ABC Solutions

Eight Ways to Save Time You Might Not Have Thought About

Time is money as they say, and if you can save time, you’re also saving money. Since your time is limited to 24/7, both personal and business time saved is profitable. Here are eight ways to save time (and money) for your consideration. Go through all of them with an open mind, and see which one might work best for you.

1. The trip to the grocery store

If you’re making several trips to the grocery store throughout the week, this one is for you. Cut down on those trips by taking inventory of your kitchen and seeing what you’ll need for the week (or longer). Shopping once a week will save precious time throughout the week.

Better yet, have your groceries delivered. Some shops will also pick and bag your times so your selections are ready for pickup. Even better, hire an assistant to shop for you so that your refrigerator and pantry is stocked when you get home.

2. Appointment scheduling

Automate your appointment scheduling and you’ll free up weeks of admin time for either you or your staff. There are dozens of apps, many industry-specific that can help you save time making appointments. Once you’ve set it up, send the link to the people you’ll be meeting and voila, it will appear on your calendar.

Here are a few to check out:

For field service companies in the home repair or maintenance industries that serve commercial and residential customers, Google “field service scheduling” to get the right software for your business.

3. Office supplies

Order your supplies online and have them delivered.

4. Email interruptions

Turn off automatic send and receive in your email software to get rid of that nasty interruption. Mark your calendar to check and answer your email three to four times a day. You’ll go home happier and feeling more in control of your work with this one change.

5. The commute

If you can manage it, working from home one to two days a week can save you commute time. You may also be able to avoid rush hour by altering your work hours if you have some flexibility. After all, it’s your business.

6. Those errands

Batching your errands all into one day will save precious start and stop time on your other work days. Better yet, choose one day a week for outside errands and personal appointments so that you can get into the habit of this for the long term.

7. Takeout

Do you go out for lunch every day? You may need the break or you may need to have that power lunch with a new business partner or client. But on days you don’t, have takeout delivered so you don’t have to waste time ordering and standing in line.

8. The bank

Are you going to the bank constantly? If so, you can avoid it in a number of ways:

• Take credit cards, and have clients pay online.
• Ask your bank about remote or mobile check deposit options.
• Hire a company to transport your cash deposits – Google “Cash logistics” to find companies with armored car services. It won’t hurt to find out how much it costs and you might be surprised.

Did you get an idea on how to save time? If so, it’s your turn to implement and reap the benefits.

What’s Your Hourly Worth?

Time is the most precious resource on the planet, but sometimes we don’t treat it that way. In our businesses, it’s important to get everything done, but we can also get overwhelmed with all the little things that need to be done to take care of customers. One of the big differences between highly successful entrepreneurs and less successful ones is how they manage their time: the more successful simply value it more and treat it as the scarce commodity it is.

A great exercise to bring this home is to track what you do in one day. You can write a diary as you go through the day or simply recall what you did at the end of the day. List the tasks you did; then write the hourly market rate of each task you did next to the task.

Did you spend time on low-level tasks such as email cleanup, filing, order-taking, order filling, or handling routine customer questions? Or did you spend time calling up power partners, dreaming up new products or services, or restyling your marketing message so that it’s more impactful and reaches more customers?

What was the average hourly rate of the tasks you did today? Multiply that by 2,000 hours and compare it your gross revenues. If your gross revenues were higher than the value of the tasks you did today, then your revenue might be stagnant. If your annualized day was worth more than your gross revenues, then congratulations; you’re moving up and giving yourself a raise. Your business is likely growing.

If you’d like a raise, then the first thing to do is to start delegating the lower level tasks that are eating up all your time. They might be a comfortable way for you to pass the time, but they could also be keeping you stuck, overwhelmed, and moving toward burnout.

We all have the same amount of time each day. If we can free up our time to focus on more powerful action items that move our business forward instead of the chores that clog our progress, then our success will accelerate.

Is There an App for That?

The technology side of the accounting industry is rapidly changing and expanding.  Literally hundreds, if not thousands of new companies and new software applications have sprung up to help small businesses automate their processes and save time and money.

The best way to profit from all of this innovation is to first identify where you can best use the technology in your business.  Here are three places to look:

1.     Paper Chase

What business tasks are you still using pen and paper for?   Look what’s on your desk or in your filing cabinet in the form of paper, and that will be your next opportunity for automation.  For example, are you still hand-writing checks?   There’s an app (or two) for that.

Sticky notes and to do lists have been replaced with Evernote.  Business cards you collect can go in a CRM (customer relationship manager).  All of your accounting invoices and bills can be digitized and stored online.

Make a list of all the manual and paper processes you do every day and look for an app that can make the task faster for you.

