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Organising your Time


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#1 Sator

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Posted 05 May 2009 - 12:15 AM

You run a small business. You do most of the cutting, and a little a lot of the tailoring too. You deal with clients. You answer the phone. You answer your emails. You keep the accounts. You do the ordering. It's hard to do your work of cutting/tailoring without the phone going off. You aren't big enough to hire a secretary.

How do you go about organising yourself. Do you organise things by having some sort of system of appointments? Do you have periods where you close the shop to customer enquiries just to catch up with your work of cutting/tailoring, with the answering machine turned on? When do you answer your email enquiries (especially if you have a website)? Do you devote a time slot to answering your email customer enquiries?

#2 jcsprowls

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Posted 05 May 2009 - 02:20 AM

This is where I would suggest looking at Tim Ferris's website and book for inspiration.

Because we work a product-oriented business, somebody must be there to operate the business. No product = no sales. However, a lot of the tasks the manager has to deal with really don't require specialized skill. You can train someone to answer basic questions and setup appointments over the phone.

What I would suggest is to first look at all the tasks you do that are time-consuming, yet do not generate revenue. Those should be the tasks you consider to outsource/offload, first.

90% of the emails I receive are a request for a pricelist. Sometimes it's a little difficult to see for all the other words around it. But, that's eventually what the prospective customer is trying to get at. Advice: take a good, hard look at it. You know they want or need something from you; but, what is it they're really getting at? Try to abbreviate the 'noise' between the greeting and the delivery.

And, be frank with yourself, too. People who inquire about price before they know what they're looking for aren't going to convert to customers in the near term. I don't spend a lot of time on those requests. If they don't know what they need, yet, then how can they assign a value to the job?

I remain pleasant, charming, informative, brief... that's about it. I don't give away any proprietary information about my company. I don't spend a tremendous amount of time building a case, selling, etc. If they don't know what they need or how valuable it is to them, how can I begin to guess?

You might think that I recommend publishing pricelists on your website. I don't. See... these things are sometimes overly done and difficult to read for the consumer. If you can articulate a range of prices for total job package, do that, instead (e.g. "platinum grade" 2-pc suit ranges: $1100-1350, etc.).

People who shop by price, first, are budget shoppers. So, don't disparage them; but, don't lose time feeding the behavior, either. Give them the tools they need to come to you in their own time.

I'd rather spend the same amount of time writing articles, informing the masses of how to be better customers than to spend that same amount of time repeating it once, and again, and again. In time, the articles will serve as a repository that a virtual secretary can refer to in order to answer frequent questions or can direct the prospective customer to via hyperlink/email.

Personally, I chunk up my day in 2-hr increments. Every 2 hrs I take a smoke and coffee break, then return to work for a different type of task. For example: I cut all of yesterday's styles between 10-12; answer emails and voicemails between 12-1; make new patterns/styles between 1-3; answer emails and vmails between 3-4; and, sew between 4-6. At the end of the day, I plot all the new styles for tomorrow and clean shop. After dinner, I give thought to articles to add to my blog (work in progress). Each day also has a different administrative theme, too. Mondays are banking & finance, so I do related errands between 8-10 and keep that mindset all day. Tuesdays are for ordering, Wednesdays are for marketing, etc.

I am currently looking at bringing in an associate designer or patternmaker - someone who can fill a gap and also take on harmless administrative tasks (e.g. ordering/inventory, invoicing/deposits, etc.). Another option is virtual assistants who are paid by the task (i.e. piecework). I may bring on a VA in order to deal with phone and v/mail once the blog is operational. The VA can use the blog as a knowledgebase in order to respond to inquiries, pre-qualify customers and set up appointments.
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#3 jeeves

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Posted 05 May 2009 - 01:19 PM

Keep a spreadsheet to manage your cashflow. It doesn't need to be anything clever but if you must know when money is coming in and going out. It doesn't matter if you are owed a fortune and the business is in the pink of health because your business will die a sudden and horrible death if you run out of cash unexpectedly. It's possible to manage around lean times if you can see them coming in the spreadsheet (slip payments, part payments, etc.) but creditors absolutely *hate* surprises.

