Ok, so you’ve established your small business and things are running smoothly. But how can you optimise what you have, work more efficiently, and take your business to the next level? Good question!
In this 4-part series, I’ll show you how to ramp up your operations for optimal productivity. Better use of your time means more efficient business. Put your energy into the right tasks, and you’ll find that working smarter – not harder – is what sets the great businesses apart from the rest of the pack.
Ramping up your operations takes a strategic approach, and these four steps will givee you the knoweldge you need to succeed:
Step 1 – Delegate
Delegating tasks that don’t represent an optimal use of your skills allows you to focus on those that make you money. And it’s not just for large businesses – sole proprietors can delegate too! Learn how to say ‘no’, and how to say ‘you do this!’
Step 2 – Schedule for Success
Time Management isn’t just about making sure you get things done. It’s about maximizing your time on income-generating tasks, and reducing the time you spend on the rest. This 11-step plan shows you the way!
Step 3 – Systematize!
Systems automate the processes that are repetitive, or require little mental input. They help you delegate, and improve your scheduling ability – and they’re critical to enhanced business success.
Step 4 – Build a Passive Income
A consistent income that you don’t have to work at can reduce stress and go a long way to supporting your business. If you thought affiliate programs were the answer, think again! We’ll look at a number of different options for generating a passive income – and consider their pros and cons.
Good luck ramping up your business for success!
Step 1 – Delegate
As a dreamy eyed, passion-filled new business owner, you’re committed to doing whatever it takes to get your new business off the ground.
As an unstoppable one-man-band, you find yourself playing the roles of sales person, order taker, order fulfillment, customer service, accounting, and management. But as your business grows, there will undoubtedly be more to running the business than you originally anticipated. To keep up, you’ll have to put in more time …Eventually you’ll wind up so busy working in your business that you’ll no longer have the necessary time to work on building your business. In order to move from start up to solid business, it’s crucial to break this vicious cycle.
So what is an overworked, overstressed business owner to do? The key to creating more time is to delegate! In this, the first of a four part series, we’ll discuss how to delegate your way to greater success!
What Tasks Can I Delegate?
Successful people don’t work harder; they work smarter. This means focusing on what you do best, and delegating the rest! Ask yourself what you enjoy doing least for your business. Now, imagine that you could literally give away these mind numbing, frustrating parts of your job.
Trouble Letting Go? Get a New Attitude!
Are you a control freak or a micromanager? Do you have trouble trusting others to do your work? Believe it or not, some people actually have trouble letting go of even the most monotonous, boring tasks because of the belief that they can do things better themselves. True, as entrepreneurs we are wonderful gifted creatures capable of tackling the most monstrous of tasks, but why go through the pain if you don’t have to?
Delegating is a skill that will become easier with practice. Once you let go of the "I am Superman and I can do everything" attitude, and realize the power of letting others help you, the payoff will be big. Save your time and energy for creativity, for planning and growing, and for enjoying your life.
Delegate to Whom?
Good help can be hard to find. Finding someone who’s both trustworthy and qualified can be a little intimidating. So ask for referrals from others. And when you do find someone, call their references. You can even give someone a tiny job to test the waters and see how they fare. Below are some different types of help that are available, and where you can find them.
In this day of email, fax, instant messaging and ftp, anyone, anywhere can assist you with your work. Virtual assistants can help you edit your newsletter, pay bills, invoice, market, make travel plans, keep the books, manage your email, conduct Internet research, plan events, bargain shop, make and keep appointments, and even word process — it’s like having your own personal secretary! A virtual assistant can act as your partner in business, and a fresh source of ideas for management and growth. Typical rates for a virtual assistant run around $30 per hour.
You can find virtual assistants at:
Why spend your own time updating your Website when you can pay someone else to do it for you? If your bill your clients $200 per hour for your time, isn’t it worth it to hire someone for $30-$60 per hour to maintain your site for you? Your time is money. When you take on your own maintenance, it actually costs you potential sales that you could have made in that time. In many cases, a professional Web developer could do a better job, with fewer mistakes, in half the time. Save yourself the frustration and hire some help!
