Are You a Slave to Your Small Business?



Last Updated: Apr 13, 2017
Are you spending way too many hours a week running your business? Has your business taken over your life and left little time for anything else?  Here are seven time management tips for small business owners that will let you work less without putting your business at risk.

Has your business gotten out of hand? Did your dream business turn into a monster that’s running you ragged? Are you working nights and  weekends to keep work flowing and get caught up with billing and other paperwork? If your business is beyond the startup stage, it’s time to reclaim your life.

Working 70 hours a week isn’t good for you, or for your business. Despite your fears, your business won’t fall apart if you work less and enjoy  yourself more. Here are seven ways you can put more time in your life  without jeopardizing the success of your business.

Send your ego out for a long hike. When you grow a business from the ground up, it’s easy to believe you’re the only one who can do what you do. But even if your business relies on some unique skill or talent only you possess, there will still be things you routinely spend time on that someone else could do or be taught to do. You can work less and spend more time growing your business by delegating or outsourcing work to someone else.

Keep a time log for at least a week. Write down each task you do. Be sure to note each time you start and stop each task. At the end of the week, analyze the log. Make a list of each activity you performed, how long it took, and how often you got interrupted. Your analysis will help you identify the specific tasks that could be delegated and also help you identify the leading time-wasting activities in your week.

Eliminate time-wasters. Do your employees ask you questions or chit chat when you’re trying to get things done? Have them save up their questions and bring them to you all at once at a set time in the day to reduce interruptions. Do you have customers or friends who frequently interrupt your work day to talk about non-important matters? If you have employees, have one of them answer all incoming calls and screen out those calls you don’t want to take or don’t need to take right away. If you don’t have employees, use caller ID and screen calls. Better yet, set a specific time of the day to handle most of your calls, and let calls at other times of the day go to voice mail.

Train someone else to do all or part of what you do. If you can train someone to do all or part of what you do, you can spend more time planning and marketing the business. In addition, if you should have an accident or get sick, the business won’t fall apart. There’ll be someone else who can take over for you until you recover.

Manage customer expectations. Let your customers know what your hours of operation are, when they can expect to receive their order (or how long their project should take to complete). This information can be provided on your website, in your sales literature,  in contracts or letters of agreement, or at the time of order if orders are taken on the phone or in person.

Limit the number of times you read your email each day. Stopping to read email every 5 or 10 minutes distracts you from other activities and wastes time. For most business owners there shouldn’t be any email that’s so important that it can’t wait for three or four hours to be read and answered (if a response is even needed.) Set a specific time (and time limit) for reading email, and stick to it. You’ll get a lot more done the rest of the day.

Stop micromanaging your employees. If you have employees, don’t scrutinize every little thing they do or how they do it. Give them the instructions and guidelines they need, and then stop looking over their shoulder every 10 minutes. Once they’ve been working for you long enough to know the job, let them handle routine problems on their own, too. If a customer has a question or complaint, the employee should be able to take care of it without having to get your input on the situation.

Get downloadable time management and productivity templates here

© 2017 Attard Communications, Inc. All Rights Reserved. May not be reproduced, reprinted or redistributed without written permission from Attard Communications, Inc.

About the author:
Janet Attard is the founder of the award-winning  Business Know-How small business web site and information resource. Janet is also the author of The Home Office And Small Business Answer Book and of Business Know-How: An Operational Guide For Home-Based and Micro-Sized Businesses with Limited Budgets.  Follow Janet on Twitter and on LinkedIn

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How to Choose the Right Bank for Your Small Business

How to Choose the Right Bank for Your Small Business



Last Updated: Jan 8, 2014
The bank you choose for your business has a big impact on your daily operations. Use these tips to be sure you make the right choice.

Did you give much thought to the bank that will hold your business accounts? On the surface, it seems simple; use the bank that holds your personal accounts. You know how they operate; the tellers are friendly, they give your children suckers, and it’s close to home.

Those are all great qualities but for your business, especially as it grows, you need to do some more digging. The bank you chose or are planning to use may be the right choice but here’s how to know for sure.

Bank or Credit Union?

Both will gladly take your business and if you’ve read one of the many personal finance articles on the subject, you know that credit unions are definitely worth a look. They can sometimes offer lower interest rate loans, higher interest rate deposit accounts, and friendly, personalized service since they’re often community based.

That doesn’t mean they’re automatically your first choice. While they’re rapidly improving, credit unions might not offer all of the technology you get at one of the big banks. Online check deposit, a mobile app, and advanced bill pay features might be lacking.

Second, a credit union can only lend 12.25 percent of its total assets to businesses. Because so many banks tightened their lending standards after the financial crisis, credit unions took advantage of the opportunity to lend to customers who were turned down by other banks.

As a result, some are close to that 12.25 percent level. You might find it difficult to get a loan at a credit union. If you think you will need a business loan, ask a lot of questions of your credit union before making it your “bank” of choice.

Other Considerations

Whether it’s a bank or credit union, the process of evaluating a potential bank (we’ll use the term loosely going forward) is the same. Keep these thoughts in mind.

1) The size of the bank- Especially for startups or truly small businesses, forming a relationship with your bank has advantages. When you need cash fast, the smaller community bank can make that happen quickly and they won’t just look at your balance sheet. The value of your good name might carry more weight in a smaller bank.

But a larger bank may offer better interest rates, more flexibility in loan terms and a larger offering of products to fit your needs.

Just because the bank is small doesn’t mean it’s friendly and interest rates vary. If the interest rates are your primary focus, look at all banks and remember that fees and rates can be negotiated. Just like you would when purchasing a large product, it never hurts to ask for a better deal. Nobody is going to refuse your business because you asked.

What about Internet banks? It’s probably best to say no to Internet banks for your business. Regardless of the bank you choose, building relationships and networking can pay dividends later and there will be plenty of times when physically entering the bank is required. If, however, your business is 100 percent online, an online bank might be appropriate.

Related: Bank Loans vs. Private Lender Loans

2) Technology- If you’re looking to deposit checks with your phone, take advantage of 21st century bill pay features as well as advanced reports that come with the newest banking interfaces, ask to see their platform before making a decision. Some banks embrace technology more than others. If you love everything tech, you’ll want a bank that shares your passion.

3) Are they an SBA lender? The United States Small Business Administration issues government-subsidized loans to qualified business owners but they do it through local banks. It’s not essential that you bank at an SBA sponsored bank to get the loan but that relationship you formed may help you in the approval process if you’re applying for an SBA loan.

4) Do they understand your business? Before you choose a bank, prepare a list of questions to ask the person you meet with. Ask for a fee schedule, minimum balances, and other bank-specific rules. Make sure their business hours fit with your schedule, and any other questions important to you.

As you’re asking those questions, you’ll get a sense of how well they understand your business. If you do a lot of business outside of the United States and they clearly don’t work with many businesses like yours, look elsewhere.

Finally

Once you decide on a bank, don’t be so quick to set up all of those direct deposits and online bill pay features. Take six months to see if you’re happy with your choice. Once you set up automatic deposits and payments, it’s much more time-consuming to switch banks. Set up one or two to see how you like the interface.

For the first six months, pay all of your bills with those old-school paper checks. Once you find that they’re meeting your expectations, take that giant leap into the 21st century and fully embrace all they have to offer.

© 2013 Attard Communications, Inc., DBA Business Know-How®.  May not be reproduced, reprinted or redistributed without written permission.

  

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