Four Steps to Save Time When There is No Time

My client told me, “I would really like to sit down with you and discuss performance, but I just don’t have any time right now!” I replied, “But Bill, the primary reason that we need to talk is to help you save some time and free up some time so that you can get back to managing your business instead of your business managing you!”

When there is no time to save time, you’re in trouble. You will make poor decisions, run your health into the ground, irritate employees, upset customers, and frustrated friends and family.  You can put your business and future in serious jeopardy and not even realize the dangers of your actions.

Step One. Acknowledge that you are too busy.

Burning the candle at both ends, and in the long-run, it cannot be healthy or wise. Busy doesn’t always mean that you are productive and productive doesn’t mean that you are being efficient or effective. Are you doing the most important things that you should be doing?

Step two. Find the root cause of your time crunch.

As long as you just tweak the symptoms of this problem it will never be resolved. In fact, my experience tells me that is exactly what you have been doing up to this point or you wouldn’t be “too busy.”

Step Three. Create a new plan of action or inaction.

You need to create a plan that also determines which tasks you shouldn’t be doing. Regardless, you need a different plan than the one you are using.

Step Four. Get the help and support that you need.

If you could solve this by yourself, you would have done it by now. As a business owner, you need a business specialist to help you create and execute better plans and to manage yourself and your business more effectively and efficiently.

Stan Broesder is a Small Business Managment Specialist with Crossroads Consultants. If you want to see change take place in your life or business, especially performance management contact Stan. He can be reached Stan@MyCrossroadsConsultants.com or 980-241-0189 and leave a message.

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How to Grow My Business When I Am Already Maxed out? Phase III Part II

Phase III part II – Challenges and Hindrances

In our last blog post, we talked about the hidden challenges that we all face with our emotions, attitudes, biases and our own ego. Pogo said it best when he said, “We have met the enemy and he is us!”

Challenges we see —

Now we turn to the many challenges that can easily overwhelm us if we let them.

There are so many that we should categorize them instead. Challenges in our business can be found in:

  1. Money — Cash flow or the lack of capital
  2. Employees – High turnover and low production
  3. Competition – from unfriendly competitors to downright nasty ones
  4. Market changes – customers, the economy, fads, and trends
  5. Management – communications, planning, or lack of, and decisions.

Missing the target

One of the biggest problems in addressing your challenge is mistaking a challenge or problem that is actually only a symptom. When you don’t address the cause of the challenge you can spend a lot of resources and feel good about some visible change, only to have the problem reoccur when you least expect it.

There is a process of consulting that helps management teams and others to push hard into finding root causes to problems and not just surface issues.

Money

Money is almost never the problem. Cash flow and capital is a symptom of too little income, too much outgo, or poor planning of profits. Cash flow is only the yardstick that tells you there is a problem.

Employees

Since we all know you cannot control people, this can be a real problem. There are many potential causes of employee challenges. It could be that you hired poorly, don’t pay well, don’t train effectively or don’t manage your employees.

What we do is look at what can be controlled and what can’t. Can we improve our hiring, training, and managing? I have never seen a company that cannot improve in this area.

Competition

From a strategic perspective trying to find space in the marketplace where you can stay away from sharks would seem best. But the problem is that there seem to be sharks everywhere. Here you need to rely on other strategies to be able to quietly yet effectively move into and navigate safer waters.

While there are many who take the attitude of “I’ll fight them!” you better have a better game plan than they do or you are going to lose. Here is where the phrase “working smarter, not harder” would really apply.

Market changes

In these areas, those who pay attention and are observant generally make out the best. Your competitors have these same issues as you do, so the business that can effectively turn these to their advantage first gets the upper hand.

We all know of Kodak, Blockbuster, and others that are no longer in existence because they could not change and adapt to the changes in the marketplace. There are steps that you can take to be prepared for these changes.

