Time Troubles? Here’s How to Break Free

 

Do you ever find yourself wishing for a clone? Or for an additional 24 hours per day so that you could get done half the things that are on your list? Well, what I’m about to tell you may not immediately fill you with glee, but stay with me because if you’re a small business owner or entrepreneur I’m going to tell you how to make a really big shift in your business.

Different people have different time management skills, with someone like Warren Buffet being a grand master. I’m going to assume that this article is not going to find its way into Buffet’s inbox, and I’m going to also go with the idea that most readers are “average” time managers. That means people who ultimately finish much of what has to get done, but not without stress or the underlying feeling that if they had had more time they could have done a better job.

The other assumption – the one that is true in 99% of all cases – is that most of us are not spending the majority of our precious time on the tasks with the highest rewards. This is a common problem but it’s also not a hard one to fix if you’re willing to make some changes in the way you’re doing things (and remember that not to be willing to change, yet to expect a different result, is akin to insanity….)

Because so many small business owners get caught up in the “weeds” of running their businesses – they end up spending most of their time doing operational tasks, putting out fires and working IN the business. When they’re able to shift how their time is spent so that for even just an hour or two per day they can focus  ON the ways that the business can exponentially grow and scale, that’s what makes all the difference.

But how do you find that extra hour or two a day? Here is where the growth opportunity lies (and yes, growth can be slightly uncomfortable, but that’s how meaningful change happens).

First, you need to start tracking how you’re spending your time. Log it all during the next two weeks (yes, I know it’s a pain, but it’s the only way you’re doing to see your patterns). After the two weeks has passed you’ll probably already naturally be better at time management simply because of your raised awareness around the topic, but then here is the rub: you’re going to need to look at all the things you’re doing on a daily basis and decide which of those things could be delegated. That’s one way you’re going to free up more of your time for meaningful work around strategy and growth.

When you make that shift you start to see BIG results.

But it’s one that requires a leap of faith. Hiring help is often a difficult decision for solopreneurs and small business owners, but it’s also the only way to grow and scale. You’ve simply got to free yourself, as the business owner or leader, from some of those tasks that are bogging you down.

And there are many ways to do this – Virtual Assistants can take a lot of administrative tasks off your plate, and usually very cost effectively. There are other freelance and full and part time options, too. Sometimes you can come to an agreement with a local college that is looking for places where their students (and graduates) can get work experience. Many cities also have programs that subsidize wages for hiring unemployed veterans or other subgroups.

Once you decide to get some help and start doing a little research you’ll find plenty of ways to fill your staffing support needs. The first, and possibly, hardest, step is making the decision to shift your focus to getting the meetings, partnerships and contracts that will grow your business to 10X or more. Because, ultimately, doesn’t that make a lot more sense than continuing on the path of being a slave to time and letting your business run you?

The Real Art of the Deal: 5 Quick Tips

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What does the word negotiation mean to you? Does even thinking about it fill you with a little bit of anxiety? Do you equate “negotiation” to “conflict” and try to avoid it at all costs?

There is a perception by many in business that in negotiation one side wins and the other loses. If you subscribe to this belief then it logically follows that the one who wins is better, stronger, smarter or otherwise holds an advantage over the other party. And, by extension, it stands to reason that the side that loses is weaker in some way and leaves the negotiation embattled and discouraged.

However, just as personal relationships are more complex than childhood fairy tales would make them out to be, business negotiations are rarely black and white. Instead, shades of gray and nuance usually blur the line between who wins and who loses in these transactions. But what I’d like to propose is a world in which both sides walk away feeling good about the deal… where negotiations are a very good thing.

In this new paradigm we stop going into a negotiation thinking, “How can I walk away with as much as possible?” and instead turn it into a game of,  “How can we both leave here feeling good about what has transpired? What can I offer to give my opponent that he or she really wants?”

In this more evolved type of negotiation you begin to view the other person as your “negotiating partner” instead of your enemy, and you work to uncover the essence of that person – the things that he or she really cares about. And remember, you are ALWAYS negotiating with a person, so be personable. Be real. Be compassionate.

And considering trying the game of “how can we both win here.”

Of course, not everyone who you try to strike a deal with is going to want to travel with you to mutually beneficial middle ground, but it’s worth giving that person the benefit of the doubt and trying to get there if you can.

Before you go into a negotiation make sure you do the following:

  1. Do some research on the person you’re meeting and try to uncover common ground or clues as to what their motivators are. Opening the session with a personal comment or compliment sets a positive tone for the entire negotiation.
  2. Know what the variables are that you may be able to negotiate on. Examples might be price, payment terms or delivery terms. Do adequate preparation before you go into the room and know what all the possible variables are.
  3. Be very clear with yourself on what your bottom line is for each of those items. Before you even walk into the room make sure you know your numbers: what number would make this an incredible deal, what number would you be comfortable with and what number is the absolute lowest you can go?
  4. You’ll usually want to start negotiations with a higher number, but remember those other variables too. Your goal is to walk away happy, but you want the other person to also feel like they’re getting a good deal. 
  5. If you reach a deadlock and the person you’re trying to work with can’t even get to your bottom line, then don’t continue the conversation. Announce your intention to walk away and withdraw from the deal. That will either set the tone for a new round of talks, or if not at least you won’t waste any more of your time.

The Essence of Business? It’s the People.

Small business people  understand that cash flow, policies, and the company’s focus are all directly tied to actual people. Larger companies, however, seem to often forget this fact.

“I’m just a paper pusher.”

“I have to keep my team efficient and make our numbers.”

“Our bottom line is better this year so management is happy.”

In thinking about business, work and careers it’s easy to narrowly focus on your role, responsibilities and metrics for success. This tendency may be amplified if you work for a government agency or large company.

And yes, those metrics are important, but what if you start thinking about your job in broader terms – in terms of the lives of people that you (yes, you) are directly affecting?

Business is ultimately about people. Not just the people at the top. Not only the owners, CEO’s, presidents and the folks with the corner offices. Not just the people who work at a particular company. It’s about all of those people, of course, but in reality is about much more than that.

This “ripple effect” is far-reaching and it’s both real and important.

The often forgotten mass of those affected by the actions of the employees of “Comany A” are people who work for and with companies that do business with the main company. Too often I’ve seen representatives of large organizations adopting a lackadaisical attitude when it comes to processing invoices or approving purchase orders. Taking weeks or months to get that paperwork through might not seem like a big deal to the state employee or to the corporate VP. After all, their paychecks are probably not directly affected by this. But the fact is, to the little guy – the one feeling the ripple down effect – those actions might make the difference between being able to afford groceries or not.

The consequences of our actions are not always immediately apparent to us but that doesn’t mean they aren’t real, both in life and in business. Even seemingly mundane tasks can make a big difference in someone else’s life. Yes, all of the business metrics are important and we have to fill out reports and other paperwork, but ultimately it’s the people who matter. Real people with real lives. It matters that invoices are processed quickly. It matters that lab results are reported correctly.

It matters that someone does their job right the first time, not just to please your boss but because somewhere down the line you’re touching someone else’s life. And what could be more important than that?