This article comes from The Five Pillars of Business Success. Launching in 2018, The Five Pillars of Business Success are the product of working with small businesses for twenty-plus years and asking a simple question: Why do so many startups struggle and ultimately fail? The Five Pillars of Business Success will show you how to successfully start and grow a business. Sign up to receive an exclusive discount code and to be notified about the launch of the Five Pillars. Check out more articles from the Five Pillars series.

You’re a business owner. You’re busy! So busy you might not have time to recognize your most valuable business asset: The very minutes you lack! The smaller your business, the more important each minute becomes. Want to grow your business? Want to increase profits? Invest a few minutes in this article. Then, invest your minutes in your business. Don’t spend them. And stop wasting them! 

Investing minutes may sound like a good idea, but how can you tell the difference between minutes invested and those spent or wasted? Here’s a quick overview of guidelines we use in our course The Five Pillars of Business Success.

Invested Minutes generate one of two results. They either 1) Make a current customer happy, or 2) Get new customers. Any activity that does not achieve one of these two results is either an expense or a waste. 

Expense Minutes are those use to complete something that must get done, but that something does not directly impact current or future customers. You can recognize expense items because there will often be a price paid for ignoring them. For example, avoid paying sales tax long enough and you’ll face a distracting crisis when the tax department finally comes knocking.

Expense minutes are important. They are what one might call time-overhead. They keep the showroom clean, order supplies, and preparing payroll, but they are not the best use of your limited time.  Expense minutes should be streamlined and delegated so you can invest them making customers happy and getting new customers.  

Wasted Minutes are neither an investment nor an expense. Many phone calls, conversations, nonproductive meetings, and nonstrategic use of social media are wastes of time. Wasted minutes can be hard to identify because they often provide a false sense of accomplishment.  Once recognized, eliminate and invest them.    

Minute Makeover: Here’s a simple, three-step process to help you invest your minutes in maximizing growth and profit: 

First. Recognize what’s at stake. Expensed and wasted minutes are the silent killers of business success. We do not recognize these killers because we’re too busy to find them. It’s only by understanding the actual cost of expensed and wasted time that we make uncovering them a priority. Consider thirty minutes per business day spent on bookkeeping and another thirty minutes wasted chatting with employees and checking social media. That’s 240 hours over the course of a year! Thirty full-time work days you will never get back. Thirty days you could have been invested in customers and growth!  

Second: Watch your minutes. You cannot manage what you do not measure. Take a week and track your minutes. Don’t try to change your behavior at this point. Just write the number of minutes used for each activity into one of three columns: Invested, Expensed, or Wasted. At the end of the week total the columns. You will be stunned by the number of minutes NOT used to make customers happy or to get new customers. Continue to track your minutes for the next few weeks; it will soon become a habit. 

Third: Maximize Invested Minutes: Become very intentional about your time. Invest as many minutes as possible every day in one of two activities: 1) Making current customers happy, and 2) Getting new customers. 

The fastest way to increase invested minutes is to identify and eliminate time-wasting activities. Then, transform each reclaimed minute into an investment. 

Reclaiming expensed minutes, however, will take a little more energy.  Some expense activities can be streamlined to achieve the same result in a fraction of the time. Other expense activities will be better-delegated to others. Avoid the common excuse that you lack the time and money to hand these items off to someone else.  This is circular logic that will be quickly disproved by the fruits of your newly invested minutes!

Remember, time is your most valuable resource. Invested minutes grow your business.  To learn more about the five traits common to all successful businesses read our article, Five Keys to Building a Successful Business, and take our soon-to-arrive course, Five Pillars of Business Success for Startups.   

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All courses and articles are for informational purposes only and do not constitute tax advice. Taxes are complicated - do not act on course information without consulting a professional. Always refer to treasury regulation before making any tax decision. Read the full disclaimer.

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