My Schedule is Holding Me Hostage

My Schedule is Holding Me Hostage

“Juliana, my calendar has made me it’s b*tch – what do I do?”

I get that a lot from clients. Followed by, “I feel like I’m running from meeting to meeting, I’m doing a million things and yet and I’m not making more revenue”

Here are 5 steps to cleansing your calendar:

Identify your time-suckers

  • Interruptions from friends and family who think you all the time in the world because you make your own schedule  (2 hours avg)
  • Client meetings that run over (30 min/ mtg avg)
  • Social Media (1.5 hours avg),  etc

I am not talking about the 10 min you use to rationalize the reward system of getting through that dreadful email backlog, I am talking about the 2 hours you use to procrastinate going through the 150 emails you have when you came back from vacay.

Make the list, set aside time each day for essential, but annoying things. Once people know that they can reach you in a particular window and only that window, the interruptions will drop.

 Make a framework

Write down all your business and personal activities. (Click here to download a checklist to mark off as you add them to your calendar).

Tips to Create blocks in your schedule:

  • Pick the nasty stuff you hate doing and put it first during the day
  • Take a break, have lunch then tackle your next project
  • Streamline your meetings as much as possible to avoid running around and create standing meetings with recurring clients
  • Make sure nothing is missing in your personal and professional life ie. going to the bank, creating content, and buying groceries.
  • And don’t just repress the tasks you don’t want to do in this list. This means if you are in the early stages of your business and are going hard on sales outreach, then you have to take into account quality time with a CRM and email follow-up to move your pipeline along.

 Anticipate curve balls

Sometimes you may feel like you are playing whack-a-mole with unanticipated requests that come up during the day. As soon as I smack one down, two new ones shoot right up!

Most people know what the common curveballs are in their life and business – family members who constantly call to chat, clients that ask for changes at the last minute.

We can make a plan for them BY ADDING some buffer time during the day to handle these spontaneous requests. The great thing is, if there are no curveballs that day, guess what — you have extra time! How cool is that?

Put it in your calendar

If it’s not on your calendar, it doesn’t exist. Trees fall in the woods. If someone doesn’t have it in their calendar to bring a chainsaw to it, it’s just going to lie there, whether or not it’s making a sound.  Take your Outlook calendar or Google calendar (or whatever you use) and section off every activity. If you are hesitating, get honest and ask yourself if you are really going to do it. If not, let it go.

Tweet this: If it’s not on your calendar, it doesn’t exist.

Although it may feel robotic — even write down your personal meetings and outings with friends and family.

 Look for partners

  • Are there team members that would be better suited to doing lower level tasks so you can handle higher priorities?
  • Are there strategic partners that you can team up with to handle some of your projects, i.e. co-branding an event, online workshop, etc.?
  • Is there budget to hire contractors or team members where you see bottlenecks? IF YOU DON’T HAVE THESE FOLKS IN YOUR LIFE, IT’S TIME TO FIND THEM. Ooooh yeah – delegation time.

 

Bonus Round – THE NEED TO TICK OFF ITEMS ON A TO-DO LIST.

THIS IS in the biggest pitfall. We are so overwhelmed that sometimes we feel like every time we check off something in that to-do list we have a mini-victory (filled with glory as the mental crowd goes wiiiild).

It’s awesome to feel busy, but at the end of the day we are not moving our business forward. Don’t go for lower level tasks to feed the ego, stick to your commitment to your business — even when it feels hard ( and the mental crowd goes – me no likey).

Tweet this: Stick to your commitment to your business — even when it feels hard

ScaleTime’s Tip: Press pause, download the checklist, and be proactive about your calendar. I recommend you do this one with someone who is system’s oriented because brainstorming helps you see things you can’t yourself i.e. how long things actually take.

So if you’re banging your head against a wall because there aren’t enough hours in the day and need some help to get off that insane carousel, then let me know — I’ll throw you a line and pull you out! Just email me.

 

Lasting Teams That Are In It To Win It

“Juliana, how do I hire the right team members, the ones that are going to stick around and do a great job?”

Almost 35% of people quit a job within the first six months of being hired.

That’s a pretty big turnover rate when you stop to consider the time and resources devoted to recruiting, especially when you take lost revenue for business both large and small into consideration. No matter the size of your business, your goal is to keep profits — and your employee retention rates high – but, you may need to change your tactics in order to succeed.

With just a few simple changes to your hiring process, you will find yourself ahead of the game with a dedicated team behind you.