2.     Fill the Gap

Take stock of what systems you already have in place.  The opportunity to fill the gap is where you might have systems that should talk to each other but don’t.  If you need to enter data into two different places, there may be a chance to automate and/or integrate the systems or data.  For example, your point of sale or billing system should integrate well with your accounting system.  A few other examples include accounting and payroll, CRM and accounting, inventory and accounting, project management and time tracking, and time tracking and payroll.

The more your systems integrate and work as a suite, the better.

3.     Mismatched

It could be you have your systems automated, but the systems are not the best choice for your business requirements.  If your systems don’t meet many of your business requirements, it may be time to look for an upgrade or a replacement.

If you are performing a lot of data manipulation in Excel or Access, this might also signal that your systems are falling short of your current needs.  Look where that’s happening, and you will have identified an opportunity for improvement.

Look in these three areas in your business, and I bet you’ll not only find an app for that, you’ll also find some freed up time and money once you automate.

Shortcut Your Management Time with Exception Reporting

Do you spend a lot of time reviewing stacks of reports each month so you can get the information you need to make decisions?  Do you find out after the fact that something went wrong in your business and that if you had known about it sooner, you would have made different decisions?

If so, you might benefit from a special type of reporting called exception reporting.  Exception reporting highlights red flag areas that you need to take action on.  It contrasts with regular reporting, which lists lots of data that you may or may not need to take action on.

Here’s an example:  How often do you check your bank balance?  You probably check daily or even more, right?  Do you really need to?

Ask yourself when do you really need to know about your bank balance?  You need to know when it falls below a certain amount, or when you don’t have enough to cover imminent bills, right?  Why not stop checking your balance all the time and replace it with an alert that will send you an email under the conditions and criteria you set?  This will save you time.

Some exception reports are already built into some accounting systems.  A couple of good examples are the A/R aging report which shows past due invoices that have not been collected and the inventory re-order report that lists inventory items that reached their re-order points and need to be re-ordered.

There are many ideas to generate exception reports:

  • Missed and upcoming deadline tracking such as project due dates, tax forms due, and payroll due
  • Employees on vacation
  • Bills overdue
  • Expiration date tracking like end of lease and insurance policy renewal dates
  • Large variances in budget to actual reports

To take advantage of exception reporting, here are a few steps:

  1. Identify the reports you currently receive that you review but take no action no matter what.  Do you really need them?  If not, throw them out.  If so, ask yourself what trigger would have you taking action and change the regular report into an exception report that reports on that trigger.
  2. Think about what data you access all day that is not in a report or easy to use format.  Can you create an exception report or alert out of it and save yourself time?
  3. What information would you like to start receiving that you don’t have now?  It should be something that you would take action on if you knew about it.  Can you create an exception report for these new information needs?

Try exception reporting, or take it to the next level of implementation in your business, and watch your time free up and your management decisions sharpen.

Summertime Strategies for Your Business

Summer is a great time of year for most businesses to pause for just a little while to take stock, congratulate yourself on what you’ve accomplished so far this year, and make big plans for your future.  Here are five summertime strategies to help you regroup, reassess, and rejuvenate your business.

1.     Mid-Year Review

If your business runs by the calendar year, 2014 is already more than half over.  This is a perfect time to stop and reflect where you’ve been, what you’ve accomplished, and where you want to go next.  You can make this process as informal or formal as you want.  Some firms hold complex retreats; you may simply need some quiet time on a weekend where all your family is busy doing something else.

If you’ve never done any planning and feel like you need a guide, consider the book, The One-Page Business Plan written by Jim Horan.

2.     Take a Vacation

There’s nothing better to rekindle your creative juices than to get away from the business for a while.  Summertime is when most people take vacation, so if your business is not having its busy season, this might be a good time to go away for a while.

If you’re anxious about being away from your business, you’re not alone.  In your annual planning process, plan for and block out your vacation time way ahead of time.  Book the reservations with no refunds several months in advance so that you won’t chicken out at the last minute.  There is life beyond your business, and you will be a better business owner when you take regular breaks away.

3.     Celebrate

Take time to pat yourself on the back and congratulate the people around you for the goals you’ve reached and the efforts your team has made on your behalf.  We all could use more praise and more celebrations in our lives.  Perhaps you can organize a party, or if you are not the partying type, a quiet word individually with your team can go a long way, maybe more than you know.

4.     Prune Your Projects    

Is your plate too full?  Most of us would say “yes” to that question, so the next step is to ask yourself what you can afford to stop doing that doesn’t make sense.  Is there a project or two that can wait?  If so, decide to stop stressing about not getting it done and give yourself permission to put it on the back burner for now.

5.     Focus

Ask yourself what one thing you could do today that will make all the difference in your profits, revenues, goals, or simply peace of mind.  And get that thing done.

Try these five summertime tips to rejuvenate your business.