As an entrepreneur, you'll first run out of cash and then time. Usually, you will gain back the cash but it is a lot more difficult to gain back the time.
For me, each day runs by very fast. Like the hours now have shorter minutes. There is always a lot to do and no enough time. I am busy Monday to Sunday, and it seems like it would be that way forever. Yet, I still don't get enough done. And it is similar, though to varying degrees, for all entrepreneurs.
So how do you manage your time as an entrepreneur?
- Don't try to do everything. It's true that you might be able to do things better than the person you've hired. But you need to understand that you've got just 24 hours a day, and about 16 work hours a day. Why not spend it on more high value tasks and let other people handle the rest. I'm not good at following this advice. I currently do more than it's healthy (for both me and the company) to do. It's partly because of my personality; I seldom ask for help or delegate. Now I'm gradually changing.
- Set up a system or process that runs itself. This is another part I am failing at. You should have systems that work independent of you. So you can rest or do something else and it won't shut down. I have managed to achieve that with my marketing. I have two staff there and set up automated digital marketing. That way, I have been freed completely from marketing. I can bury myself in other works and not worry about where the next clients will come from. In fact, we get an excess stream of prospective clients that keeping up with them is the main problem we face (not getting new prospects). I plan to achieve this also in the operations arm of the business. It's been difficult because there is cost involved. It's not like I have infinite resources and can afford to hire people to do all the tasks I do. The trick is about working out a business process model that will make us cover all running costs regardless of business swings that is common in the consulting business.
- Avoid repeating yourself. Scale. If there is anything that most bothers me, it is the fact that I am having to work equally hard to get every extra naira. As a consulting company, every project is unique and requires working from scratch. And with this economic downturn, you will even be working harder for each naira. There is a lot of repeat effort. Same time consuming processes to win a contract/project, same pattern of time consuming meetings to scope the project and understand requirements, and building the solution from scratch. I am now getting sick of it. I am gradually shifting my focus to scaleable products. Something I can build once and keep selling. I just have to keep updating it with new features/content. I won't have to sweat hard for each extra naira. I have doubled-up on my web app development practice. I am turning down more jobs to have enough time to learn and practice it. Progress is slow but it's my ticket to a better business world. The paradise of having to make money while I (or the entire company) am asleep is only possible with products and not contracts.
- Focus. This is probably the only thing I am doing satisfactorily well. I have maintained my focus. I have not done like most Nigerians, spreading the business to cover unrelated services/products. I am even more deliberate in my focus, beyond sticking to the business data analysis only, I am also sticking to very few tools. I don't bother learning Tableau, Spotfire, SPSS, SAS and other analysis tools. I am not looking for job or building my CV. I have picked Excel (and it's child: Power BI). And for my web app: C#. I try to know them extremely productively well. So I work faster, better and more creatively with them. That way my project completion time is well optimized. What would take a master of many tools to accomplish in three days, I can get done in 6 hours. And since I know my tools inside out; I don't fall into the trap of taking a project Excel can't handle.