You're paying top wages to good employees; you don't need to be at the office 50 hours a week.

I'm up to my butt in alligators. How do you expect me to take care of that?"

How many times have you said that or heard it from one of your managers or supervisors?

As many of you already know, that is not an acceptable excuse for not taking care of a job or responsibility. The very first rule in Business Management 101 is, "A good boss can never be too busy."

You need time to think, organize, delegate, motivate, monitor and reward or discipline your subordinates. You also need time to plan and make critical profit-oriented decisions. Equally important on this priority list are your own personal obligations, commitments and desires to "make a good life, not just a living."

Setting Up A Time Budget

What we are trying to say is you cannot put 10 pounds of potatoes in a five-pound bag. You need to analyze all you would like to do, how much time each of those items will require and establish a realistic time budget to get it all done. Developing your time budget is parallel to writing a cash-flow budget for your company or a personal financial budget for your family:

1. You list the "must do" items along with how much of your time each will require.

2. You then consider your wish list and select which items you can afford.

3. You can then establish realistic compromise and goals for anything that is not feasible now but possible in the future.

Without a written budget most people run out of money before they meet all of their obligations. The major difference between a time budget and a financial budget is the amount of resources available. You can predict your income or cash flow, but it is only a guess and it may vary. Not so with time! We have seven days in each week and 24 hours in every day guaranteed. It is totally up to you how you want to use those hours.

Naturally the time budget for yourself and for your bosses will vary depending on your size and the number of different management positions. A written organization chart clearly shows who works for whom and written job descriptions define each boss's scope of responsibilities. We basically have six of these "must-do on-time" positions:

1. The owner or chief executive officer who is responsible for the whole show;

2. The estimator or salesman - we need to get a job with a fair profit;

3. The purchasing agent responsible to buy-out the job;

4. The project manager responsible for coordination;

5. The traveling job superintendent in charge of jobsite foremen; and

6. The jobsite foreman in charge of working craftsmen.

America's typical contractor started in business with experience, knowledge, guts and determination, but not enough money. He or she was obligated to make up for that lack of funds by fulfilling all of those obligations with their own personal time. This is a very critical situation for producing a compromising yet workable time budget. Regardless of what you need or want to do, there will only be 24 hours available in each of your seven days each week.

Monitoring Results

As this new business grows and creates enough cash flow, you can hire employees to perform these duties. This is where the written organization chart and job descriptions become critical to assure that each and every task or responsibility is taken care of on time. Keep in mind that no employee can answer to two bosses and no task can be the responsibility of two employees.

"I thought you took care of it and you thought I took care of it." This will not work!

With an organized staff of qualified employees you can easily see how the CEO's time budget becomes a dream. Now you can plug in family time, fun time (golf, hunting, fishing, sporting events, etc.), education seminars, conventions and whatever you like or want to do.

One of my successful clients asked if he should be working 50 or 60 hours each week. He said they were busy and some of his staff were putting in extra hours to maintain their pace.

My recommendation for his work schedule was 40 hours per month. He was paying top wages to enough good employees that he needed only to spot check. Since he retains full responsibility for everything that he delegates, he can monitor results by:

  • Reviewing monthly P&L spreadsheets for each project;
  • Picking up and opening the mail on an irregular basis;
  • Visiting each jobsite at least once each month;
  • Attend jobsite meetings occasionally; and
  • Entertain or meet with clients and potential customers.
You can easily see how this simple time allotment budget will make you feel like you own this business rather than the business owning you. We call it "make a good life, not just a living."

In addition to monitoring your managers' performance of assigned duties, you also need to watch for overload. You do not want any of them sacrificing their personal lives trying to pack those 10 pounds of potatoes into that five-pound bag.

As you negotiate wages, salaries and benefits, you should discuss and establish a tentative workweek. They need to know, as well as you, how many hours you expect them to average, since it will vary week by week due to critical situations. Most of the contractors I've worked with expect a 50-hour week for their managers' and supervisors' salaries.

The Art Of Delegation

This brings us right back to a written time budget and delegating each task to the lowest-paid employee who can perform that task effectively.

Let's begin with your jobsite foremen. They need a clerk, if the project is large enough, to organize the trailer, materials, tools, equipment and paperwork. On smaller jobs, your foreman should have a full-time helper who can work with the tools as well as fulfilling all of those necessary timesaving duties. Keeping those ever-important "company dollars" in mind, when your foreman is busy organizing the trailer, who is running the job?

Next comes your most powerful profit producer - your traveling superintendent. This individual is responsible to build and maintain your entire team of jobsite foremen, as well as rewarding and disciplining their performances. Regardless of what you have in your estimate, it is not profit until your foremen install it and you get paid.

Earlier we recommended you visit each jobsite at least once each month. Whenever possible, you should accompany your superintendent on these visits. This provides valuable one-on-one communication as you travel and a clear explanation of what's happening and why at each site. He or she wants to run your jobs your way and they need your input and ideas.

Once again we need a written time budget that will be adjusted to meet and resolve critical jobsite situations. Our biggest time loss is "windshield time" - getting from office to jobsites. Some of this can be saved by coordinating several jobsites in one area. Possibly the biggest time savers are cell phones, which utilize some of that travel time making critical phone calls that would otherwise require office time.

Your traveling superintendent should use a written checklist to assure that he checks each critical item when visiting your jobsite. That travel time is so costly that you cannot afford to overlook something that will require another visit. He or she also needs to make written notes of anything they promised to take care of for your foreman, the other trades or the customer.

Depending on the size and complexity of your projects, your traveling superintendent will need a full-time, or at least part-time, administrative assistant. A simple time study will show you how much of his or her time could be delegated.

Next month we will continue with effective time management for your office functions.