Posts Tagged ‘Time Management’


Mondays with Mike: The Four Steps of Ripple Innovation

Sand_ripplesWe’ve all been there.  You know – that period in your business when it all feels stale and tired.  When you feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, waking up to the same old thing.  You know you need to shake things up, but you’re not sure where to start.  You could hire some know-it-all consultant and pay them to provide you with a band-aid that’s a temporary fix.  You could hold yet another brainstorming meeting and leave with the same five ideas you got last year.

But I suggest that you approach this revitalization project differently.  Find a problem in your business that you need to solve.  Whether it’s a need to cut costs, bring in new customers, streamline a process – whatever your challenge, articulate it and try using ripple innovation to solve your problem in a novel way.

  1. Ripple 1: Find the solution inside your company.  We’re often blind to potential solutions because we’re victims of rigid thinking.  Try applying fixes from one area of your business to another.  For example, ask your customer service reps for suggestions about how to improve they ways in which you bring in prospective clients.  Get your sales reps to share input about ways in which IT can be improved.  Share expertise among departments and you’ll come up with fresh perspectives.
  2. Ripple 2: Find the solution inside your industry.  Check out your competition.  Say you run a commercial cleaning business.  Take a look at your competitors’ ads if you’re looking to bring in new business.  Find out where other companies buy their cleaning supplies and see if you can get a better deal in exchange for a contract.  See what other companies are doing right and adapt their practices to improve your own business.
  3. Ripple 3: Find the solution in any industry.  Broaden your perspective and look at the ways in which other businesses face challenges and present solutions.  Look at companies who have all the customers they can handle and are making money hand over fist and see what you can learn from them.  The ice cream shop around the corner that always has long lines….maybe their Facebook page gives customers a heads up on new flavors and daily specials.  The automotive repair shop that has customers waiting for an appointment because of their outstanding guarantee of services….they’ve actively managed and promoted word-of-mouth by rewarding customers for referrals.  You can translate these lessons to your industry as well! 
  4. Ripple 4: Find the solution in nature.  Coming up with nothing fresh?  Take a look at the world around you, and you’ll discover that nature is the ultimate innovator and inventor.  If you’re having trouble retaining new employees despite the fact that you’re paying great wages, maybe you need to look at the ways in which animals protect their young and provide a longer, more nurturing training period so that your staff feels more confident and capable when you finally launch them on their own.

The big lesson in ripple innovation is that you’ll benefit from broadening your perspective and learning about why solutions work and how you can adapt the principles of those solutions to solve your particular problems.  


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: Getting Organized Using Project Management Software

91c5acd957b95442_Organize_Your_Desk.previewWas one of your New Year’s resolutions to be more organized in your business? If you work with a lot of freelancers, outside contractors and vendors in addition to your in-house employees, you know that managing all of the deadlines, data and scheduling involved can get confusing. Project management software can help you get it all under control.

Basecamp and Zoho Projects are two project management tools I’ve used and like, but there are plenty of others out there to investigate as well. Begin by figuring out what you need from a project management tool and whether you want to replace, or simply augment, your existing systems. For example, do you need to schedule and assign tasks, then track completion? Do you need to collaborate on documents and projects online? Do you need to track employees’ or freelancers’ time and billable hours? There are tools that can do some or all of this.

As you research different project management tools, keep these factors in mind:

Size: How many people will be using the tool, including both in-house staff and outside contractors, vendors or clients? Choose something that can grow with your business, but isn’t too big or cumbersome for your current needs.

Ease of use: Some tools are very simple while others are more complex and allow for a greater level of detail. If a tool is too complex for you and your team to learn easily, you probably won’t use it—so be realistic.

Cost: Most project management tools are either free, offer free trials or have free versions with lesser options. Don’t assume you can get away with a free option, though—if you need more than the free tools provide, make room for it in your budget.

Security: Sharing company data can get risky, so make sure the project management tool you select has the controls you need for security, such as enabling you to set different levels of access or permission. You don’t want a client viewing sensitive internal documents by accident.

Of course, the most important step in making project management work is getting everyone trained on the tool and ensuring they actually use it. Don’t let people slip back to old ways or do a mish-mosh of old and new. Set an example by using the new tool yourself and getting everyone on board. 


