Managing your resources

The biggest constraint on a business is not always cash, but the time and resources of the owner. Using your resources efficiently and effectively can make the difference between success and failure.

Business-owners can use their time on 'income-generating' (those matters that get work done and which you are paid for) and 'non-income-generating' matters. Almost all business-owners spend most of their time on income-generating parts of the business . Non-income-generating parts include talking to suppliers and potential customers, talking to your bank manager, and planning. Time spent on these parts is important as it is an investment for the future. You must take it into account when you work out your pricing policy.

It may take years before you see a result from the time you invested in non-income-generating areas, but if it does pay off it will have been time well spent. Of course, you cannot neglect the productive side of the business. You have to find the balance that is right for you.

Managing your time

We have already discussed your focus and direction. The next stage is making sure your activities take you in the right direction. Many small businesses are 'busy' but some confuse 'activity' with 'achievement'. We all have a limited time to complete jobs - and as we have said, time is the most valuable resource.
Here are some ideas to help you make the most of your time:

1 Plan ahead

Preparing a list of jobs to complete the next day can be useful as a way of prioritising work loads. It also prevents people completing just the jobs that they will enjoy!

2 Concentrate on the MAIN THING

List your tasks in order of importance using the following code:

All of us are tempted by things that are easy or interesting. That is fine if they are the main tasks, but sadly this is rarely the case. Plan your day's activities in order of importance.

3 Celebrate

As you work through your day's list of priorities and you finish a task, physically cross this off your list. This does wonders for your motivation. Remember to get the As done before you attempt anything else.

4 Make decisions

We are all asked to take on extra tasks and we always come across other opportunities and ways of doing things - this is where we must use our judgement and make decisions. For example:

If the answer to one of these is 'no' - then say 'NO'!

5 Clear the decks

Delegate whatever you can. Say 'no' to distractions. If you find yourself thinking about a 'distraction' too much, write it down and deal with it later. This clears your mind to get on with the job in question.

6 Do it now

Taking too long over decisions is the biggest waste of time. If you know what you have to do - get on with it! You are then less likely to suffer from stress. The two biggest causes of stress in people are:

Get your time management right and structured around your major aims! Life then becomes easier and more productive. By all means work hard - but make sure you work wisely.

Stock and assets

Apart from your own time, the other resources in your business that need managing are people, stock and fixed assets.

The phrase 'stock turn' is used to describe the relationship between the amount of money you have tied up in stock and the cost of your sales. The quicker you process your stock, the more efficiently your investment is working for you. Remember, you usually only get paid when you complete a job, so completing jobs and reducing 'work in progress' is essential.

In terms of managing your assets, look at the four principles of best use, efficiency, quality and waste. You will need to gather all the information on your assets (such as machinery) and decide:

Environmental management

The environment is beginning to have an increasing effect on the success of businesses throughout Europe. Being aware of environmental laws can help you anticipate and reduce that effect. Managing how your business affects the environment can help you improve your performance and reduce costs. Being environmentally aware can also help you identify new market opportunities.

You should not consider the environment as a separate business issue. Consider it alongside other commercial aspects when managing your resources. In understanding your own products and processes better, not only can environmental effects be reduced but commercial benefits can also be achieved. For example, controlling resources by reducing waste may give you an advantage over your competitors because:

A comprehensive environmental policy should deal with all aspects of your business, from using paper through to energy efficiency and not just the final product or service. When drawing up your environmental policy it may be useful to think of areas under the following headings:

Anticipating change helps make you more effective and competitive. Running your business in an environmentally-responsible way can help you reduce the risks to your business. This can not only save you money but also secure your market share with the growing number of customers, who take account of the environment when they buy goods and services.