But first, let’s examine the numbers: Did you know that US companies spent a staggering $124 billion on recruiting efforts in 2012 alone? When it comes to hiring the right people, large firms lose when their dedicated HR departments waste resources hiring the wrong people. Small business owners lose even bigger with the time and effort the recruiting process takes from day to day operations. Sure, you played the game, asked the right questions, and are confident you hired the right people. And maybe you did hire the right people for the positions advertised. The question to ask yourself, however, is if you hired the right people for your team.

Did you know that most people leave because there are different expectations in the recruiting cycle, from the job posting to the interviewing process, which did not match the reality of the actual gig?

Perhaps they were holding out for another position with a different company and your offer was simply a waiting post. The “Maybes” behind why employee retention is such a gamble are numerous and can range from your business’ relaxed work environment and dog-friendly office not being the right fit to them taking a look at your five-year vision and deciding they might fit better elsewhere.

These are the very uncertainties you, or your HR team, should be addressing while actively recruiting new team members. It is during this crucial time for discovery that you should be making sure you are seeking out the people that are not only going to stick, but also help your business grow in the process. Your goal is to ultimately extend offers of employment to individuals with whom you will enjoy working and with whom you’ll probably be spending more time than you are willing to admit. So how do you do that?

For starters, realize that a perfectly written resume is only a part of employee retention and the big picture.

By paying attention life patterns or circumstances, you can predict a lot about your new team member’s longevity with your business. For example: A person who moves every two years, will probably move again. It’s possible their spouse is in the military. But if you do not do your due diligence, you shouldn’t be surprised when they do move again. What about the college student working for you part-time? They have graduation date that you must prepare for. Be ready to absorb them or replace them.

Now that you are thinking not only outside of the box, but beyond the resume, as well, it’s time to consider your options as a business owner. Start by putting yourself in a new employee’s shoes:

In order to make the transition from the newbie to a seasoned and valued member of your team, they need:

  • Solid infrastructure already in place; one which will allow access to systems, technology, and communication
  • Time to read your business literature
  • Business cards
  • Time to learn — and become acquainted to — their contacts

Without at least these building blocks already firmly established for your new team member to gather their bearings during the critical first five months, which, coincidentally, is the average time it takes for a new hire to fully acclimate to their work environment, the transition period will only be made all the rougher for them. Whether you are operating out of a corner office or half of a full tech garage, those operating manuals and trainings will increase the chance of getting your new hire up to speed and optimized.

Okay, so you’ve done your due diligence and are comfortable that your new hire isn’t moving overseas in seven months, checked their college diploma yourself to make sure the ink is dry, and their skill-set matches your needs for the open position perfectly. Even the office dog loves them because they’ve been bringing in dog biscuits and know how to give a good belly rub.

What if they still aren’t a good fit? What did you miss?

Through no fault of their own, your new hire may just not gel with the culture you have or are trying to create. Your best-case scenario is they are great, but the rest of your team doesn’t enjoy working with him or her. This is where you have to step back, reassess, and put the needs of the many before the needs of the one. In other words: don’t let the entire ship sink because one crew member isn’t working out or you end up with communication lapses and inefficiencies in cooperation. How do you do that?

TIP – By creating a personalized work culture test that applies specifically to your business’ personality and applying it during each and every recruiting and discovery period.

A friend asks people when referring potential hires to his team if they would introduce this person to their own mom. His clients are family units, thereby making it essential that each team member present themselves in a certain manner. I ask my own team to imagine a flight delay en route to a business trip mean three hours in the airport bar — which happens quite often. If they give the green light for inviting the potential newbie along for a cocktail, it’s a pretty clear and cut decision from there.

We can’t cage the superstars to stay forever, but we can try to figure out how who’s in for the long haul as we build our teams and continue moving forward.

The key factor, of course, is foreseeing who’s going to stick around.

#UpgradeYourShit

There’s nothing like mother dear to tell you or make you aware, either by her own volition or one’s own insecurities, how there’s always, ahem, how do you say it … room for improvement. Whether you are trying to satisfy, please, or appease, our mothers have a so serious hold on how we see ourselves on this planet.

Mine is a special breed, I can’t return or exchange her … I love her and I only have one. But she always said to me something that stayed and probably will forever, “Compre calidad, porque lo barato sale caro.” That basically translates to “buy quality because cheap gets expensive.”

We can delve into whether my incessant need for quality control and improvement come from that one very repeated statement in the household, but let’s not go too Freud.