How to Sell More in Less Time

Small businesses waste a lot of time selling to the wrong people. As a result, their company either does not grow or their sales drop. Here are 3 ways to improve their sales yield:

1. Focus on the right prospects. People only buy when they are in pain and have money to solve that pain. Every prospect should be asked:

  • What pain does your company need to solve?
  • What is the cost of that pain to your company? (or What will it cost your company if the pain is not solved?)
  • Who in your company can make the decision to solve that pain? (or Who has the money in their budget to solve the pain?) 

Many sales people make the mistake of not getting these questions answered up front and waste time with non-buyers masquerading as prospects. 

2. Be there when prospects are ready to buy. Companies actually don’t sell their products or services, but rather customers buy from them. As a result, companies need to be there when prospects are ready to buy. They need to be found and put into the “maybe pile” when a customer is making a decision. In order to achieve this, every small business owners needs to establish long term relationships with clients by offering them valuable knowledge at least monthly that showcases the company’s brand. For example, a dentist may send information on how patients should floss their teeth or a comparison of toothbrushes. Remember, this is not marketing communication that sells product, but a friendly offer of knowledgeable help.

3. Practice the rapid release strategy. Any company can reduce their selling time by 90% and improve their sales yield by only focusing on customers that are ready to buy. Many prospects say yes to a company and then never respond to complete the sale. These people should be contacted a few more times and then put back into the marketing funnel. Sales people waste a lot of time “hoping” these “closed” prospects will contact them and get started. They get stuck here and stop looking for new prospects to meet their sales targets. If they have not heard from the prospects after several calls or contacts, they need to be let go and move on.

How does your company improve its sales yield?


SMB Marketing: In House vs. Outsourcing

As a small business owner, do you run your own marketing and social media efforts or do you outsource them to a third party company? Constant Contact has taken the time to analyze small business owners' marketing goals against the time restraints and cost concerns that they face. We break it down for you in our latest infographic:

Social Media Infographic


Work Your Biz Wednesday: Maximizing Social Media

How do you maximize the time you invest into running social media for your small business? Learn some tips from Small Biz Lady, Melinda Emerson, with this week's Work Your Biz Wednesday.


Managing Your Time: You Have More Time Than You Think

time managementWe’re all guilty of it- uttering that dreaded phrase when there’s something that we haven’t gotten around to doing just yet, “I just don’t have the time”. I constantly hear this phrase when talking to entrepreneurs and business owners (and well, pretty much everyone else!), and it’s really just an excuse for failing to manage and prioritize your time.

Right now, you might be thinking “No, really. I worked 80 hours last week- I really just don’t have the time to complete ___” (fill in the blank with that essential task that you haven’t quite gotten around to yet). But, just because you are working long hours doesn’t mean that you are managing your time effectively during those hours.

Here’s an easy way to determine what you are truly spending your time on during your work hours. Make a list of every task that you are doing for a month long period. Break it down to include how much actual time you are spending on each task (and don’t even think about saying “I just don’t have the time to do that!”). If you are really truthful about this, you will no doubt see large chunks of time spent on non-essential activities or even downright goofing off. These are likely to include:

  • Texting or talking on the phone with friends
  • Watching television
  • Perusing the internet
  • Going out for sit-down meals or drinks
  • Spending unproductive time on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.
  • Reading unimportant emails (or quickly responding to non-urgent emails that can wait)
  • Shopping
  • Playing video games
  • And many more

I understand that we all need relaxation and break time. This list is just to illustrate the point that we actually do have more time available than we think; we just haven’t prioritized our time appropriately.

So, how can you manage and prioritize your time more effectively?

The easiest way and something that I am always a big proponent of is planning. Write out a list of every task that you need to get done at the beginning of the week or at the start of each day. Then, put the list in order of importance, prioritizing those essential, important tasks first. These first priorities should include the tasks that generate revenue, drive growth for your business, or have an urgent deadline. Everything else can wait, so those tasks should be moved to the end of the list or delegated out altogether. You should schedule a set period of time for each task to be completed and include break time. The key for this is that when your scheduled break time is over, you have to go back to work on those business-critical tasks. If sticking to plans and schedules isn’t your strong point, you can even set an alarm or timer to alert you when each time period is over.

Manage your time like this and not only will your business become more successful, you will never again utter the phrase “I just don’t have the time”.




 
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