The typical electrical shop is a small business. And the typical small business owner is typically run by the business, rather than running the business. This means quite a bit of lost opportunity, not to mention a work life that is more a grind than a joy.
Do you spend your days responding to demands for your time, or do you allocate your time to manage the demands of your business? If you’re like most small business owners, you do the former, not the latter, and you lead a treadmill existence. How do you get off that treadmill?
Here are some tips:
• Find and eliminate time vampires. Get started by setting aside 30 minutes on Friday of each week to identify one of your time vampires. For example, are you interrupted all day by nuisance phone calls such as loan sharks calling to “provide working capital” at rates that exceed 50 percent APR? One solution is to have those calls screened or let them go to voicemail. You could get a second line or cell dedicated to only your project managers and key customers. You could hire a receptionist or clerk to handle these and other interruptions. A human-staffed answering service is also an option worth exploring.
• Examine time-consuming but important tasks you are doing yourself. Buy a notebook (yes, a paper one!) and use it like a diary. Just jot down each task you do throughout the day. Set aside an hour each Wednesday and look over the daily lists to spot a task you could have someone else do (even if you are really good at it). Then find the right person to take responsibility for that task.
• Examine the tasks you’re doing and grade your performance. See some things you aren’t doing well or you struggle to get right? Hire someone to do these, have existing employees trained to do these, or outsource that work — or some combination thereof.
• Rethink performance appraisals. Do you personally perform pro forma performance appraisals even though you’re not working in the field with the employees? You’re wasting their time and yours. Their supervisor does see them work, so who should do the appraisal? Many companies have done away with this process entirely; they use continual feedback instead. That is, don’t wait a year to show an employee where to improve; do it now.
Are you considering hiring someone other than an electrician? If you came from the ranks of electricians, ask yourself if you are qualified to do that (be brutally honest). Most owners of shops that provide electrical, plumbing, or other trade services don’t have the training and experience to evaluate new hires for other skill sets such as, administrative functions. You may hire an enthusiastic person you like, but are you getting one who is actually good at the job? And if not, how much time will you spend dealing with an average or even poor hire?
To solve the aforementioned problem, consider outsourcing to a personnel agency (or workforce contracting company) that hires people with these skill sets and takes care of the HR side of things for you. Many small firms can’t, for example, afford to hire a full-time bookkeeper. But it’s hard to find a qualified bookkeeper who is willing to work only part-time. Here again, the personnel agency can be a solution. One full-timer works at two or more locations during the week. Doing the bookkeeping yourself may seem like the easiest solution, but if you’re doing that, you’re not running the business.
If you are the owner/manager/CEO or in a similar position, your job is to run the business. Time you spend doing other things instead of running the business will show in the growth rate (or lack thereof) in your sales. And it also will show in many other areas.
Once you can set aside time for evaluating new and existing markets, you can develop a workable strategy for taking your business to the next level. It may be hard during the first week to set aside that one hour on Wednesday and those 30 minutes on Friday. But if you’re doing those two assessment sessions correctly, you should have that time in only another week or two. Then you’ll have enough time to run the business.
You want the dog to wag its tail, not the other way around.