Time Management

Want a Quick Productivity Increase in 3 Steps?

Are you trying to get things done, but don’t seem to ever get ahead? Try these out for a quick and almost instant boost to your productivity.

Step #1: Stop Following the Shiny Object

There is a great amount of pressure to work on the newest task at hand while ignoring all of the other uncompleted items that are on your list. The problem with this approach is that it creates more stops and starts, which ends up prolonging the time it takes to get things done, while delaying the older projects’ completion.

Step #2: Listening to the Squeaky Wheel

Usually it’s not apparent at first, but there will always be customers, vendors, or employees that need your attention immediately, all of the time. It’s understandable that this will happen from time to time, but if the same person always needs your attention immediately all of the time, then it probably isn’t a true emergency. In this case, you have to communicate that this is an issue that can wait until later, tomorrow, or some scheduled time in the future.

Step #3: Schedule, Schedule, then Schedule Some More

You would be surprised by the productivity increases of scheduling properly. From medical practices to contractors, scheduling will allow more patients to be seen, more projects to be completed, or more customers to be serviced. Don’t take my word for it, try to visit an Apple store without an appointment.

If you can, also plan out the entire year. There are cycles to every business, every department, and every job, which are usually predictable. Although preparing for the year may seem daunting, try to schedule each week or even a recurring task on a specific day of each week, as a start.

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Are You the CEO of Your Business?

There are 3 phases of running a business with the ultimate phase of becoming the CEO. The first is that of an employee, the second of manager, and then CEO. Most business owners are in the first two phases and never achieve the CEO level. Why is this and what are the steps to become the CEO?

Every single phase is extremely important to a business, and every person in these positions is vital for the business to operate. However, if you want to be the CEO, then you must take steps in a different direction, which takes endurance. Let’s take a look at each step and how to move forward.

Employee: An employee is the one who is doing all of the work, whether physical or intellectual, such as a cook and server at a restaurant or a doctor and a nurse at a hospital, along with all of the other myriad positions. Many business owners become very wrapped up in the day to day operations and never take a break to become a manager or their business has not grown enough to support a manager.

Manager: The main job of a manager is to manage people, projects, and the overall flow of work. Although their main function is to manage these items, they will also need to jump in from time to time to help with tasks and get their hands dirty. Usually business owners are partly managers and partly employees because they are unable to fully let go of operations or their growth does not support a CEO position.

CEO: The CEO is the visionary of the business and is responsible for the business as a whole. Only high impact decisions should be made by the CEO, along with spending time on the utmost important items. A good CEO will do amazing things for a business, while a bad CEO can destroy a business in a relatively short period of time.

Unless your goal is to be an employee-owner or manager-owner, then you must take certain steps to become a true CEO. For some businesses, especially professional services businesses, this task is a little harder due to the technical expertise required to run the business.

Depending upon your goals and resources, the first step is to build up your team. Without a team of employees, you will never progress to the next level of manager. Once you have a team, you need to relinquish your everyday customer-service type activities and focus on managing your employees and the business. Lastly, you’ll need to hire managers to take over your duties to ultimately become the CEO. It only takes 3 steps! Of course, this is easier said then done, and there will be a multitude of roadblocks and challenges along the way.

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An Alternative to Setting Goals

Setting goals can become very frustrating and produce anxiety when we realize that they aren’t being achieved. Should you set goals that are very likely to happen or goals that are very difficult to reach? What if you miss your goal by a minor amount or the outcome was good, but not what you expected? Alternatively, there is a much less stressful, and possibly more effective alternative to setting goals and achieving your desired outcomes.

The truth about goal setting: The truth is that they are all guesses, estimates, arbitrary, and do not tell the whole story of what you are trying to accomplish. Ironically, you may achieve a better outcome than your goal, but still fail to achieve that goal because you didn’t make the numbers. For example, if you want to lose 20 pounds, but only lose 15 pounds because you also gained lean muscle mass, then you just failed at your goal. You may be healthier, are in better shape, look better, and are stronger, but according to your goal, you just lost. This doesn’t make sense, does it?

Think about the general direction you want to move towards: Do you want to lose weight, make more money, or save more money? Know the direction that you want to go in, but do not specify an exact number. However, it is still important for you to take measurements before, during, and at the end of the year.