Management

This is usually a difficult issue to address. There are so many hidden influences going on that if this is causing some challenges it is difficult to solve. Not impossible but often difficult.

In a bank client of mine, all of the research I did and my analysis pointed to the CEO as the biggest problem with the many problems taking place. The CEO denied any of them existed. I was able to lead a process that helped the CEO see the issues and make some critical changes.

What about you?

The biggest take away here is to look beyond the apparent problem and look for root causes if you are going to remove or overcome these challenges.

Super Busy Costs you, here is a Solution

From so many commitments that you can’t seem to breathe, to working so hard on everyday problems and issues you never seem to see beyond today. ‘Super busy’ can look different for different people.

Define “Busy”
You need to be able to define what it means when you say that you are “busy.” Everybody is doing something every single hour of every day. What does your busy look like? Are you working more hours than is healthy, are you inefficient because you cannot solve a time management issue, or do you have a problem saying no and are now overcommitted in a number of areas and cannot seem to juggle it all?

A very common scenario is growing in a business until you are maxed out, then hiring someone to help in the front office. This person handles all the phone calls, customer complaints, invoicing, bill payment preparation, errands, occasional social media posting, and whatever else you can dump on them. But it is never enough. So, who is the next person that you can add to take some load off of you? You can’t afford someone who doesn’t produce income.

The Hard Part
More importantly, why is your “busy” a problem? You need to determine what really going on that is causing you to be too busy. What are the implications of you being so busy? What is the price?  Is it causing stress, sleepless nights? Maybe it is impacting relationships in your life, but you just grunt on and keep going, not knowing when or how it will stop!

The Solution
Find time. Take time. You might need an hour, so take it in 10-minute increments. Whatever it takes, but do it. You must find some time to breathe.  Once you take some time, we invest that time to find a little more time, and then we take that extra time to make more money to buy you your freedom. Here is where you start.

First, list ALL of your roles and responsibilities, from selling to the prospect to cleaning the toilets. Whatever you do in the company as a part of owning your business, WRITE IT DOWN!

Second, prioritize every listed item from the most critical and money producing activity to the least.

Third, look for ways to delegate or contract out the less income producing and impactful activities to someone else. If you are worried about quality control, as many are, that is a problem of systems and management skills (and Crossroads Consultants can help you with that).

Fourth, make a plan. Once you have freed up some time, use it to plan out your future and solve problems of delegation, control and bringing in more income. It takes time to make a good plan but that is what you need to have the freedom you need to reach your goals. Being Super Busy can be great for the ego, but the cost can be devastating.

Stan Broesder is the owner of Crossroads Consultants a business management and growth consulting company. If your business is going to grow the owners and management team must grow with it, or it won’t work. Marketing today is beyond the expertise of most owners and manager. In order to effectively market your business and grow you need someone who can plan and manage your marketing. Crossroads Consultants will provide you with a lower cost provisional marketing management solution. Contact Stan at 980-241-0189 or Stan@MyCrossroadsConsultants.com

Don’t Blame the Sales Team for Poor Marketing

There is a big difference between marketing and sales. If you confuse these two areas in your business you can be creating problems that you don’t want and might not even know you have.

Marketing involves everything that brings attention to your business, public relations, advertising, promotions, pricing, store layout, and location, etc., up to the point of personal contact.  The sales area is personal. Anytime a prospect or customer has a personal interaction with another person in your business, they have stepped into the sales department. In a broad sense, your installers, technicians, receptionist and customer service personnel all work in the sales department.

I know that Amazon doesn’t have salespeople per se and they still make sales, I get it. But they don’t have a very big sales department. Most of their sales come through their marketing. So an email from the company is marketing. If a personal email comes from a person in the company then we have crossed over into sales, because now you are starting to develop a personal relationship with the prospect and a person in the company.

When the marketing department and the sales department do not work together like a hand and glove you will be inefficient, less effective and it will cost you money. The key is to work together as a team. Sales need to utilize marketing to their advantage and marketing needs to communicate with the sales team what they are trying to do. Any conflict needs to be resolved so that everyone can benefit.

