By Jon Perry and Vanessa Lang
All around everything is buzzing. No, it's not spring already. The noise is coming from those myriad electronic devices designed to make sure we all know what is going on in real time. As feet on the street, our ability to manage time and close deals puts dollars in our bank accounts.
When we are new to the merchant services business, we are usually gung-ho and active, but as our businesses mature, we can get comfortable, complacent - distracted.
Many merchant level salespeople (MLSs) operate home-based businesses. This adds distractions that must be identified and managed before they become problematic. How can you, as a small-business owner, effectively manage your time?
If you've heard it once, you've heard it twice (and probably said it yourself): I just don't have any time to get that done.
This is a primary concern, especially for those running a business from home, where a sole proprietor's roles often include sales, information technology, human resources, marketing, accounting, husband or wife, parent, committee chair and so forth.
Let's take a look at common distractions home-based businesses face daily:
Since your job description also includes secretary, using a telephone management system provides several benefits, including call screening. You can create a telephone management system utilizing inexpensive services that will provide an automated response unit to not only give you a bigger look and feel but also give you knowledge about incoming calls. For example, if a caller pushed No. 1 for sales, that may be a priority over a customer service call (or vice versa).
If your business is mobile, these systems can also e-mail voice mail messages directly to your inbox for viewing on most smart phones. An automated response system can also handle calls after business hours so you can, for example, relax on Saturday morning.
And most important, use the telephone to generate business, not interrupt it. Sometimes that means turning off your phone or leaving it in the car when on a sales call. Speaking from experience, a 15 minute meeting can become one hour when a client keeps answering the phone.
When used properly, the phone can be a revenue generator instead of a drain on time. Set aside an hour each day to follow up with new clients, vendors et cetera. Make it at a time of the day that you can reach both the East and West coasts during their business hours.
Therefore, people who check their e-mail every five minutes waste 8.5 hours per week figuring out what they were doing before the interruption. That is a startling figure. So, wisely managing e-mail communications can be a quick hit for gaining more time.
Separating business social media from personal social media can help ensure that during business hours you are not planning your next vacation or sharing pictures of a recent one.
Also, keep this in mind when posting on forums like GS Online's MLS Forum. Be respectful of other people's time by limiting your posts to business topics, and follow the rules set out by the forum.
But it can quickly become a distraction in a situation like texascommerce describes on the forum: "My 2 1/2-year-old son ... chasing him down the stairs, after he grabs the Blackberry off my desk, while I have the blue tooth in my ear talking to a merchant."
Forum member rbelcher's distractions are "just the four Chows; they get barking, and when I am on the phone the merchant can hear them in the background. I just say they forgot to get the security dogs out of the building today." This is an excellent example of being prepared to react when distractions occur.
Ultimately these distractions are a small price to pay for the benefits of a home-based office, but they are one of the primary pitfalls steering us away from tending to business.
Examine your routine and identify where you can capture a few more hours to apply to measurable goals that are falling short of your expectations. Forum member bmiller0630 looked back on his past month and noticed a few distracting items.
"Some days I sleep in one hour longer," bmiller0630 wrote. "My 30-minute lunch ends up to be two hours. I watch new release movies on Tuesday from the Redbox (during working hours). My 2 year old and 5 year old slam doors, scream, fight, etc. Instead of cold calling the whole day, I ended up at a golf course with friends."
One of the most valuable things one can do to improve productivity is to create and stick to a schedule. Here are nine tips to help you stay on target:
There is no better feeling than sitting down at the end of the day knowing you accomplished your goals. Identifying and minimizing your unique distractions results in less stress, more downtime and a bigger bank account.
Jon Perry and Vanessa Lang are the owners of 888QuikRate.com, an ISO based in Ft. Worth, Texas, that was named Small Business of the Year by the local newspaper, The Star Telegram. For more information, tweet them at http://twitter.com/dfwcard, comment on their blog at http://merchantservices.cc or visit their profile at http://linkedin.com/in/jonperry or http://linkedin.com/in/vanessalang. Alternatively, you can contact Jon and Vanessa by phone at 817-857-3557 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
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