Life is short, so why not invest our time in things we truly value?
The following 10 practices might sound outrageous, but I did all of these for 15 years while running a manufacturing business that serviced 2,000 stores and had 40 sales reps and 4 contract workers. As a result, I gained more personal time, reduced my stress, and my sales continued to increase.
Keeping things simple in your business might mean dropping key accounts or turning off your email for the day. Rather than negotiating with difficult people, I stopped working with difficult people. Instead of waiting on people who are always late, I replaced them with people who were always on time.
I invite you to try one or more of these practices. Let me know your results or tell me how you keep your business simple. Post them below on the comments or start a conversation on my facebook page https://www.facebook.com/kateharperdesigns.
10 Outrageous Ways to Simplify Your Business
1. DON'T TALK ON THE PHONE
You might not believe it's possible to run a business without talking on the telephone, but it's true. In fact, I kept my ringer off so I would not be disrupted or get pulled into a long conversation that had nothing to do with business.
You can save time by responding with email, texts, a fax, or even mailing a note in a greeting card! When you record your outgoing message, specify that your number is only for leaving voice mail messages.
Also see: 10 Reasons to avoid talking on the phone (humorous) http://theoatmeal.com/comics/phone and Do Not Call Registry This gives you a choice about whether to receive telemarketing calls at home. https://www.donotcall.gov/
2. STAY OUT OF THE CAR
Try to only deal with vendors that ship or deliver. Office Depot, Staples, manufacturing suppliers, furniture stores, and most printers offer free delivery. If you calculate your hourly wage, and ask yourself the question: "Is it really worth an hour of my time to run to the post office in the middle of the day and wait in line?” Instead, arrange for the post office to do a free pick up. You can do this online at http://www.usps.com/pickup/welcome.htm?from=home_header&page=schdulepickup
You can also order all your supplies online. On Amazon.com, the product range is extensive: from groceries, to car tires to cat litter.
Also see: I Want to Drive Less http://www.bemorewithless.com/2010/i-want-to-drive-less/ and How to Live Without a Car http://www.ehow.com/how_2037517_live-car.html
3. DROP YOUR OFFICE HOURS
If you are waiting for deliveries, put a plastic bin outside your office labeled “Deliveries. ” Then you don't have to be there or answer the door. Don't wait around the office for two hours just because you told a client you would be available in case they decide to drop by. Often they don't show up or may cancel.
4. MY PLACE OR NO PLACE
If you must meet someone face to face, arrange for meetings only in your office so you save a trip across town. For clients who are resistant to meeting at your location, ask them if they really need to see you face to face. Maybe you can Skype instead. If they need a document approved, ask them to fax it or email it.
Remember, your time (and your client’s time) is better utilized if you are not running around being a “delivery service.” If they agree to meet at your office, and they are running late, you can still get work done while you wait on them. Whereas, if you go to their office, not only have you lost time traveling, you may find yourself waiting in their lobby because they are late for your appointment.
5. DON’T HIRE EMPLOYEES
Most small business owners I have met tell me they spend a majority of their time:
- Finding and training new employees.
- Preparing work for them.
- Finding out why they didn’t do the work.
- Finding new employees who will do the work.
- Making new policies because someone didn’t do the work.
- Getting involved in employee’s personal problems.
Does having employees give you more free time or less free time?
Instead, consider hiring independent contractors, temps or virtual assistants, and export your work outside of the office. Most contract employees prefer to be their own boss anyway, so tell them the result you want, and let them decide how to do it. The less you supervise them, the more time you will have to do your own job.
When you don’t have employees, you don’t have to cover for them if they quit or call in sick, and you can eliminate expenses such as worker’s comp, social security taxes and insurance.
If you like having employees because you want someone to talk to, it's better to spend time with friends. Using employees for socializing is not always fair to you or to them.
If you must hire employees, avoid hiring people "who need a job." Often they need a job for a complicated reason. Instead, decide what personality traits you need and seek out that person. Often, people who work in bookstores are great employees for all kinds of businesses.
