By Jon Perry and Vanessa Lang
A quarter of a million years ago, early man was focused on the very basics: food, clothing and shelter - in short, survival. It is estimated that mankind's knowledge doubled in the first 10,000 years of our existence. By the time the pyramids of ancient Egypt were built, our knowledge was doubling approximately every 1,000 years.
By the dawn of the industrial revolution in the 18th century, our knowledge was doubling every 50 to 100 years. By the time we approached President Kennedy's term of office and the Space Age in the 1960s, our knowledge doubled every generation.
Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel Corp., introduced in 1965 the concept that transistors can be inexpensively placed on an integrated circuit board and double in processing capability about every two years. Today's microprocessors do just that - double in speed every two years. Today's $800 laptop computer blows away the performance of $100,000 mainframes of just 20 years ago.
While there are no exact measurements, it is believed our knowledge today doubles every two to five years.
In the 1960s, color television was introduced. There were three major networks, and stations were operational only until 1 or 2 a.m.
By the 1970s, cable television had come along with 24-hour news channels. Today, cable and satellite providers offer over 800 stations to their audiences. In the mid 1990s, the Internet went mainstream. Today, more people get their news from the Internet than they do from reading newspapers. ComScore Inc. reported that YouTube hosts over 6 billion videos a year; with an average video time of 3.9 minutes, it would take 44,500 years to watch them all.
We spent some time examining threads on GS Online's MLS Forum. What were people really posting about? What was most important to the ISOs and merchant level salespeople (MLSs) who visit the Forum?
Whether the posts were about security breaches, the U.S. Government Accountability Office report on interchange, Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard (DSS) compliance or which processing partner to choose, the central ideas revolved around change - change in our industry and how to leverage that change over time.
Every day we are bombarded with options about where to put our attention and how to spend our energy. News, Internet sites, blogs, reports on consumer behavior, changes to compliance standards and so on. We could spend a lifetime exploring and studying them. In a world where so many options compete for our time, it is up to each of us to control our most valuable asset - time. An inordinate number of books have been written on time management. In reality, time management is a myth. Since there are always 60 minutes in an hour and 24 hours in a day, we cannot manage something that never changes. Rather, we can change our behaviors to conform to the finite nature of time.
Don't worry about where you are wasting time. Rather, focus on productivity. Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize.
Priority B: Priority B relates to networking and marketing. Networking (physical, virtual and social) keeps your name in the forefront of your potential market base. We also include booking new appointments in this category. Marketing is a broad term relating to our ability to create, communicate and deliver value to our target customers.
Priority C: Everything else is Priority C. Your priorities may be different, and that's OK. What you're accomplishing is keeping your focus on revenue and not on activities that don't add value. On the whole, your prioritization would focus on the average day, not exceptions that only randomly occur.
What you can't measure, you can't manage. Start anywhere and go everywhere. For example, assume you attend six networking groups per week. Each meeting lasts 90 minutes, which includes general networking time. If it takes you 30 minutes to get to the meeting, then your commute time is 60 minutes round trip. Your total time is 150 minutes, or 2.5 hours.
Do you eat a meal that you pay for when you attend your weekly meeting? Do you have dues for the group? How much gas are you burning? What is the wear and tear on your car? What is your time worth?
When you factor in all of the implicit and explicit costs, it is not unreasonable to determine the cost to attend a networking meeting is, for many people, a minimum of $30 per hour. Once you know your costs, compute your good will and top-line revenue. How many new customers do you get from these networking meetings?
What is the value of a new customer over time? For example, assume you anticipate making $25 per month for every typical customer you board. You also know that your average customer stays with you for four years. Four years is 48 months times $25 per month, which equals $1,200.
If your actual costs work out to be $30 per hour, as shown above, and your average networking time, including travel, is 2.5 hours, the average cost per meeting is $30 times 2.5 or $75. If you attend this specific networking meeting 50 times per year, your annualized cost is $75 times 50 or $3,750.
Given the above example, you would need at least three new customers ($1,200 times 3 or $3,600) to offset your annual costs of $3,750. When you measure, account for everything you can.
Time is your most valuable commodity. Don't waste time waiting. If you know you are going to be in traffic, listen to a motivational or self-improvement CD. Have a voice recorder within hand's reach in your vehicle. When a great idea strikes, record it.
Carry with you your marketing plan or the contract you need to review. If you're early for a meeting or waiting in a reception area, use this time wisely. We recently purchased a notebook computer, which is a subcompact laptop. We keep it in the car with an aircard to maximize our time.
Whatever you choose, your systems should work together to help you keep tabs on your time. One cost-effective tool is Google Apps Premier. The cost at the time of this writing is $50 per user per year. It provides shared calendaring, documents and secure e-mail accounts with the strongest spam tools built in.
In the office, if an appointment is scheduled, it updates Google Apps Premier's calendar. And the phone is set to auto sync. At the next synchronization, the phone gets the calendar update. This two-way synchronization is very valuable to ensure your team knows availability.
Desktop syncing is available using a multitude of tools for both Microsoft Corp. Windows and Apple Inc. Mac operating systems. Use a customer relationship management (CRM) tool. On the MLS Forum, there has been much discussion about CRM tools. Common tools used by Forum users are CRMS by Salesforce.com Inc. and SugarCRM Inc.
If you are budget-conscious and have a team of folks, you may find some of these tools can get pricey. If you have technological savvy, check out vtiger's open source vtiger CRM at www.vtiger.com. Prioritizing of time, measuring time effectiveness, filling the voids of time, along with a system to manage your time, are basic tools used daily.
As knowledge continues to double, how do you keep up with it? Here are some recommendations to help you stay abreast.
Technology will continue to evolve. The question is how we can harness its power to make us more productive and keep our customers satisfied. If you are behind the curve when it comes to technology, there are many free and paid courses you can find online, through your community college or through one-on-one consultations with colleagues.
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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