I know you are sure that your business is humming along at peak efficiency. You and your folks work hard, you do your jobs well, but you are beginning to notice that the hours you put in are a bit longer than they used to be. When you consider how competitive business has become over the past 10 years, you simply can’t afford to waste time and really shouldn’t be so deluded that it isn’t happening in your business. Because, guess what—it is.
Over time, a lack of productivity adds up and the next thing you know your clients are bitching and you wonder where the problem started. It starts with looking for every ineffective or unengaged minute that could have been put towards the job but mysteriously went somewhere else.
Useful first steps towards eliminating those inefficiencies is to admit that they are likely there and go looking for them. Here are some time wasters that you can address first. They show up in almost every company.
You know that to provide the best customer service, your folks need to monitor social media accounts. This lets them quickly discover customer complaints and deal with them immediately. But guess what; watching the same social media around the clock is really distracting (and that’s if there are no games being played). You can automate a lot of that monitoring and that includes comments on social media. Be sure that the tool you select lets you assign customer complaints to one of your service representatives, who will then have the job of following up. Then you end up with less play time and more customer service.
Emails, Emails, Emails
Do you realize how much precious time you and your people spend reading, answering, and forwarding emails? It would behoove you to train your team on utilizing efficient email practices, including cc’ing only those people who really and truly need to know about an issue in order to record or fix it. Instant messenger (IM) and teamwork/collaboration programs or apps let your people communicate more effectively and efficiently. Rather than people continually forwarding emails from one person to another, your people can meet in one place. Teams can also see when their members are online and chat instantly, saving a great deal of time. It is also big help and time saver for telecommuters.
These practices are supposed to make your life easier. How frustrating does it get when you have to spend time troubleshooting problems yourself? Let me remind you that the most common issues facing your specific device types are pretty commonplace and it would be really helpful for you to have someone you can contact when you need urgent assistance. Even if you’re a one-man band, make sure you have a backup in case your laptop or smartphone craps out on you. Trust me, it happens. You can’t just close up shop every time you have a computer or smart phone problem.
Meetings, Meeting, Meetings
Meetings are at the top the list of time wasters in businesses these days, because your folks might have MBAs but no one ever taught them how to run a productive meeting! Do you actually know how yourself? This is another area where collaboration tools can be a much more effective alternative, or if you prefer, hire a consultant to teach your team how to manage their meetings. It doesn’t matter if your meetings are on the phone or some kind of video conference; you’re asking employees to take time out of a busy day to dial in. Make sure that the meetings are an absolute must, and streamline them as much as possible by creating an agenda and making a conscious effort to avoid straying from it throughout the meeting. Keep meetings as short as necessary, and include just the people who really need to be there.
Kings and Queens of Drama
My daughter is a director, so I get drama. It is true that drama is often an inescapable part of working with people. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a client making a scene or two employees quarreling over some silly personal (or professional) issue. There really isn’t a simple tool available to easily manage drama. That being said, you can arm yourself with the understanding you have to confront issues when they arise—any issues. Even if you take all the proper steps, there’s no guarantee that anything you do will stop it completely, but you can work at it. When you see a problem arising, pull the people aside— separately—and get all the information that you can about what is happening. You can let everyone know that while you care about his or her issues, that this is a place of business and that the work has to come first. Help them, if possible, to find a resolution and if that isn’t possible, don’t be afraid of disciplinary action when required.
Folks, awareness is half the battle, so once you notice any of the things you and your people do each day that waste time, you can start to take steps to reduce or eliminate as many as possible. You will have to be really honest with yourself and identify the time wasters as you go along. It might be you. Regardless, you will start a process that ensures that you will become as productive as possible. If you start with your own day first, you’ll likely find that you’re getting more done each day, which will accelerate your business’s growth and then allow you to spread the good word and help everyone be more productive.
After all, isn’t that what business is all about?
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Frank Hopkins is a life coach in Baton Rouge who is certified as a Professional Coach (CPC) by the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC). Frank has helped numerous people to go through emotional change in a way that is positively transformative.