Beating the Top 5 Time Stealers in Any Business

Date: February 12, 2008

Phillip Beyer used to run his business in chaos. With only four employees, the owner of Nashville, Tenn.-based Beyer Printing never had time to take a lunch break, much less a day off. "Every time I left I worried that the business would fall apart," he says. Even though his company was growing, Beyer was reluctant to pursue new business because he didn't think he could handle the growing pains. "I no longer owned the business," he says. "It owned me."

After five years of working 70 hours a week or more, Beyer knew that something had to change, so he started reading every management book he could get his hands on.

He soon discovered a solution. "There are dozens of time wasters that entrepreneurs get caught up in—and they don't realize what these cost their business," he says.

So Beyer set out to uncover the biggest offenders in his company. Here are five time bandits that creeped up on his business—and how he beat them:

Clutter. Step into Beyer's printing shop and pressroom, and you won't see a scrap of loose paper anywhere. But it wasn't always that way. The shop used to be so messy it took half an hour or more to locate misplaced items and orders. The more business Beyer got, the bigger the stack of papers behind his desk grew. That changed once he implemented a daily system of cleaning. Now everything is put in a designated, convenient place—and often it's filed away in a clear, plastic bin. Supplies like printer cartridges are ordered in advance, before they run out, so no one wastes time searching for the original box with the product description. "Nothing is left to chance," Beyer says.

Interruptions. How many times have you been immersed in a project only to get interrupted by a phone call or a company crisis? When you finally get a chance to return to what you were doing, you forget where you were. With distractions like these happening to Beyer and his staff, it was easy to get thrown off course. No matter how small the interruptions were, they added up. Beyer eliminated this problem by developing a system of checklists for all of the tasks within his company. Now neither he nor his employees are "under pressure to remember everything because there are prompts to help," he says.

Meetings. Beyer's staff meetings on Monday mornings used to eat away half the day. Now they run closer to 30 minutes and happen only every two weeks or so. "Meetings usually occur because something is going wrong and the manager needs to get everyone back on the same page," Beyer says. But simply discussing problems rarely solves them: It only creates a cycle that eventually requires another meeting. With a system in place to ensure tasks are completed correctly and on time, Beyer has no reason to call as many emergency meetings. "Any meetings we have now are used to come up with more creative ideas," he says.

Miscommunication. This is one of the biggest time wasters that catch companies off guard, and it can also be one of the most costly when work must be redone to correct mistakes made because of mixed messages or faulty information. Developing checklists for production and quality control helped Beyer clearly communicate expectations to employees. And though employees weren't always eager to tell him about oversights, Beyer created a forum for them to share their ideas on how to run the business more smoothly. He even does estimated and actual time reports to compare "the time we thought it would take to do something to the time it actually took."

Micromanaging. "When you're running a business, you're everything to everybody," Beyer says. "The tension is incredible." Not only did Beyer oversee the day-to-day duties of his business, he also took orders and did customer service, and couldn't leave the office without employees calling to ask questions. Paying attention to every detail kept him so stressed out that even his dentist asked why he was clenching his jaw so hard. By creating a system for customer service and order entry and hiring someone to manage it, he was able to gain relief and focus on building his business.

Once Beyer banished these time bandits, the savings in time and money filtered through every facet of his business. "Customers started noticing that we were always consistent and on time, every time," Beyer says. Impressed by the consistency and quality of his shop, they began making referrals to his business. Beyer found time to take a vacation, and employees found the freedom to be more innovative. Now Beyer works fewer than 40 hours most week—and he's even found time to start a new business, Ebiz Products, which provides software and manuals to help other business owners get organized. His mantra? "None of it is rocket science," he says. "Everyone can do this."
Learn more about how to eliminate time wasters in your business in the “Stress Management” section of “Growth and Planning” at

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