Running a small business is no easy feat – as a business owner, you wear several hats to keep your day-to-day operations running smoothly all while strategizing for your business’ long term growth. But how do you find the time to get everything done?
In OnDeck’s latest Main Street Pulse Report, 61% of business owners surveyed told us they’re constantly racing against the clock, 49% said work/life balance is an illusion and 86% said time management is critical to success. So, we’re launching a Time Management Series this week to help you be more efficient, sacrifice less personal time and get one step closer to achieving that elusive work/life balance.
In this post, you’ll hear from David Bobbitt, president of The SCORE Foundation, on his time management tips and work/life balance best practices. SCORE is a non-profit organization comprised of 11,000+ volunteer mentors who provide free and confidential small business mentoring and advice.
GUEST POST FROM DAVID BOBBITT:
At first glance, I am the last person who should ever write a guide for work efficiency. But according to people who know me, I do cover well. So rather than say “hey, here are all the solutions,” read this more as “hey, here are my long list of challenges,” plus some strategies that help me get by.
Big picture first….when you start and run your own business, contrary to expectations, you are simultaneously your own boss and rarely your own boss. By that I mean to do well, you need to enforce discipline around your behaviors. If being your own boss means eating ice cream sandwiches all day while binge-watching Netflix, well let me tell you from personal experience that’s not a good way to grow your business! You get to choose what order you do things in and if and when to get help, but most business functions must occur regularly—bookkeeping, sales calls, inventory, you name it—and those functions are truly the small business owner’s boss.
I had to learn that it was OK to ask for help, a sign of strength, not of weakness. My first business involved renovating and flipping real estate. I was young and stronger than I look. Many times I had to hire people to help me with technical repairs beyond my experience. At first I convinced myself that I would watch them work, say adding circuit breakers to an electrical panel, and learn that task well enough never to need that specific help again. One day—and bear with me because I’m slow—I realized that if I relied on strong professionals who could do part of the job that I’m not so hot at, I could focus on the tasks where my presence is most value added. Which brings me to…
Delegating. One of the first things a small business owner has to do is to delegate. Now this may not mean hiring employees. Getting help from a virtual assistant, short-term contractor (like my electrician), or a service provider like an accountant can help keep you on track to achieve your goals while still ensuring you get a good night’s sleep on a regular basis. Pitfall to avoid: When you think you are your own best accountant, attorney, electrician, or finance guru—and you don’t have a background in that field—you aren’t! It’s OK to ask for help, and never a sign of weakness.
Technology. Everyone says that technology helps us be more productive. As Netflix and the video games on my iPad can attest, technology for me often helps me be less productive as well. But let me mention some of the technology-based solutions I use:
1.) Many new business owners are unaware that SCORE offers recorded webinars that can be accessed any time, day or night. We know that many business owners can’t carve out an hour in the middle of the workday to join us for a live webinar, but each gets archived and can be accessed absolutely free. Whether it’s a session about how to access capital or ways to use social media platforms wisely, we cover it all. I can’t recommend these webinars enough – they’re such a valuable resource and we’re proud to offer them for free. Binge watch and learn!
2.) TripCase is an app I started using at my consulting business. It’s great for putting all the components of a trip—flight, hotel, car—in one handy location and it generates calendar items for my calendar. TripCase helps me get the most out of any travel. There are likely other apps out there too that can help, so you should check them out to see which works for you.
3.) Meet Me In The Middle is a great app when you need to set up meetings or meet with a group of people and want to find somewhere halfway for everyone. Just enter each address, and you can figure out what’s halfway. My business team was virtual, so when we decided to meet, it wasn’t as easy as walking down the hall to the water cooler.
4.) Notes for iPhone is one of the best efficiency products ever. All my Notes are synched, so I can take notes anywhere and always be able to find them again using a simple search from any of my devices. Since my memory is sometimes a bottleneck—don’t laugh, it will happen to you one day too—I like the ease of searching Notes.
5.) Social media marketing tools. This is a good news/bad news item in my book. It’s easier than ever to promote your business through social media and online advertising tools, but truly marketing your company requires attention and great care in developing your brand and message. There’s no way to go through the motions just to get it done, like you could do with bookkeeping or perhaps operational tasks. Developing blog posts, social media content, and other forms of marketing can be cost effective, but can take a great deal of time and focus.
6.) Excel. I ran a real estate business for seven years on Microsoft Excel. It is still my go-to tool for figuring out budgets and making estimates. It’s even easier to use today thanks to quick and easy Excel tutorials available on YouTube.
Work-Life Balance. When I was deeply into my last business, I was a member of a “CEO support group” of peers. It was one of the best experiences of my life. Every business owner needs a support system — it goes back to seeing asking for help as a sign of strength, not weakness. A support system made up of family, friends, and/or colleagues can prevent you from getting tunnel vision as you work toward your business goals. At the same time, they can help motivate you to complete business tasks you’ve been avoiding. Many new entrepreneurs find their SCORE mentors to be helpful in this regard. A mentor is someone who understands the rigors and stresses of starting a business, but also knows that an exhausted business owner isn’t going to accomplish much. A mentor can provide gentle reminders to business owners to be kind to themselves, while also looking for ways to streamline the small business workload and systems.
Last Word. I had to learn to become patient with myself, and I urge any small business owner to cultivate patience for himself or herself. A new business owner is overwhelmed with not just the possibilities of entrepreneurship, but also with the long to-do lists required to achieve those possibilities. Get to know your working style and find ways to improve it — and don’t sweat what the books and experts say too much. There are a ton of helpful tips out there, for sure, but not every tip works for every business owner. Don’t get hung up on that. Figure out your own strengths, and play to them. Like me, you may never be a paragon of efficiency. But you can learn to be your best as well as your most productive.
ABOUT DAVID BOBBITT
David R. Bobbitt serves as the President of the SCORE Foundation and Vice President of Development at the SCORE Association. He is a writer, entrepreneur, and fundraiser who has helped to lead and to launch some amazing organizations. Professionally, he led the fundraising to launch the newest next generation genomic sequencing center in the world and previously built the largest private sector fundraising program for kidney disease services and research in the U.S. David founded and ran a successful revenue consulting firm focused on the biomedical research sector. He holds an undergraduate degree from University of Virginia (UVa), a graduate engineering degree from Northeastern University, and an MBA from Darden Graduate School of Business at UVa.
David is excited to be part of SCORE Association. “SCORE volunteer mentors make a difference every day in the lives of thousands of Americans. Our entire society benefits from small business owners and entrepreneurs who are disproportionately the source of new hires in the economy. Volunteering at SCORE is one of the many ways business leaders give and give back.”
Since 1964, SCORE has helped more than 10 million aspiring entrepreneurs. Each year, SCORE’s 10,000 volunteer business experts provide free and low-cost small business mentoring, workshops and education to 500,000+ clients in more than 300 chapters. In 2014, SCORE volunteers provided 1.2+ million hours to help create over 45,000 jobs and 55,000 small businesses.