I know things can go haywire real quick when you have to manage your back office, the project in the field, and the paperwork for projects. I always tell people when they talk about their back office and their struggles and things like that I always say Don't let your back office prevent the success in your front office.
I believe that so strongly that years ago, I created a bookmark that reads, Don't let your back office prevent the success in your front office.
So let me ask you this... see if you can feel me on this… It's kinda like, as we're running the day to day of our business it's kind of like just as soon as it looks like our to-do list is going to zero, other things come up that need to be added to the list.
I'm almost done and then more things are being added all the time, whether you're adding them or you have an assistant, a team, they’re adding stuff. It's always stuff to do in our business and it can get overwhelming and it's to the point that you know we've all been there, raising my hand too, I still deal with this also.
We're working hard. We skip lunch. We skip breaks. We even work in the evenings.
After we go home, do whatever we need to do, we're back working in our businesses only to realize that our to-do list will never go to zero. I want to share with you key productivity tips and hacks to take the overwhelm out of your day to day of being a small business owner.
I'm also going to be giving you a couple of resources on some of the key points.
What I really want to stress is, don't wait, did you hear me? Don't wait until you have a backlog of projects to start implementing what I'm going to share with you today. Because I can guarantee you the overwhelm, frustration and stress is going to kick into high gear. You may already have it but start getting a bunch of projects and you have a backlog it's going to kick into high gear real quick.
The first takeaway one of the things we want to look at is your email.
Email is almost as bad as text messages these days? With the millennials, they like to use text messages but our email inbox is always on fleet? It never gets to zero. I don't know about you guys but mine is never at zero. Mines, of course, is never at zero, maybe yours is different? I don't know.
One of the things you can do within your emails and especially if you're using a system like Gmail, other providers probably have this as well, you can utilize canned responses. I really love this one, this is an awesome feature that will save you a lot of time in duplicating the same information.
A lot of times in our businesses we get asked a lot of questions that are the same type of questions and we're answering them the same exact way. Well, you can create a canned response for that, and they have what's called canned responses. You can do it that way.
You can also save emails in your draft folder. Then you would just copy and paste. When using canned responses or the draft folder method, you may have to tweak it a little bit sometimes, that's cool, at least you're not starting from scratch.
So definitely start using canned responses. For example, you may get where someone is always asking "Well when is the bid due?". Well, you can create a template to say "Bids are due on" ... So maybe bids are due on Thursday or whatever day of the week, basically, you'll always have a blank. You can fill in the date. You can always fill in the time.
Putting the general information of what you would say in that email you can make that as a canned response.
If you get inquiries about frequently asked questions, like
"What are your capabilities?
What kind of projects have you done in the past?"
You can create a canned response for that. You can also add links to your website, past performance, a portfolio with before and after pictures of projects you've done.
If you’re asked the size of projects that you can handle, you can provide a link if you have it on your website or you can send with email using a canned response.
Start paying attention to the questions that you're being asked on repeat and create some canned responses because here's the thing, once you create the canned response, whether you have a team now or you add team later, an assistant, virtually or however you do it they can start replying to those emails for you.
Not only will it save you time eventually it will also take you out the picture altogether. Definitely look into your email, how can you save some time using canned responses. Instead of starting from scratch every time you're answering the same type of questions.
The second thing we’re talking about is meetings.
This is a time drainer for contractors. There is always a meeting to attend. Some of them you don't control, I give you that. You may be going to a pre-bid meeting or a site visit. You can't control the time.
The meetings that you're facilitating, that you create, you can control the time. Start setting time limits. I can tell you in most cases if you're meeting with people on a regular basis it doesn't take an hour to get everything accomplished. Most of that time, if you think about it and start watching when you have meetings, what are you guys doing? Shooting the breeze, talking about what's going on, just general conversation. It has nothing to do with the meeting at hand.
Set a time limit. You can do with an agenda. Whenever you're having a meeting that you're facilitating, you should always have an agenda of the things you want to cover and then set a time limit.
Another thing you have to be mindful of, is office meetings.
You may want to talk about projects, that's your project management team and project coordinator.
Then you may want to talk about budgets, the money, financial stuff which would bring in your accounting team.
They don't necessarily need to be there together. So instead of combining that meeting and then you're having some people sitting there looking bored because half of what you’re talking about has nothing to do with them right now.
Set separate meetings. You can set the time limit and get through them quicker than combining it all together.
The other thing for you, as the owner of your business, you have to learn how to quarterback without touching the ball.
If you know anything about football, the quarterback only holds the ball momentarily. What happens is once he throws the ball to somebody, that's when the magic happens.
The quarterback can't hold the ball all the time. He has to release that ball. You have to do the same thing in your business. You can't have your hand in everything as you start adding on team.
You have to learn how to quarterback, lead your team without having to touch everything, and approve everything. If you want to know more about how to quarterback, create systems, and manage your team, I have a resource, a book I wrote, Entrepreneur Extraordinaire, and I talk all about quarterbacking without touching the ball. I'll put the link down below if you're interested alright?
Now the third thing I want to talk about here is productivity.
I know some people just cringe at the mention of being productive because you're fly by the night. You want to do things however you want to do it. You don't like structure. Let me tell you, structure will create more freedom in your business and in your personal life.