On the UK specific side; I have one thing to say Small Firms Loan Guarantee Scheme. I've used it several times and it works but you need to know the magic limits of the lender - what size can be lent locally and what needs to be referred. The other thing is get in touch with your local Business Link. Frankly these people couldn't run a business if their life depended on it but they are the gateway to a lot of government grants.

#4 Josef

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Posted 01 February 2010 - 03:56 PM

I usually start in the morning around 6 and work 2 hours before I have to head to my job on the outside. When I get home after 8-10 hours I pick up where I left off. This goes on every day and on weekends it usually 9-12 hours in the shop. As far as email, I answer all those in the morning before I head out to work. The phone calls I answer that evening when I get home or on the weekend, as most of my clients know that my partner and I also work regular job.
My ordering of materials goes on when I need it so it could be anytime.

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#5 tutorversal

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Posted 19 August 2016 - 06:58 PM

You will want to figure out what types activities or which individuals tend to end up wasting your time. 



#6 posaune

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Posted 19 August 2016 - 09:14 PM

Looking into computer and www :-)
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#7 SPOOKIETOO

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Posted 19 August 2016 - 11:58 PM

These types of issues are common in many businesses - not just tailoring.

As an Interior Designer the tasks are quite similar. I have used a printed daytimer for years. One of my first jobs required me to keep my time spent per job, so I bought a daytimer printed with timed 15 minute intervals, and when opened on the desk the entire week is displayed "At A Glance" (the Brand of some.) Many people now use their computer for this, but that doesn't work for me - and its more time consuming than a quick squiggle with a pen. Appointments are kept here and a system of abbreviations can also itemize how my time is spent.

I return voicemails at 10 am and 3 pm. Sometimes I leave this information on my voicemail, and the customer is able to leave me more information if theses times will not work.

Emails are first thing in the morning, right after lunch and sometimes at the end of the day.

I try to answer the phone when I can - if I'm doing something where breaking my concentration isn't an issue. If I need concentration, I ignore the phone - disabling the ringer when needed.

If I need to make special accomodations for myself to do a good job for my customer, I explain the reason to the customer. For instance, when I am at a job site, needing to verify as-built dimensions, I explain that I cannot talk as I do this, because I will mess up or forget something. Most people understand this immediately and leave me alone at this point. However some people have the need to "run at the mouth" nonstop. These people I gently dismiss, suggesting their time is needed elsewhere. It works. Honesty and kindness.

My one hardfast rule is that I ALWAYS discuss money at the end of the first face-to-face meeting. I literally make certain I have all the info I need and then I ask them if they have any other questions. Then I approach the money in a direct manner. "How is this to be financed?" "Are we working with a budget?" "Will this be going out to bid?" With restaurant kitchen design the costs run usually $200,000 to $500,000 or more. Even when I am certain they are good for the money with excellent reputation, this is the BEST time to establish how you are to be paid. Even something as simple as "At this time I like to discuss the costs" can work.

Discussing money is awkward for most people - no matter their lot in life.Some people will automatically assume you want to overcharge them due to personal greed, some people are literally taught from birth that the discussion of money is crass, and some - no matter how much they have - will be wondering and nervous about what something substantial is going to cost. The reasons are unending, but one fact remains the same. By the end of the first meeting both sides have relaxed a bit and a "friendly relationship" has not yet been firmly cemented. By the end of a second meeting the friendly relationship can be established causing a money discussion to become even more awkward as we tend to give our "friends" better pricing.

Phone calls are a necessary evil at times, we need the work and yet we need to work. Some of our local architectural firms answer no calls from 8- 10 am each morning. This allows their employees to concentrate on work in house instead of becoming distracted by the possibilites of the "new" and "potential" at the beginning of each day.




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