The first value of ScaleTime is quality,

followed by innovation and kick ass customer service. In a time where operations can sometimes become too lean, we cannot sacrifice quality for efficiency. Anyone who knows me, knows I’m all about making things more efficient. The American in me wants things better, bigger, faster. But efficiency also means room for innovation and that’s where continuous quality plays a big role.

“God Juliana, why are you such a mom?” a recent client said to me last month.

I don’t know!?!?!

Is it because I want this client, like all others to be the best version of their entrepreneurial self? Is it because I want them to do great things? Is it because I get on their ass to finish their projects and deliverables (which I often label HomeWork). Probably.

ScaleTime’s first intern, Tommy Almodovar, coined the office motto after hearing me say this several times: upgrade your shit. Yes, I know … it’s very New York. He thinks I’m demanding and forever asking him to improve, and he is absolutely right.  It became a running office joke whenever someone handed or did anything subpar, especially by their own standards. Even I am found guilty and called out – and appreciated it.

Is it wrong to ask for greatness?#UpgradeYourShit

In a funny way, we all subscribe to the notion of improvement and hold each other accountable to highest standard with one quirky little phrase.

I acquiesce to the search for greatness and I beseech you to do the same.

So for this, I ask you to be awesome, to be amazing, to test your limits and #UpgradeYourShit

Invest in Your Business

“Juliana, my business is like my baby!!!” I hear so many friends, colleagues and clients say to me.

But then, when it comes to opening that wallet and buying that baby toys (electronics), learning tools (professional development) play date activities (networking/conferences) or diapers (because you know, S**t happens), all of a sudden there’s a million things more important than “the baby”.

“I don’t have the money right now”
“I can do it myself”
“Is it really worth it”
“I would love to, but …”

Hmmmm.

I know, I know – sometimes there isn’t enough cash-flow for toys and diapers.

But let us help you in making the decision on things you should not skimp on — especially when there is cash flow and you are ready (or your baby business is throwing a tantrum because it really needs it).

First: The diapers

You have to protect yourself from unwanted messes. For many reasons people do not register their companies right away. You should, so that you can protect your personal assets. If for whatever reason you are not ready to take the leap and register the business, you should at least have a service agreement and a contractor agreement.

  • The service agreement protects you from your clients doing crazy stuff or potentially not paying half way through a project. I heard a story last week of an architecture firm that did not have the right contracts in place and  not only did the client not pay, the architects had to finish the project and then pay the client for the work done. Do not let that be you.
  • The contractor agreement prevents you from your regular service providers or contractors from potentially taking advantage of you or not complying with work that is supposed to be done.

Business Development

The main reason small businesses fail in the US is that they do not have enough sales. Whether you are starting up or have been open for 10+ years, the investment in business growth is imperative. If you are bootstrapping or in survival mode, dedicate some budget for networking – hit the streets and hustle. If you know how much a dedicated and amazing sales rep costs (ALOT – BUT SO WORTH IT) and your business can afford it, do it.

Organization

Would you let that baby do whatever it wants whenever it wanted? No! Neither should your business. Whether its:
  • Digital – from managing your inbox to connecting your several workstations to a wireless server
  • Spacial – are you working on the dining room table? is your inventory a muck?
  • Organizational – employee sizes big and small should be leveraging everyones strengths and weaknesses, “I can do everything” is not the answer and neither is “all hands on deck,” but  no one knows what’s going on
  • Operations – having efficiency increases your capacity and your ability to sell more

A Website

Everyone is so excited about social media and digital marketing and seo — you know, the sexy stuff. Many people forget all those things point to a website. If your website sucks you won’t be able to seal the deal. It’s like wearing a beautiful gown with granny underwear, you can’t do it. You shouldn’t. Your website is your 24 hours sales person, treat it well.  You don’t need anything overly complicated:
  • Your info
  • Nice design
  • Call to action  buttons ( because you want your clients to contact, call, or most importantly, buy).
  • And make sure it is responsive, so that anyone, anywhere, on any mobile can view it without squinting and irritation.

HEEEEELP!!!! I’m drowning and I can’t come up for air!

I love it when people are soooo proud because they can do it all. Chances are you are not doing it all, and there are things slipping. Worst of all, is that no matter the facade, your colleagues, your vendors, your loved ones and worst of all your clients, can tell. Business owners wearing 20 hats are surely to burn out quickly.