Form habits: Goals are not accomplished without actions, which is why your energy should focus on your habits. If you want to lose weight, then start exercising on a daily basis, even if just for 20 minutes a day. If you want to increase sales, then spend 30 minutes a day on marketing activities. Devise a plan of which actions you need to take and then keep repeating them until you build momentum and start seeing results. Tweak as necessary.

Intensity should be based upon desired outcome: If you want to achieve dramatic results, then there should be a direct correlation between the size of the desired outcome and the amount of intensity and effort to achieve that outcome. A desire to increase sales significantly should spark you to spend more than 30 minutes a day on marketing activities, and quite possibly double or triple that.

The bottom line is to set actions instead of goals to achieve desired results.

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New Year, New Goals or a Waste of Time?

Christmas Day just passed by and another year is approaching in just 5 days. Did you set goals for the New Year or do you think they are just a waste of time? You are probably right either way, but if you do set goals, there are ways to increase your odds of actually achieving them. This is a twist on the SMART acronym of goal setting.

Make goals that you are passionate about: Do you want to run a marathon, grow your business, or start a business? If you are not passionate about your goal then trying to achieve it will feel like drudgery. Another way of looking at your goals is to determine the reason why you want to achieve it. If it would be nice for you to run a marathon without the reason, then your drive will not be strong enough.

Be able to achieve your goals: If your goal is nearly impossible to achieve then how do you continue working towards it when it is futile? This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have some stretch goals, but the more realistic your goals, then the higher your chance of success. On the other hand, if the goal is too easy, then you may not even bother to work towards it. Also, too many goals will dilute your focus so try to stick with a handful of goals.

Create an action plan and habits: Goals are achieved by the constant actions we take on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. For example, if you want to increase sales by 20%, then develop key actions to implement and then review them weekly. If you want to lose weight, then make it a habit to exercise on a daily basis. Habits and actions are so important, that you can commit to certain actions, while ignoring everything else, and still achieve spectacular results.

Be clear: Put a number and timeframe on a goal, which allows you to work backwards and determine achievement. A bad goal is to say that you want to lose weight, while a good goal would be to lose 24 pounds in one year. To achieve losing 24 pounds, you can then break the goal into monthly targets to lose 2 pounds per month or approximately half a pound per week.

Review your progress: Periodically access where you are with your goals to see if your actions are working. If so, then continue, but if not, then make changes.

There you have it. Simple ways of setting and achieving goals so you do not waste your time.

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10 Small Improvements That Have a Big Profit Impact

Improvements do not have to take an enormous effort to make a huge impact on your profits. Sometimes it’s the small things that add up over time. Here are 10 simple improvements that can have a significant impact on your profits:

  1. Schedule work better: Are you wasting time by scheduling work poorly? For example, do you allow enough time for you or your employees to complete a project within the scheduled time? If not, then there will be too much stopping and starting which kills efficiency. Another scheduling challenge is to make sure that you do not have too little or too many staff members scheduled at the same time.
  2. Set aside time for high value activities: High value activities are not usually urgent, which makes them get pushed to the side. In order to get these items done, you need to schedule this type of activity, even if just an hour or two a week.
  3. Look at your financials: Do you look at your financials or tax return just once a year or possibly not at all? For starters, you should review your financials at least once per month to see how you are doing versus the same time last year. Your financial statements are the measurement of your business’ results, and you need to know how you are doing to make better decisions.
  4. Consistency of pay: When possible, try to keep your pay and distributions consistent, unless paying yourself a bonus or bonus distributions. This makes it easier to manage your cashflow and reduces the temptation to take too much just because you had a good month.
  5. Work less: Working crazy hours will burn you out over time and is not sustainable. Try to consistently reduce your hours over time to give yourself a breather. If you become depressed or develop a health problem, then you will not be able to work at all.
  6. Acknowledge people: Show sincere appreciate, gratitude, and respect for your employees, customers, vendors, and especially your family for bearing with you during good times and bad.
  7. List your activities for a week: Over the next week, jot down everything that you do and how long each task takes. Then, ask yourself, “Should I be doing this, should someone else be doing this, and does this even need to be done?”
  8. Pay extra towards your debts: Even a small amount will add up to quickly pay off your debts. You will save interest and eventually increase your cash flow. You’ll also think twice before incurring more debts.
  9. Contact an old customer: Is there an old customer or client that you liked to work with and have not heard from in a while? Maybe there was a misunderstanding that you can easily resolve or maybe no reason at all and they just need to be asked to come back.
  10. Use a pricing worksheet: Instead of just winging it with your pricing, why not develop a pricing chart? It will take the guess work and emotions out of pricing, which ends up causing you to undercharge.

