It's Your Business:
Doing less is often key to getting more

Orange County Register
by Jan Norman
November 23, 1998

It's an old entrepreneur joke: I only work half days - 12 hours. Some statements are too true to be funny. And if you're not laughing, you're probably a victim of '90s overload.

Many small-business owners find that the more hours they work, the more they have left to do. How can they work smarter, not longer, is what I asked to Problem 373.

Using Technology

"Working smarter and not longer comes from optimal use of systems and dedication of our people," says Ray Torres of Micro Madness Inc., an Anaheim firm that specializes in installing and training companies to use ACCPAC accounting software.

Torres, in charge of business development, uses Telemagic database to identify client needs. For example, if a company bought a specific software, it might be inundated with offers it can't use.

Technology is one of the best ways to work more effecitvely, agrees Liz Schroeppel of the Marketing Resource Alliance in Foothill Ranch. She uses email to communicate with her 12 partners in the alliance. A graphic artist, Schroeppel sends copy and artwork to clients in JPEG or PDF files by email.

"Frankly, I wouldn't be in this occupation if it weren't for the personal computer," she adds. "I just don't have the patience to do these things manually. I upgrade (software and hardware) every couple of years. Each upgrade yields maybe a 30 percent time savings on the average job."

Fieldworks, a Huntington Beach management consulting firm, not only uses email, but is preparing to use video teleconferencing to reduce travel time, which can't be billed to a client, adds consultant Barry Allen.

Get Help

In fact, Allen's participation in Fieldworks is part of founder Pauline Field's effort to work smarter, not harder. For years, she worked by herself, but know she uses consultants with specialities that complement her own so she doesn't have to do all the work.

One of the biggest problems business owners face is their believe that no one can do the work as well as they can, says corpiorate coach Jennifer White, author of the book "Work Less, Make More."

"You have to hire the right people, delegate and allow others to take risks," White says. "I have my clients develop fabulous reporting systems, give associates the responsibility and accountability, then take control of the training process.

"You don't dump work on someone. You take time to explain then have them report back periodically, so you can prevent major mistakes," she adds.

Set Up Systems

The issue of hiring help and delegating work hit home with Fountain Valley enrolled agent Judee Slack as she read: "The E-Myth: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work And What To Do About It" by Michael Gerber. "You have to set up systems instead of doing everything yourself," Slack says.

Last tax season, Slack hired some new assistants. She wrote a step-by-step manual of work procedures.

Eliminate Waste

Time is a limited resource, yet small business owenrs tend to squander it, observers Valencia marketing consultant Kenneth Keller. "One way to stay on track toward your goals is to write them on the back of a business card," he advises. "Then simply ask yourself what am I doing right now to help me achieve my goals? Then get back to working on something that will help you achieve your goals.

Small business owners put too much on their plates, they need to learn to say no, author White says. She requires her coaching clients to schedule every task on their calendars so they'll realize when they're overloaded.

"Forty percent of what we do take time, but doesn't add value," she adds. One client faxed White his daily list with 27 items.

"Eighty percent could have been delegated, but he said, 'If I don't have all this stuff to do, I won't feel important.' I got him to remove one item a week, to gradually ease him off the stuff. The culture shock would have been too great to go from 27 items to zero at one time."

-- "Work Less, Make More" by Jennifer White

Tips for being more efficient and productive

  • Delegate what you don't do best.
  • Limit all telephone calls to 10 minutes.
  • Don't pile paper on your desk. Either do it, delegate it or dump it.
  • Check your email only once a day.
  • Say no at least 10 times a week.
  • Focus on what you can do, not what you can't.
  • Build a support team of people.
  • Don't take care of everyone else. Give them the resources to take care of themselves.
  • Pay bills only once a month.
  • Take at least two vacations a year.
  • Stop hanging around with negative people.
  • Turn away business you don't want, even if you need the money.