Consultants and Freelancers
While the "Do It Yourself" approach can save you money, it won’t always get you the results that a professional can achieve. For instance, you may save money initially by writing your own Web copy, but how many more sales could you have made if you’d invested in professional copywriting services? Don’t just look at the cost of hiring — consider your opportunity cost?
Whatever your business need, there’s a freelancer who can assist you, including: business strategists, personal coaches, publicists, lawyers, newsletter editors, accountants, copywriters, search engine specialists, and Internet marketing consultants. There are several directories where you can find qualified talent to assist your every need:
Can’t Afford Good Help?
Don’t fret — even if you can’t afford help, there are still ways to get the help you need. Here are some ideas.
If think creatively, there are often ways to find volunteers to take on certain tasks. For instance, some people will volunteer their assistance just for the pride of being on the team. This strategy has worked brilliantly for Dmoz.org (otherwise known as the Open Directory Project), the world’s largest human-edited online directory. The Open Directory powers the core directory services for the Web’s largest and most popular search engines and portals, including Netscape Search, AOL Search, Google, Lycos, HotBot, DirectHit, and hundreds of others.
In a brilliant move, Dmoz has recruited volunteer editors for the various Web directory categories. The volunteer staff takes pride in helping to build Dmoz into a better directory and appreciate the chance to be recognized as an expert on their chosen topic. Ask yourself what similar types of programs you could develop. Is there someone out there who’s willing to volunteer their time and efforts, if you mentor them in exchange?
Getting work experience is a valuable experience for the new college graduate. You need experience to get work, but you need a job to get work experience. For this reason, college students are often eager to get real world work experience. Check to see if there’s an intern program at your local college. An internship will give a student valuable work experience that they can use to beef up their resume.
Is there someone you could trade services with? For instance, maybe someone could assist you with your ezine promotion if you provide them with business coaching in return? Dare to dream up a scenario that would work for your situation. And when you approach someone about a potential partnership, be sure to present the idea as a win-win situation that will benefit both parties.
Are you ready to ramp up to the next level of success? I challenge you to take a look at the work you do and ask yourself what you can take off your plate. By handing off tasks, you’ll find you have more time, more energy, and more creativity to focus on growing your core business and enjoying your life.
Step 2 – Schedule Your Success
Why is it that the Bill Gates’ of this world are rich and famous? What secret do they know that the rest of us don’t? If you study their lives closely, you’ll discover the rich and famous have certain habits they attribute to their success. Successful people are very careful about how they spend their time. No matter how you slice it up, we all have 24 hours in a day, so the key lies in learning to use our time wisely. Below are some ways you can dramatically increase your productivity through more effective use of your time.
1. Monitor How You Currently Use Your Time
If it seems like your day slips by all too quickly, try creating a log of your daily activities. Once you see where you spend your time, you can identify and focus on the activities that provide the greatest returns for you, personally and financially.
Start your log by writing down what time you wake up, get ready, and begin work. Calculate how much time you spend on individual activities such as email, phone calls, and client work. Once you’ve done this for a few days, you’ll be surprised at the patterns that appear.
2. Calculate How Much your Time is Worth
Time is money. Knowing how much your time is actually worth can help you make better decisions as to whether you should perform a task, or outsource it. For instance, if your time is worth $200 an hour, you’d be far better off to pay someone $30 an hour to edit your newsletter. You can "bank" the other $170 per hour by spending your time on profit-making activities.
Also, take the time to determine how much time out of each day you need to spend on billable activities in order to make your desired profit. For instance, I try to spend 1.5 hours a day on money-making projects.
3. Create a Daily Schedule
Don’t start your day without a To-Do list. Make a list of tasks and categorize them into business-building activities, client activities, and personal items. Then break big, unmanageable projects into smaller, "doable" chunks so they become less intimidating, and are easier to accomplish.
