Entrepreneurs and small-business owners wear many hats. They are responsible for administrative tasks, marketing, sales, purchasing…in some cases every facet of running the business. With all that to do, how does the business owner find time for prospecting, selling and customer service?
You need not be an independent professional to run into these problems. Salespeople often find they, too, just aren’t as productive as they could be.
In his book, “Time Traps: Proven Strategies For Swamped Salespeople,” Todd Duncan tells us that it comes down to control. Specifically, that you need to give up ownership over many basic tasks so you can concentrate on those that build your business. (He offers numerous other useful suggestions. I wrote about guarding your time in a post you can read here.)
Admitting that he once was a “bona fide control freak,” Todd learned one day that his success was being stifled and suffocated by his actions. A mentor convinced him of the value in focusing on the most important duties, thereby letting go of others.
He offers the following suggestions to help you better manage your day.
1. Answer the 100% question. Your goal should be to spend the entire day on your two top productive tasks. Ask yourself what your business would look like if you spent 100% of your work hours doing the two things that brought the greatest return to your business.
Imagine that. It would require serious discipline (and additional steps), but just think what it could do for your business.
2. Assume the CEO mindset. Determine what decisions need to be made to grow and ensure future stability. In order to take your business to the next level, you must invest in productive customer relationships and productive business relationships. If you view your role as CEO–that is, someone brought in to build the business–certain decisions become apparent. One is to bring in good help.
3. Delegate in increments. You may not be able to afford a full-time assistant initially. Consider these options:
A. Hire yourself: Act as your own assistant. Block out certain portions of the day for necessary but nonproductive tasks.
B. Use the help your company already has: An assistant may have some spare time throughout the day that could be devoted to your tasks. Talk with your manager about this option.
C. Hire a part-time assistant: This may seem costly at first, but do the math. The extra time you then have, used productively, more than compensates for the cost of the additional help.
D. Begin building a team: As you pass along more of the nonproductive tasks, you have more time to devote to your customers and prospects. You’re able to concentrate on building your business.
As a sole-proprietor, I see the value in the Todd’s suggestions. My days include the necessary but nonproductive tasks. At some point I’ll need to hand those off to someone else. Most likely I will contract with a virtual assistant.
But I understand Todd’s point about giving up. It can be hard to do. We entrepreneurs feel as if we’re the only people qualified to handle the duties. We don’t feel comfortable allowing outsiders into our world, our businesses.
How about you? Are you still performing most tasks, or have you been able to give up control? What approach(es) has/have worked for you? Feel free to post your advice below.
For some additional advice on how to build your business, see “Gain valuable exposure by writing and speaking locally” and “Sustained, well-executed marketing vital for growing businesses.”
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