Talking with a prospective client, a director’s big concern was they were writing off too much each month. Their initial email said “Our business is leaking time”. After some discussion I suggested they meet routinely and have staff agree on expectations of how long each piece of work should take. Things will then more likely be done within agreed times and thus agreed client budgets. This could plug the leaks and reduce their write offs.
Her quick reply told me the whole story. “Actually we’re all big boys here and we don’t need to be micro-managed”.
Yes, “we’re all big boys” was her reply.
It reminded me of a cartoon of a politician on the hustings. He thumps the town hall podium “Who thinks we need some big changes in this city?”. Everyone cheers, “We do!” The politician continues “How many of you are prepared to change?” And the hall empties out.
My meeting was the same. They wanted change. But they didn’t want to change.
Physics tells us that time actually slows down as gravity becomes weaker. Synchronise two caesium clocks at sea level then take one up a high mountain for a day. After only one day in a slightly weaker gravity field, the clock at altitude will have ‘lost’ time compared to the sea level clock, albeit in the order of a small fraction of a second.
At work, businesses lose time too. But not because of any high altitude work they may be involved in. Business time is lost in many ways. People may point to staff ‘wasting time’. But the real thief of time in many businesses is management sanctioned through a culture of neither planning nor managing time, in real time.
At month end, or in the next month following, reviewing how things have gone during the past month is like driving a car only looking in the rear vision mirror.
If all you’re selling is your time and expertise, there’s no inventory to apply a margin to. So time recording is important. Successfully recovering the value of time spent is the only way to make a profit. From invoicing time comes a measure of whether you ‘won or lost’ on a particular job vis-à-vis your quote or estimate. But knowing what happened yesterday, last week or last month is less than half the story.
Managing what is going to happen is much more important. And it takes time. But believe me, it can save a lot of time.
How often have you reviewed the time on a job and decided “we just can’t justify that amount”.
Someone has spent far too long on a piece of work, and you weren’t aware until it was too late.
There will always be some jobs that turn to custard and you have to write off huge chunks of time. But on many, where you do write off, it should not have happened.
Gaining management experience in any profession doesn’t happen just by getting older. Experience has to include an understanding of what’s involved in a particular job and how long each part of a job should take. What are the likely wrinkles. What boxes must be ticked. It’s an acquired skill. If you master it, and you train staff to understand and buy into realistic time expectations, your business will run more smoothly. And it will make more money.
A good time management system will help you to learn and it will help you to measure. But it’s not a replacement for your management input. It’s only an aid.
If “time is money”, then in not managing time you’re throwing away both time and money.
However, time is not money. Money is not spread evenly. Money can be fiddled. There are times when money comes easily and at other times, it goes far too easily.
The difference is, time only goes.
In a business that has no inventory, earning its money from applying its time and expertise, scheduling forward work week by week, measuring actual time v planned time, with an eye on the weeks beyond, key deliverables and invoicing dates is not micro-management. It’s just management.
(We talk more about the most important things in business management here.)
And it’s essential if you don’t want your business leaking time.
Food for thought?
If you want to know more about time management, or about Abtrac, which is our time management and invoicing system, read more of our blogs, eBooks and review our web site. Maybe start a free trial of Abtrac. Or contact us to discuss how Abtrac can help your business save time and therefore increase your profitability.
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