Have more to do than hours in the day? By prioritizing your tasks, you’ll make sure that you are tackling the items that matter most. Create a system that works for you. One standard way of prioritizing is to mark items with A, B, and C, in order of importance.
- Ask yourself these key questions:
- What items must be done today?
- Which items can be rescheduled?
- What can be delegated?
- Which tasks most closely match my priorities and goals?
- Which items can be eliminated?
5. Learn to Say No
Are you forever adding ‘just one more’ item to your never-ending To-Do list? You are in control of your time! Be strong and uphold your personal boundaries. When you’re well rested, and treat yourself and your family to the time off you deserve, you’ll feel happier and more productive when it’s time to go back to work.
Before you say yes to new tasks, ask yourself these questions:
- Do you really have the time or energy to do that extra task?
- Do you like this customer?
- Will it be profitable?
- Does it invade on your personal time?
- Does it involve doing something you enjoy?
- Does it fit in with your list of priorities and goals?
6. Remove Distractions and "Time Sucks"
Time sucks lurk everywhere — think about which activities eat up your time. For me personally, these items include email, social calls, and telemarketers. I "conquer" the email demon by shutting down my Outlook when I’m working on a task. When a family member calls during work time, I remind them of my work hours, and politely ask if I can call them back. Caller ID saves me from the "would be" telemarketer time thieves. With one glance, I can quickly differentiate telemarketers from important client calls.
7. Stick to the Plan
Try not to get sidetracked from your plan. One of my friends has a motto: "A lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency for me". It’s a smart one to live by.
Unless it’s a true emergency, or you’re being paid "rush" time, you probably don’t need to squeeze a last minute request in today. Also, by assigning yourself project deadlines, you can keep on top of projects and avoid those dreaded last minute emergencies.
8. Choose an Inspiring Place and Time
We’re all "built" differently. So it’s a good idea to do the tasks that require the most "brain power" at those times when you’re at your prime. Are you a "morning person", or do you work best burning the midnight oil?
Create for yourself the ultimate work haven — one that’s clean, distraction-free, and inspiring. My office overlooks my flower garden and is right in the heart of family activity. As I glance to the right, our Angel fish "Spike" proudly parades across the fish tank. Above me, Monet is painting a vivid portrait of his flower garden. In the living room, my son is softly singing the Spiderman theme to himself – music to my ears!
9. Bundle Like Tasks Together
As you work through your daily list, try to chunk your tasks into groups that contain like activities. By creating a separate "chunk" of time for answering email, invoicing, making return phone calls, etc. you’ll save time and mental energy.
10. Avoid Interruptions
Trying to do the same thing over and over again with interruptions can be maddening. Once you start a task, try to finish it to the end. If something comes up that you need to remember or do, unless it’s urgent, simply add it to your list and continue on with your current project.
11. Be Organized
When things are tidy, it saves you time and frees you to focus on the task at hand. Digging through a pile of papers and finding a squished Twinkie instead of that all-important invoice isn’t very conducive to productivity. Follow your own organizational style with:
For instance, I arrange my phone lists into groups according to how I use them: friends, family, doctors, my children’s playmates, etc. I also list people that I talk to on a first name basis alphabetically — by their first name — in my phone book. For instance, I list my mom under "M" and my brother Troy under "T". "D" has a list of all my doctors. This works for me, because it reflects how I think.
Another time saving idea is to color-code your emails. In my personal color scheme I use one color for clients, one for newsletters, and another for my coworkers. You can also group your emails using categories and folders.
One Calendar Meets All!
Keeping track of work appointments, Boy Scout meetings, and committee meetings can be very difficult. My secret to keeping on top of family and work appointments is to schedule them all on one calendar.
Create a special section of your daytimer just for special interests, hobbies, or kids. I have a special kid section with phone numbers for Brownie leaders, playmates, doctors, school contacts, bus number and other items.
