to do

Why To Do Lists Aren’t Enough

When it comes to personal productivity, most experts promote the use of to do lists to capture the important tasks or things you need to accomplish. And with smart phones and apps, your to do list is always handy.  But lists alone aren’t enough.

If you don’t prioritize the tasks and schedule time to actually do them, your to-do list will simply grow and you will continue to feel overwhelmed and frustrated. That’s why you need a system!

Here’s an approach that works for me and my business clients:

Make your list accessible and easy to use.  While most use phones or other devices, some still prefer a handy notebook. Either way, jot down tasks or new ideas when they occur. Avoid sticky notes or small pieces of paper to capture tasks and ideas – they get scattered, lost and forgotten.

Note: If the task has a drop dead due date, put it down. If not, leave the due date blank and you can apply it later without losing the idea or task. Do not start ‘working on it’ – simply capture it for now.

Plan and prioritize weekly. Pick a time you will use each week to prioritize your tasks and schedule your work for the coming week. Some prefer end of day Friday, before the weekend starts; others prefer doing this on the weekend. The key is to start the week prepared, and ready to act. Choose what works best for you and schedule the 15 minutes on your calendar each week as a reminder.

Break down big tasks or projects. If a project will take 4-5 hours to complete, what is the likelihood that you will find a ‘block of time’ that big to work on it? For most, the answer is never. So break the big project into a series of 30-60 minute chunks, apply due dates for each chunk/task, and work on the smaller pieces.

Establish due dates and priorities. Pull up your to do list and identify the tasks or activities you must complete over the next seven days to meet deadlines or make progress on bigger projects. Next to each task, write down how long you believe it will take to complete the task. Most of us under-estimate the time, but improve over time.

Finally, make sure all the tasks on this list are important, move you toward your goals and are the best use of your time for the coming week. If they don’t meet those criteria, delegate or eliminate them! Now prioritize your weekly list.

Put tasks on YOUR calendar. Whether you use paper or technology, your calendar is a must have tool to schedule appointments, meetings AND tasks you have on your to do list. With your calendar for the upcoming week in front of you, begin scheduling time to work on the tasks. Look for some similar activities, such as phone calls, that you can group together for added efficiency. Schedule each task; avoid creating big blocks of time to work on a lot of different stuff – it can be overwhelming. Be realistic and plan some buffers for the unexpected – that inevitably will occur!

Modify and update daily. At the end of each day, take 5 minutes to check off the tasks you completed – it feels great to do this! Next, if there are any tasks you didn’t accomplish, ask yourself why? Did you over-schedule, under-estimate the time needed or simply get hit with too many unplanned interruptions or ‘emergencies’? Learn from this for the future. Now, move the unfinished tasks to the next day or later in the week.

If the tasks you scheduled have true deadlines and move you toward your goals, don’t keep pushing them back. You will eventually run out of time in the week. You may need to reshuffle other activities, eliminate non-essential meetings, eliminate interruptions or phone calls, come in a little earlier or stay a little later.

Personal productivity takes discipline. But with the right system, you too can get more done with the time you have. It’s simply a matter of planning the time!

New Monthly Article & Business Tools

For new business improvement articles, exclusive tools and insights on entrepreneurship, click here to subscribe to my monthly eNewsletter. When you do, I’ll also send you my free eBook, How to Build Profit Through Leverage.

Improve Leadership Skills

Gross Margin: What You Need to Know to Avoid Disaster

Gross Margin-What You Need to Know to Avoid DisasterGross profit margin is one of the most important metrics in your business.  It can make or break a company because it impacts how you price your products and make a profit.   Here’s what you need to understand to avoid costly mistakes and build sustainable profit.

What is Gross Margin?

Gross profit is the money that is left after you have covered all the variable costs associated with the sale of your products or services. Depending on the type of business, these expenses (sometimes called COGS or COS) include direct labor or wages, raw materials, supplies and inventory.

And since your gross profit is needed to pay your fixed or overhead expenses and YOU in wages or draw, it is worth knowing and monitoring.

