5 Ways To Make Your Tomorrows More Productive, Today

Do you walk into work feeling swamped before you even sit down at your desk? Do you not know where to start? Work gets busy and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. It’s tempting to just end the day at 6PM and think about everything else tomorrow. But with these five tips, you can increase your productivity and reduce your stress. By taking just a little time out of the end of your work day, you can set yourself up for success.

1. Review Your Calendar

Checking your calendar a few hours before you intend to head out mitigates the possibility of forgetting about a commitment that requires prep work. If your prep is a large commitment (use your judgment on this one), start on it today. Otherwise, make a note to prep for your meetings first thing in the morning.

2. Review Your To-Do List

With a few hours left in the work day, triage your to-dos. What can you realistically finish today? Then prioritize. What NEEDS to be done tomorrow, this week, etc. Are their non-essential items that you can be delegated or removed completely?

3. Update Tomorrow’s To-Do List.

At the end of the day, when you’ve finished everything you need to, take two minutes to review tomorrow’s to-do list. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do tasks need to be completed in a certain order?
  • What items do you absolutely need to finish tomorrow? (Rank these high priority.)
  • What items can you tackle later in the week? (Rank these low priority.)
  • Do certain items need to be completed by a certain time of day, and have you made note of this (instead of relying on your memory)?

4. Make as Many Decisions About Tomorrow as Possible

Choose what you’ll wear and eat, along with any anything else you need to decide tomorrow the night before. This will free up your brain and help preserve your willpower for the more consequential decisions tomorrow. With more brain capacity and better decision making, you’ll see your productivity and energy rise.

5. Sleep 8 Hours

You’ve heard it a million times, but it’s true. There’s no better productivity booster than sleep. When you get enough sleep, you can better focus on your plan for the day because you’ll have more self-control. Not only will you get more of the right things done, you’ll also notice your interactions with other people to be easier going. This is hard for those of you who do a lot. My advice is to see adequate sleep as one of your most important tasks to accomplish every day. Make it a priority.

Can Small Businesses Benefit From Big Data?

Last week’s blog post about targeting your clients spoke a lot about using your data, but from where are you collecting this data to use when planning your marketing?  In a perfect world a multitude of data accumulated by other individuals would be at your fingertips. Your job would be to merely sift through the data choosing the marketing pieces with the highest return on investment, determine a budget and make a plan. How easy would that be? You could probably plan an entire years worth of marketing in under an hour.

Good News, Bad News

The bad news is that in most markets, even in the franchise realm data gathered far and wide is often too vague for anyone to rely on at the local level. This doesn’t mean that you should discount the data provided by these larger entities. Use their data to spot trends, but collect your own data to make decisions about your business.

Big Data

From Forbes

Large corporations regularly use big data to get insight on consumer behavior, target their marketing and to boost revenue. But small businesses typically do little with big data. Until now, most owners have considered it too difficult, too expensive and just plain intimidating.

That’s changing. These days an increasing number of small businesses are collecting and crunching volumes of data to lift their sales.

“Small businesses shouldn’t be scared off by big data,” says Steve King, partner at Emergent Research. The growth of the Internet, wireless networks, smartphones, social media, sensors and other digital technology is fueling a big data revolution. Big data was the exclusive domain of statisticians and large corporations but not anymore.”

What can a small business do with big data?

For a start, it can boost efficiency and sales.

King gives an example. The Spillers Group, a company that owns three restaurants in Dallas, uses a data application called Roambi that enables it to share among management all the business information it collects, including point-of-sale data, labor metrics and accounting numbers. With Roambi, Spillers can link managers’ pay to their restaurant’s performance. The app has also cut Spillers’ labor costs 10%, saving thousands of dollars every two weeks.

“Before their data was a hodgepodge,” King says. “They had sales data in one place, supply data in another place and staffing data in another—and they never looked at how to bring them all together. So they were inefficient when it came to scheduling and supplies. When they brought the data together they discovered quickly they could cut costs by making minor changes. That’s a huge win.”

Small businesses that use data intelligently can do business better.

They can improve pricing and just-in-time supply chains. They can find cheaper suppliers that are closer to their location and that offer more price transparency. Small businesses can also use data to tailor products and services to individual customers.

Businesses can identify key customers and treat them better.

