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Let’s Talk – Time is money: how & where should business owners spend their time?

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The classic phrase ‘time is money’ is one that heavily applies to those running businesses, where every minute has the potential to push a company forward or hold it back. As many will no doubt attest: it can be an arduous juggle.

Focus too much on one area and another can be neglected. Focus too much on the process or the product and you risk neglecting a customer, staff member or business partner. So, how and where can your time be well spent?

Let’s Talk

Gordana Redzovski, Vice President, APAC, Vend

“The retail industry is built on two core principles: delightful experiences and beautiful products. Successful businesses are those who can unburden themselves from the time-consuming, non-revenue generating tasks and focus on the bigger picture and foundational principles. After all, if not managed effectively, running a business can be an all-encompassing commitment.

“Retail business owners should hire a trusting team and implement technology to automate tedious tasks, such as inventory management, internal administration and data analytics. When time-consuming tasks are automated or entrusted to others, retail business owners can begin asking and answering questions such as: Where do we want to be in five years time? How do we convert leads into sales and customers into regulars? How can we provide more in-demand products and meaningful customer experiences? Finding the time to ask important questions and implement impactful strategies is the hallmark of businesses that stand out from the crowd.”

Marc Schneider, CEO, Zebit

“Business leaders need to be focusing the organisation on only a few core things that matter. You need to effectively communicate the mission, strategy, and near term objectives to allow your people to understand how their work drives the business. It shows them how critical they are in the outcomes the company is creating.
 
“You also need to know your metrics. While you can try to measure everything, there are likely a few key metrics that drive the business, and if you know them well, and how to modify them based on the macro environment, you’ll have a greater chance of survival in a competitive world.
 
“Invest in your people as they need to be valued for their points of view. Employees need a safe environment created for them to express themselves and show their ownership in the business. Hire those who are passionate and smarter than you and surround yourself with great people who can challenge you to make better decisions. Throughout my time as a business leader I’ve seen that the best ideas do not come from the top – they come from the people who work the customer every day.”

Hayley Hopwood, Head of Growth, Stripe ANZ

“Businesses need to spend more time focusing on their areas of expertise while leaning on technology platforms to aid expansion. Whether you’re an early stage startup, family business or a large enterprise – a top quality payments platform can help you increase your revenue and scale globally.

“The proof is in the pudding – at Stripe we’ve helped scale some of Australia’s most exciting businesses including Cultureamp, Canva and Atlassian. Early stage businesses aspiring to reach the scale of these enterprises should not need to spend time worrying about fraud, billing management or invoicings.

“You simply don’t have the time when you’re building the next big software tool or subscription service, and these should all be secondary to the core running of the business. A top qualified payments platform can be the difference between thriving and plodding along in a world that’s been transformed by digital adoption.”

Luke Blincoe, CEO, ReAmped Energy 

“The saying is true, time really is money for business owners, but if I were to suggest three tips on how and where business owners should spend their time:

  • Never stop focusing on revenue. Costs are controllable, but revenue requires external outcomes. Assuming you’ve managed your costs, more money = selling more. It might sound obvious, but so often people let other factors that come with running a business get in the way. No one else is going to drive your revenue line for you – it needs to be a key focus, especially early in the maturity of a business.
  • Authenticity is key. Ensuring that your business values and purpose align with your own makes it easy to be passionate and love what you do – then time spent at work is truly rewarding and fun. Whatever your brand is, it needs to be aligned with who you are and authentic in everything that you do. Your core values need to match your brand values, so choose people who share your values so that every customer touchpoint is true to your brand. With ReAmped Energy, what you see, is what you get.
  • Spend time out of the business so that you have perspective on the world. Work-life balance is important for everyone in your team. Let people get out and do what they’re passionate about outside of the workplace – people work better with balance. It is really outdated to be the busiest person in the office, so work smarter not harder. Being busy isn’t a badge of honour and being a success is more than measuring inputs, so focus on the outcomes. Having external releases that force you to be in the moment outside of work mean you’ll be way more effective on the job!”

Pip Jewson, Founder and Director, 1800buggies and OzBuggy Tours

“On an average, a business owner spends 70% of their day in the office. You must invest energy into the ideas and initiatives that you believe in and that get you excited.

“That sense of aspiration was what led me to innovate and launch my second business; OzBuggy Tours during the pandemic last year. The key to running a successful business is dedicating the hours to planning. That means spending the start of the week diarising out your time, projects and your team to the minute – down to how you spend your own time with family & friends.

