Fellow contractors always ask me how they can gain more control over their time. This inquiry originates from both owners and managers in a variety of companies. My response comes in the form of one question: “How do you control your time now?” The answer is usually a deer-in-the-headlights stare and a response along the lines of, “Well, there are so many things I must personally accomplish that I don’t have enough time.” This month I want to share some perspective that might challenge you a little.
In order to gain clarity, think about your business roles and responsibilities, including what is required to effectively perform related tasks. I understand that most of you reading this column believe that almost everything in the business falls under “your role,” but this is a fallacy. Let’s open our minds and explore three things we can do to help increase our awareness and effectiveness as company leaders.
Certainly as a one-truck operator or a very small company, you might be wearing many hats and performing multiple jobs simultaneously. This is one reason that the first step is significant.
1. Become aware of your necessary roles and responsibilities.Most owners and top managers perform at least a few daily tasks that are not efficient uses of their time. The only reason they take on these responsibilities is because “that’s how we’ve always done it.” I constantly coach clients about this concept to liberate them from old ways of thinking and acting.
Start by realizing where you spend your time and energy, assigning a time value to each task. If you’re busy answering the phone and dispatching, that’s OK, but understand you’re performing that job, not acting as an owner or top manager at that particular time. This work is sometimes necessary in our businesses, especially in the early growth stages. The problem lies in the fact that we aren’t considering what is the most productive use of our time.
If you run a smaller company where you personally perform service calls, answer the phone and run sales leads, that’s completely fine. However, be clear about the requirements of the role you’re in at the time. A large amount of your day is not spent performing ownership/management tasks, rather it is executing the responsibilities of a service technician, customer service representative or outside salesperson. These are each admirable and necessary for our success, but they are not always the best use of an owner or manager’s time.
Essentially, that owner or manager must understand how to use his time more effectively to drive business and profits at a higher level.
2. Delegate or stagnate.This concept is about as uncomfortable for entrepreneur contractors as anything they can imagine. I understand it’s not always easy to delegate, but it has nothing to do with the contracting business. It has everything to do with you and your beliefs. For many people, delegation is challenging because it involves breaking a habit.
The majority of us, myself included, began our companies by ourselves, in the truck, without assistance from anyone else. I was the sole employee of my company for two years when I first started. Now I’m able to take consecutive months away from my company because I have developed a team that “gets it.”
This is not by accident; it required diligent awareness and effort on my part. I’m not taking anything away from my great team because they are truly special. However, this part was more about me as an owner than anything else. We never would have maximized my team’s talent if I was still trying to do everything myself, and our results would’ve reflected that.
Virtually every great leader in history has commented about hiring people smarter than himself. Why? So they can have a panel of smart people watching them run around like crazy doing all the work? Of course not! Great leaders surround themselves with people who have intelligent, diverse perspectives. They can delegate tasks to these individuals, who understand what it means to perform their jobs at peak performance.
3. Calculate the cost of replacement.When I bring up the concept of “replacing yourself” in my live seminars or phone coaching sessions, I usually experience tremendous resistance from participants. This is understandable; I’m not here to challenge the amount of value you provide your organization. I’m here to help you understand the importance of your influence with a little more clarity.
Specifically, I’m encouraging you to replace yourself in every job you perform that doesn’t provide the highest possible return on your time and investment. Make no mistake about it: Everyone is replaceable. Yes, I said it. Everyone is replaceable. You can simply dismiss me as a consultant who doesn’t understand your situation, therefore the concept doesn’t apply to you, but the statement remains true.
People get replaced. Life goes on. Americans thought the world was going to end when Johnny Carson retired from “The Tonight Show” in 1992 after hosting for 30 years. Then we became Jay Leno fans and the Carson legacy slowly faded. Professional coaches get fired after great seasons or winning championships. Yet, life goes on; embrace it.
If you want to create a company that serves your life and those around you, it’s critical that you replace yourself with others who are capable of accomplishing many of the tasks you unnecessarily perform yourself.
If you’re doing the work of a $10-an-hour team member, be clear that you’re earning $10 per hour, not an owner’s salary. You can frame this or justify it however you like, but if you’re interested in growing your business, you must understand the true value of your time. There are times when you have no choice but to fight fires and do whatever is required to meet the needs of particular situations. But most leaders end up running the daily operations of their companies in this manner long-term.
You could increase your time effectiveness by working on a marketing piece to increase call count, studying a sales process to close more deals or researching the possibility of a new line extension for your company.
As we’re well in the swing of 2012, take a moment to assess your work schedule. Are you using your time effectively? When you don’t have something demanding your time, do you know how to maximize your personal productivity in order to grow your business? How you choose to focus your attention will be evident in the type of company you operate, and how much enjoyment you derive from your roles and responsibilities.