10 Small Business Mistakes that Waste Time & Money
Ask any veteran entrepreneur for tips on starting a business, and time and cash management will likely be near the top of the list. Your energy and creativity may feel limitless, but these resources aren’t. If you waste time and money on activities that are either tangential or irrelevant to your enterprise, you are doing yourself and your business a real disservice.
Here are ten wasteful small business mistakes to avoid for a more productive and profitable workday:
- Being unorganized. If you come into work every day without a clear plan, the hours can fly by without a lot to show for it. At the end of each day, assess the items that must be accomplished tomorrow. Assemble a list of priorities with the understanding that other urgent issues may come up later.
- Procrastinating. Everyone has something they'd rather not do, but putting those tasks off for another time is the easy way out. Procrastination can easily become a persistent habit, resulting in overlooked items that should be addressed (until they grow into a full-fledged crisis). Set aside a dedicated amount of time to accomplish tedious, yet essential, tasks and then focus on other matters. Better yet, delegate these items to the right people and vendors, and free yourself up from them altogether.
- Multitasking. We're all guilty of switching our attention from one task to another within minutes (or even seconds), but studies show that pausing to check social media accounts, for example, requires more time to refocus on the task at hand. Train yourself to set aside blocks of time to attend to individual projects without distraction.
- Inappropriate spending. There is certainly a time and a place to invest in the business. Items such as office space and advertising dollars can be essential to growth, but these don’t always give the best return to small or start-up businesses. For instance, television and radio advertising is great for brand awareness, but doesn’t necessarily provide effective lead generation. If you’re trying to drive sales, you may want to consider focusing your dollars on different tactics (such as coupon campaigns, shopping cart recovery emails, or Google AdWords). The key is to spend strategically where you’ll get the most bang for your buck.
- Micromanaging employees. Business owners who fail to hire wisely often end up sacrificing valuable time overseeing workers’ every move. If you find yourself in this situation, it's preferable to let go of employees who need hand-holding, recruit candidates with the experience and skills to work productively on their own, or get employees the training needed to work autonomously. Micromanaging can also be a symptom of managerial inexperience; if an employee is up to the task and you’re still micromanaging, recognize that your approach can stifle both the business’s and the employee’s growth. In this case, it may be time to take a management training course.
- Calling unnecessary meetings. Any list of time management tips usually includes an admonition to cut down on needless meetings or impromptu conversations when essential tasks need to get completed. It's hard to say no to hallway chats, but unless some tangible benefit comes of it, recognize that it’s wasted time.
- Putting out fires. This time-waster is related to micromanaging, in that you're forever at the mercy of employees coming to you with urgent requests to fix a problem. Delegate these daily “emergencies” to the right people and reserve your time to focus on strategic activities. Also, plan ahead. Many so-called emergencies can be anticipated and addressed ahead of time, instead of in an unexpected rush.
- Checking social media. Maintaining an active social media presence is critically important to your brand, but that doesn't mean you have to be the one responsible for making it happen. Assign a qualified employee to monitor and feed your social media accounts daily, and establish a simple reporting system so you can both monitor progress and results.
- Overworking. Working around the clock is not an efficient use of your time. Long hours invariably result in sluggish, unfocused performance — and your health and your personal life will suffer as a result. Try not to bring work home with you, but when it’s unavoidable, set aside at least a few hours away from the phone and laptop to recharge your batteries for tomorrow.
- Spending time instead of money. Money is essential to any successful business concern. But time is the one resource you have that is absolutely irretrievable. You can’t get it back, so it’s essential that you spend it wisely. By outsourcing specialized activities – especially those you aren’t an expert in (e.g., payroll, HR compliance, etc.) – you can help ensure you are investing time in your business in the most effective ways.