Planning Time – An Essential Skill for Entrepreneurs

It is not just students who are poor at planning time. Most adults are pretty bad at it too. If you are working for yourself then time management skills are something you will have to develop.

Not All Time Is Created Equal

We all have certain times of the day when we are most efficient. You only have 24 hours in the day to use on your business, and with sleep and other essentials and a bit of relaxation time that comes down to 10-12 hours a day for most people.

You have to use every one of those 12 hours of time you get every day. You have to understand your body and know when you are at your most creative and set that time aside for planning tasks and big-picture jobs. You need to make sure that your best times are uninterrupted by phone calls, emails and chores. Your business needs your best time more than the garden, household chores or shopping do.

You have to take control of your time.

 

Flexi-time is one of the advantages of working for yourself after all and you have the opportunity to synch your body clock and your working time. If you are at your most creative late at night then take your sleep time from 2 – 10am; you are your own boss and you can do whatever works for you. If your best time is when you are fresh, early in the morning then start “work” early.

I am an early-bird myself and get up at 4am most days. I get a lot of planning done while the house is quiet; I keep the mundane business tasks for later in the day when I expect to be interrupted constantly.

How Often Do You Look at the Big Picture?

I never used to understand the phrase, “He can’t see the wood for the trees.” But I do now.

Every day I get caught up in the day to day jobs (the trees) and never have enough time to look at my business as a whole (the wood). Everyone I know has the same problem. Strategic planning means taking time out from the day-to-day business tasks that take up your time on most days.

The only way to build in strategic business planning time is to get ahead on the small jobs and set aside a half or a full day to look at the long-term health and direction of your business.

You Have to Employ People

When I started out trying to earn a living online I was a one man band. I did everything myself for 2 years. My income was limited by the number of hours in the day and how much sleep I got.

time money hourglass

I sat down one day and realised that I was never going to earn enough money trying to do every single thing myself. I had to pay people to get some of my time back.

I could not charge the hourly rates I needed to charge, so I had to pay people to do that work, so I could take on ten times as much, begin to earn a full-time income and get some of my time back again.

Any business, whether it is a real-world plumber or an online writing business, has to grow in order to provide its founder with a decent income and quality of life.

This is the kind of long-term business planning that requires set-aside planning time. Strategic planning cannot be fitted into 30 minutes slots in your normal work days.

No Planning – No Future

Any business owner or entrepreneur who fails to set aside strategic business planning time is on a road to nowhere. You will work 12 hour days and make enough money to get by, but at the expense of your health and relationships.

After 20 years you will be worn out and alone, but still have to work 12 hour days to make ends meet.

When was the last time you took time out to look at your business and where it is going? Comments welcome below.

Citations:

synch your body clock and your working time

Why You Should Try to be a Morning Person

Business Management 101: Strategic Planning for Businesses and Government Agencies

Business Planning Process – Introduction

Business Plans and Marketing Strategy

Start a 24 Hour Drain Cleaning Business

You can start your 24 hour drain cleaning business on a shoestring, with just a pile of drain rods. There is more to it than that, but drain rods will allow you to solve 90% of problems you come across.

On Your Own or Franchise?

Franchises are expensive to buy into and most people will not have the $50K (£40K) that buying into a big name franchise will cost you. You can start on your own but you will need to do some marketing to get your name in front of people; franchisees have the marketing included as part of their package.

As an independent with lower costs and no franchise fees to pay you can do jobs for less than the big franchise drain cleaning companies.

Sewer Drain Clearingblocked drain - you get lots of these with a 24 hour drain cleaning business

This will be the core of your business. It is messy work and smelly, which is why so many householders will pay you to do it for them. Most blockages are caused by toilet paper and sanitary towels; all you need to clear these is a corkscrew-like breakup attachment on your drain rods.

Drain rods are a metre long and have brass fittings at each end so you can screw them together. To tighten them just turn clockwise as you usually would.

When in use always be sure to turn the rods clockwise as you push them into the drain. (if you turn the wrong way your rods could come apart in the drain, which would mean sending a robot down to pull them out  not cheap). You will need a lot of drain rods because some houses have sewer drains that stretch for 50 metres without an inspection cover.

What Do You Need to Start a Drain Cleaning Business?

You will need a bin to carry your drain rods upright. The rods then drain into the bin and you can use a power washer to wash everything off at the end of the day.

Your van will need to be large enough to carry your equipment and to look professional. Small vans look very amateurish and as you acquire more equipment to handle different jobs they will not have the space you need.

A power-washer is another useful tool to have in this business. You need it to clear up any mess and to wash any overflow back into the drain. An electric one means you either need access to your client’s electricity supply or you need to carry a generator in your van; a gas-powered power washer is better and is usually more powerful. Buy extensions that will allow you to jetwash any pipes you work on.

Clean overalls are another part of your professional image. You need at least 10 sets to allow you to change between jobs, necessary to keep your van clean inside as well as to impress your customers.

Anything else you can buy as you learn the job and have a  need for it.

Marketing

A website is essential, though you can build it yourself easily enough. The first place people look for services is online rather than the phone book, so you have to be online. Make sure to include a landline phone number so that anyone searching with the area code in the search query will be directed to your site. You should also include photographs of yourself doing jobs and testimonials.

If setting up a website is a problem then I can do it for you – No charge; all you need to do is to buy your hosting through my referral link. Find out more about free website setup.

Your van is important but less so than your online presence. Nobody takes the details of services they hope never to need, so your van and business cards are very much secondary marketing.

It is possible to set up as an independent contractor without paying an arm and a leg for a franchise, but your business will grow more slowly and you do need to be on top of your marketing.

Image credit: Lee J Haywood

Building Relationships in Business

People are important to any business because it is people who employ you. Building relationships in business is absolutely essential to success. Without relationships you have no business.