How to Calculate Gross Margin

Using historical data for one year (or one business quarter), identify total Revenue (or income) and COGS (variable costs) for the same period.  To calculate gross profit margin:

  • Revenue (Sales) minus COGS (Variable Costs) = Gross Profit $
  • Gross Profit $ divided by Revenue $ = Gross Profit Margin (%)

Here is an example.

  • Revenue ($600,000) minus COGS ($320,000) = Gross Profit ($280,000)
  • GP ($280,000) divided by Revenue ($600,000) =  GP Margin (46.7%)

Once you know what your historical margin is, calculate and monitor it monthly or quarterly to identify any swings, negative trends or potential problems.  For example, if your historical margin is 46% and your current margin is 41% you have a red flag – something is potentially wrong.  Margin changes may not always be so obvious.  They may consistently trend downward (45%, 44%, 43%).  Do some checking.  Why wait until it hits 39%.

Why Margins Fluctuate or Decline

While this may vary by type of business, here are some common reasons why your gross profit margins may fluctuate or decline:

  • Discounting products or services – this is killer!
  • Overtime pay or wages for direct labor employees due to staffing issues
  • Vendor price changes (materials, supplies or inventory) without adjustment in selling price
  • Theft by employees, customers or both
  • Inefficient service delivery or manufacturing – higher than expected labor costs
  • Improper invoicing to customers or non-payment by customers
  • Incorrect or duplicate payments to vendors for materials (yes I have seen this!)
  • Product mix changes.  Replacing high-margin sales with low-margin sales
  • Incorrect assumptions on variable costs – especially labor and materials.

Knowing your gross margins for all your products or services and monitoring them as your business grows will help you identify problems before it is too late and help you uncover some hidden opportunities to improve them!

Let the Journey Begin | Free Consultation

Would another set of eyes, ongoing support and accountability from an expert help you take your business in a new and better direction? Let’s explore the possibilities with a brief, complimentary consultation.  No obligation, only opportunity. Click here to schedule your free consultation today.

time wasters to avoid

7 Time Wasters to Avoid

Back to school means back to work. With the lazy days of summer drawing to an end, it’s time to refocus and get back to business. So it’s also a good time to reinforce a few things to boost your personal productivity.

7 Productivity Killers

You have unclear goals and priorities. This is one of the biggest time killers for small business owners. Without clear goals, you have no basis for making decisions on where to spend your time or how to prioritize the many choices you face on a daily basis.

Only four months left. So get clear on what you want to accomplish (goals) and set priorities so you actually do them. It’s one of the best things you can do to improve your own personal productivity.

Tasks have no home. To-do lists provide a reminder of what you need to do, but they won’t get done unless you set time aside to work on them. Tasks that have no home on your calendar will remain forever on your to-do list. Review your list weekly and block off time throughout the week to work on what’s important. You’ll get more done and likely work on the right stuff!

You can’t remember what you have to do. If you don’t have a method to capture ‘to do’ items in one place — easily and effectively — chances are you will miss important tasks because you simply won’t remember. Kill the post-it notes that get lost or forgotten and use a planner or smartphone instead.

The tasks that are important are overly complex. It’s human nature to avoid tasks that are too complex or cumbersome. You need to simplify them. Break them down into smaller, more manageable tasks. Then attack them one task at a time. 

Your space is unorganized. A cluttered desk creates a cluttered mind. If the physical space in which you work is disorganized, it will steal a huge amount of time and energy from your day. 

If your workplace is a mess, try to dedicate 15 minutes a day to organizing. File away what you need to keep and throw out what you don’t. Take advantage of technology. Try scanning important documents to save time and space. Finding documents in your computer is always easier than searching through stacks of paper. 

You have a need for perfection. Not all tasks are created equal. If you set the same high standards for every task, you will get less done. Adjust your standards based on the specific tasks. Some are worth your extra effort, some are not. Remember, sometimes good is good enough!

Your work environment is full of interruptions. Being easily accessible or readily available has its drawbacks. Recognize this and plan for it. Create time each day that is interruption free – even if you must shut off the phone or leave your office to get it. While interruptions may not seem like a big deal, they add up and rob you of precious time each day.

Start Improving Productivity

The first step to improving personal productivity comes from recognizing the barriers that hold you back. The next step is to fix them. Take it one step at a time, but start applying these ideas and you too will get more done in less time!

