This article was originally published on April 2, 2015.
Ever feel like you are on a treadmill running through peanut butter? Like there is always more to do than you can possibly get done in a day?
If you are a business owner, you probably know this feeling well. Running your own business often means wearing many hats all at the same time and juggling responsibilities that, in a large corporate setting, would be delegated to a dozen department heads.
By necessity of survival, entrepreneurs tend to be masters of productivity.
So we asked them how they do it. For this story, we talked to the six finalists who are in the running to win the title of National Small Business Person of the Year as part of National Small Business Week (NSBW).
For more than 50 years, the U.S. president has declared one week per year NSBW. Throughout the week, Small Business Administration organizes events around the country to honor leading Main Street entrepreneurs. This year’s NSBW began on Monday and will end Friday.
For advice on how to uplevel your productivity, have a look at the advice from these nationally recognized entrepreneurs -- in their own words.
1. Carol Craig, founder of Craig Technologies
Headquarters: Cape Canaveral, Fla.
Number of employees: 414 total; 398 full-time; 16 part-time
Annual revenues: Approximately $45 to 50 million
I really don’t ‘get it all done.’ The best advice I received was from Dwayne McKay, Provost at Florida Tech, who said ‘It’s okay to drop balls… As long as they are the ones that bounce’. He said this during a discussion about my PhD program and what direction I should take. I don’t sleep much because there is always something to be done (although if I had my way, I would sleep 10 hours a day). I often take advantage of the quiet hours late at night or in the early morning to review outgoing proposals, prepare for non-profit meetings, or check in on our budget and current list of bid opportunities. My best productivity tip is to find the time to slow down and plan - and refuse to be reactive because you will always be fighting the nearest alligator unless you get a grasp on what your priorities each day.
2. Michael Miqueli, founder of San Antonio Broker Services
Headquarters: North Bergen, N.J.
Number of employees: 71 full time
Annual revenues: $8 million
I have a rule that the desks in our office cannot have drawers. That way whatever work needs to be completed is usually sitting on your desk, which means it cannot be ignored and is usually handled the same day. I try to maximize efficiency by delegating the smaller tasks. In doing so I have found that I empower people because I allow them to not only have input but also make decisions. There are too many moving parts “literally” in my trucking business to not delegate.
3. Richard (Rick) Jackson, founder of American Document Services
Headquarters: Las Cruces, N.M.
Number of employees: 18 total; 16 full-time, 2 part-time
Annual revenues: More than $1.5 million
Plan for tomorrow, work smart not hard, use the experts within your organization, let the leadership think for themselves and provide clear guidance. Sometimes I wonder if everything is going to get done, then I realize I have the best employee’s, they work hard and care about customer service as much as I do. I make promises to my customers and they fulfill those promises. I sleep well at night knowing that what we do we do extremely well.
4. Necole Parker, founder of The ELOCEN Group, LLC
Headquarters: Washington, D.C.
Number of employees: 62 total; 52 full-time, 10 part-time
Annual revenues: $19.4 million
At the end of the day, I develop my task list to determine my next steps, targets, and goals. Early mornings, I spend time reviewing my task lists to get greater clarity and insight, so that I have a clear focus of what’s ahead of me for that day. This doesn’t mean that obstacles don’t arise on any given day that can often change my schedule. But I try to remain on task as much as possible.
5. Alan Doan, founder of the Missouri Star Quilt Company
Headquarters: Hamilton, Mo.
Number of employees: 180 total; 155 full-time, 25 part-time
Annual revenues: Declined to provide
Always be building the people around you. Empower your employees. For a long time we were building a company full of employees that were just extensions of our own hands. All the ideas and decisions came from the top. When we were able to transition to a company of people who have the ability to succeed and fail on their own, drive value and make decisions, our lives got way better. But in those moments when you are drowning and trying to teach someone to swim so they can save you, you know, those moments where you are working a 20-hour day and training on the side so you can delegate, just do more faster. That's the only solution I've found.
6. Charles Feit, founder of OnForce Solar
Headquarters: Bronx, N.Y.
Number of employees: 100 total; 85 full-time, 15 part-time.
Annual revenues: $30 million
My best tip is to keep a strict to do list. My to do list is several pages long and despite my best efforts, it never gets any smaller. Ultimately, this is a good thing. My best productivity tip is to avoid procrastination.