If you live alone on a desert island then you have no need to cultivate your business relationships; you would have no need to build business contacts. Businesses need people and you need to cultivate every person your business touches.

Building Relationships in Business as a Freelancer

If you are working for yourself in any capacity then your livelihood depends on your contacts and how you nurture them. As a freelancer You are your Business, so you need to cultivate everyone of your personal contacts so they become business contacts as well. The problem is that finding time to talk to people is next to impossible and this is one job you cannot outsource; you have to do it yourself.Building relationships in business starts with family

Different Kinds of Contacts

People from Way Back When

You will have contacts from your early days, people who taught you what you know today. You need to touch base with these guys once in a while. That way they remember you and think of you if a new opportunity comes up. These are low maintenance business relationships but they still need some maintenance or they will die.

People from Last Month

Building relationships in business requires constant effort. You need to work hard to convert recent acquaintances into long-term business relationships. This is the most intense part of the relationship building process. I am talking about people who have left blog comments, contacted you on G+ or who you helped in any way recently.

There are so many people in this category that you really need to look at contact management software to make sure you follow up every one. At the very least you should copy their email address or contact details into a spreadsheet and record every time you contact each person.

Clients and customers fall into this category of business contacts. Most people are pleased you bothered to contact them and are more likely to come back to you again.

How to Do It

You can sign up for a Google Apps account at $40 a year and use some of the apps that your account makes available. These will import from email lists and spreadsheets, so they make life easy.

You can pay $30 – $60 a month for a hosted CRM program with all the bells and whistles you could ever use.

If you want a cost-free way of tracking your relationship building then use a spreadsheet with columns for each contact madecontacts equal money or a simple database program. You will have to do a bit more work, but there is no ongoing or even initial set-up cost except time.

Your column headings could be:

  • Name
  • Phone number
  • email
  • website
  • Linked In profile
  • Twitter profile
  • Known from
  • Contact 1
  • Contact 2
  • Contact 3

Once you have your spreadsheet set up maintaining it is simple. You can see at a glance the people you have not spoken to in a while and set aside time to have those conversations that your business relationship needs in order to grow.

Contacts as Currency

Over the years you have acquired numerous contacts, now is the time to make fresh contact with each one. These people are on your email list or wherever because they thought highly of you in the past. All it takes is a couple of emails, Internet chats or even a Google Hangout and your old relationship will be rejuvenated. It is worth the effort because you already have a great reputation with these people.

Time – Knowledge – Reputation – Contacts – Money

You have invested your Time in building your Knowledge. You have used your Knowledge to grow your Reputation. As your Reputation grew so did your list of Contacts. Your Contacts are the key to making Money in any business; they will help you, partner with you, even offer you work to do. Your Contacts are the people who will spread the word about your business, so the time you spend cultivating your relationships is multiplied as each one leads to more Contacts.

The money comes automatically as long as you build your reputation and mind your contact list.

References
Google Apps

Start a House Sitting Business in Your Home Town

If you want to start a house sitting business you will have very low start up costs, but a very low growth rate for your business.

You have several strategic decisions to make before you even start your business:

  • Local, national or international?start a house sitting business
  • Are you going to employ others?
  • What are you prepared to do?

Local National or International?

There are many agencies and websites where people can find house sitters with years of experience, police vetting and impeccable references. House sitters on these sites often work for free. They get their accommodation free and that is all they want. You cannot compete with free, ever. Free house sitters are always going to be willing to move around, to travel abroad, even, for live-in house sitting jobs.

A local house-sitting service is something entirely different – You contract to perform maintenance tasks on your clients’ homes rather than living in them. Clients may employ you to do jobs while they are out during the day, or to check on their home while they are traveling on vacation. Clients are more willing to pay for this kind of a service than for a live in house-sitter.

How to Start a House Sitting Business

Start out by establishing a reputation for reliability and honesty. The first step is to get a police report on yourself. Without this nobody is going to trust you, so count it as a tax-deductible essential expense. You should also buy commercial insurance to cover any accidents that happen while you are in your clients’ homes. The last significant cost is for an attorney to draw up a standard contract for you to use with each client.

You need a van, but people never want to advertise the fact that they are away from home, so it needs to be a plain, clean van without advertising. You may need to carry lawnmowers and similar equipment around with you, so you need a large van and a trailer to carry gardening equipment.

Your business will grow by word of mouth advertising, so you must have business cards printed professionally. You should also go round every home to hand-post flyers advertising your house sitting services. Professionally-printed flyers in full color will cost you less than you think and will work out cheaper than printing your own using your home computer and printer. Include a photos of you doing some of the tasks you are commonly asked to do.

What Services Will You  Provide?

Yard work is one of the most frequent tasks you will be asked to do. This will include cutting the lawn in the summer months and clearing snow in the winter, so you have to be happy working outside in all weathers.

You will also be asked to bring in mail, basic cleaning jobs and to supervise workmen. These will require key access and you will need to have a system for storing keys, alarm codes and access procedures for each client.

You may be asked to walk dogs, exercise horses and feed chickens, to let the cat out, clean up poop from the yard and do the laundry. The list is endless and the more tasks you can offer your clients the more your local house sitting business will thrive.

start a local house sitting business - Handyman jobsOffer simple handyman jobs, such as unblocking drains, changing light bulbs and simple furniture repairs, too. The more you become known as The Man to Call the faster your reputation will grow.

People prefer to deal with one person they trust to deal with everything from pool maintenance to snow clearance and unblocking drains. It’s up to you to be that one person.

Start a house sitting business that everyone in your home town comes to rely on. You can grow your business if you get more jobs than you can handle, just by hiring another handy man and buying another van.

References
get a police report on yourself