Schedule Your Success
Why wait for success when you can literally schedule it? By mastering your time, you can accomplish much more with less effort. Be choosey about how you spend your time, and focus on activities that most closely match your goals. By taking time to monitor, measure, and manage your time, you will enjoy an abundance of success and happiness.
Step 3 — Systematize!
Did you put on plays when you were a kid? I know I did, and we always put some serious planning into each production. In fact, my brothers and I had a system of sorts to pull it all together. We would fashion some theatre tickets, carefully choose costumes from mom and dad’s closet, and color a play program for our guests. I think the planning was as much fun as the performance.
As I’ve enjoyed greater success in business, those same system-creating skills have become a valuable asset. Systems can take the drudgery out of work, and make your business run more efficiently.
What is a "System"?
Want to work less and earn more? Systems can help you to do that. As your business grows, you’ll need easy ways to handle the increased workload. Systems will help you work smarter, and accomplish more with less effort. They can save you time and reduce errors.
Think of your business as a factory. In order to increase production, you need to make your factory function more efficiently. Similarly, having a routine way to handle simple tasks will allow you to increase production with less effort on your part. It’s like putting your business on autopilot!
If a bus hit you today, would your business survive? That’s a question I often ask myself, as a safeguard to ensure that I’m not putting too much "me" in my business. Having well-developed systems can enable your business to run with your brand of expertise and style, but without you. This can free you to enjoy your life, spend more time planning future growth, or dream up new business ventures.
While Ray Kroc is long gone, his legacy of fast food and friendly service lives on. He broke his McDonald’s business down into easy-to-replicate procedures and systems. He documented the processes for making the perfect fries and hamburger in painstaking detail, noting the equipment, the timing, and the temperature. He tested his procedures to make sure that employees could reproduce the results easily. Mr. Kroc then founded McDonald’s University especially for the purposes of training his management team. By having simple systems, Mr. Kroc was able to ensure that customers can go to any McDonald’s across the country and get the same product they know and love.
Elements of a System
How do you create systems that work for your business? The answer is to create a system that’s foolproof — even a monkey could do it. Write down each step of the tasks you complete, document them, and train someone on them. If you’ve created an easy-to-follow system, then anyone can take your instructions and run with them.
A system can be as simple as a set of procedures; or it can involve various forms, lists, software, machinery, consultants, or even a team of assistants. In short, it simply involves all the elements needed to make something happen!
And the great news is that the system you need may already be out there. There’s an endless variety of self help books with systems designed to make your life and work easier. There are self-appointed experts for every subject imaginable, who can share their systems for success for a mere consulting fee. You can take a teleclass, read an ebook, or attend a class at your local college to help you master a certain skill, and devise a system that works for you.
The Systemization Process
Here’s a plan that will allow you to systematize any aspect of your business.
- Identify which tasks in your business could be handled routinely by systems
- Document all the steps that need to occur for this task to be completed
- Design a "flow chart" of sorts to show how all the parts of the system will work and interact together
- Gather the tools, people, and resources necessary for these steps to be carried out
- Create a timeframe for the frequency and timing of how often this system needs to run. Do you need this to happen on a monthly, quarterly, or yearly basis?
- Test your system. Hand the instructions and tools to a coworker or consultant, and see whether they can accomplish the task.
- Take note of any problems that occurred and make any necessary adjustments or problem solving techniques that were employed.
- Test again. When the system can achieve the desired results without you, it is complete.
What Kinds of Systems do You Need?
These days there are systems to serve every need — from accounting to search engine optimization. Ask yourself where you need help in your business. What could be made easier? Take a look at the systems you currently have in place, and have a think about what systems you’ll need as your business grows.