“But Juliana, I’m just starting … I can’t afford it”
Really? Really?
You can’t sacrifice X bottles of wine to get you 4 hours of admin help or a bookkeeper? (Replace wine with your favorite vice).
  • Would you tell your baby when it’s kicking and screaming, that you are not willing to show it the love it deserves?
  • Take out the calculator and figure out which task or tasks are:
  • a) driving you the most crazy b) you are not good at c) you really need d) could help your business the most or e) all of the above and how much it is going to cost you.
  • Then figure out how much money you can make if you spent that time producing and selling.
  • And lastly, make the sacrifice.

Now I have a quick question for you:

Have you ever passed up an opportunity to invest something in your business that you know would have improved on it? and Why?  Share your story in the comments.

Why Your Small Business Needs an Operations Manual

Look around your office. Your computer, printer, and copier—maybe even your adjustable chair—all came with operating manuals.

But do you have an operating manual for your business? If not, creating one can save you serious time and money.

Operating (or operations) manuals teach you, your employees, and future employees how to run your business successfully. When I suggest manuals to my startup and small business clients, I’m often greeted with skepticism. “I don’t have time to write anything,” they’ll say. “Besides, I already know what I’m supposed to do.”

Even if your business runs smoothly now, writing an operations manual today can help you identify tomorrow’s challenges.

After all, U.S. Census data shows us that only 69% of small businesses survive two years. Other studies suggest that 30-50% of small businesses fail due to operations and management deficiencies. An operations manual won’t solve your specific issues, but it will help you anticipate them much sooner.

An operations framework becomes especially crucial as your company expands.

Hiring new employees is an exciting step for the entrepreneur, but recruiting, training, and managing your team can take up a lot of time—precious time you’d rather spend generating new ideas. An operations manual will make this process faster and more cost effective.

As the economy improves and job opportunities increase, an operations manual will help you retain your top employees.

When people leave a job, it’s not usually due to salary. Rather, they leave because they don’t see a future for the company or don’t feel recognized for their individual efforts. An operations manual addresses both of these issues. Seeing your operations strategy in black and white will give your employees confidence in your management, organization, and stability. Plus, a manual gives you clear benchmarks for measuring and rewarding employee performance.

Since your manual will help you train and retain your best employees, you’ll see increased productivity and a reduced margin of error.

Avoiding errors matters even more to the small business than it does to a large organization. After all, you’re paying your employees for every moment they are with you, whether they’re doing a good, bad or mediocre job. Even small mistakes can lead to wasted time and lost clients, something fledgling businesses can ill afford.

A written operations handbook will also dramatically improve your customer satisfaction.

Your customers want consistency and reliability. Consider the successful businesses in your neighborhood. At a restaurant a dish is made exactly the same on a Saturday night as it is on a Tuesday, whether or not the executive chef is actually in the kitchen. Even small details matter. For example, a man who likes to pamper himself with a straight razor shave at the Art of Shaving will be disappointed if the treatment ritual changes by the day. Let your team (and yourself) get creative with new offerings and products, but not by changing the process from day to day, or between different employees. Consistency creates trust, and operations manuals ensure consistency.

What should actually be in your operations manual?

While larger organizations can have manuals as thick as the phone book, a good starter document could be less than 30 pages. Think of it as a “how-to” guide to your day-to-day operations and most repeated tasks. Include a business overview, office policies, emergency procedures, and contact lists for employees and vendors. Most importantly, draft a guide for each of your business systems: marketing, sales, order fulfillment, client management, recruitment, training, administrative, and so on. Each guide should include processes, checklists, and any templates or documents necessary to complete tasks.

I know what you might be thinking: “Employees do not want to read long and boring operating manuals.” I agree, and the solution is simple (if not easy): don’t make your manuals long and boring!

Try these tips to make your manuals useful and concise:

  • Include pictures, pictograms and colors. Think IKEA for your business processes. (Don’t forget the nuts and bolts!)
  • Require new team members to read only the most important sections.
  • Segment training into “bite-size” pieces.
  • Incorporate hands-on training and exercises. (For example, have team members work together on practice challenges.)
  • Explain why the rules matter. Show how your operations plans support your overall vision for the company.

You don’t have to write your operations manual by yourself.

In fact, it’s better not to. Make it a collaborative process with your startup team. You’ll get their buy-in and give them ownership of your key decisions. A joint effort yields more cohesive results and saves everyone time.

Does a formal operations manual hinder innovation? In my experience, it’s quite the opposite. When you and your team become consumed with everyday tasks, you simply cannot generate new ideas. Manufacturers have long known the value of automation. Automation may sound like a dirty word to a small business committed to unique, customized solutions and products. But by automating your routine tasks, you’ll actually be free to innovate and create new opportunities for your business—while saving money and improving customer service.

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