“Try to load up three heavy working days where you are ‘on the tools’, delivering, and the other two days developing your business, upskilling, researching, and innovating.I think of these as my ‘creative’ days. As entrepreneurs, often we neglect to invest in that ‘creative time’ because we become fixated on delivery – which then leads to boredom, thus burnout. Allocating the time for this to happen is the way to ensure your passion in your business remains.”

Gordon Starkey, Chief Operations Officer, ELMO Software

“For business leaders, time can be just as precious a resource as money, so it’s important to allocate it appropriately. One of the most effective uses of time is investigating technology, tools and resources that remove the tasks that take up too much space on the to do list.

“By looking into all areas of the business and understanding how long things take to do, business leaders can then prioritise which technology they should implement to make their workforce more productive. Spending the time understanding the challenges of the workforce and which areas are holding people back is important if the business is to hit its targets.

“If technology investment can help free up time for your workforce to focus on more sales, more lead generation and more customer service, you’re investing in business growth.”

Vicky Skipp, Head of Asia Pacific and Japan, Workplace by Facebook

“As we continue to adjust to the new normal, feeling connected to a community at work has never been more important. Today, that means creating an environment that reflects your company culture for people whether they’re working remotely, on the frontline, or at headquarters. Tools that enable organizational-wide communication by empowering employees to stay connected and engaged are key to achieving this culture. This means combining features for quick collaboration, like chat and video calling, with asynchronous ways of communicating via groups, polls and an effective news feed. This approach should mean that no matter where they are, your community is connected. All while reducing costs associated with time wasted on miscommunication and inefficiencies.”

Mandeep Sodhi, CEO, Effi

“As someone who is passionate about setting businesses up for long term success, I have three key tips on where business owners should be spending their time.

“Firstly, it’s important to see that smart hiring is an incredibly important factor to get right for the long term success of the business, and CEOs should not be reluctant to terminate those employees who are just not working out.

“Secondly, build a great product, not a perfect product. Don’t dawdle on getting your product out to the market as early customer feedback is one of the best ways to help improve it.

“And finally, know when to hit the pedal on the growth plan. Early growth has the risk of leading to huge churn and dissatisfaction, but delaying it when the product is ready can lead to many missed opportunities.”

Brodie Haupt, CEO & Co-Founder, WLTH

“As a small business owner, it is crucial that I’m across every little nook and cranny in the business and ensure that I’m in a position to supply counsel for my different teams, when necessary. I find that this is best executed through establishing clear reporting lines and open communication channels. Communication plays a key role in how teams are able to work towards meeting set business goals and objectives.

“It is also paramount that owners are able to adapt to change and provide clear direction to allow for smooth project management. Obviously, there will always be projects and aspects of the business that will require personal attention and ownership from the owner, but generally, the owner works best for the business when they are leading from the front, and providing ongoing support for the team leaders.”

Andrew Cornale, Co-Founder & Digital Experience Director, UnDigital

“As a business owner, it’s easy to fall into the habit of doing something yourself to get it done within budget. The balance between time and money should be carefully evaluated and business owners need to ask themselves a simple question; which one matters to you most? Undoubtedly, the answer will rely on where you’re at in your business journey.

“For new business owners, time can be expendable for the purpose of building a business up. For owners of established and stable businesses, this belief is often reversed and time becomes the priority.

“At this point, money can be better-spent on training staff, equipping them with the tools to do their job efficiently and investing in the culture of the business. Why? Because all of these elements have the ability to save you both time and money in the future. It’s true, time is money, but remember, time can only be spent.”

Vijay Sundaram, Chief Strategy Officer, Zoho

Vijay Sundaram, Soho, on supporting employees

“Business owners are required to juggle many roles and responsibilities – from sales and marketing to finances and HR. The key for successful business owners is identifying which operations can be automated, and even enhanced, through the help of technology, and which parts of the business require more personal attention.

“The most successful, efficient and productive businesses are generally those that can effectively automate many mundane, time-consuming tasks such as data entry, invoice processing and general administration. The most effective use of a business’ time is in the tasks that can’t be automated; those that require human interaction, such as building and strengthening customer relationships, developing new services and products and being a valuable colleague. After all, core to any business is its people, so the most effective use of any business owner’s time is with the people, both internally and externally, that make the business what it is.”

Leon Adato, Head Geek, SolarWinds

“As remote working looks likely to become a permanent fixture, IT priorities will need to reflect this new era’s technical challenges. And as business leaders move forward with recovery plans to increase revenue, reduce costs, and eliminate risk, technology will likely play a larger role.