Make sure both departments are accountable for their own goals as well as working together. Be very careful when one department starts to point fingers at the other. Marketing and branding help to build the impression of a company, but the sales team helps to build the relationships and personal customer relationships.

If you want to know more about how to build a sales and marketing team while setting the accountability standards, I would love to have that conversation. Stan@MyCrossroadsConsultants.com

Why Your Business May Have Stalled

If you are a small business or micro-businesses (under 10 employees) you may find it nearly impossible to get your business to the next level. It is very common and usually avoidable. After 25 years of helping small business owners and professionals, there is one factor that seems hidden and is often a major reason why business growth stalls.

When there is no more to give

My clients often tell me that they are tired and run hard trying to build their business but real business growth and the potential of their business eludes them. They want to grow but they are also afraid that it may kill them in the process. They are already maxed out.

One problem is they believe that if they don’t do it, it won’t get done, or it won’t get done correctly. How effectively they are able to delegate shows itself in how many employees they have. That is why there are so many businesses that have less than ten employees.

Delegating is not enough

Balancing growth and profitability is extremely hard and being an expert in a technical or specific industry skill set is not enough. You have to learn the skills of management if you are going to grow. Your ability to manage employees starts to max out at eight to ten employees.

If you have hired an employee you understand the need to delegate work. The question is how well do you understand their abilities? Can you effectively communicate your needs and train that person to be able to meet those needs to achieve your goals? Add to that your ability to control and hold others accountable for results. A “dozen” employees can become much more difficult to manage.

So what is the solution? The most critical and precious resource is your time. Learn how to get more done in less time. You must balance the risk of someone else not doing a job quite as well as you can, with the increase in overall production by others. Think of a competitor that is five times bigger than you are, how do they manage it all with the same 24 hours a day that you have?

Management skills are critical

Start with managing yourself. If you are the kind of person who is always running late to meetings, making late payments with late fees, always short on cash, never enough prospects or customers while struggling to put out a good quality product or service, re-evaluate your management skills. Without applying good management skills to yourself, you will have a challenge managing others.

When other people are depending on you for their financial future, you have to take management seriously. You must learn and have the discipline to organize, prioritize and plan what is most important to the business. You have to be able to help others to get the results you need without doing it yourself.

Letting go to grow

Second, develop your people to take over some of the tasks that you are doing. You are NOT an expert in all facets of your business. That is why we hire accountants, marketing specialists, etc. Developing or finding competent people is one key to growth.

However, you must be able to effectively manage those that you hire. This ability to hold others accountable and get results is critical. The better you are at managing, the more people you can manage.  At some point you will need to hire a person to supervise others. A supervisor should be able to direct others and get the production you need without you.

Are you willing to change and grow first?

You must develop your management skills so that you can delegate activities that you are currently doing. You will never grow and reach your potential beyond where you are if you don’t. Business growth depends on effectively managing others who can do for you, what you do, so that you can invest your time doing more important things.

Developing your management skills is not easy. Business professionals often don’t see management as a skill set. Learning to organize, plan, control and execute effectively and efficiently are all a part of management. You actually may be the reason for your own stalled growth.

Develop your skills and confidence in the area of management and then you can take your business to the next level.

Crossroads Consultants specializes in developing skills in management and business planning. My clients seek to grow their business profits and their freedom. With the proper planning and management systems we can make that happen. I help my client so see what they don’t know, to know what they can’t see, and therefore act differently and more effectively. By improving your skills in organizing, planning, executing and controlling you can go places you haven’t even dreamed of.

Is Your Business Losing Money And You Don’t Even Know It?

Just like people who are sick with a terminal disease and don’t even know it, so also business can be running backwards and not know it. Usually this scenario is blamed on the market, new competition, and poor capitalization of the business and a whole host of other reasons. But the reality is someone is not paying attention to some very important details.