Is Accountability Your Missing Ingredient? 

Are you ready to take a leap forward? To get started and stay on track? My accountability programs offer an affordable way to get the help you need.  More than accountability, this program provides business owners with structure, another set of eyes and practical advice too! Click here to learn more.

To learn more or schedule a free consultation, call me at (856) 533-2344 or drop me an email

Mid-Year Business Health Check

Ready For a Business Health Check?

As we approach mid-year, now is a good time to re-energize and recommit to your success. Are you on-track to reach your goals?  If not, take some time to re-evaluate your progress, adjust your plans and refocus your efforts.

Mid-Year Business Check-Up

A mid-year business health check can help you identify areas that need improvement or uncover opportunities to exploit.

Increased revenue covers up a lot of issues or gaps in a business. So it’s natural for owners to focus on sales improvements. But other areas impact results too — so don’t ignore them.  

Revenue | Sales

A consistent stream and new and repeat business is important to overall profitability — so let’s start there. 

  • Are sales higher than the same period last year? 
  • Do you have a good balance of new and repeat business? 
  • Is your average sale or transaction higher — or trending up? 
  • Are sales efforts focused on higher margin products or services — think profit? 
  • Are you generating enough leads — new or repeat business — to support your sales goals?

Operations | Service

A well-run business certainly increases profit. But it also reduces the daily stress that often comes with business ownership. Is continuous improvement really a priority? Let’s consider the following:  

  • Do you consistently deliver what you promise, when you promise it?
  • Are rejects or reworks costing you time and money? 
  • Can your business run without your day-to-day involvement — so you can enjoy time off and not skip a beat? Think systems and training. 
  • Do you have the right people — employees, contractors, and suppliers — to support your business and customers?  

Profit / Financials

As a business owner, profit is your reward for excellence in entrepreneurship. Are you and your business reaping the rewards?

  • Are you profit margins trending up or higher than last year? 
  • Do you have the cash flow you need to continue to grow?
  • Do you know where the profit leaks are — and how to fix them?
  • Is your personal income growing? Does it reflect your value, effort and risk? 

It’s never too late to set a new direction. Based on what you discover, make a few adjustments now and you will reap the benefits sooner rather than later.

For a comprehensive checklist to help you identify more hidden opportunities in your small business, click here to download my free Business Success Checklist.

Need Another Set of Eyes?

Ready to work with a coach to solve your business frustrations and leverage your business? Schedule your free session today. Click to learn more.

calendar - clock

How to Build Good Habits and Buy More Time

Need more time?  It’s one the biggest complaints I hear, especially from small business owners.  There are a lot of things you can do to improve personal productivity and get more done. It’s simply a matter of forming some better habits — and its easier than you think.

Habits are nothing more than behaviors that are repeatedly done — so they become almost automatic.  They require discipline and consistency. With increased personal productivity as a goal, lets start with some basics. Things you can do today to make a difference and build on later for continuous improvement.

Best Time Management Tools

To get started, you need the two BEST time (self) management tools:

  • Calendar where you record your business and personal commitments and schedule important tasks.
  • Master To Do List where you capture all the critical tasks or stuff you need to get done so you can schedule the time to work on it.

Whether you use your phone, tablet or print planner, keep them handy and easily accessible.  You won’t use a calendar and to-do list if it’s inconvenient or you need to go find them all the time!

3 Steps to Get More Done

Now that you have the tools, make it a daily habit of doing these three things:

  1. Prioritize tasks on your to-do list.  All tasks are not created equal.  Some are urgent and important, some are important but less critical and others are simply not important or critical – when time allows! Tasks that are not urgent now may become pressing later if left undone – so review and re-prioritize as needed.
  2. Review your calendar for next day commitments.  If you have appointments or meetings, pull together what you need in advance.  It will eliminate stress and makes for more effective meetings.
  3. Schedule the next day ‘to do’ items on your calendar. Getting up with a plan for the day is the key.  For many, it is energizing.  More important it keeps you focused.

At the end of each day, check off the completed tasks, which feels great, then re-prioritize tasks and schedule the next day.  It’s a great habit to form and will certainly help you get more done.

