As Seen in AMEX Open forum, USA Today, The Charlotte Observer, America's Premier Experts, the Daily

As Seen in AMEX Open forum, USA Today, The Charlotte Observer, America's Premier Experts, the Daily

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

15 processes that business owners should systematize

15 processes that business owners should be able to shift away

 Based on my experience, a surprising number of small business owners are tied down to their businesses, can't go on vacation, or have trouble getting time off if the kids are sick. 

The feeling of being "tied down" often stems from a lack of systematization in their businesses.  A system enables you to hand the task over to another person while having metrics/checks in place so you are assured it happened correctly.

15 tasks business owners should have systems around and should be able to step away from:

  1. Fulfilling orders
  2. Ordering materials
  3. Keeping inventory
  4. Responding to pricing requests
  5. Collecting on past due invoices
  6. Answering the main business telephone line
  7. Researching competitors
  8. Book keeping
  9. Composing Blog Articles
  10. Writing press releases
  11. Cleaning the office
  12. Writing the first draft of employee manuals
  13. Doing customer surveys
  14. Scouring HARO lists and other sources free press for opportunities
  15. Keeping an eye on Twitter and Facebook throughout the day
Recognize that many of these tasks are simply tasks in the middle larger process of a customer ordering and a customer receiving the product.  If the owner is responsible for a time sensitive piece of the operation between the customer ordering and the product being delivered to the customer, the owner will always be tied to the business. 

Good Systems are set-up by people who understand the ins and outs of actually doing the task

When starting a business, it is critical to do many or all of these tasks at some point so you know what an appropriate system looks like.

Once you establish a pattern of handling these business operations, you should be able to write down what must happen in order for that task to be achieved.  At that point, the owner needs to be aware of their time and hand the responsibility off at least some of the time.  The owners time should then be focused on what it will take to move the business forward.

Need help designing a system?

Start with this question:  What happens 90% of the time for this task to be completed?
Write down, step-by-step what has to happen in the most standard scenarios.
Use decision trees if that would help organize your thoughts.
Hand the list to someone else and see if it make sense to them and adjust accordingly
For creating manuals for steps on a computer, I recommend using Jing to capture your screen and computer microphone.

Hopefully, if you still have these tasks on your plate, the post will start you thinking about what it would take to be able to hand them off to someone else without your business going downhill, even for a short time (vacation anyone?).

Did I miss a task you think is important to recognize?  Please let me know in  the comments below.

If you're struggling with how to set up systems for any of  these tasks, I can help.  Send me an email and let's talk!

 *Image courtesy of vichie81 /

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Welcome to TheTimeItTakes.Me!

When was the last time that you looked (really looked) at how you used your time, either in your job or maybe just around the house? 

For me , I try to take a hard look at this very unfun subject pretty often.  

I'm not sure about you, but I find it incredibly easy to attach deadlines that really are just there because I falsely put value on work for works sake.  The urgency is sometimes totally legitimate.  For example, yesterday, if my assistant is out, someone needs to answer customer emails. 
The important thing is that I realize answering customer emails is not where I really add value.  

I add much more value to my company (and I have a lot fewer urgent tasks) when I ask other people to help.

When I started my first business, I actually wasn't too savy about how to do successfully get tasks off my plate. What I did was take a very scientific and analytical approach to solving that problem.   

The result is that I developed a system for looking at small business processes that allows me to identify steps that can be systematized and automated to free up your time as the owner. 

In this blog, I talk a lot about systems and how to systematize and simplify processes, but I also try to bring you information that I personally have found helpful that will help you run your life as smoothly as possible.  

Please reach out and connect with me if you want help, or to be featured as a case study. 

Cheers to your happiness!


Mastermind groups - it's all about accountability and new ideas

Entrepreneurs should belong to a mastermind group

I have been a full-time entrepreneur almost 2 years at this point, and I love what I do.  A large part of my love for this job js that I can set my own schedule, make my own decisions, and strategize at my leisure about my company selling Slip-On Dancers.

While that's nice and all....

I realize the power of having accountability in my business life.   

I'm NOT talking about my own self-imposed accountability to my customers, I'm talking about how I go about holding myself accountable to achieve business objectives I have set forth for company.  Sometimes, it is really easy to just get yourself lost in the weeds of your company, take back tasks you've delegated already, or just let the company coast for a while, taking care of things as they come up instead of trying to be ahead of the curve.

