Over the years, I’ve really enjoyed working with a number of businesses and learning some new perspectives on how things get done (or not done).

One common problem I see is that many business owners expend so much effort focusing on the day-to-day operations of their business that they give insufficient time to growth and development. In other words, they spend far too much working in their business and not enough time working on it.

I must admit, I come across this every day. For example, when I suggest a new client tries a particular strategy to grow their customer base (and therefore their bottom line) I all too often get the response “Well, it’s a great idea, but I don’t have the time”

For various reasons, I hate the phrase “time management”. For a start, we can’t manage time, no matter how we try. It will march on relentlessly, regardless of how much we try to hold it back. If we look at it slightly differently, however, we can, with positive action and a certain amount of planning, manage what we do in that time.

And to make sure we use what time we have more effectively, I have developed a theory for both self and business development. I calls it the “Three Buckets” and it goes something like this.

Your time you spend working both on and in your business should be divided into three sections;

Selling

I would actually further define this to be “selling with purpose”. In other words, unless you have some sort of strategy, how will you know whether you’re actually achieving any results? And unless you monitor the results, how will you know whether you getting it right. Now, how you go about this type of selling depends on your business, but normally revolves around active selling of (Calling, emailing, meeting clients, etc.) and passive selling (blogging, networking, social media interaction).
The bottom line is that without sales there is no business, so you have to give some attention to keeping the pipeline full. Make sure you’re spending your time wisely though.

Servicing Clients

In other words, you need to look after the clients you already have. We all know, or should do by now, that’s it’s considerably easier to get more business out of an existing customer than it is to find a new one, so it’s vitally important to spend some time looking after the one’s you already have. Sadly, too many businesses forget this and assume that, as they haven’t heard anything to the contrary, their clients are wonderfully happy with the product/service they provide. No so. If you want to keep your clients happy, you need to be pro-active, not reactive. You need to listen to them and show that you understand their business and how, by doing what you do, you can help them achieve their goals.

Self-Development

There are lots of “specialists” out there (I’d put myself in that category when it comes to customer service) but very few “experts”. No matter how much we think we know, there’s always more to learn and so a big part of continuing to be good at what you do involves spending time honing your skills. Whether this is attending courses, taking advice from other experts or watching webinars and TED talks, it’s vital that you know what’s going on out there in your industry, so that you can share this information with your clients and deliver a better service. It’s also great for learning new skills and adding value to the service you deliver.

Now I can hear some of you saying the above is all very well in theory, but how do you put it into practice when there are so many other things you need to do to run a successful business? What about all the other tasks that need completing, like admin and paperwork and all those other little chores that suck your time. Well, my answer would be to outsource it. To give it to someone who’s great at it and can get it done in the quickest possible time. I know, I hear you, this does cost money. However, if you free yourself of the tasks that don’t make you any money, you have far more time to invest in activities that do. Think about it. Do successful business people do their own filing, or type their own letters? No, of course they don’t. They pay someone who’s great at doing it to do all that for them, leaving them free to spend their time on being even more successful. Okay, so in the short term, this won’t be possible for many business owners, particularly in start-ups and when cash-flow is tight, but give this a try and you’ll soon find your bottom line improving, which will mean there is money in the bank for outsourcing and then things just go from strength to strength.

So think about your “Three Buckets” and how you can use them to improve your business.

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