I HATE wasting time. I hate getting to the job site and discovering an important piece of equipment is missing. Or when my phone has terrible internet reception in the field. Or seeing my techs work in the most inefficient manner possible. I’m not a guy who loses his cool often, but those times make me want to use my squeegee as a boomerang.
What about the administration part of our business? Well, that’s a whole other matter. It’s easy to find the problems in what we know best. The technical inefficiencies jump out at us. Our experience gives us insight into the best way to tackle a problem or how to use a piece of equipment to the best of its ability. On the operations side of the business, however, inertia takes over. “It is what it is” is the cliché that is often said. It takes time and effort to learn a new way to run a company. So, it’s easy to think that a little inefficiency here or there doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. “This is how we’ve always done it and it’s worked so far.” But has it?
We often think of business growth in terms of making more money than we did last year. However, what if you could make the same amount of money as the previous year, yet work 10-15 hours less per week? Would you consider that a success? I talk to too many small business owners who confuse “getting too big” with “learning to be efficient”. It is certainly understandable to not want your business to interfere with your family life or other pursuits that are important to you. Yet, they don’t realize that refusing to spend time and energy to improve efficiency IS wasting time that could be spent doing the things you love.
What are some areas of your business that you can make improvements in?
Distractions – In this social media and technical age it is easier than ever to let distractions take you away from getting things done. “Let me share this pic on my business page” can easily shift to, “Oh, that’s a funny post!” to “What an idiot! I gotta set that guy straight!”. While social media can be a relaxing distraction, keeping it in its place during work hours is pivotal. Some suggestions:
- Set time limits for yourself. If you must sign on for something, set a timer on your phone to remind you when it’s time to get back to work. You will be shocked how fast that timer comes around.
- Have a “To-do” list. I know not everyone is a list person, but you don’t need to use it in the traditional sense. All you need is a way bring your attention back to the priorities when you become distracted. How many times have you taken a phone call or replied to a text message only to find that you can’t remember that important thing you were supposed to do? That list will bring you right back to where you need to be.
- Prioritize. You have lots of things to do, not everything is urgent. Make sure the little things do not crowd out the time for the big things. If the priority of the day is something you really don’t want to do, make sure that you do it FIRST. Otherwise, it will not get done. Trust me.
Doing too much – I totally understand the desire to keep things small. Sometimes it works and owners find a nice niche that they can sit in for years. However, what happens when your business inevitably and naturally grows? Things get complicated. You can continue to cling to the “One Person, One Business” mentality. However, the longer you cling, the less simple things get. For one, you hit a profit ceiling. When you are young and don’t have many family obligations, it’s not such a big deal. But when you have kids, start thinking about retirement, or when a child or spouse develops health problems, your expenses increase with no way to increase income. In these cases, sometimes the simple thing to do IS to hire. Take the things that you don’t do well or take you longer to do than it should and pay someone else to do it. Yes, there will be trials when it comes to hiring, no way around it. But when you find a good employee, it can save you way more time than you ever would by “keeping it small”.
Not having systems installed – There are a hundred ways to do this, from general rules or philosophies to very specific guidelines on every aspect of a job description. You can hire an outside company to design your systems or you can do it yourself based on your preferences. Whatever you decide to do, get it in writing. The number one reason why employees are inefficient is the “I didn’t know” factor. It should be obvious to them, but they just don’t seem to understand or are unwilling to make the effort to change. Nevertheless, if the instructions were in writing, then you have proof that they WERE taught the right way to proceed. Even better, if there are consequences listed for not following procedure, you now have recourse. Take some time and figure out what the right system is for you. Just don’t allow profit to run down the drain simply because you haven’t been clear about your expectations.
Make an effort to turn “It is what it is” into “It is what I want it to be.” Find value in being efficient and be willing to invest time and money into achieving it. And keep that squeegee holstered, will ya? Worker’s Comp claims are expensive.
Owner and President
Gabe’s Spotless Cleaning Services, Inc.
Gabe’s Spotless Window Cleaning