Oh, The Hat’s We Wear.

As a business owner (or even a manager) we tend to wear all the hats- or at least most of them. From manager to marketer, HR to customer service. It can get overwhelming. Sometimes we need a little help.

I’m not recommending that you drop what you’re doing and post a help wanted sign or ad in the classifieds. What I am telling you is that there is way to make wearing all of the hats a little easier to manage. And someday, when you are ready to hire, you will be prepared with a job description, payroll costs v. value and an idea of the type of person you are looking for rather than general ‘help’.

Every time you start a project or task, take a quick moment and decide which ‘hat’ you are wearing. Start making a list of all the hats and which tasks you do while wearing that hat. What you are doing is defining the responsibilities of that position.

The Marketing Coordinator Hat may have a list that contains mailer for holiday sales and Facebook page updates. The Customer Service Hat would have answer phones, balance till and greet customers.

Creating these lists are going to do two things for you.
1- You are going to be able to be more productive throughout the day. Since you are doing tasks of the same nature, you won’t be spending the extra time changing hats.
2- When you are ready to hire some help, you already have clear job descriptions. If you need a part-time person but don’t have enough administrative work, look at your other hats that you wear and see if you can combine the job duties into 1 position. Maybe look for someone that can also take care of your marketing or be able to manage merchandising as well.

“Spend time working on the business, not just in the business.”

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Insanity.

I believe the term is Insanity – to do the same thing and expect different results.

There are two scenarios- when a business is losing money or has hit a plateau.

When this happens, you can’t do the same thing you’ve always done (waiting for the economy to recover is not in your budget, trust me). You’re going to have to change something. Do something different.

Maybe you need to spend less time in the office and more time on the sales floor. Maybe you need to get a new sign and clean up the front door, maybe you need a new marketing campaign.

The moral of the story is that you have to do something new to get a new result.

Here are 3 things you can do to get started.

Look at your front door. Is it inviting? Do your customers know who you are? Go stand out front with an objective lens and decide whether or not you would shop there. Is it too cluttered? Don’t litter your entrance with signs. Keep it simple: business hours and possibly one other promotional sign (NOT handwritten). I also allow “Local First” stickers if they are off to the side and in good condition. But that’s it, nothing else!

Network. Go talk to the other businesses in your area (within walking distance), start a relationship with them. Don’t sell them anything, just go be a good neighbor, learn about what they do and refer some business their way. You’ll be amazed at the effect it has on your business. Givers gain!

Self Promotion. For some reason that’s foreign to me, I find that business owners do not self promote their status as a business owner. I mean, COME ON! Your own a business! When people ask what you do, tell them. Be honest and proud, I assure you it’s not boasting, it’s factual information.

Just try it. See where these thing lead you. They may not all work, but it’s something different than what you normally do. Chances are, you’re going to get a different result.

Time Management 101

Question: How often are you too busy to finish your To-Do List?

The better question: Is your To-Do List worth doing? And when are you supposed to get it done?

Answer: Probably not today… But I can give you a few tools to start hacking away at that list.

Step 1: Make a List
Just sit down and list everything you do for your business. I mean EVERYTHING. From checking your email to entering expenses to taking out the trash. Give yourself a working list of how you should spend your day. Don’t be overwhelmed when your list starts moving into the margins of the page. This is good stuff.

Step 2: Break it Down
Separate your list into 3 categories- daily, weekly and monthly (you could add yearly, but I find it to be daunting).  Your lists are probably long and that’s OK. You have a lot to do. Figuring out what you do and how often you need to do it are the first steps to tackling it.

This is how mine started out looking…

Step 3: Where do you Start? 
Now it’s time to figure out what needs to be done first. This is usually the hardest part, but I have a solution. It’s called urgent v. important. They are two very different things. Important are the things that just have to get done. I would say that checking my email is important, taking out the trash probably isn’t. Urgent are things with a deadline. My blog posts have a deadline, backing up my computer does not (even though it’s my most important thing).

You can do this 2 ways. The first is to make another set of lists like this:

Everything on my list gets re-listed twice. Once in the Important/Not Important and again in the Urgent/Not Urgent.

Then take this list and match it up into these boxes:

Notice that I ended up without anything in the “Urgent, Not Important Box.” It happens. Yours will look different. You can skip the first step if you really really really want to. However, it makes your decision less arbitrary.

Step 4: Make Your List
Make your list in this order: Urgent/Important > Urgent/Not Important > Not Urgent/Important > Not Urgent/Not Important.

My final daily list:
Call Client “A”
Listen to messages
Update event page
Check email
Back up PC
Take out trash
Clean up desk

This would be my working list everyday. Repeat the steps for weekly and monthly tasks. In the weekly list, pick a specific day to get it done. For example, there is no way I could finish and post my blog on and complete my expense tracker. Choose a specific day to get that specific task done and hold yourself accountable to it.

Step 5: Be Flexible
Your lists are going to change.  In fact, I would go back and change ‘take out the garbage’ to a weekly task.  I don’t have clients coming to my office (I go to them), and let’s be honest, we both know I won’t do it everyday, so rather than have to look at it everyday, I would prefer to think about it only on Fridays.

Projects happen. Hey, that’s what most of my weeks are. Follow the same steps. Know what you need to do first and get it done. Set deadlines, reminders and try to gauge how much time it will take you- but don’t stop doing your initial list. The first time you ignore your messages or don’t check your email, something important and urgent will be there.

After a while, you won’t have to look at your home-base list – it will be automatic, it will be a habit, your time will free up and your productivity will skyrocket!

Happy Listing!