As a business mentor I work with all sorts of people who want to improve their business performance and go from just being good to being great. The question I am most often asked is “please can you help me work smarter? I am working lots of hours, am permanently tired, know I am not as organised as I could be and do not know where to start. Help!”
Working smarter means very different things for different people but usually comes out of one of the three areas of your business life:
- How you develop your business skills
- How you use your management skills
- How you manage yourself
Or maybe it is some mixture of all three?
I am going to give you my top tip in each area – not necessarily the tip that will make most difference in the long run but the tip that will give you an immediate result:
Business skills – successful business is selling something someone else wants at a price that makes you a profit. – simple. Except it isn’t because people often do not know what price to charge. Pricing is based on four factors:
- What is your skill level and what equipment do you need; therefore, how much should you charge for it? Remember it is the plumbing apprenticeship you pay for, not the five minutes to fix the leak.
- What do the competition charge and why? This will be one of the influencers in deciding where to buy. There is a market out there.
- What does the customer expect to pay and why? If you charge too little you will not be taken seriously and too much you will be viewed with suspicion.
- Having the confidence to charge the right figure. Good work is not expensive it is good value. You need to learn how to ask for the business at the price you have determined.
Get all this together and you will make a profit and probably work fewer hours!
Management skills – whether we have employees or not we need to learn how to manage others. It could be to achieve what we want from our clients, suppliers or contacts. We must rely on other people to achieve tasks for us and so the top skill is how to delegate properly.
Most people are afraid to delegate because they fear the other person will not do the job the way it should be done (that is the way you would do it!). The truth is that most people want to do a good job but they do not always have enough information to do it well and so they improvise. Before you ask anyone to do anything ask yourself: what do I want done exactly? What is the outcome I want? When do I need it done by? Do I need reports as the task goes on to let me know how it is going? What freedoms does the person have to complete the task? Once you have answered these questions you are in a good place to brief someone to do the job.
The communication needs to be two-way: you explain and ask questions to check out what the person has heard you say. These are not always the same thing! And don’t forget the most important question of all is “is there anything else you want to know?” and the most important statement is “come back to me at any stage if you have any questions”.
Personal skills: are we doing what we are good at as effectively as possible? This includes your admin! None of us likes doing this stuff, we prefer to do the things we started the business to do. This means we need to accomplish the other work as quickly and competently as possible, so we can get back to the more interesting stuff. It also goes without saying that there are never enough hours in any day to do all we want.
The key is to be doing the right thing at the right time.
My top tip is spending some time working out all that must be done and then organising it. Set aside some time to list everything that is on your plate right now. This should include work things, family things and personal things. Add to this over a few days as your brain reminds you of stuff you overlooked in the first sweep. Then:
- Note against each task the optimum time by which it should be done; not the last minute but a comfortable time AND work out how long it will take to complete.
- Find a bring forward system that you like.
- Note each task separately and file it on the date you must start it to have it finished at the right moment.
- Each week look at the days ahead and the work to be done and decide what must be done first.
- Stick with your work schedule!
All this sounds easy and obvious. In many ways it is at an intellectual level. However, it is not easy to change habits, new habits need to become ingrained. It could easily be that you need support. That is where someone like me – a mentor – may come in. If so, please contact me for a free chat about what your unique needs might be and how we might meet them.