Avoiding False Economies

Everyone wants to save money – that is a given. Beware falling victim to false economy however. You do not want to save money in one area of your business only to have that savings cost you more in another. The classic example of this is driving across town to save a few cents on gas. Yes, you saved seventy-five cents on the gas you bought, but you used a dollar’s worth of gas to do so. What you have is a net loss.

false economySometimes in business the cause and effect of expenditures are not as direct as buying gas, but they are still there. For instance, many small businesses are tempted to use the least expensive phone service available. The problem is that an undependable phone connection can cause you frustration, lost customers, and give your business a poor reputation. All it takes is one or two clients turning away from you because you are hard to get hold of or the connection is always scratchy to more than offset that savings you gained by using a cheap service.

Another example is the purchase of equipment such as computers, faxes, or printers. Too often the price of the machine is the overriding factor in what is bought. What is left out many times is the needs assessment. If you invest in a new computer without looking at the requirements to run your software, the environment that it will be running in, the number of users it will have, the expected life-span and so on, you will end up either having to buy additional equipment or you will find your operations hampered. If processes take too long to complete, can’t be done, or must be out-sourced, this can result in lost customers, employee frustration, and direct additional expenses.

Finally, and an often neglected area, is training. When you or someone on your staff is not up-to-speed on the software you are using, tasks take longer, errors are introduced, and poor job satisfaction follows which can result in turn-over and poor customer service. Sure training costs money, but I have seen many an example where simply taking a one day class would give a person skills that enable them to shave hours per week off their work. Those hours can be spent doing additional work, building strong customer relationships, or even just enjoying life! Here, a class that cost perhaps two-hundred dollars can pay for itself in time and productivity within a few months. In more than one case I have seen days cut off monthly procedures and outsourced functions brought easily back in-house.

The key to all of these is to think beyond the immediate outlay of cash to what that purchase is really providing to your business. Every expenditure you make is an investment for your business. If using a cheaper alternative costs you even one sale, is it worth it? In some cases the answer may be yes. But in other cases, when you really look at how much it costs you to drive across town for that gas, the more expensive option may be the one that provides the greatest return.

Does Your Phone Control You?

Have you ever been meeting in someone’s office and had the phone ring? Do they turn away from their meeting with you to answer it? How about sitting around at the dinner table with the family. When the phone rings do you leave the family to answer the phone? In both of these situations, what do you think that says about priorities? Are you setting your priorities, or are the phone and the people calling?

Suckeled by the cell phoneAll too often when I am at one of my kid’s events I see parents spending the entire time on their cell phones. Now I am not talking about emergencies. We have all had those. I can vividly remember one of my son’s soccer games where I spent the entire game way off to the side talking to various technicians about problems with the network at my office. No, I am talking about the parents who spend the entire game talking about just junk and not watching their children play. And don’t think for a second that the kids don’t notice. They make a play, turn to the stands, and see that mom or dad is talking on the phone.

At work there are tons of distractions. But, when you schedule time with a colleague that is a reserved time that should only be interrupted for the most important of emergencies. By agreeing to the meeting you both have set aside that time to deal with whatever the agenda is. To have a member of that meeting turn away to answer either an unknown or trivial phone call is not only rude, it shows where on the rank of importance your meeting falls. It also implies that your time is of no value, because it can be wasted for whatever purpose.

I firmly believe that I schedule my priorities and that I should not let anyone else, by whatever means, rearrange those for me. If I am in a meeting with you, I do not answer the phone. In fact most of the time I will silence the ringer. Same goes for my son’s soccer game – I do not answer the phone while he is playing.

People often say to me, “I called you but you didn’t answer.” My response is, “I was busy right then, did you leave a message?” What kills me is when they say, “no, it wasn’t that important.” Well then why did you call?! And why would you expect me to interrupt something important that I was doing and that I had scheduled for something that, in your own words, “wasn’t that important”?

Remember, we all have control of our lives. We must, on a daily and hourly basis, exert that control or it will be taken away. Time is the only resource that we all, from richest to poorest, have in equal amounts. What you chose to do with that time is up to you. You control when you answer the phone and you control how interruptions affect your life.

Right? Wrong? Crazy? Am I so far off base here that I am in a different ballpark? Please let me know how you interact not only with your phone but with other people and their phones.