Successful businesses are all about getting results, not just working hard. As a business advisor, I hear facts all the time about how hard an entrepreneur is working, but often have a hard time getting them to quantify results.
You must never stop looking for ways to get more traction with fewer personal hours, and more productivity, efficiency, and momentum from the team.
In my view, it's really unfortunate that most employees in business are still paid by the hour, regardless of their productivity. Thus you get what you pay for -- hours worked without any factoring of results and efficiency.
Even you as the entrepreneur, who may not be getting paid at all, are tricked into thinking that if you had more hours, you could get better results.
Instead of counting and working more hours, I believe there are better ways to improve your productivity, as well as employee satisfaction, in growing your business:
1. Create relevant result targets for all key employees.
The first benefit of this approach is that it forces you to quantify your business objectives at every level, and employees know exactly what is expected of them, rather than just plodding through another day.
Progress, or lack of it, will give you the feedback you need to focus on the right items.
In business vernacular, targets are usually called metrics. A good metric has to be easily measurable, and directly correlated to results, rather than hours worked. For example, for a sales person, this metric number would likely measure new revenue or new customers.
2. Provide incentives to focus everyone on real results.
These incentives don't have to be big cash bonuses. In fact, mounting evidence indicates that people respond just as well to non-cash recognition in front of peers, or special rewards.
For you as the owner, the incentives are business growth, more customers, higher profits, all for less work.
Incentives are a way to improve motivation and commitment, which are hard to measure directly. A more comprehensive study by Gallup showed that 70 percent of employees today lack these attributes. That's a huge payback potential for the cost of any incentives.
3. Prioritize all your time spent using the 80/20 rule.
This rule, also known as the Pareto principle, proven in most businesses, suggests that 80 percent of real results come from 20 percent of the demands on your time.
You will never be able to satisfy all the requests for your help, so it critical that you prioritize your efforts based on impact, not noise.
4. Evaluate where technology and training can help.
I still find entrepreneurs and employees who refuse to use computers and new techniques, because they don't want to take the time to learn what's available today.
Make sure you are the model to follow, rather than the problem. It's your responsibility to keep up with change in your industry.
If your trusted accountant still keeps customer and financial records in a growing array of file folders, he is likely not doing himself or your business any favors, even if he puts in 100 hours a week. Your highest priority may be to help him make some changes.
5. Balance your time between family and the business.
You can't be fully productive if you aren't healthy, or you are under serious stress from the family. Practice that model at work to optimize employee productivity, by encouraging time off for vacations, family events, and entertainment.
People unhappy at work are not helping your business thrive.
6. Foster open communication between all team members.
This has to start from the top, through you setting an open-door policy, frequent updates to the team, and making it clear that feedback and suggestions are appreciated, rather than penalized.
Stress the importance of working as a team, and provide opportunities for team events and results.
7. Highlight milestone successes often, rather than annually.
Even small incremental successes, when publicly recognized, send the message that results are expected and appreciated, rather than work hours endured each week.
Always strive to set achievable, yet challenging, milestones to make success more than an impossible dream.
The best and most successful entrepreneurs I know are the ones who talk first about the great results they are achieving, as well as the challenges they are overcoming. They are not hesitant to introduce me to their key employees and partners, and have them echo the same perspective.
Working hard should be something people can deduce from your results, not the other way around.