They can understand customer patterns, know when they’re likely to come in and reward them for multiple visits. “All this big data is helping to level the playing field for small businesses,” King says. “Even though the field is still tilted in favor of big business, big data is a way for small business to fight back. A lot of this stuff is made easy for small business, like Google GOOG -2.3% Analytics. You don’t have to be a data scientist to use these tools and get good insights.”

Why Data is Important

The more you know about each of your leads, the faster you can zoom in on the strongest prospects, engaging them with content that’s personally meaningful to them.

  • Quickly identify and rectify problems
  • Data can be used to decide which products and services should be marketed and which should be eliminated.
  • Aids in assessing employee performance

Accumulating data is a necessary evil. The alternative is to run your practice on a wing and prayer, which is not a strategy we’d recommend.

How to Handle the Seasonal Aspect of Your Business

We have clients in every corner of the United States.  We understand that there is a seasonal aspect to this business.  Snowbirds leave the Northeast (lessening the 65+ population in that area) and head for warmer climates starting as early as October and for some extending their stay well into April.  The warmer climates experience the same trend in reverse from April through October.

The northern states must plan for weather that is too cold and snowy.  The southern states must plan for high temperature for days or for weeks on end.

So, What’s Your Plan?

If you don’t have a plan, then start with these 5 ideas.  They may or may not be the solution, but sitting around worrying about the “slow” months probably isn’t going to solve anything either.

Contingency Plans

It’s always a good idea to have a Plan B for everything.  But a Plan B is essential if you’re planning a marketing event.  An Open House in mid March in Connecticut can easily be ruined by a freak snow/ice storm.  Incorporate a “weather emergency” date as part of all your planned events.

Patient Recall

Probably, never a popular “to-do” for any of your employees, your patient recall goals can and probably should fluctuate.  Set higher goals during the months you know will be slow.  Lower the goals during the busier months when you know your staff will also be busier.

Tested Not Sold

They’re just sitting there.  Piles (well hopefully not piles) of patient’s who walked.  Use your slow time to contact these patients.  You already know they’re good candidates.  Don’t be a wimpy, don’t send a letter, pick up the phone and call them.

Planning

Ideally your advertising and marketing should be planned out months ahead.  Use the slow months to plan.  If you wait until things get hectic, odds are the planning process will more closely resemble “hurry up and get it done” and less, “let’s base this on historical data, trends and goals”.

Go Where the Business Is!

You know they’re out there, assisted living centers, nursing homes and skilled care facilities.  If patients can’t come to you because of the weather, then you need to consider going to them.  Just make sure you don’t start something you can’t continue once the weather is more favorable.

Business Interruption Insurance, Get it Now

Do you need business interruption insurance?  Yes, get it now today, right now…don’t wait.  Confirm that your income and that of your employees are included in the policy.

Will the unexpected happen, yes it will.

You already know we live at the Jersey Shore.  In the past nine days we have experienced one Hurricane, 2 earthquakes and 2 Nor’easters.  I’m looking out the window right now and it is snowing, snowing so hard we have white out conditions.

Is this nuts, yes it is.  Could it happen to you, yes it could.  In essence almost everyone with a business similar to yours and close to the disaster wrought by Hurricane Sandy has been shut down for almost 11 days.  Your bills will still need to be paid.

You have a lot of people who count on your business to succeed…your employees, your family and your patients. You can’t predict when or where the next disaster will strike, but you can be prepared.

 

The Biggest Problem for Small Business Owners

Google (or search for), “The biggest problem for small business owners”, you’ll get over 120,000,000 results in .23 seconds. The results will range from weak demand for your product to the cost of health insurance to government regulations. No one can tell you what the biggest problem is that you’ll face in your business, primarily because your “biggest” problem tends to be the one that is causing the biggest problem today…right now.

So how do you handle today’s “biggest problem”? Here are 4 easy steps to follow to solve most problems you’ll encounter on a day-to-day basis.

Don’t  Panic

Ok, something happened or is about to happened, accept whatever it is and give it a name. Mr. Jones will be here in 10 minutes and his repaired hearing aid is in a FedEx truck somewhere.

Simplify the Issue

In this case you have two choices (and whining and complaining are not number 1 and number 2).

1.  Contact Mr. Jones immediately and reschedule the appointment.
2.  If he’s already on his way, plan right now what you will say to him when he walks through the door.

