How Profitably Are You Spending Your Time?
Running a small business, being an entrepreneur, often makes for frenetic business days. Days and weeks fly by and at the end of a month what have you got to show for all your effort? Do you know how many of the activities you undertook resulted in increased profits for your company, and how many were simply a literal waste of time? If you don’t know the answer to the question above, then you probably don’t know how productive your employees are either.
Business activities can be broken into two types, those that aid productivity and lead to greater profitability and those that are time-wasters. If this sounds like a sweeping statement, consider the typical activities you carry out during an average business day. If you are talking to a customer, selling, helping an employee with a technical issue, thinking about the strategic direction of your company—you’d probably agree these all help your company’s productivity and long-term profitability. If on the other hand you are surfing the internet watching a funny video about animals, drinking a coffee while daydreaming, or dealing with another computer glitch, then these are not only not helping productivity they are a hinderance.
If you are thinking the descriptions above describe a normal business day; that’s just the way it is and you can’t be productive one hundred per cent of the day, you’d be correct. But, spending a little time focusing, or re-focusing on how you spend each working day, can be a useful exercise.
We all know social media has become one of the biggest time-wasters in businesses. In fact, one report in the U.S. suggests that on average employees spend five hours (or roughly ten per cent) a week on non-work, social media activities. Extrapolate that figure over a year and we’re talking 200 hours per employee (or you!). The same study reports that this results in over $15 billion in lost productivity in the U.S.
Consider for a minute; how do you divide up your time? Are you spending your valuable work time on the things that will grow your business and increase your profit? How much time do you waste in a day?
For just one day, note down what you did during the previous 30 minutes. To make this easier, you might create a chart that lists typical activities, so you can then simply enter a number into your calendar. For instance;
- Social media
- Online research
- Strategic planning
- Writing (reports etc.)
- Thinking about work
- Thinking about personal stuff
- Dealing with staff
- Dealing with customers
Add whatever else you do during a typical day and create your own list.
At the end of the week use a green highlighter pen to make note of every 30-minute period where you can honestly say you were increasing productivity or profitability. At the end of the week, if more than half your time was not spent on building your business, you might want to rethink how you are spending your time. Perhaps, try to extend the periods of the day where you can see you are working “on” your business rather than “in” your business.
How Does Your Corporate Culture Affect Your Brand?
For the longest time, business owners saw their brand as being the company’s logo, the corporate colours, a slogan, or tag line perhaps. Then it became more than that; the way the company operated was seen as being part of the brand. Companies became known for exceptional customer service, or for being green, ethical, charitable—a company’s corporate culture was integral to, and indelibly linked to the brand.
Today, your culture is your brand. Your corporate culture has become outward facing, rather than a matter of internal philosophy. In part, social media has increased transparency to the point that companies can keep no secrets. If a company treats its staff poorly, that will be exposed and becomes part of how customers see and relate to the brand.
We live in a world of increasing divisiveness. There is so much “them and us” in politics and day-to-day life, that it’s getting to the point where many consumers are becoming uncomfortable dealing with companies that don’t treat people decently, who are not ethical, who are not acting in a sustainable way across all fronts—who are not inclusive.
In fact, we are seeing increasing numbers of companies telling the story of their ethical internal culture in captivating ways. Ways that support the health, wellbeing and growth of their employees and the world at large. Whether that’s a fast food chain funding employees’ education costs or working towards the creation of a fully recyclable and compostable coffee cup.
Sometimes, flaws can expose our corporate culture which in turn can detrimentally affect our outward, public-facing brand. Such was the case earlier this year when Starbucks, after an unfortunate incident at one of its locations, decided to close every one of its coffee shops in the U.S. for half a day for racial bias training. This was in response to consumer outrage, but also demonstrated the company’s commitment to its internal ethical culture. Of course, it would have been far better for the company not to have had to fight a rearguard action, but it did allow Starbucks to show how serious it was about its internal culture.
Ask yourself, how do your customers see your company? If you don’t know, try asking them. If you think none of this is relevant to you as a small-town local business, think again. If your competitor has its name on a local sports team’s jersey and the owner is seen coaching little league, and you have no community presence, what does that say about your company?
If your staff moan about working for you while at work, or in social situations, what does that say about you? Are people who hear their complaints more or less likely to frequent your business? How often have you heard staff complain about working conditions when you are shopping at a retail store? How did that make you think feel about shopping there?
What can you do to build a stronger, sustainable internal corporate culture? The first thing is to develop a strong team ethic—bring your workers together in a common cause. Perhaps, adopting a charity and supporting it with donations, time, publicity might work for you. Small businesses often get behind something that has a personal connection to one of its employees.
Ask your staff what they feel strongly about and create a strategy around what they are passionate about. For instance, Bombas has donated almost 10 million pairs of socks to the homeless through its, “purchase a pair – donate a pair” program. What’s really special is that the socks donated are special anti-microbial versions of their standard socks that need to be washed less often. This is something that both staff and customers can become involved with and support.
Once you have created an ethical internal corporate culture, decide how you will tell your story in a captivating way so that your customer base, and prospective market will be able to relate to it in a positive way.
Bringing your brand back to your internal culture is powerful; it brings it back to the people who are at the core of your company and you become more than a corporate brand identity. In an increasingly automated world, consumers are looking for companies they can relate to, cultures they can believe in, relate to, and trust. In short, companies that promote inclusiveness not divisiveness.
Coach’s Corner – What are we Tolerating?
Too often we are unaware of underlying things that are bothering us. We feel sluggish or unmotivated, tired or lacking in energy. When faced with these feelings, we need to ask ourselves some questions and delve into why we feel this way. Increasing our awareness through this type of probing will often assist us in overcoming these feelings and restore us to our best self.
“If we let ourselves, we shall always be waiting for some distraction or other to end before we can really get down to our work.” C.S. Lewis, Author
Try asking yourself the following questions. What is distracting me? Or more importantly, what is distracting me from staying focused? What is taking up most of my time and energy?
To help you answer these questions, think about what is keeping you awake at night, or what thoughts keep percolating in your mind throughout the day? What are those recurring thoughts that are truly bothering you? By becoming more aware of these distractions and their underlying causes you can start to formulate some strategies to help you move forward.
When you are looking for strategies, there are questions you can ask yourself that may lead you in the direction you need to go to restore your energy and provide the motivation you are currently lacking.
Have you experienced this before? What did you do at that time to overcome these feelings? How successful were you? Often, past experience can assist you now.
If this is fairly new phenomenon or at least doesn’t look to be the same as in the past, you will need to ask yourself some other questions. What situations are you currently tolerating or putting up with? If there are quite a few things getting in your way, you may need to focus on one or two of the main distractions.
Once you identify the distractions, you need to ask yourself the following questions: Am I willing to remove these primary distractions in the coming weeks? How can I unplug from them? What support do I need? Who can help me overcome these distractions?
Going through slumps and periods of feeling unmotivated or lacking in energy, is not uncommon. It is how we choose to change these overwhelming feelings, that is crucial. Becoming aware, through answering tough questions, is the first big step toward positive change.
“Your results are the product of either personal focus or personal distractions. The choice is yours.” John Di Lemme, Marketing Specialist and author
Paul Abra, Motivated Coaching