As a small business owner, you can always make more money, and you can always find more customers. You cannot, however, create more time. You have exactly 24 hours each day. Once those hours are gone, they’re gone forever. What steps can you take to maximize this precious commodity?
Avoid These Small Business Time Wasters
You can’t create time. However, you can economize this limited resource in a way that delivers measurable results. In other words, it’s possible to save time if you know how to eliminate unnecessary distractions from your workflow. Below are 10 of the most common small business time wasters — and how to avoid them.
1. Internal Emails
Internal company emails are often a huge waste of time since most messages:
- Aren’t truly actionable
- Are longer than required
- Include too many people
It’s often easier and faster to handle internal communications face to face. However, when email must be used:
- Include clear subject lines — preferably with some type of indication that the message is actionable versus informational.
- Keep messages to 100 words or less. If an email needs to be longer, you’re probably better off talking to the recipient(s) in person.
- Use the CC option sparingly — and only include essential personnel.
2. Paper Documents
Filing, retrieving and sharing paper documents is another huge time waster. Managing such a system is also incredibly expensive.
Migrating to a paperless office does require a large upfront investment of time, but the long-term benefits are worth it:
- Keyword searches allow you to quickly retrieve documents on demand.
- You can easily share (and collaborate on) documents.
- Your storage costs drop to $0 — especially if you use free services such as Zoho or Google Drive.
- You spend less money on materials such as paper, printers and toner.
As a bonus, going paperless is better for the environment.
3. Team Meetings
Most company meetings devolve into open brainstorming sessions that only involve a handful of active participants. Everyone else is just an idle spectator. It’s best to eliminate meetings entirely and handle decisions through one-on-one discussions or via (short) emails. In situations where meetings aren’t avoidable, you should:
- Only invite key personnel (and let everyone else work).
- Draft a written agenda of what you hope to accomplish.
- Set a strict time limit (based on the scope of the agenda).
4. Bad Customers
If you check your records carefully, you’ll likely discover that 80 percent of all customer-related issues come from roughly 20 percent of your clients. Known as the Pareto Principle , this ratio holds true for most businesses. The good news is that fixing this is easy. Just let those customers go.
Demanding clients consume a disproportionate amount of your time. This makes it harder to direct your attention toward the 80 percent of customers who provide your business with value.
5. Social Media
Sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are obvious time wasters. Everyone knows it, but most of us lack the willpower to resist these incredibly tempting platforms. The solution? Install browser add-ons such as StayFocused to make visiting these sites impossible during business hours.
For even better results, consider using RescueTime — an online service that tracks the “who, what, where and when” of your browsing habits. You’ll know exactly which sites are holding you back, and you can adjust accordingly.
If you drive 60 minutes in and another 60 minutes back, your eight-hour workday is actually a 10-hour commitment. However, for the vast majority of jobs, being on site isn’t really necessary.
Thanks to email, Skype and other modern technologies, it’s now possible to telecommute from the comfort of home. Not only does this save you time, but telecommuting has also to make you happier and more productive.
Some jobs, however, do require that you and your team come into work, but you can dramatically reduce time on the road by adopting an adjusted working schedule. Flextime makes it easier to avoid rush-hour traffic. Plus, like telecommuting, it has been proven to improve productivity and job satisfaction.
Still sending invoices by hand? Even if you use an electronic billing system to speed the process, you’re still spending more time than needed.
A better approach is to put your invoicing on autopilot with recurring billing. Statements go out and payments come in — without you having to lift a finger.
Still balancing your books by hand? Even if you only devote one day a month to updating your ledger, this is still time you’ll never get back. The fix?
Automate your bookkeeping with payment integration. As new sales come in, those transactions are automatically reflected in the accounting software your team already uses. No manual entry required.
9. Customer Relationship Management
Customer relationship management (CRM) platforms can be a huge timesaver. Though if you have to manually switch leads to prospects to customers on a regular basis, you’re losing precious time.
Just as payment integration can automate your bookkeeping, this powerful technology can also manage customer records in real time — without you having to do anything. Leads become prospects whenever predefined triggers occur — such as signing up for a newsletter or responding to an email offer.
10. Payment Fraud
This one’s a bit counterintuitive, but:
- Actively preventing payment fraud can be a time-consuming process — especially if you’re a small business owner who lacks the technical know-how to protect yourself.
- Passively letting fraud happen is even more time-consuming once you factor in the many hours spent disputing fraudulent charges and putting your house back in order.
A more effective approach is to outsource the job to those specializing in data security. When shopping for payment processors, it’s best to focus on services that offer:
- PCI-compliant data protection
- EMV card terminals (if you operate a brick-and-mortar store)
- Hosted payment pages (if you run an e-commerce store)
Investing in payment security saves you time and money. Cyberattacks are incredibly expensive to resolve. Even if you’re not at fault, winning back the trust and confidence of your customers is next to impossible.
How We Help Small Business Owners Save Time
Just as it takes money to make money, it takes time to save time. To begin reaping the benefits of the above distraction killers, you may need to invest a little effort upfront.
Fortunately, we’re here to help. At BluePay, our team is dedicated to discovering the payment processing needs of small business owners and providing a cost-competitive solution.
To learn how we can help you start saving time (and money), schedule a free consultation with our merchant services team today.