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Are You Too Financially Cautious?

Is it possible to be too financially cautious?  Cautious does not mean that you are just conservative or frugal with your money, but that you are too afraid to spend your money wisely. You may not even be aware that you are too cautious and here are some examples:

Hesitate to make the right investments: Aside from traditional investments, you may be too cautious to invest in your own education and knowledge, spend the money for new equipment and technology, marketing, or spending money on employees.

Too cautious about wasting money: If you are so concerned that you will waste your resources then you will end up spending too much time trying to save a nickel, but it ends up costing you a dollar. For example, you don’t want to spend the money to keep track of your finances in QuickBooks or even Quicken for personal use, but yet you incur hundreds of dollars of insufficient funds charges each month. I have seen clients spend approximately $10,000 for insufficient funds fees.

Not taking a loan when you should: I am not an advocate of borrowing money excessively or foolishly, nor do I think that borrowing should be avoided at all times, which some pundits advocate each position strongly for. However, sometimes you need to have a line of credit to smooth out some bumps or to take advantage of low-risk opportunities that arise. Alternatively, if you pay off all of your debts too quickly then you may not have any cash available.

Time versus money: Using your time productively strongly dictates your financial success. However, if you spend your time on $10 per hour activities that drive you crazy instead of paying someone to perform them, while you can be making $200 per hour, then that is a poor use of your time and financial resources.

Money before relationships: If you are too financially cautious then you will probably never want to get married, and if you do, then you will worry about not having enough money for your children and will probably not have any.

Another way of saying financially cautious is to be penny wise and pound foolish. Don’t try to save your pennies, but make dollars!

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Are You Thankful for What You Accomplished?

Happy Thanksgiving! We should always be thankful for everything in our lives, including people, things, and accomplishments. Sometimes we take our accomplishments for granted, and it is good to examine the past to see just how far you have come. Here are some examples:

New home: Whether you just purchased your first home or moved into a more accommodating new home, this is quite an accomplishment.

Paid down debts: Did you significantly reduce your debts or pay them off? For some, if your debt levels have stabilized, this too is an accomplishment.

Started a business: Taking the leap to start a new business is exhilarating and quite an accomplishment.

Expanded your business: Did you open another location, hire additional employees, or increase your sales a sizable amount compared to the prior year? These activities all take time and energy and are a huge accomplishment.

Charitable giving: Has your charitable giving increased compared to the year before? If so, then excellent, but if it hasn’t, maybe it has increased as a percentage of your income if your income went down.

Increased your savings: Even saving just 1% more of your income than you did the prior year will have an enormous impact on your finances if you continue to do this each year.

Worked less: Are you working just a few less hours than you used to? A few less hours each week can make a big difference in your life.

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5 Habits for a Healthy Business and 3 Unhealthy Habits to Avoid

Our habits are repeated actions that we take, and have a tremendous impact on our results. Healthy habits become ingrained within us and we continue to do them with little thought or resistance over time. What are some practical, easy habits to ensure a healthy business and also the habits to avoid?

Healthy Habits:

Schedule activities: If you want important things to get done, especially non-urgent, important items, then you need to schedule them. Whether you need to schedule an activity on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, once it is on your calendar, then the likelihood of it being completed increases significantly. Examples include setting aside time for marketing, networking, reviewing finances, and reviewing processes.

Delegate often: Do you want to get more done? The key is to delegate, but not only to delegate, but to delegate the right things and delegate to the right people. Think before performing a task that needs to be done, especially a somewhat urgent task. This can be as simple as scheduling appointments, cleaning up a mess, or communicating simple issues.

