"Should you be doing that?" - Understanding the value of your time

by Jay Weller, Owner @ Barista Pro Shop

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As an owner or manager of a specialty coffee business, you are faced daily with almost unlimited choices of what to do with your time. There are a lot of chores involved with running any business - run to the bank, take out the trash, wait on a customer. All these things are important to a successful business, but should you be the one doing these tasks? For many of us, the longer term projects easily take a back seat to stuff right in front of us that seems to have greater urgency. Working with your bank to improve your terms, negotiating or shopping for a higher value trash service, developing marketing to increase the flow of future customers that need to be waited on - these are simple examples of enhancements you can make to your business - but these projects can be tough to complete when you're a barista one minute and clearing tables the next minute.

My goal is to encourage you to track how you spend your time for one week, and then to evaluate what tasks you can train someone else to do.

Tracking your time should be simple. Make a daily chart that has a column for every hour you work that day. For the rows of the chart, define your common tasks and leave a few blank rows to write in unanticipated jobs. Carry a timer with you and set it for an hour at the beginning of each hour (many cell phones have a timer or alarm feature) to remind you to stop and review what you've been doing. At the end of each hour, put a slash mark in the appropriate box for every 15 minutes you spent doing one of the tasks. Concentrate on determining what you spent the bulk of that 15 minutes doing. I realize that you're always multitasking, but try to get the general theme of how your time was spent that hour. Each column should end up with four slash marks in it (they might be all in the same box!) At the end of the day, add up the number of slash marks in each row and divide by four - this will convert your slash marks to hours. Now you know how your day (at least 8 hours of it) was spent.

How'd you do? Did you spend many hours improving your business? Did you spend most of your time working in your business as opposed to working on your business? If you can honestly say you spent most of your time making your business stronger, then congratulations! It might be a good idea to have your managers or shift supervisors run through the exercise to start moving them towards working on your business too. If you're looking at this and realizing that you spend an awful lot of time working in your business, that's okay - you've made a critical observation and now you can work on improvement.

Start looking at all the tasks you put in the first column and organize them into a few groups. Your groups might be: "Mine", "Employee", "Outsource". For the example chart, you might decide that Bookkeeping can be outsourced, Banking and Scheduling needs to be done by you, and that Barista, Inventory, Ordering and Cleaning can all be done by an employee.

Once you've decided which tasks should be done by an employee, you may have to set some systems up. For example, if you've always done all of the inventory and ordering, you might have an informal way of doing it. This is the time to formalize it. Create a spreadsheet with all the products you order, grouped by vendor or type of product (ingredient or cleaning supply) and set up your par levels - a par level is the quantity you build your inventory to. You should then give your employee the guidelines for ordering from your vendors. Is there a minimum order? Do they ship on demand, or do they deliver once a week? Once your employee has the guidelines and is trained to do inventory, the next step is for them to place the order. How much time did you just get back? How are you going to use it?

While you were tracking your time, you may have noticed some projects that you could work on once you found the time. Always keep your eyes open for projects that will make your business better over time. Projects that cut costs can be good. Projects that increase revenues are better. We have a number of Ask The Pros articles that will inspire projects for you.

It can be easy to get off the track of working on your business. I know firsthand that it's often faster and easier for you to just take care of something yourself. If it's a unique task or something that you are really the best suited person on the staff to do, that's okay. If it's a recurring job, you should consider delegating it and developing a system to ensure it's done to your standards. It's unlikely that you chose to take on a small business just to provide yourself a job. Assign the jobs to someone else and enjoy the process of growing your business - no one is going to be more passionate about that than you!

Don't forget our sample time management chart. If you have any questions about this article, or if you'd just like to talk shop, you're always welcome to call me at (866) 776-5288 or email me at Jay@BaristaProShop.com. Anything I can do to help you make your business stronger will work towards my goal of making our business stronger!

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