This post by guest blogger Nikoleta Vlamis appears as part of our series Small Business 500.
Small business owners often lack the support staff of their counterparts in medium and large-sized firms – as a result, much of the back-end administration falls to them. Wave’s Small Business Report found that almost half of the small business owners surveyed performed non-revenue generating administrative tasks such as accounting and bookkeeping outside standard business hours. Here are five tricks that small business owners can adopt to minimize the number of hours they spend on non-revenue generating tasks:
1. See yourself as a CEO
Although entrepreneurs know they own their business on one level, thinking, acting and making choices like a CEO often requires a shift in mindset, especially if you have spent your career working for other people. How you see yourself will have a direct impact on what you focus on, how you make choices, and where you spend time. Authorize yourself to think and act like a CEO and your choices will be different.
2. Pick up the phone
Somewhere along the line the phone became old technology; what was forgotten is that the phone is a medium for live conversation. Text and email work beautifully for lots of reasons, yet they can also create churn: back and forth emails, multiple texts to clarify, misunderstandings, miscommunications and even hurt. Actively engage with a phone call in areas such as business development, relationship building and following up. Live conversation allows for quick clarification, direct questioning and unexpected idea exchange; thus using the phone not only minimizes non-revenue generating time, it can also be lucrative.
3. Ask for templates or standard documents from clients
In the business of consulting, have a standard contract that captures your requirements and must-haves. As for specific contract writing, use the standard documents of the firm to minimize time in this administrative activity. This will streamline any RFP process that you participate in.
4. Designate a back-end time slot in your week
Identify the optimal time for you to work with partners such as your IT support person, accountant, book-keeper, or virtual executive assistant. Be flexible, as the same day may not work each week; however, the work will need to happen systematically to be effective. Once you designate this day, you will be better prepared to decide what to outsource and what services you can consolidate.
5. Leverage technology and tools
Yes, technology matters for small business; it is also affordable. There are many tools to leverage – some tried and true and some evolving – including MS Office tools (macros, etc.), systems tools (accounting, sales, invoicing), virtual collaboration tools (Team Viewer), web based/cloud data storage (Dropbox, etc.), project collaboration tools (BaseCamp, etc.) and virtual meeting software (WebEx, Skype, etc.). These tools allow you to decrease driving time, increase the value of collaboration with others, and expedite time with suppliers. As with all technology, once in the flow, unexpected benefits are realized.
Nikoleta Vlamis combines passion for growth, extensive private sector experience and a proven commitment to human development to guide and support executives, entrepreneurs and individuals as they become leaders in their own lives. A graduate of Columbia University’s Executive Coaching program, Nikoleta is currently working with the Harvard Institute of Coaching Professional Association (ICPA) to publish her thesis, The Value of the Inner Work of an Executive Coach.
The information and tips we’re sharing in this article are meant to be a starting point for your year-end tax prep, so you can be informed and feel confident when working with your accountant. Be sure to check with a tax expert in your country or region for any specific advice you need, as each business (and tax district) is different. As our lawyers would say: “This article is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered legal or financial advice.”