me that they are a great businessperson, or that their business is performing very well, when the little percentage figure at the very bottom of their P&L speaks for itself. It is true that everyone is different, and that a great many business owners would be very happy achieving industry benchmark results. Maybe so, until I can point out exactly how much they miss out on every year, and what that translates to in percentage profit within one year. And what that would mean over the remaining time on their lease. And what it would mean in increased capital value of their business. It has not been uncommon for businesses I have worked with to experience 40% or more in sales growth per annum (irrespective of external dynamics) and over several years.

Sustained and continuous growth means sustained and continuously growing profits – for it cannot be any other way unless you grossly mismanage or misappropriate your cash-flow. But to achieve it, a business must not only make claims of being ‘the best’ or ‘market leader’ it must live it. Few do. In my mind, any claim of leadership must be founded on a track record of (1) real innovation and (2) complete local market dominance. As I said, few business owners can lay claim to these. But being able to results in proof that sales and profit growth can be sustainable and continuous over the long term.

Whilst it is easy for me to lay out the above comments, we must take a serious look at whether we truly are squeezing out every bit of $$$ juice from our business. Remember, if we are focused and intentional about the above elements our business will be well on its way to doing so. Surprisingly, it is easier to tell when a business is not.

The telltale signs are easy to recognise, and surprisingly you will notice them in most F&B category businesses. Just imagine yourself as a customer, and let me ask whether you ever noticed:

Staff who avoid your gaze when you enter the store?
Staff who are too busy wiping counters and expecting another staff member to serve you?
Staff who stand behind the counter numbly waiting for the customer to tell them what they want?
Staff who do not suggest add-ons or up-sell to customers?
Store owners who, by their very demeanour, are signalling they do not wish to be bothered by you?
Stores and display cabinets devoid of product? (How can you hope to sell with empty display cabinets?)

And there are many more examples, but I think you get the point. A question, which is more pertinent to any business owner reading this, is: – how much of this is going on in your business?

At a minimum, you and your staff must become experts at selling.

I often pose the following question to owners:

How different would your turnover be if everyone in your business had attended at least one selling techniques course, or participated in an in-house sales role-playing session?

Sales improve when everyone working in the business understands that ‘we don’t save our way to success; we sell our way to success’. So, at a minimum, anyone involved in a business must understand and master how to sell techniques.

And here is a little surprise for anyone in business: – customers love being sold to, and they don’t appreciate you if they are not sold to! Yes, that’s right. Customers love being sold to; they love a package deal, a bargain, some recognition, some fun, some interaction etc. These are inseparable components to the skill of selling.

For the business owner and their team of staff, learning how to sell builds confidence. With a confident team, selling becomes child’s play. As I said earlier, customers are happy to go along with (almost) anything suggested by a skilled salesperson. And think how much easier it is to process customers and generate sales growth when you can tell customers what they want.

But we must be careful.

The ‘hard sell’ generally does not work in an F&B category business. The atmosphere should be relaxed and inviting to customers. Greeting a customer is good; hovering and acting impatient, or pressuring the customer, is bad. To avoid the latter in your business, remember that you and your staff are selling customer satisfaction. By succeeding in doing so, your business will be rewarded with increased sales. So whilst you can get away with not budging on 3 of the 4 elements above, at a bare minimum, you and your staff should master how to sell.