What I needed was a buddy to whom I was accountable for taking business actions

For me this came in the form of group business coaching, through People Biz courtesy of Count Me In and American Express Open.   Everyone assigned to our group declared what their goals were and then, over the next months, we slowly checked off the boxes, doing the hard work to move our respective businesses forward.  The disappointment factor weighs heavily here in that, if you told a friend you WOULD have something done, aren't you more likely to actually make the time to get it done?  Procrastination all of a sudden has a backstop. 

It's nice to have a network, but your business will probably perform better if you have a network to whom you are accountable

There are lots of mastermind groups out there that cost lots of money, but I believe you can get most of the benefits just by reaching out to a few other entrepreneurs who you trust and start one yourself.  

Get help when you need it

In addition to the accountability benefits, you also can get other people's input on problems you're having in your own business.  I like this quote from Henry Ford taken when he realized he could not accurately answer the attorney's questions because of his lack of formal education. 
“If I should really WANT to answer the foolish question you have just asked, or any of the other questions you have been asking me, let me remind you that I have a row of electric push-buttons on my desk, and by pushing the right button, I can summon to my aid men who can answer ANY question I desire to ask concerning the business to which I am devoting most of my efforts. Now, will you kindly tell me, WHY I should clutter up my mind with general knowledge, for the purpose of being able to answer questions, when I have men around me who can supply any knowledge I require?”
In many ways, I feel like my mastermind experience has given me a similar feeling that, should I need to know something I don't, I CAN get the answer pretty quickly by relying on my network and largely my mastermind group.

In short, entrepreneurs are headstrong, like to do their own thing, and feel like they can take on the world, BUT they'll do better if they leverage the psychological power of being accountable to friends for goals they want to achieve.

Do you belong to a mastermind group? What have you gotten out of it?  Leave a note in the comments.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Why Jing is great for small businesses? Let me count the ways!

Every once in a while, we all come across products that are fantastic.   They save us time, energy, frustration, etc.  When I come across one of these little wonders, I turn into an evangalist for the idea, product, whatever.

For me Jing is one of these products that makes me go all evangelical.

What is Jing? It's a free program that lets you take screen shots of portions of your computer screen and record short videos.  Once you take the screen shots, you can overlay them with text, boxes, arrows, etc.  I use it in my business selling Slip-On Dancers all the time.

4 great uses for Jing in a small business:

#1 Making a video manual

One of the main uses for me is in making a manual for my employees on how to do various tasks within our computer systems.    I can't tell you how much easier it is to explain it once, record it, and then put it in our training manual.

#2 Giving feedback on artwork

Another use is for reviewing creatives for artwork, it is so much quicker and easier to use than opening up Photoshop just to add comments about what you like or dislike about the new version of the ad, website, or photo you are reviewing.

For example, here's how I told my web designer that I like the positioning of the coupon bar:

#3 Creating explanation videos for customers

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Procrastination Defensive Mantra

What do you do that makes you face your least enjoyable tasks? 

Every successful entrepreneur has an effective defense against procrastination.

There are things that need to be done in every business that no one wants to do. If those essential things aren't done, procrastination can kill a business. For me, my defense is a strategy I got pretty good at while taking my business Dance Yourself Fit LLC through the the Business Accelerator Coaching Program through People Biz and Count Me In.

For me the procrastination defense starts with a firm idea in my head of a vision for where I'm going with the business. 

Having a firm vision gives you two things:  the motivation and tasks.   It's that big picture vision for what the organization is going to contribute that provides the motivation necessary to overcome the procrastination.

With your mind on the long term vision, can you see a reason for actually accomplishing the annoying tasks?  

Those annoying tasks are on your to do list because you have a plan that comes from connecting the dots between where you are now and where you want to be in the next few months and years. Connect those dots in finer and finer elements to come up with "digestible work pieces."

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

How a goal change has changed my life

Career Shift in Full Swing! 

I don't know about you, but my view of what the world's possibilities for me has changed so drastically over the past 5 years. 

First off, I'll share how my goals have changed over the past 5 years and how that mental shift has resulted in great benefits for myself, my family, and, I believe, my career.   

My goal changed from "being a chemist" to "being a perpetual learner."  Since then, I have moved away from the subject of my graduate degree, to a management development position at McMaster-Carr Supply Co., to start a business, Dance Yourself Fit LLC, in 2010 which manufactures Slip-On Dancers that are used in dance aerobics workouts across the US and around the world. 

I am continually learning and always looking to make things better.  I have now formed the habit of looking critically at an operation and making it better.   Sometimes, I think I need to learn to turn that off.  Regardless, I don't think that general goal of being a perpetual learner is going to change anytime soon nor do I want it to.  

Now, I'm working on setting a more concrete goal of stepping away from my business (and not having it fall apart).