A few additional time-management tips
  • Don’t over-schedule.  Be realistic.  Tasks often take longer than we anticipate so build in a little buffer.
  • Commit to Yourself.  When you schedule time for important tasks, give these ‘self’ commitments the priority you would give to meetings or commitments to others.
  • Match energy level.   Take advantage of high energy times to focus on important tasks.
  • Minimize distractions.  Unless YOU set the expectation, your customers, suppliers, and staff won’t expect 24/7 accessibility.  A timely response works fine.  Check email and phone messages three times per day — morning, lunch and about an hour before you head home. Don’t let the phone, text, and email rob you of precious time each and every day.
Ready to Build Your Own Success Story?

Are you ready to move your business in a better direction and wonder if working with a business coach can make a difference? Then let’s explore the possibilities with a complimentary consultation. It’s a chance to get to know each other, discuss your goals and the obstacles that hold you back. Together we can determine if there is a good fit between your needs and my services.

To learn more or schedule an appointment, call me at (856) 533-2344 or drop me an email

Customer Experience

How to Create a Great Customer Experience

Drive Referrals and Repeat Business

Most businesses focus resources on the stuff that gets the phone to ring, social sharing, location visits or website traffic. But what happens next can be the difference between a one-time sale or a lifetime customer.   It’s all about the total customer experience.

The term customer experience is the sum of all interactions a customer has with a company over the duration of their relationship.  In other words, it covers all the steps or building blocks on the loyalty ladder:  awareness, discovery, attraction, interaction, purchase, use, cultivation and advocacy.

You have a lot of chances to create a customer experience that gets people talking – good or bad – about your company.    Do it right, you get more repeat business and referrals.  Mess it up, you get none.  Sales and profit suffer, along with your reputation.  Don’t leave it to chance.

Customer Experience | Why It’s Important

Most of us recognize that customer loyalty drives referrals, reviews and repeat business. So this alone is a good reason to focus on improving the customer experience.  But here’s another reason worth considering.  

With products and services becoming commodities fast and price differentiation not sustainable, delivering a superior customer experience really does provide a competitive advantage because others can’t quickly replicate what you are doing.

3 Steps to Superior Customer Experience
Map Out What You Want

What do you want the total customer experience to look like from start to finish?  Here are a few things to consider:

  • How knowledgeable are your people as it relates to your company’s core values, products and services, and your customer needs and expectations?  Interactions with potential customers are not limited to your marketing and sales staff.  Your entire team encounters opportunities inside and outside the business.  Make everyone a customer advocate and give them the knowledge to pull it off.
  • What should your sales process look like from initial contact to ultimate sale? What are the touch points along the way? Building relationships take time and often more than one contact.
  • How should your product or service delivery work in order to insure quality and efficiency?  Is the hand-off from sales seamless to the customer or do they feel abandoned after they purchase or sign a contract?
  • What about billing?  Is it convenient, timely and accurate?  Are you taking advantage of technology to customize methods based on customer preferences?
  • What are you doing after the sale to continue to build the relationship?  Phone follow-up calls and surveys are a great way to say thanks, get feedback and ask for referrals. Do you have a system to insure after sales activities get done consistently?

You probably already have an idea of how you would like the customer experience to work. So decide what you want, document it and implement consistently.

Build a Few Measure to Track and Share

What you select may vary based on your type of business and objectives.  You don’t need a lot of measures, but you do need a few that have an impact on customer retention, satisfaction, and loyalty.  Here are a few examples: 

  • Customer satisfaction scores based on phone survey
  • Quality rating — is it done right the first time?
  • Service level scores — on-time delivery or service appointments.
  • Renewal rate — do customer re-sign up after initial terms?
  • Referrals or online reviews — how many are you receiving each month? 
Look For Ways to Keep Getting Better

Make business improvement and service an ongoing effort. Get your team, customers and suppliers involved.  Here are two questions to consider:

  • What can we do to make it easier for prospects and customers to do business with us?
  • What can we do to inspire them, to make them smile or surprise them? It doesn’t need to be something really big. Simple things like “please” and “thank you” go a long way today.

