Spend Your Money Productively
Too many businesses waste money on things that make them feel successful rather than investing it in things that will make them so. Expensive office furniture, a company car, and even fancy business cards are never going to bring a dime of income. Before every purchase, ask yourself, "What will this add to my bottom line?"
Shop Every PurchaseIf you spend $1,000 for something you could have bought for $800, you'll need to produce an extra $200 to make up for it. Make this easy on yourself by using a standard form to solicit bids on purchase over a certain amount. E-mail it to at least three vendors, with a tight deadline for their bid. You'll be surprised how well this works. I once saved more than $4,000 on a car purchase with just this method. Even better, I saved hours of time I would have spent driving to each dealership and dealing with the whole sales pitch hassle.
Avoid The Paralysis Of Analysis.You can spend hours, days, and even months preparing spreadsheets and tweaking assumptions about something you know in your gut will or won't work. This is not to say you should just go with what feels good, but there comes a time when more analysis is just a waste of time. Make a decision and get on with it.
Automate Your Bill PayingNo one, not even a financial nerd, likes to pay bills. To make the time you spend on this necessary evil more productive, pre-schedule as many payments as possible.
Most accounting software and bank services allow you to schedule payments for a later date. The next time you pay your bills, schedule payments for the next three to four months for all the bills that are typically the same from month to month. Even if the payment isn't exact, schedule an amount you're sure will cover the bill. I pay all my utility, telephone and loan bills this way. I even send what I know will cover any minimum payment on my credit cards so I never have to pay a late fee.
Another method is to allow companies to direct debit your account for what's owed. I'm not a fan of this method because it's out of your control. But when you pre-schedule them on your own, you can easily cancel the payment before the payment date if something changes.
Track ExpensesIf you're using a computerized accounting system (and you should be), take an hour or a day (or whatever it takes) to set up income, expense, asset and liability categories. Then train it to automatically categorize expenses. If you write a check to Verizon, it should automatically assign it to your telephone expense category.
This will not only save time on repetitive tasks throughout the year, but it will also make it easier to train someone else to pay the bills. And it will save you a ton of time when you prepare your taxes.
Despite all this, most of those small-business owners say they'd do it all over again--in spite of the trials and tribulations they've endured the past few years. And the fact that young entrepreneurs appear to be more optimistic about the future and have better attitudes about growing theirs businesses than older respondents is not all that surprising.
You've poured your heart and soul (and $$) into launching the Next Great Thing and unleashing it upon the world. Have you made sure that no one can take it away from you?
Join me as I lead this webinar for Office Depot on May 11th at 4:00pm (ET).
The initiative brings new funding and staffing to federal agencies that help businesses sell overseas, with some of the effort targeted specifically to small businesses. All sounds good--but late last week, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing about whether our nation's seaports could handle double the volume.
Stop Thinking Of Time As An Unlimited CommodityEssentially, just as a closet is a limited space into which you must fit a certain number of objects, a schedule is a limited space into which you must fit a certain number of tasks. When you realize the actual limits of your time, you become much more selective about what you put into the "closet" of your day.
Create A Time MapSubdivide your day into three blocks of time--morning, midday and afternoon--and decide what category of work you will tackle during each chunk of time. The regular structure creates mini-deadlines throughout the day that keep you focused on your goals and priorities. Here's how:
Set office hours: Say, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. If you like to jog or eat a leisurely breakfast, wake up early so that you can be ready to hit it by 8.
Divide your day into three parts: An example would be serving existing clients, marketing for new clients and taking care of administrative tasks. If you feel you have all day to do all things, you'll be less productive.
Keep a schedule:For example, devote 8 a.m. to noon to existing customers, 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. to marketing, and 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. to tasks such as printing invoices and updating your contacts list. Look at it this way: In the morning, you're working to make money. In the afternoon, you're selling your business.
Dedicate 10 or 15 minutes at the end of each day to planning: Specifically think about what you will do in each of the three parts of the next day. Break projects into small steps: One morning can be devoted to polishing up Project A and getting halfway done with Project B.
Create three-day plans: Once you get used to planning a day ahead, start looking further down the road and update those plans at the end of each workday.
Group Similar TasksBatching your to-dos will allow you to build momentum and boost efficiency as you repeat each action. For example, doing a series of prospecting calls in a row saves time. With your sales "hat" on, your spiel gets clearer and sharper with each consecutive call. If you have several proposals to write, it's more efficient to blast through them sequentially rather than switch to financial activities in between.
Don't Write To-Dos In A Million PlacesScattering your tasks and reminders between a variety of Post-its, notepads, planners and applications is a recipe for confusion. Hours are wasted transferring information, second-guessing what to do next, and living in fear of what might be forgotten. Commit to one single, consistent system. Once you get into the habit of writing everything down in a single location, you'll stop worrying that you're forgetting something and will be able to concentrate on getting things done
If you're an entrepreneur--whether you're working solo or with employees who share the load--time is your most valuable commodity. There simply aren't enough hours in the day to stay ahead on the job, let alone have a personal life. The answer isn't to work harder--chances are, you're already putting in 50 to 60 hours a week--but to work smarter. And that means doing what you do in a more productive way.
We're going to show you how.
Starting today, Entrepreneur presents 200 Ways To Be More Productive in Life ... and in Business--a nine-week challenge aimed at getting your business to run more effectively and efficiently, and at giving you more time for life outside of work, too.
