As a business owner you get pulled in many directions and you have to be selective of how and where you spend your time. Time is money, and as we all know, it is a finite commodity. As a result, you need to choose carefully when making decisions to make sure that your time is well spent, from making sure you are networking in the right places to carefully aligning yourself with the right partners. Time wasted is money ill-spent.
On this note, I recently had a book signing at Saks Fifth Avenue for my new book, The Everyday Entrepreneur. I was thrilled about the opportunity but uncertain about how valuable the experience would actually be. I attended with the best of intentions, to try and help entrepreneurs and those thinking about going out on their own become as successful as possible.
I met all types of folks, individuals who were just there shopping for the friends and family discount, as well as friends and family who were there to support me. It was the next group that surprised me: those people that came specifically to meet me, get my book and get help with their business. Now, you would have figured that was the point, and you’d be right—however, I was uncertain that people I had never met before would make the trek to the mall to come and see me.
One of my visitors was a young entrepreneur who developed a device for hair care. She was seeking help in finding the best way to get a prototype built and how to connect with a manufacturer. Now, I am not a designer or manufacturing expert per se, but she made the decision to spend an hour of her time driving to meet me in the hopes that I could connect her with the right people or at least help point her in the right direction. It turns out it was a good use of her time and I was able to introduce her to people that would gladly have a conversation with her to help her along her entrepreneurial path. Other than it being flattering, it was also a sign of her desire to stay ahead of the pack and make her dreams become a reality.
Next, a fifty-something accounting professional saw a LinkedIn post about the event and ventured down to Saks with his wife. He was struggling to bring on new clients, even though everyone he spoke to about his services stated that they were very much in demand. After looking at my LinkedIn profile and checking out my background, he decided it would be a good use of his time to meet me and pick my brain about our marketing efforts. We briefly spoke about a few things he could do to help himself in this regard: select his target market more appropriately; spend time meeting the correct centers-of-influence for his service; and other ways to bolster his client base. I even offered to have him come in and speak with my sales team to expand his potential referral base. It turned out to be a great connection for the both of us.
By chance, I also met the owners of a company that the designed all the furniture for President Obama’s Oval Office. The company has been designing high-end furniture for over eighty years and I had the opportunity to chat with them. Even thought they did not come to see me specifically, you could tell that they were business-minded and were always looking for opportunities. They did not purchase a book, but after a brief conversation they did say they wanted a call from my office to discuss my payroll services. Not a bad outcome and completely unexpected. Both sides saw an unexpected opportunity and took advantage of it.
What excited me the most about the day I spent at Saks was that the spirit some say is missing from America right now is very much alive and well. I saw it displayed in those select few that were willing to spend their precious time on activities that they knew best supported their overall goals. We have all toiled away at events, marketing plans, or relationships that did not result in anything other than a monumental waste of time. It is picking the right events and making the decision on what is the best use of your time that makes all the impact. At the very least, making the wrong decision will teach you where not to spend your time. So, I guess there is value in those mistakes after all.
Here are a few tips you can use to make sure you are using your important time correctly in all the right places:
- Run with the winners. You should spend time networking, associating with, and getting to know individuals and organizations that are masters of their craft. This will increase your odds of becoming one of the winners yourself.
- Seek out help. Don’t try to go it alone. Everyone needs help some of the time. Don’t be too shy to ask for it and go the extra mile to get it. It will pay dividends for years to come. I had a mentor when I started out and his years of business experience provided immeasurable help.
- Pick your battles. You can’t be everywhere all the time and you can’t be everything to everyone. Scrutinize each event or demand on your time and learn to say no when you need to. Skip that event or get someone to assist if you truly don’t have the time to do it but still want to be represented.
- It’s never a total loss. If you spend time, effort and energy on various activities and you learn that they were not the right thing for you, don’t beat yourself up. Each misstep is a learning opportunity; just try not to make the same mistake again. Make sure to focus on any positives you gained from the experience and you will not feel so bad about it.
Small business expert Rob Basso is the founder of BassoOnBusiness.com, a web-based community dedicated to inspiring the entrepreneurial spirit and getting American businesses back on their feet. He is the president and owner of Advantage Payroll Services, the region’s largest independently owned payroll provider, and the author of The Everyday Entrepreneur. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and make sure to purchase your copy of The Everyday Entrepreneur today!