Working smarter, not harder

As a small business owner, the management of your home building business can quickly become stressful. The list of responsibilities seems to literally grow by the minute – business development, cash flow management, client and project deadlines are only the tip of the iceberg.

Productivity Specialist and Principal Consultant at Lingford Consulting, Geoff Prior explains, “the challenge for small business owners is often keeping the business ticking along while simultaneously working on business improvements and marketing.”

“I find most small businesses suffer because they are too busy working in the business, not on the business,” says Geoff.

Taking the time to work on and improve your business is a critical step toward ongoing success that Dahlsens’ Supplier of the Year, Meyer Timber and Geoff agree upon.

Meyer Timber’s sustained focus on the innovation of their process and management systems ensures it is able to deliver superior service and a more reliable supply chain to Dahlsens’ builders.

“At Meyer Timber we constantly work to improve and streamline our delivery processes. Systems we then support with a strong network of experienced and qualified staff, as well as industry leading mobile equipment and trucking,” explains David Meyer, Managing Director at Meyer Timber.

“This commitment to working on our business enables us to provide Dahlsens’ builders with cutting-edge process management including product forecasting based on historical sales – a process that means Meyer Timber should always have the appropriate inventory multiples kept in stock to meet the needs of each individual client.”

“As a business, Meyer Timber also works hard to reduce its environmental impact. All of our systems and processes are designed to minimise the need for paperwork across the supply chain.” 

To help combat the deadline-driven nature of the building and construction industry, and allow yourself some time to work on your business development, market and growth strategies, here are a few tried and tested tricks of the trade:

MAKE A TO-DO LIST

For David, organisation is an essential first step toward making time for your business and achieving business success.

“As a business owner, it is vital to be as organised as possible. This is especially true of the building industry where both organisation and strong cooperation are necessary to maintain clarity of responsibility between all stakeholders.”

Geoff Prior adds to this by suggesting the first step towards becoming more organised is as simple as writing and ticking off a ‘to-do’ list. Organisation 101, a to-do list is one of the most utilised tips of trade. Geoff says it’s a favourite because it works!

WHAT TO FOCUS ON?

With so many tasks arising all the time, it can be difficult to work out where you should focus your attention. All too often, small urgent jobs can pop up and take up most of the day. These can leave little room for bigger projects that are critical for moving the business forward.

A great tool to help you focus is the Eisenhower Matrix. Developed by President Eisenhower himself, this model is an oldie but a goodie and is a great way to highlight where to focus your time.

To use the matrix, grade each task on your ‘to-do’ list into the boxes based on urgent vs not urgent and important vs not important – see the matrix pictured. Tasks that are both urgent and important should be done right away and those that are important but not urgent should be scheduled.

Items that are urgent, but not important, should be delegated and those that are neither important nor urgent should be disregarded. After a while, this analysis will become second nature in helping you prioritise.

Make sure that you make time for tasks that should be scheduled (important – not urgent) as these are often those bigger projects that can really help differentiate your business.

OBSESSIVELY PRIORITISE

Now that you know which tasks are the most important use of your time – it’s time to obsess about them.

New York Times best-selling author and management professor at the University of California Berkley, Morten T. Hansen recommends obsessively focusing on two to three key tasks until they are complete. His new book Great at Work: how top performers do less, work better and achieve more offers excellent advice on how to achieve the most out of your work day.

After researching 5,000 managers and employees over a 5-year period, Hansen found that the top performers focused only on a few goals and then obsessed about them until complete. He also uncovered that these top performers felt a real sense of passion and purpose for their work which drove them to succeed.

LOCK IT IN THE CALENDAR

Make time to plan for bigger, longer term projects by blocking out times for these activities in your calendar.

“By placing a meeting in the calendar, it assumes a higher level of importance,” explains Geoff.

“Take this time to work on your marketing strategy, the improvement of your website content or business development. Update your online photo gallery or contact past clients to request a testimonial.”

“If you don’t make a time for these tasks in the calendar you run the risk of never making them a priority.”

“Remember, for the best results stick to achieving one task per meeting! Biting off more than you can chew can leave you feeling stressed with little ticked off the list.

CONSIDER OUTSOURCING

If you have the budget, don’t be afraid to outsource – website content, a marketing strategy, accounting or even writing your business plan can all be undertaken by an expert who will get the job done right, and faster.

“Know your skill base, understand your strengths and weaknesses and never be afraid to get some outside help!” says David Meyer.

“No single person can do everything, outsourcing can help you to achieve the best possible result efficiently.”

Geoff Prior also agrees: “There are many factors that work together to help your business grow. Outsourcing can provide you with a time and cost effective means to focus on the future of your business while also nurturing your current client base.”

ALIGN YOUR BUSINESS WITH RELIABLE SUPPLY PARTNERS

“As a small business, aligning yourself with organisations that have a similar culture and goals can prove an invaluable asset,” says David.

“In building this means cultivating open and honest business relationships with reliable suppliers. The building process is complex with many variables, if one step falls out of place everything can become chaos. Reliable systems and processes are critical to a smooth and efficient build.”

“By taking the time to understand who it is you are working with – and only selecting those you feel align with your own business culture, values and goals – there is greater opportunity to forge lasting business relationships based on mutual trust that improve business outcomes for all parties,” says Michael Moorhead from the sales department at Meyer Timber.

AND FINALLY... ALWAYS MAINTAIN A STRATEGIC FOCUS

Although it can be easy to drift into a daily routine, managing the numerous challenges that come with each build and client, a strategic focus can help you to get the most from your building business in the long term.

“Taking time out to plan for the future of your business is vital. Stop and think about what is important in the long term and be strategic about what you need to achieve next for business success,” says Geoff.

Start by considering your current client base and then determine which customer and build type is creating the most profit. The closer you are able to align your business model to match the needs of current and prospective clients, the better.

“By taking the time to step back and examine factors such as cash flow, clients’ needs and competition you are better placed to understand what changes you could implement to benefit your existing customers and identify any possibilities for expansion,” explains Geoff.

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