Small Business - A Special Advertising Supplement sponsored by Scotiabank - Monday, October 22, 2001
How to structure your time
Monday, October 22, 2001
In this age of multi-tasking, when one job runs into another and no task seems to be completed, how can entrepreneurs make better use of one of their most precious resources -- their time?
"The first answer is to focus on the task at hand," says Robert Wands, president of Taylor Manufacturing Industries Inc. (http://www.taylorinc.com), a Brampton, Ont.-based company that designs and builds trade-show exhibits for major corporations around the world.
"The second answer is to confine your time to the work that really demands your expertise and skill," adds Wands, whose company also builds interiors for museums, casinos and banking institutions internationally. "The balance of the work should be distributed to your employees according to their talents."
In fact, the idea of an entrepreneur focusing on challenges that demand his or her special talents seems to have lost favour. Maybe that's because entrepreneurs need to realize that, as their companies grow, there's no time to control all the elements that led to that success.
Joan Garson, a partner in the Toronto law firm of Blaney McMurtry, says Wands has learned one of the secrets of using his time wisely. As his lawyer, she has watched Taylor Manufacturing expand. "Bob has learned that he needs to focus his time on elements of his business that can't be addressed by others, even though that means delegating and letting go in some areas which he enjoys and does well."
Adds Garson, who specializes in small business: "That means he has the ability and the time to consider the big questions about the direction and management of his company."
Wands, who says he practises what he preaches, notes that "in this building, every employee needs to think like an entrepreneur. By doing so, they really value their own time."
Some of his suggestions for maximizing your time:
Run your company from the "top down." This means creating departments or divisions with their own chief. Then, most important, let that person do the job you hired them to do. Don't step in unless you see a real problem.
Don't make executives feel they need to run back to you for approval on a continual basis. Obtain regular reports from each division head. If you see a mistake, work with him or her to correct it; don't criticize. "I hired people smarter than I am," Wands says jokingly. "If I criticize them hard when they err, then they will be afraid to handle their division without coming to me first for verification. And, if they start running to me, then they are using my time." Garson agrees that it is integral to install a sense of risk-taking in your employees that creates an even greater entrepreneurial climate. "Bob's employees are remarkably loyal. They are prepared to take risks and try new things because he doesn't punish them or overcontrol them."
Limit your time in meetings. Wands points out that, in his view, one of the worst time-wasters is meetings that are too long, have too many participants or, even worse, didn't even need to be called.
"Large meetings have too many people, with too many opinions," he says. "There's a tendency for everyone to want to have their say, even if the point has been made before."
He advocates having small meetings with only those participants who are needed, and limiting the amount of time that each person can talk. "If the person knows they have a certain amount of time to explain, then they will structure their comments to accommodate that time frame," he says.
By structuring his own time to achieve the maximum amount of work in the least time, Wands, an avid golfer, has "time to have some fun," says Garson, noting that recharging your energy is important.
After all, a burned-out entrepreneur whose time is spent playing catchup is not very productive in the long run.