Here are over 50 key systems that you can implement to make your business run more efficiently:
- Appointment scheduling system calendar, production calendar
- Autoresponder systems
- Ad tracking system
- Article submission system
- Billing systems
- Bookkeeping system
- Back-up system
- Client phone call returning systems
- Client contact list management system
- Client referral system
- Customer service request handling system
- Content generation system
- Contract review system
- Computer folder filing system
- Domain name documentation system
- Email management system
- End of month closing the books system
- Information management system
- Idea generating system
- Link request system
- Organization systems
- One touch filing system
- Organization systems
- Payment notification system
- Payment handling systems
- Password tracking system
- Past due collections system
- Pricing update system
- Project tracking system
- Product ordering system
- Profit analysis system
- Proposal/Estimate creating system
- Publicity generation system
- PO systems
- Proofreading systems
- Record keeping systems
- Support system
- Search engine submission system
- Stationeries with standard replies to commonly asked questions
- Software tracking system
- Task deadline tracking
- Vendor contact management system
- Virus Protection system
- Web traffic monitoring system
- Web site update system
- Work outsourcing systems
Architect Your Future
Today I get a kick out of watching my daughter employ those same list making strategies into her playtime as she thoughtfully prepares her daily "to do" list in crayon, prepares her agenda for her family "exercise class", or practices her pop star routine (she tells me she’s going to be the next Britney Spears!).
But, while they might not make your work seem like child’s play, systems will simplify your business and your life. Be an architect of your future, and commit to enjoying greater success with less stress by designing smart systems to handle your work.
Step 4 — Build A Passive Income
Every online dream begins with one vision: you open your email inbox, and "like magic" the money comes rolling in.
It’s true — building a passive income is your key to earning more money without working harder. And while it’s unlikely that you’ll earn millions over night, building a passive income is a smart way to supplement what you’re already earning.
So how you can build an automatic income source for your online business? Though affiliate programs are good, they’re not the sole solution. Here is a selection of the more popular means of making a passive income online.
Affiliate programs allow you to earn income by selling other people’s products. There are literally thousands of affiliate programs available — in practically any category you care to name. Whether you’re interested in selling ebooks, toys, magazines, or kitchen utensils, I guarantee you’ll be able to find a shop in that category with an affiliate program on offer.
When you select an affiliate program, consider these criteria:
- choose a quality product that you personally believe in. You need to actually trial and purchase the product yourself. This allows you to personally buy into what’s great about the product, so you can write a killer personal testimonial.
- try to find products that offer higher-than-average commissions. Why work your buns off selling a 5% commission product, when you can sell one that offers 30, 40, or even 50% commissions?
- if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. You can investigate a company by checking them out with the Better Business Bureau in the business’ native state.
The Top 10
Here are the top affiliate programs recommended by Allan Gardyne of AssociatePrograms.com:
1. Ken Evoy’s products:
2. Marlon Sanders products:
- The Amazing Formula that Sells like Crazy
- How to Create the Ultimate Automated Web Business
- Gimme My Money Now
3. The Insider Secrets to Marketing Your Business on the Internet by Corey Rudl
4. Declan Dunn’s and Patrick Anderson’s products, including:
- Right on the Money
- Nothing by Net by Michael Campbell
- Winning the Affiliate Game by Declan Dunn
- The Complete, Insider’s Guide to Associate & Affiliate Programs
5. Mark Joyner’s products:
6. Jonathan Mizel’s products:
- The Online Marketing Letter
- Amazing Pop-Ups
- Anatomy of a Marketing Roll-Out
7. WebSponsors — a pay-per-lead network
8. Mini Site Profits by Phil Whiley
9. ClickBank Marketplace – Earn bonuses and residual income by referring merchants and resellers to ClickBank
10. Commission Junction — Here you can find a wide variety of products and services to resell.
Create your Own InfoProducts
What is your secret to success? Success sells, and if you have your own personal method to get to the top, others will pay to hear it (which explains why "how to succeed"-style ebooks continue to top the sales charts). Ask yourself "What do I know that’s special, unique, and could help others?" The answer to this question will make a successful infoproduct.
