Time and Process

 

One of the ways to make a business grow is to make it more efficient.  One method for that is to look at the processes within your business and seeing where the most time (and potentially dollars) are spent.  By optimizing your business processes, you will improve your focus on those items that are most important to your business.

Even the smallest businesses have at least 3 processes:  Attracting Customers, Delivering Products and Services, and Administering the Business.  For most small businesses will spend the vast bulk of their time in the first of those two processes.  They are either landing business or delivering it.  Business Owners spend a lot of time on what they do in their business and the industry that they are in.  I am going to attack the other primary process of all business Attracting Customers.

Attracting Customers really consists of 3 sub-processes:  Marketing (turning the Audience into Prospects), Sales (turning the Prospects into Customers), and Customer Retention (receiving additional Revenue from Existing Customers).  Each of these is somewhat independent of the other but can be improved by ensuring that the processes line up.  But let me focus down simply on the Marketing sub-process.  Are you clear on the channels that you use to market your business and how you expect the audience-at-large to become Prospects?  About how many Prospects per month are you expecting from each Marketing channel?  What is the out-of-pocket cost is there for each prospect?  What is the time required to receive the prospect?  How often does each type of prospect become a customer?

When you examine the results of these questions, you can begin to put numbers on the business.  By doing that, you can direct your time (the most valuable resource that you have) towards Marketing channels that give the best results.  Those efforts can, in turn, be understood in metric terms (How many appointments do I need to set in a week?).  You can see how you can look at your business and understand how the things that you do every day can drive bottom-line results.  Those best activities become those things to focus on for the future.  Lesser activities can be outsourced, re-engineered, or eliminated.

Doing that in your business gives you a head start on doing the most important things in your business.

Have a great day!

Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Business Coaching, Leadership Training, Sales Training, Strategic Planning

Change Your Business - Change Your Life!

 

Time and Complexity

Complexity is an interesting issue when it comes to Time and Efficient use of Time. I will go back into my work history to explain. When I worked at AFC, we had built a product that was optimized for use by the Small Telephone Companies often called the IOCs. The way that the product was organized and worked made their life better. The group that did not have that same view was the Large Telephone companies then called the RBOCs. I want to talk about complexity as we saw it and then as the RBOCs saw it.

From AFC's standpoint, we wanted everybody to adopt the same models of the product. We didn't want to have separate versions of the product for different customers. The challenge for us was that this was the way that the RBOCs wanted things. They approved specific versions and wanted only those versions shipped to them. From AFC's standpoint, this meant that we had to hold inventory for those customers separately. On top of that, we had to test multiple versions and we had to apply bug fixes to different software for each group of customers.

This changed greatly when we won the FiOS business at Verizon. They bought two "models" of the product. These configurations were the only thing they bought and they bought them in great quantity. So we treated this as a completely separate product and didn't worry about how things were getting different between the older product and the FiOS product. The difference here was scale. AFC (up until FiOS) was a $350M/year business. Of that, we did about 15% with the RBOCs. That meant the special versions of them were in relatively low quantity. But FiOS was a $600M/year business on its own. That meant that any special procedures and versions were in relatively high quantity. The Time to create and manage the difference were done over large numbers so were easy to justify.

The RBOCs had their own version of that problem and let me look at it in today's view. They have a large amount of legacy equipment in the network that works to very old standards. The problem is that they can no longer buy replacements - even used replacements for some of that equipment it is so old. They also don't want to approve new vendors for the legacy network. It is expensive to do so in both resources and Time. I was told once that approving a new product for them was a $30M project and took 2 years. If you want to retire the legacy gear, why would you spend the time and money to find new versions?

But think about this more broadly. These are huge organizations with 10s of thousands of employees. The cost to keep the legacy network going is great and at the same time, they have to build a new, more efficient network. People will need retraining. Spares will have to be kept. Processes will need updating. I often see small companies unhappy with the Large Telephone Companies speed in change. Can you imagine how complex it is to manage a network that can still interface with 100-year-old equipment and yet be the most modern in the world? It is this that is complex and adds cost to their business.

So, think about the models that you have. Especially those that are rarely used. Ask yourself, can I simplify my business and sell more of the more popular items? It might be a great way to make more time!


Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing

Change Your Business - Change Your Life!

Visit the FocalPoint Norcal Forum - We have many tools for helping your Business!

Time and Your Participation

There are a lot of Time Management tools out there. A couple of the more famous are the Urgent and Important method popularized by Steven Covey. There is also the ABCDE method that I have taught. I want to give you another, Your Participation.

I am working with a client that is doing a lot of work on Time Management for himself. The challenge he had was that all the A items overfilled his schedule. We went through the list and he explained to me all the things that must get done each time period. We also talked about all the things that he is not doing that he should be doing. I set up a goal beyond what he needed to hit to go back over the list. I figured that if I pressed harder than I needed to then something good would happen.

Then, I asked a rather salient question..."How many of these activities require you to do them?" That is different than do they need to be done, but it is about who has the skill to do them. I started with administrative and rote tasks and wanted to make a list of them. That list alone made a good chunk of the overflow of work. We talked about who these tasks could be delegated to or outsourced to and made a plan around that.

After that, we made an attack by trying to break the bigger chunks into parts that absolutely require his time but parts can be done by others. This provided the rest of the time required. This meant that he was going to have to change how the tasks were done so that others could participate more directly. One other thing that was key was a single technological thought that allowed him to make a specific task easier to manage. That leads to my next challenge for him (and others).

One of the big problems is how to manage interruptions and the Urgent/Important matrix is good with that. But just being able to block out some time in significant chunks is very handy separately. The best way to do that is pro-active communications. By informing people before they call you about a problem you get to communicate on your terms. Even better, you can set expectations on updates and thus clear your time to get the work done that they want. By improving communications and setting the timeframe for an update, you can take additional control of your calendar.

So, there are several ways beyond the traditional metrics to be able to help move things to help make your Time more under your control. The best part of this is that control is a major stress reducer. So, you can spend less time worrying about your time and more time taking care of what you need to do.

Have a great day!


Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing

Change Your Business - Change Your Life!

Visit the FocalPoint Norcal Forum - We have many tools for helping your Business!

 

Time and Strategic Partners

Last time I wrote about the time spent on Networking and Referral Marketing. I want to return to our Sole Proprietor Attorney and see how this applies to him or her.

The first and most obvious is that Lawyer's sell their time. So, if they are going to spend time on these efforts they need to budget their time accordingly. The right thing to do is to get an estimate of the number of hours to be spent with Clients and possibly in Court (depending on the type of law practiced). This should provide an hourly rate and a number of hours to be billed. Thus, we would have our revenue. The rest of the attorney's time can be spent on other matters, including marketing and sales.

One obvious marketing and sales function are the free consultations, whether it is 30 minutes or an hour. Again, this time should be budgeted so that not too many free hours are put into a week. On top of that, the number of consultations given versus the number of clients added needs to be tracked. This is a form of Sales Conversion and is an important metric. I have advised some attorneys to make a pre-qualification interview with a lower level employee as part of their process. It could be bypassed by a perfunctory payment, but the idea was to get a sense to the likelihood of conversion. Done correctly it could save everyone time and money.

At that point, there will be time left for whatever is required to build the personal trust to make these Referral Relationships work. How many hours per person to spend is something to think about? Another goes back to my last post: Who can give you multiple referrals? One category is customers and that will be talked about in a future post. Today I want to focus on the other category, those who sell to the same people that you do (or in this case who our attorney does). If I use myself as an example, the attorney that I could use a partnership with is an employment attorney that focuses on small business. Why? Because I work a lot on leadership, hiring, and onboarding. I help owners with personnel situations. I know the ropes, but the laws change regularly. For example, California enacted a law last year that required businesses to provide sick leave for part-time employees. Many businesses are unaware of this law even today. Many employees are uninformed as well. But a business owner could end up in hot water for not providing a plan. This includes our Sole Proprietor Attorney that might hire an Office Administrator for part of the week to schedule an appointment, perform billing and other tasks. So, it is good to have people that you know that are up for the current laws.

Depending on the type of law being practiced, that partner might be different. So, think about the kind of people that you are working near during any engagement. If you see that type of business often, then they might be a good partner.