We've gathered a panel of experts to offer 200 concrete, real-world pieces of advice, and we've focused on the areas that you've told us are the most critical "pain points": Time management, technology, mobile technology, money, leadership, work space and work/life issues. Each day you'll get a few more tips--challenges, if you will--sent to your e-mail, RSS feed or Twitter account. You can also find them posted right here on our website or on Entrepreneur.com's Facebook page.
All you have to do is make some honest assessments about yourself and your workstyle and be committed to putting new energy into the places that need it. Yes, this will take some time and attention. But, we promise, it will be worth it.
How will you know? Today's challenge--know who you are and know what you want--includes a short quiz. Answer the questions and hang on to them: These are your goals for the next nine weeks. At the end of our program, we'll look at how far we've come together. Now, let's get started.
1Know Who You Are And Know What You Want
Entrepreneurs are notorious for a "ready, fire, aim" approach to business. As a result, they often end up misfits in their own ventures because they simply let the vagaries of their business define them, rather than making sure their business serves their motivations, talents, personality and desires.
So before you set your sights on specific productivity goals, give some thought to what you're good at and what you're not, what energizes you and what drags you down and what you want out of your business and what you don't.
Ready, aim, fire.
Whenever your business benefits from someone else's time, intellect and labor, you want to be sure you know what class of worker you're dealing with. It makes a difference. If you're hiring an independent company to handle your IT tech support, you'll have certain rights and obligations. Basically, you'll have the right to expect a certain level of service and you'll have the obligation to pay the fees you agree to pay. If you hire a receptionist to answer your phones from 9 to 5, you're looking at a different set of rights and obligations. In addition to paying a salary, many states require that you also pay for certain benefits and withhold taxes on behalf of an employee--which you don't have to do with an independent contractor.
Just went through a "spot" of turbulence so wild it shook the tea out of my Styrofoam cup. Is that where politics is headed?
I thought I'd wash down the surprisingly rich and moist triple-chocolate brownie from my airplane dinner with a cup of tea. No sooner did the trying-to-be-perky-but-too-exhausted-to-succeed air steward pour it then we ran into a "bit" of turbulence, the likes of which I'd never before encountered.
Last week, I sat down with my colleague Joe Fulvio of Third Coast Partners, a management consultant who has spent more than 25 years helping clients enter new markets and capitalize on new business opportunities, and picked his brain on what small businesses can do to reinvent themselves for today's post-bubble economy.
"There's a view of venture capitalists that they kind of ruin the party," he says. "One entrepreneur said to me, 'When the VCs come in, it's not fun anymore. They hold you accountable, and push you, and take control.'"
In college, I toyed with the idea of journalism as a career. Note that I said "toyed with the idea of," not "toyed with the career." Would that I had the intestinal fortitude to drop into the bowels of some war-torn region to interview an elusive terror-cell kingpin where my physical safety was more likely than not to be violated. But, hey, I like creature comforts, like running water and hotel rooms without bedbugs. And, yes, I'm a chicken. So I've sated my tame wanderlust with safer forms of international travel.
Like England, my current destination.
Some of the points that jumped out as me as relevant no matter how many changes Facebook and others throw at us include:
- "Business models need to shift. Simply digitizing old business models doesn't work; businesses need to fully transform to properly address the impact and demands of social media." This mirrored my take on Sports Illustrated's iPad app. While it's definitely cool, does it really capture how people are going to want their online information?
On the surface, one would think job applicants wouldn't
want their prospective new bosses to know how drunk they got at a party the night
before the job interview. But just how could a potential employer discover
such things? Easily. It's written all over the applicant's Facebook wall for
everybody to see and comment on. (Girl, you barfed behind the couch? OMG! BTW,
remember when you got drunk and broke the vase at my mom's house? LOL!)
Online social networks are virtually an information gold mine for human resources professionals and others who do the hiring. In fact, in a survey conducted by the executive search firm ExecuNet, three quarters of respondents claimed they use the web--and social media in particular--to screen potential job applicants. So, who's LOL-ing now?
Q2 - Volunteering: About 61.8 million Americans, (26.4 percent of the adult population) donated eight billion hours of volunteer service worth $162 billion the last time such figures where tallied. Does your company give employees paid time off to volunteer in the community?
Q3 - Starting Up: If someone offered you a large sum of money for your company (enough that you could retire and never have to work again) but the offer came with the stipulation that you must start a new nonprofit and work in that organization for at least one year, would you take the offer? If so, what type of nonprofit would you start?
Q4 - Cause Marketing: If you could afford to make a public donation of a portion of your company's sales to a nonprofit, what cause would you support? Do you think such an act would differentiate you within your market or provide such a return on investment that doing so would make good business sense?
Q: What are the laws regarding verbal agreements concerning workers' compensation cases?
A: Generally, most states provide that verbal agreements are enforceable, just like written agreements (except for certain defined exceptions in the law, such as real estate brokerage contracts). The problem with verbal agreements is that, to quote Louis B. Mayer, "They are not worth the paper they're printed on." Any number of issues can arise in the course of an employment agreement--such as expectations concerning working hours, duties, pay structure, entitlement to bonuses, availability of benefits, opportunities for promotion or profit-sharing, etc. With only a verbal agreement, you are reduced to a "he said/she said" situation that can often be difficult to prove.