One of the things that is a game changer well it has been for me, I had gotten away from it. I think I added it back in December. I’m thinking like three months ago. I was like "Wait a minute this is crazy". I just didn't feel things were right. So I added back time blocking into my own schedule. I'm pretty good with my time and systems and all that stuff but I needed to add back time blocking, especially with servicing clients.
Time blocking is really great. Maybe I'll do a video on it. If you guys are interested, let me know, and I'll do a whole thing with the screen and all that stuff. With time blocking, you'll block out key things you need to get accomplished.
Maybe at certain times you'll hold meetings, at certain times you'll work on contracts, invoicing, billing, whatever it looks like for you in your business. You can block that time to make sure it gets done. Then you focus on those things.
I'm going to put a link to Jordan Pages video which is the one I looked at to get back into time blocking. It's a YouTube video. It's free. You can check that out if you want to get back into or start time blocking.
Another thing to help with your time blocking and getting it planned out is tracking your time. Do you know how much time you are spending doing certain things?
I challenge you to start time blocking.
Track how much time you spend running around driving from place to place. Oh my gosh, some people, I don't know how they do it. They go back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. It's like why don't you structure your errands in some type of order where you go in a circle, versus going back and forth across town.
That's just crazy to me, a lot of wasted time okay? Track your time that will help you facilitate your time blocking.
The next thing to look at is your to-do list.
What are you doing? Plan a to-do list to make sure you're getting the important things done. You can use something like Google Keep which is a free resource. I love Google Keep and Trello. You can use Trello, which is something I use for my clients. You can use Evernote, which is a of a orate of mines. You can use reminders on your apple phone as well. Okay, these all are my favorites and I use them daily for different things.
Whatever phone you have, I'm sure there's a free resource you can use to track your to-do list.
The other thing you can do is batch and map out your errands.
I mentioned “back and forth” across town. Here I'm talking about when you know you're going to a site visit, think about what else you can do or need to do on that side of town? Maybe there's something you had on your list today but the site visit is tomorrow. Can it wait until tomorrow when you'll be in that area?
If you're picking up materials for a site, what else do you need to do in that area? If you're dropping off blueprints or you're getting permits, map it out so that you're not running back and forth across town. If you have a to-do list that you create the night before, it will definitely minimize the back and forth.
Okay, this one is probably going to sting a little bit because people are very hesitant of this one, but delegate.
Start adding to your team. I don't mean that you have to hire an employee, I mean outsourcing. You can get a virtual assistant. You can get project management support virtually, that's something that I've added in my business to help in more of a turnkey fashion for clients because of the needs that we see you have.
I've added on more team so that I can facilitate helping you guys get through your first few projects and you're able to hire on a team directly with your company. I even show your new hire how to use the systems we created, so transition handoff. We help you with project management, but definitely look into delegating. You can't do everything effectively yourself.
Your office activities, invoicing, paying bills and contractors, writing contract agreements, and project management type of activities, some of that you may not know and it really is not the best use of your time to sit and try to learn it all. Those are great places to start outsourcing.
Here's where you can start outsourcing to get some time back. I had clients and they'd be like "Yeah I'm working on my website".
You're a contractor. Why are you doing your website? It's so much cheaper just to pay somebody to do a website while you focus on contracts. Think about that. Those are three areas you can definitely start changing things up and managing better in your business.
I want you to manage your activities in relation to your time. It is important, especially as you grow your business. There will be more running around because you're going to have more projects, which is a good thing.
It's going to be more paperwork, more people pulling at you, wanting your time. That's the reality. It's a great place to be, but we can definitely manage that, assuring that everything is getting done. Not just in the field because that's your area of expertise, you got that that's down solid. But in your back office, time blocking is going to be crucial. That is a crucial element that you need to add like yesterday.
Here's a stickler, being disciplined in your execution, you've gotta do that. Be disciplined in your execution of your meetings with an agenda will ensure meetings don't run overtime or take all day. It will make sure that you cover all of the important items that you need to discuss.
You can live in overwhelm, frustration, stress, and allow that to kick your butt... The stress will definitely get to you, overwhelming stress, frustration, will kick in if you're trying to do everything yourself.
I don't want you to try to do everything yourself. Here's the thing, government contracting is a beast by itself. Everything you're doing with government contracting, trying to learn the ins and outs, all of the back office stuff that you have to do and trying to maintain your books, all of the paperwork, and, did I forget to say, business development because you need to do that too. It will lead to burnout really quickly, so you don't want to do that.
Definitely start implementing these productivity hacks today. Pick one area, start implementing. If you want more help with the things I've covered here today, come join my in my project management system and support program. You can't do it all alone that's the reality, but with systems, processes, and getting organized, not only in the field but with your project management tasks, it can be managed.
It can be managed until you start hiring people to help you in your business. Once you hire them you have to delegate task to them. You can't just hire them and give them one or two things to do. You need to start delegating and use the resources that you have available . Here’s the link to learn more and apply to be a client in the project management system and support program to get you back on track, get your back office organized, get some systems in place, and some processes. Project Management Systems and Support Program.
You want to be able to manage multiple projects. That's the goal, to have multiple projects, have a backlog of projects, right? That's why you’re in business. That's where the money is made. That's where the consistent cash flow develops. If you want more information about getting help check out the project management system and support program.