Have a great day!


Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing

Change Your Business - Change Your Life!

Visit the FocalPoint Norcal Forum - We have many tools for helping your Business!

 

Time and Networking

Networking and Referral Marketing are two keys strategies for most small businesses. Not everybody uses these strategies, but most do. Whether they are going to a Business Networking International (BNI) lead referral group or to the local Chamber of Commerce, these activities are common. There is a good reason. Referrals bring in what are relatively high quality, warm leads. The person you are going to speak to has most often agreed to talk to you explicitly. They have expressed an interest in the type of service or product that you are offering. They have an immediate or near-term need. So, close rates are high and stress is low.

The challenge is that few people look at the amount of time and energy to actually get a referral. Now there are some systems like Yelp! that can "help" with that. But generally, people only refer businesses that they have experience with or know something about. They don't want their customer or friend to have a bad experience with the referral. So you have to build trust to be able to get quality referrals.

All of this takes time. So, you need to analyze is going to be a good partner for you to work with and why they might refer business your way. When you look at it critically, it breaks down into two categories: Prospects and Customer or People who sell to the same people you do. Those are the core groups of people who are likely to know multiple people that you are going to be trying to reach out to.

Please note the "multiple" in that sentence. You could spend an hour cold calling to get an appointment. It will take more time than that to build the kind of trust relationship that I am talking about. That means you need to expect more than one referral. If you have set up a formal customer referral plan, you can get away with just one. But even then, you would like to become a chain of referrals from that one place. It will not always be so but you need to find those places to maximize your time.

Finally, there is the need to find a real partner. Many people are happy to enter referral relationships where they receive the benefit of the referrals. The challenge is to find people that will reciprocate. Where can the two of you look like a bigger company together and foster an abundance of business? So be thoughtful about the partner and think about how you can be helping them. Not everyone will fit and that is okay. Think about who might be a good fit and talk to them. The conversation will help you know about who is interested in actually partnering. There is no point in spending time trying to cultivate a partner who is not going to be work with you.

Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing

Change Your Business - Change Your Life!

Visit the FocalPoint Norcal Forum - We have many tools for helping your Business!

 

Time and Ideal Clients

I have been extraordinarily busy this week, so this post is a couple of days late. Sorry about that.

Last week, I started talking about a Sole Proprietor Law Practice. There were lots of choices that the Attorney could make in his or her business in the way that the client base built out. So, let's take a look at how that impacts the time management of the Attorney.

Do you want to have a few higher paying clients or lower paying ones (Big Cases versus Small Cases)? How about Repeat Business? I don't want to talk about this for a specific type of law, but you can imagine that kind of decisions in most if not all types of practice. They lead to a simple question: How many clients do you need to make your practice a viable business? How many more do you need to make it the kind of business that you want?

The problem I run into at that point is that nobody wants to look at averages (every client is different). The differences do not really matter to me. What matters is that there is an actual average and that this can be changed by the difference in client base. You can not completely control your client base, but what you can control is how you talk to the world about what you do and why it is good for clients. Different messages resonate with different clients. By choosing who you want as a client and messaging it to the world, you will end up with more of the people that you want choosing your business.

How does this matter in terms of time? Generally, larger clients take a longer time to close but you will need fewer of them. There might be fewer possible clients that have a need for ongoing business but it is easier to retain clients than attract them. So, this is all a trade-off. The one thing you don't want to do is build a business around large clients and attract small ones. Then you will have lots of inefficiencies as you have people seeing if you are the right person and then not buying.

Just a note here for all businesses. This is why Marketing Consultants and Business Coaches ask you to tightly identify who you are targeting. You need to be sure there are enough people in your demographic base (how many clients do you need?). By more tightly messaging and operating your business you attract ideal clients and spending less time with people who are less likely to buy from you. What most people want to do is open up that message widely. What they find is that they attract all kinds of non-buyers and thus spend their time chasing business that is not really there.

That is why knowing how you are going to build your business is so critical. It makes sure that the people that you spend time with at the front end are likely to buy.


Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing

Change Your Business - Change Your Life!

Visit the FocalPoint Norcal Forum - We have many tools for helping your Business!