Pause before spending: Virtually every single expense can be justified and rationalized for your business or for you personally. Before committing to spending money, first pause, think about it, and answer  the following questions: can the expense be delayed without their being a negative impact, are their other options, and what would happen if I do not incur this expense?

Consult advisors regularly: Everyone should have an advisor to consult with before making major decisions. High impact decisions can include: employee management issues, loans and finances, purchasing another business, opening another location, legal matters, etc.

Measure results: This can include reviewing your financial results, effectiveness of marketing campaigns, and employee productivity. Do not make assumptions, but keep track of important metrics and review your finances. Just because you are busy does not mean that you are profitable. Look at the numbers!

Unhealthy Habits:

Impulsive decision making: Almost all important business decisions can be pondered, and do not have to be made immediately. Take your time!

Following emotions and feelings: Don’t do things just be you feel like it or because you don’t feel like it. This can include being reactive to a customer that is upset or an employee that made a mistake. Although you may feel better at the moment, it doesn’t help long-term. The same goes for how you feel. I know that I feel like playing Cooking Fever on my phone for a few hours, but if do so, then only the virtual customers in the game will be fed, while my family will be starving.

Consulting with inept people: I know this may sound harsh, but seek the advice of people who are competent to give you advice and/or thoroughly know you and your situation.

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Help Your Employees Succeed in 5 Steps

One of the common topics that I discuss when advising business owners is that of employees. From finding employees, keeping employees, and sometimes letting employees go. Dealing with employees can be difficult because we are people with emotions, problems, families, health issues, and also have lives outside of work. As a business owner and manager, here are 5 steps to make sure that your employees succeed:

#1 First things first: Slow down the hiring process to make sure the position and the potential employee are a good match before even starting. This can include multiple interviews, interviews with your other employees or managers (if you are a solopreneur, then the other interviewer can even be your wife or someone that you trust greatly), asking the right questions to gauge ethics and personality, and tests. A test can include a short demonstration of skills and knowledge.

#2 Initial set-up: It seems so simple, but is your employee ready to start working on their first day? Do they have the proper technology, equipment, uniforms, or even completed payroll information all ready before starting? Don’t waste their time because ultimately you are wasting your time and money and also do not appear to be organized.

#3 Training: Even if you hire experienced employees, they will still need to be trained with how you operate. Take the time to train so that they will perform well and feel good about their job.

#4 Set expectations: Let your employees know what you expect them to work on today, tomorrow, this week, and in the future. Also, set expectations for hours worked, time off, busy times during the year, and the like.

#5 Support: Employees will experience sickness, need to attend to family matters, and go through stressful times. Support them during their time of need to help them throughout any ordeals they may have. If you need support, then good employees will support you too.

There are many more ways, but this is a good start. Remember, success is not accomplished by itself.

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Try to Move the Needle Just a Little Bit

Do you want to make big massive changes? From growing your sales, increasing profits, working less hours to even losing weight, it seems daunting, but here’s how to get started:

Habits: When you want to change something drastically, it all starts with your habits. Incorporate new habits into your routine, and replace the old habits with these new habits. Doesn’t this sound so easy?!

Keep track: Keep track of your results to be able to measure your progress. For example, let’s say that you want to increase your sales by 20% compare to last year. First, monitor your results using financial software, such as QuickBooks, or even in Excel. If you do not measure your results, then you will not be able to determine if your actions are working.

Give it time: When making changes, you have to give it time to see those changes happen. It can be weeks, months, or sometimes years. As long as you are seeing the needle move in the right direction, then you know that it is working, no matter how small the positive results are.

Sustainability: If you make a monumental change then it may not be sustainable over the long haul. For example, if you decide to work less and cut your hours all at once, then you will quickly become overwhelmed and will go back to your old schedule. Look at the longer-term goal and then work backwards to figure out the proper actions and timeframes. For example, if you are currently working 50 hours per week and want to cut back to 40 hours, then give yourself a timeframe of one year. Next, shoot to reduce your workweek by approximately 1 hour per week for the first month, then 1 hour the next month and so on, until you have achieved a shorter work week. Then, figure out which actions you need to take to reduce your hours.

Change can be dramatic even if the results seem small in the beginning. Have the endurance, discipline, and willpower to continue your actions to achieve your long-term goals.

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