Get Real

Is this a problem? Yes, it is. Is it the end of the world? No it isn’t. If this is a major calamity in your day, week or month…count your blessings and act accordingly.

Future Solutions

This is a problem, that should never have never been a problem. Yes, you solved it today. Your next step should be to prevent the problem from happening again. The status of all deliveries should be confirmed 3 days before the delivery date. With that much lead-time you can either take the steps necessary to speed up the delivery or you’ll have ample time to reschedule the patient appointment.

And remember, when all else fails call us. Solving problems is what we do, every day all day long.

As my husband is fond of saying, “there’s no such thing as problems, only solutions.”

Do You Need Business Interruption Insurance?

No one ever thinks they need business interruption insurance, right up until they do.  Since we’ve opened our doors we’ve had clients displaced from their place of business for:

  • Hurricanes
  • Floods
  • Earthquake (and in Maryland, no less)
  • Tornados
  • Wild Fires
  • Unfortunately the list could go on and on

Natural disasters in 2011 caused a record $250 billion in damages.

Business interruption (BI) insurance coverage provides payment for lost profits when a business suffers losses from an insurable peril. According to the Insurance Information Institute, BI insurance covers not only profits you would have earned but also operating expenses, like electricity, that continue even when business activities are halted.

Fixed expenses tend to make up almost a quarter of privately held business’s costs, according to an analysis of financial statements by Sageworks, a financial information company.

“Because these overhead costs are not easily reduced, they can add up quickly and have the ability to cause losses when sales are halted,” said Sageworks Chief Operating Officer Nicole Wolfgang. “In the case where business interruption insurance will cover these costs until the business can again operate, it may be able to help businesses avoid damage to their profits and profit margins.”

Of all the insurance you carry for your business odds are better than even that this will be the one insurance you actually end up using.

 

Is It Time to Take on a Partner?

You’re swamped with patients.  You know you need help, but should you hire someone or take the plunge and take on a partner?

5 Reasons Why You Should Take on a Partner

1.     Different perspectives and ideas

You have ideas lots of them, most people do.  A partner can not only provide additional ideas but will afford you the opportunity to bounce your ideas around with someone who has a vested interest in how well the ideas may or may not work out.

2.     Additional specialization and skills

Different people have different skill sets.  Maybe you hate marketing but love everything else you do.  Make sure any potential partner will be willing and able to handle the marketing side of the business.

3.     Motivation and support

A business partner provides motivation and support. A partner you can encourage one another and pick each other up in difficult times. Also, by having a partner, you will most likely work harder because there is pressure to perform and to not let the other person down.

4.     Retirement model

Many healthcare practice owners will take on a partner when they are approaching retirement age as a way to transfer ownership of the practice.

5.     Increased revenue

Some people are wary of partnering in business because they don’t want to split the money pie. However an additional person should mean additional revenue.  It’s also an opportunity for expansion of the existing practice, never any easy undertaking for a solo practitioner.

5 Reasons NOT to Take on a Business Partner

1.     Relinquish control

You will have to relinquish some control over the way your business operates. If you’re a control freak, and know you are incapable of playing nicely with others don’t take on a partner.

2.     A smaller piece of the pie

A partner will not only share in the burden of the bad financial times, but the good times as well.  Don’t assume that just because you’ve taken on a partner your revenue and consequently your income will double.  Be prepared, especially in the beginning for your income to take a hit.

3.     Selling the practice

When it’s time to sell the practice who gets to decide what its worth or even when it’s time to sell?  What if your partner decides they want to work 10 years longer than you planned to work?

4.     The slacker partner

In theory the partner should have a huge incentive to work harder, unfortunately that doesn’t always happen.  How will you split the workload?  What happens if one of you decides to start a family and wants to work fewer hours.

5.     Ruined relationships

As the saying goes, never go into business with friends or family.  If you ignore this advice, be prepared if the partnership ends that in all likelihood, your relationship outside of the business will end with it.

The best advice I can give you? Decide on an exit strategy and make sure it’s part of the partnership agreement (yes, you need one of those…a well written legally binding document).  The end of your partnership may be the farthest thing from your mind, but at the start of your partnership you should consider the possibility that someday, for some reason, it could end.

Quite often the discussions you’ll have with any potential partner about the end of your partnership will provide the insight you need into whether or not the idea of a partnership or at a minimum this particular individual as a partner is really such a great idea after all.