Three losses that you may not even realize your business is experiencing:

  1. If your business is not adjusting the price for different circumstances, you could be losing money. Too many times a sale is discounted when it doesn’t need to be in order to make a sale, it’s just easier for the sales person. Also when an order is expedited, or special orders are agreed to without considering the cost of those changes. The sale itself can cause a business to lose money because those who are agreeing to the sale don’t know or care about the real costs.

 

  1. Some companies are losing money on future sales because of poor quality products or service. As an example, how many restaurants have served you poor quality food or delivered terrible service and you have not been back. This cost doesn’t really show up on the spreadsheets but the cost is real. Instead, many businesses blame the economy or something else.

 

  1. Every business has the same problem of limited resources. It is the nature of business and life. The difference between successful businesses and unsuccessful businesses is how they allocate those resources. The better decisions you make the better the return on that investment. When you pay more for capital than you should, or hire people who are not engaged in your business, or go for a cheaper vendor and therefore quality suffers, you could be making some very costly choices.

 

The point is that there are many ways to lose money and eventually the business that don’t fit on a nice profit and loss statement. You must be looking beyond what is visible to be able to make better decisions. At times getting different perspectives on your business from outside sources is like using a second mirror to see the back of your head like at a barber shop.

Don’t allow an ailing business go very long without a serious check up from a specialist in business, not just someone who specializes in finance, marketing, accounting or one of the other disciplines of business. There are not many who are truly business specialists. Just because someone ran one business well, doesn’t mean they understand the principles of business that are impacting your business.

Stan Broesder, MBA is the owner of Crossroads Consultants and specializes in helping business professionals to improve the skills, strategies and systems needed to increase profitability, reduce stress and grow a business. For information on creating a smooth running, high performance, profitable and growing business email Stan directly at: Stan@MyCrossroadsConsultants.com

Problems Don’t Live in Isolation

Most businesses seem to constantly battle against four basic challenges. These challenges are:

  1. Money – the lack of sufficient capital, or cash flow
  2. Marketing – the lack of enough prospects or clients
  3. People – the lack of engaged workers with initiative
  4. Performance — the lack of quality production or capacity

Only one of these actually deals with what the business owner is the expert in, performance. The others can be handled by bankers or accountants, marketing specialists, or HR specialists. These providers, who are experts in their specific field, do not usually see through the lens of the other specialties.

A serious issue with many “providers” is that they see situations or challenges within their own sphere or discipline and not how their challenge is related to or affected by the other challenges. If a money problem exists it could be because of poor quality production or performance from disgruntled employees. Cash flow may seem to be the problem, but it may only be a symptom of a much deeper problem.

So if you believe you are suffering from one challenge, you need to consider how the other challenges may be making the problem worse. Taking a holistic approach is better than just targeting one part of the whole problem. Without addressing the supporting problems to the ONE problem you increase the chance that your solution will not really solve the problem in the future.

Systems’ thinking allows you to look at these four challenges holistically. You must always ask yourself what is the cause and effect of decisions and actions made over time and space. An action or decision that was made six months ago may be having an effect on your outcomes today. It is also possible that a decision or action that was taken at a different location from the current problem may be causing or contributing to the effect that you are now seeing.

There is a process for determining the cause of current problems or challenges that is perfect for small businesses. Essentially it keeps asking the “Why?” question. Start with the current problem and start asking why this is occurring. Always brainstorm as many answers each time as possible. Then with each answer, ask “why is this happening?” Facilitating this process does take some skill, but definitely patience.  Seek to find causes and don’t just look at symptoms.

Stan Broesder, MBA is the owner of Crossroads Consultants and specializes in helping business professionals to improve the skills, strategies and systems needed to increase profitability, reduce stress and grow a business. For information on creating a smooth running, high performance, profitable and growing business email Stan directly at: Stan@MyCrossroadsConsultants.com