No time for business improvement?

It is one of the dilemmas of small business – if you don’t have thinking time, you will never find ways for business improvement, which is crucial to growth.

Ask a group of small-business owners if they have any spare time and over 90% will tell you they don’t. It’s a question I’ve asked many times at conferences and the response is always the same. That means most find it hard to find time for business improvement.

That’s 50 minutes a week, just over three hours a month, equivalent to a half-day strategy session. Anyone can find 10 minutes a day and like money in the bank, your efforts compound.

Which is not surprising when you think about it because we’re all too busy getting stuff done, dealing with staff, haggling with suppliers and making sure our customers are happy. Most of the time, we are just too busy “doing” that we spend too little time “thinking.” Yet having no time to consciously think about business improvement is the nemesis of business growth.

It’s a small-business owner’s dilemma. If you are too busy to take time and think about your business, how will you ever grow and improve? Yes it’s important to get everything done and to do it well. But it’s also important to spend time thinking about how you can do it better, more profitable and faster.

Imagine, if you could find time every day to just sit and think about your business and how to improve it. To find better ways of listening to your customers, streamlining finance and reporting, creating more efficient systems, marketing more effectively, finding gaps in your market, and collaborating with like-minded businesses. All of which will help you outpace your competition and boost your bottom line.

It is one of the dilemmas of small business. If you don’t have thinking time, you will never find ways for business improvement, which is necessary for growth.

The good news is there are some simple techniques you can adopt:

  1. Allocate thinking time

Allocate just 10 minutes a day to sit and do nothing but think about your business. What areas need improving? What are your customers telling you? Where are you wasting time, money and resources? I defy anyone not to be able to find 10 minutes a day. Which by the way equates to 50 minutes and week or 200 minutes a month. That’s over three hours blocked out to think about business improvement. Done daily, it’s an easy ask. Like interest on money in the bank, your efforts will compound. Try it for a month and see what happens?

  1. Give your people permission to think

One of the greatest resources for business improvement comes from your staff because it’s your staff who see those tiny improvements that make a big different because they are on the frontline. Give your team permission to find ways improving their part of the business. They will, because ultimately it will make their workload easier. If they don’t feel they can, they won’t so you need to give them permission to do so.

  1. Write an “idea for finding time” list

Why not use your allocated thinking time to come up with ways to find more time. Or perhaps, have a brainstorm with your team because when you think about how to get more thinking time you’ll be amazed at the list you’ll create. Maybe it’s adopting Pomodoro time (a technique for working in short focused blocks). Maybe it’s having stand-up meetings (which usually run faster than sit down ones). Maybe it’s being more dogmatic about scheduling. Maybe it’s writing a stop doing list of time wasters.

Nigel Collin, Business Coach and Author of “Game of Inches”

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