Architects, Engineers, Contractors: Automate Your Business and Be In Control!
Do you know the difference between architects, contractors or engineers who work very hard, being constantly absorbed by a flow of urgencies and those that grow a business, earn good money, and enjoy a comfortable life? Keep on reading and you’ll find out.
This insight has also changed the way I manage my business, and I guarantee you I do not regret it. Because, who wouldn’t want to have his/her company running on autopilot while making decent profits?
Here we go.
You can use your time for 2 things:
1 – For fire killing: solving urgent problems, last minute schedule changes, accounting, answering emails, handling calls, damage control, dealing with the random day-to-day flow of unpredictable events, sinking away in administrative duties, emergencies and yelling clients.
2 – For working on procedures and putting systems in place in order to avoid fire killing: stepping out of the day to day rush, taking a deep breath, thinking on how you could set rules in place so your life or business becomes an engine that runs on autopilot.
I like to call the first: CONSUMING TIME. It’s like consuming money. It gives instant happiness. You spend 10 minutes on something urgent, and hooray, it’s solved! Then you move on to the next thing, and the next, and the next and the next…
It is an endless cycle that can leave you stuck in a rut. There will be a never-ending stream of calls, people to deal with, emails and issues that need your attention. If you keep burning your time on random urgencies, you will be exhausted and your business will never grow. You will always be the “master hero” jack-of-all-trades that has everyone’s respect, but no free time to enjoy life or to build a profitable business. You have to change this!
INVEST YOUR TIME wisely, instead of consuming or burning your time. Just like with investing money, investing time has an ROI (return on investment). At first you loose (money or time), but in the end you win it back 10, 100 or 1000 times.
Think about how you could organise and master your life and business. Spending your time on business improvements is an upfront investment that will pay for itself at a later date.
By working out a clear and organised procedure to support your clients, you don’t solve the problem of client XYZ who is calling you right now. That particular urgency is still there and that client is actually still yelling. But with a clear organised and documented procedure in place and spread across your company, all your future clients urgencies will be on autopilot.
Instead of handling support calls, text messages, emails and Twitter messages all by yourself in some random way, set up a centralised support email box across the company with clear rules in place for your team.
The same goes for other ‘processes’ in your company.
Make procedures for every aspect of your company that could be automated (CRM, accounting, HR, finance, document management, collaboration and communication flows with third parties …). Make this an engine. Outsource tasks that can be done by someone else and focus on value generating activities. Clearly define the rules of the game so that there is no room for misunderstandings and everyone knows what to do and when to do it.
Small side note: Outsourcing tasks does not necessarily mean to people within your company. Nowadays there are many ways to outsource tasks to freelance workers all over the world. Even a one-man businesses can successfully outsource all kind of jobs, instead of spending late night hours trying to accomplish everything on their own. Platforms like Upwork offer a great way to find your virtual assistant.
The ultimate goal of autopilot is less micro-management, and more time for adding value to your company yourself. You have more time for useful things where you really add value (like the art of architecture, attracting new customers, working on your portfolio, following the latest construction trends, or … investing in even more procedures and making your machine better and more profitable).
How do you do this?
There are so many aspects of life and business that you could automate. The highest return on time investment is in recurring and simple tasks.
Because they are recurring, you invest once, and benefit forever. Because they are simple, the rules of the game are short and clear and easy to explain to someone else.
Client support, holiday requests, recurring payments and reminders, invoicing, your email inbox, clients who call you late in the evening, a to do list, your agenda, project management. All of these activities are potential candidates to be automated once with an eternal ROI!
In order to have your business running on autopilot, three things need to be managed well.
As described above, define your company processes. Delegate responsibilities so that each member of your team knows exactly what they are supposed to be doing and when.
Be specific, clear and to the point. Write down a clear process, and share it with the team. If people still have questions or continue to do things in different ways, then refine the process until there is no room for any misinterpretations. If there is room for interpretation, there is room for misinterpretations and sooner or later you will wind up wasting your time doing these menial tasks again.
Make sure you work with people that can handle being part of a strict system. You don’t want people who have their own system of doing things the way they see best. Choose people that think like you. People who try to understand what’s best for the business. Choose people who can manage their time within in the system without being micro-managed. You want people that suggest improvements to the existing processes (to make them even better and more efficient), but they must also be willing to execute a given procedure even if they don’t agree with it 100%. You have a bird’s eye view over your company. You see the bigger picture. You know why the procedures are set up like they are, right?
In order to have a system of people executing processes in place, you need the tools that make that possible. Things like document management, software, collaboration tools, project management, time tracking, a file server and so on. Yes, tools do cost some money, but the return these tools can bring in terms of free time and money is well worth the investment. It is a no brainer to invest in the right tools.
With fire killing, you kill fires, but you never improve!
Just like investing money, investing time is an upfront investment, but it pays for itself very quickly. It’s an elevator for growth, more free time, more money, profit and confidence. It allows you to scale your architectural business. You are no longer a part of every little event in your business. You now have free time to add value that will grow and improve your business.
If you are still with me and reading this part, then I’m sure you understand the difference between “consuming” and “investing”. On this blog, I’ll share down to earth concrete tips and tricks on how to invest properly into your business to make it grow.