Make your total customer experience a real asset for your business.  You’ll be rewarded with raving fans who buy again and gladly tells others. Then smile as your competitor’s try to play catch-up.

Ready to Put Your Business on the Path to Success?

Would working with a business coach help you take your business to a whole new level? Then let’s explore the possibilities with a complimentary consultation. It’s a chance to get to know each other, discuss your goals and the obstacles that hold you back. Together we can determine if there is a good fit between your needs and my services.

To learn more or schedule an appointment, call me at (856) 533-2344 or drop me an email


Where Do Your Business Priorities Fall?

In simple terms, businesses perform two major functions — marketing and distribution. Both are important to profitability.  Distribution is the process of getting your products and services to your customers. Marketing is the process of getting the customers to come to you.

So how much time, effort and investment are you making in both of these critical areas?  Are they given equal priority?  For most small businesses, the answer is no..

Many small businesses spend the majority of time serving or delivering the products or services to customers.  In other words, focused on the distribution side.  They invest in marketing and sales when time allows or when they see a drastic drop in sales. Big mistake.

Building a pipeline of new sales opportunities while increasing sales to existing customers takes time.  It is not a stop-start activity.  Plan and make marketing and sales activities something you do daily, weekly and monthly – and do it consistently.  It will pay off on the bottom line.

Struggling to find time to build marketing activities into your busy days? Then check out an earlier post, #1 Rule for Getting More Customers, for some ideas that take less than 15 minutes!

New Monthly Article & Business Tools

For new business improvement articles, exclusive tools and insights on entrepreneurship, click here to subscribe to my monthly eNewsletter. When you do, I’ll also send you my free eBook, How to Build Profit Through Leverage.

Leaking profit

How to Plug the Profit Leaks In Your Business

Quick Books provides small business owners with the data they need for tax purposes. But are you using the information to help you make better business decisions, uncover opportunities and plug the profit leaks that cost you money?

If too much of your profit is slipping through your fingers, here are a few suggestions.

7 Tips to Get More From Quick Books

#1 – Stay Up-To-Date. Keeping records current does not require posting transactions daily. For many small businesses, weekly or semi-monthly is fine! Whether you do it yourself or delegate (outsource) it to others, keep your records up-to-date. Timely record keeping is often more accurate and leads to better decisions, fewer customer complaints, faster payments, better inventory management and happy vendors who will go the extra mile!

#2 – Reconcile Bank Account. In managing cash flow, some owners rely on their online bank statements or balances. This can be problematic because it doesn’t include pending payments. But even with technology today, errors can still occur. You can uncover problems quickly with a monthly reconciliation. If you use QB online, you can automatically upload transactions from the bank to monitor transactions. 

#3 – Manage Credit Cards and LOC’s. Because it’s easy to download credit card transactions right into Quick Books, some use this method. If you do, make sure transactions are properly posted to the right accounts or customer jobs and and amounts are accurate when doing your monthly reconciliation. Don’t assume.

#4 – Invoice Customers Quickly. Why wait a week or more to bill a customer? With online invoicing and smartphone credit card capabilities, you can bill from anywhere. The sooner you bill, the sooner you get paid!

#5 – Use Time Tracking. While we associate time tracking with companies that bill by the hour, any service business can use this tool to help evaluate labor costs associated with customer jobs. From lawn care and cleaning services to plumbers and HVAC services, knowing this information can be helpful when setting prices. More important, it can help you improve efficiency that impacts profit.

#6 – Measure Job or Customer Profit. Stop wondering if you made money on a project or customer. Quick Books allows you to capture both income and related expenses, including labor and materials, at the project or customer level. Would knowing this information help you price more effectively or focus on certain projects or customers? The answer for most business owners is yes!

#7 – Use Reminders. You can ‘memorize’ transactions and set low-stock inventory levels to trigger reminders. This is helpful for bills that occur periodically, tax payments, important or rarely used materials that have long delivery lead times, and future invoices for recurring customers or payment plans. It saves time and money!

Reports To Find Profit Leaks

In addition, Quick Books has a lot of different reports to help you manage your business and find some hidden opportunities for improvement, Most reports include a prior year comparison, helpful for looking at trends! The P&L or Income Statement is used by most owners. But what about the Balance Sheet? It provides a snapshot (balances) of your assets and liabilities, including bank accounts, credit cards, LOC, accounts receivable, accounts payable, payroll liabilities, inventory and more.