Also see: The Real Cost of Hiring an Employee http://www.npost.com/blog/2009/03/30/fully-baked-the-real-cost-of-adding-a-new-employee/ and Alternative to Hiring Employees http://www.gaebler.com/Alternatives-to-Hiring-Employees.htm
6. STAY SINGLE
Avoid setting up your business as a partnership. For every business that is a successful partnership, there are one hundred whose partnerships turn out bad. Instead, make one person the owner and the other person a commissioned agent who gets a cut of the profits based on the revenue they generate.
Also see: The Dirt on Partnerships http://www.daveramsey.com/article/the-dirt-on-partnerships/lifeandmoney_business/ and Starting a Small Business: Partnerships http://www.fool.com/personal-finance/retirement/2006/06/29/starting-a-small-business-partnerships.aspx
7. ONLY WORK WITH LOW HASSLE BUSINESSES
Sometimes you can tell a lot about a vendor by the way their employees act. Do they refer to the business they work at as "they" or "we"? If there is a problem with your order, does the employee blame “higher ups,” or do they try to solve the problem themselves?
Also, try to work with vendors who accept orders by fax or email day and night. Then you can order supplies when you want to, and you will also have a written record (versus verbal) of the order.
8. SELECT AND EDIT YOUR CUSTOMERS
Avoid difficult customers. If they are overly demanding the first time you meet them, this could be a preview of things to come. If they appear to have emotional swings that consume a lot of your time, it is OK to say “no” to a customer who wants to work with you.
If this feels awkward, then ask for a significant upfront deposit for the job. This will politely turn away customers who are not serious. I often found that the ones who were the most demanding were the last ones to pay on time.
Also see:When to Fire Your Customers http://www.recmanagement.com/200307gc01.php
9. TURN BUSINESS TRIPS INTO CAMPING TRIPS
On a business trip, pack all your clothes in a carry-on bag and ship heavy items ahead of time. Avoid taking more than two pairs of shoes, one for comfort and one for dress. A blazer looks dressy with anything, including a t-shirt and jeans. Instead of bringing necklaces, put a lapel pin on your blazer.
Instead of packing a lot of clothes, have the hotel laundry or wash-and-fold service deliver your clothes, so you can wear them twice on the same trip. It's not as expensive as you imagine.
Also see: Project 333 and learn how to reduce your wardrobe at home to 33 items. http://theproject333.com/ and How to Pack One Bag http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=90297199 and How to Travel With One Bag http://www.wikihow.com/Travel-With-One-Bag
10. USE YOUR EXTRA TIME TO THANK PEOPLE
Once on a whim, I decided to do an outrageous thing and write a letter to a CEO of a nationally known corporation to tell him about the excellent customer service I received from one of his 12,000 employees. Imagine my surprise to receive a personal note back from him, expressing his appreciation for my letter. He promised to put a copy of my letter in the employee's file (and the supervisor's file) along with his acknowledgement. It showed me how much he valued taking time out of his busy day to recognize his own employee.
After that, I decided to always write to CEO’s because I want to have more influence in the world over what types of people get promotions and salary increases.
Research has shown that one of the main reasons people are unhappy in life is because they feel unappreciated at work. If you appreciate someone's work, don’t keep it a secret.
When you simplify your business, you will have more time to acknowledge people, and as a result, your own burdens feel lighter.
Next time you are standing in the checkout line at the discount store to save $1.29 on a ream of paper, remind yourself that for every minute you stand there, you are also racing towards death. Our life is comparable to someone who just fell out of an airplane. The only thing we don’t know is how close we are to the ground. So, look at the bigger picture, utilize your time wisely and spend time doing the things that really matter to you.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES FOR SIMPLIFYING YOUR WORK AND LIFE
The New American Dream They work with individuals, institutions, communities, and businesses to change the way goods are produced and consumed.
Your Money or Your Life Book about how to transform our relationship with money. That relationship encompasses the time these functions take out of our lives and how it is reflected in connection to your family and community.
Dave Ramsey Radio Show Radio show and podcast of how to beat debt, build wealth and find the best ways to give.
Backblaze Low cost, remote Backup Storage for Computer data so you don't have to worry about your computer crashing or getting stolen.
Freecycle Network A grassroots and nonprofit network of people who give and take stuff for free. It's about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Each local group is moderated by local volunteers. Membership is free.
Simple Life Together is a great podcast and website about simplifying your business and personal life. You can even learn how to have a paper-free office.