“Business owners and IT professionals should invest time in working together to refine and optimize their existing infrastructures. The pandemic patchwork of “just-had-to-work” cloud infrastructure, communication tools, and remote solutions—all held together by sheer will—is still vital to operations. Underused tools or software must be updated to ensure they can power growth and expansion.

“As we move out of “reactive” mode, it’s important to encourage communication throughout the business. 2021 may not be the year for adventurous adoptions of new technologies, but it’s undoubtedly time for IT to revitalise its connection to the rest of the business and shift from a reactive stance to one focused on future growth and expansion.”

Simon Le Grand, Director of Marketing, APAC, Lightspeed

“Despite the advancements in technology over the past decade, many business owners still find themselves spending more time working in their business than on their businesses. Much of this time is spent on activities like administration and data entry that can easily be automated with the right systems and mindset, to allow for more time spent on value-add activities and business growth; such as strategic planning, marketing, staff development and product development. 

“Implementing systems and tools to streamline business operations and automate recurring daily tasks will very quickly pay for itself. Lightspeed is one such platform that saves hospitality and retail businesses owners many hours a week, through features such as automated distribution of reports, syncing end-of-day takings to accounting packages, centralised order handling and automated, recurring purchase orders to suppliers. These timesaving features are invaluable to venue owners who can re-invest their time exploring new consumer trends, creating an even better experience for patrons, or simply spending more quality time with friends and family.”

Kym Huynh, Former President (2019/20) of Entrepreneurs’ Organization Melbourne, Founder of WeTeachMe

“The most impactful personal assessment tool I have completed was CliftonStrengths. The reason why it was so impactful was because I had a facilitator facilitate the reading and interpretation of my results, and then help me with implementation of my results into my day-to-day. Contrast this with the plethora of personality assessments I have completed in the past (I’m a big fan of 16Personalities); the results were an interesting read, but, alas, typically ended up in the bottom of a drawer never to be looked at again.

“Since the CliftonStrengths undertaking, I now spend my time focusing on, and leaning into, my two core strengths: (1) strategy; and (2) people.

“With strategy, I spend 3 hours per day on strategic thought. For me this means reading, thinking, walks in the park, conversations with mentors, attending learning events, attending conferences (often in industries completely opposite the industries I play in), reflecting, and simply… creating the time and space for thought.

“The remainder of my time is spend on people: coffees, breakfasts, lunches and dinners.

“In my experience, I find that I have the greatest impact when I lead with my strengths.”

Paul Hadida, General Manager, Australia, SevenRooms

“Today, digital transformation has become a buzzword for innovation, but its benefits are broad and tangible. Investing in the right technology can quite literally save a business time and money. Whether it’s creating efficient and effective workflows, managing customer data, or turning casual customers into long-term regulars, technology allows businesses to work smarter, not harder.

“The byproduct of digital transformation is the potential it allows for business owners to spend their time where it’s most important, and most impactful. For example, in the hospitality industry, the best use of a business owner’s time is not on rosters or paying suppliers, but on maximising their data to hone and perfect their guest experience both on- and off-premise.

“When empowered by technology and a talented team, business owners are relieved of their day-to-day operational burdens, they have the time and mandate to build the foundations of a long-term, successful business.”

Mark Collins, CEO, JUMP! Swim Schools franchise network

“This is a conversation we have with people every week who are considering buying a franchise. There are so many different elements involved in running a business and very few of us are masters of all of them. Many business owners started their business because they had a particular passion or skill and soon realise there is much more to running a business than just doing the part they love.

“It’s important that business owners focus most of their time where their real passions and skills base lies and spend the rest of the time upskilling in areas you need to fine-tune, like your people management skills, and ensuring you surround yourself with the right people and support network to help you with the other areas of your business that aren’t your strong points. Your business will thank you and you’ll be far happier too.”

Dirk Steller, Managing Partner, Seed Space Venture Capital

“Deciding how and where to spend your time is a complicated balance for business owners: on the one hand, sales and marketing is crucial to making sure you’ve got customers.  On the other hand, if you’ve got customers coming in, you’ve got to make sure your back-of-house is in order. 

“I think people sometimes neglect the admin, ‘business’ side of running a business, and really focus on sales and getting customers.  That can prove to be a mistake, and really cause problems down the track. 

“While you’ve got to spend your time looking for customers on sales, and at the same time you have to be managing your finances and making sure your staff and legal affairs are taken care of, both sides of the coin are vital to the success of any business, large or small.”


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Guillermo Troncoso
Guillermo is the Editor of Dynamic Business and Manager of film & television entertainment site ScreenRealm.com. Follow him on Twitter.