Depending on your business or what you uncover on your P&L and Balance Sheet, you may want to dig deeper. And Quick Books makes that easy too. Some of my clients find these reports helpful: A/R or aging reports, sales summaries by customer or representative, inventory report and job/customer profitability reports.

More Ways to Grow Your Business

For new business improvement articles, exclusive tools and insights on entrepreneurship, click here to subscribe to my monthly eNewsletter.  As a thank you, I’ll also send you my free eBook, How to Profit Through Leverage.


The Cost of Doing It Yourself

As a business owner, would you pay someone $200 an hour to pick up supplies, post on social media, or perform customer follow-up? Probably not.  Yet every day, small business owners overpay for such things by doing it themselves.

What Is Your Time Worth?

We all value our time.  But do you put a value on your time?  When you work for someone else, it’s easy to do – your rate of pay.  But as a business owner, we don’t tend to think that way.  But it’s a great tool to help you prioritize the work YOU do versus what you delegate or outsource to others.

If you have never done this, here is a simple way to approach it. Let’s consider three things:

  1. What is your personal income goal? What you want to earn in salary or draw?
  2. How many hours per week do you want to work?
  3. How many weeks vacation do you want to take? Yes you should take time off and get away!

Using this information, you can easily calculate your hourly ‘value’ rate. Here is a simple example to demonstrate this:

Let’s assume you want to pay yourself $150,000 annually, work 40 hours a week and take two weeks off for vacation.  Then your hourly value would be annual pay ($150,000) divided by number of weeks (50) divided by number of hours (40) or $75 per hour.

Of course as the owner and leader of your company, you drive results. So shouldn’t you consider that when calculating your value? Here’s a good incentive — replace your personal income with annual sales. For this example, let’s assume $750,000. So your hourly value would be $750,000 / 50 weeks / 40 hours or $375 per hour.

Whichever approach you take, you will quickly realize your time is worth a lot more than you realize. Stop spending time on tasks that you could easily delegate or outsource. Focus more of your time doing the things that only you can do — things that move you and your business forward.

You may not be able to rid yourself of all low-value tasks tomorrow. But there is a cost to doing it yourself. So start eliminating them over time and you will get there.

More Ways to Grow Your Business

For business improvement articles, exclusive tools and insights on entrepreneurship, click here to subscribe to my monthly eNewsletter.  When you do, I’ll also send you my free eBook, How to Build Profit Through Leverage.

5 Reasons to Work With Business Coach

5 Reasons to Work With a Business Coach

A business coach can certainly help you progress faster and accomplish more than you would on your own.  While the reasons I hear from my clients vary by business owner, the most common reasons include:

#1 – Business Growth. To spark new ideas and offer practical advice and support to turn ideas into actions that lead to increased revenue and profitability.

#2 – Accountability. To encourage and support your goals, keep you on track, teach you new things and push you to reach your full potential.

#3 – Sounding Board. To discuss business concerns, offer an outside perspective and challenge beliefs that can hold you back.

#4 – Shortcuts. To save you valuable time and help you avoid common mistakes that lead to frustration or worse, financial losses.

#5 – Empowerment by transferring knowledge TO you – creating self-reliance, not dependence.

Business Coach Fills the How-To Gap

Entrepreneurs are never short on ideas.  You may know things need to improve but are not sure where to start or how to get things done. A coach can help fill the “how-to” gap by bringing in the expertise and support you need to turn ideas into results.

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

When you acquire new skills and knowledge, they are yours forever.  To apply today or sometime in the future. As you grow, so will your business. Knowledge really is the gift that keeps on giving!

Ready to Put Your Business on the Path to Success?

Would working with a business coach help you take your business to a whole new level? Then let’s explore the possibilities with a complimentary consultation. It’s a chance to get to know each other, discuss your goals and the obstacles that hold you back. Together we can determine if there is a good fit between your needs and my services.

To learn more or schedule an appointment, call me at (856) 533-2344 or drop me an email