Do you know how to fix something, find something, save something, do something more quickly, do it better, do it more efficiently, do a greater amount of it, do it with greater quality, do it less expensively, do it more easily, it more often, be happier doing it, do it automatically, or more effectively, take existing knowledge and apply to a new situation? Then you’re an infoproduct waiting to happen.
Create your Own System or Software
Franklin Covey has created an income by showing others his own secrets to prioritization and organization. He packaged up his personal methodology, and now sells the tools, classes, and equipment to others who want to achieve those same results.
Do you have a unique form, software, or process that you use to make your work easier? Document your process, find a developer to produce the software, or package your process as an infoproduct, cd, teleclass, or ecourse.
Become an Expert Consultant
Do people value your business advice? If so, there’s a chance you could create an income through consulting. Expert consultants are paid by the hour to provide advice to others about how they can achieve greater success.
Think about how you can highlight your expertise, and position yourself as an expert. Some "hot" fields of consulting now include publicity, search engine techniques, epublishing knowledge, Website traffic analysis, Internet marketing, business coaching, and business strategy. You could even mentor "juniors" in your field on how to take their business to the next level.
As a businessperson, your customers will often turn to you for recommendations on reputable service companies. This puts you in the perfect position to earn commissions by reselling appropriate goods and services.
Make a list of all the services your customers use. For example, as a Web developer, my customers use hosting, merchant accounts, shopping carts, newsletter broadcasting services, and domain name vendors. Then approach suitable vendors about becoming a reseller of their services. Here’s a list of the top 50 reseller programs, to get you started.
Earn Partner Commissions
Do you recommend consultants’ services to others? Often my customers need assistance with proofreading, multi-browser compatibility testing, copywriting, virtual assistance, and animated graphics, so I decided to seek out partnerships with companies in these key areas.
When I refer a client to these businesses, they pay me a referral fee — and when they refer their clients to me, I pay them. Who do you know that you could create similar deals with?
You may be sitting on valuable real estate and not even know it. If your Website attracts a lot of traffic, or you have a popular ezine, you may be able to earn income through advertising sales.
Consider offering banner ads, text ads, sponsorships, partnerships, paid classifieds or business directory listings. Another idea is to create "co-branded" paid (or free) ebooks, with ad space that you can sell as a targeted opportunity to potential advertisers.
Create a Referral Network
Think about who your audience is, and then ask yourself what other types of professionals have the same target audience. A referral network allows you to charge businesses for membership, in exchange for promotion of their services to your audience.
The concept is similar to 1-800-Dentist. Here, dentists pay a fee to be part of the network. Then, when a customer phones 1-800-Dentist and asks for a dentist in their area, the operator looks at the list of member dentists, and match the client with the member that offers the qualifications or services the customer seeks. And 1-800-Dentist earns a small commission for sending the member dentist a qualified customer.
So, how can this concept work as a Web application? You could create a network of "preferred" Web developers, to which Web development companies pay a small fee to be included. Then offer on your site the facility for people to search for a Web developer in their area. And when your visitor signs up with one of the developers in your network, you get a commission!
The Pay-Per-Inclusion Club
If you’re an expert in your field, why not create a community where others can learn your secrets to success?
By offering free membership, you can allow visitors to poke around and see that you know your topic. Then, offer paid memberships to your members-only section where more specific, detailed or important information is covered.
Internet Marketing Challenge is one such community. Built by Internet Marketers, it’s geared toward aspiring entrepreneurs. CoachVille, by Thomas Leonard, is another community that was developed for the business/personal coaching audience.
How much do you want to earn..?
According to Think and Grow Rich, the wealthy are people who have a brilliant idea that has changed the world. But I believe that those who resell these brilliant ideas can also become rich. Take advantage of the power of passive income and you too can work less and earn more!
Kristie is a Webmistress, Marketing Extraordinaire, & Work at Home Mother of two. She is also CEO of KCD Web Design. Kristie is author of the soon to be published print book, "eBiz Moms, The Ultimate Guide to Home Based Business" and founder of WebMomz, an online community for women to be launched in Fall of 2002.