Learning to Wrangle Time and Cash from Unexpected Places Can Become Your Competitive Advantage

At home, I do the laundry. Matching my wife’s socks takes approximately the same time as folding the rest of the laundry. A while ago, I had the startling realization that I’d spent 173 hours folding her socks over the course of our marriage.

That’s 28 full-time working days. With the same critical lens, I took a fresh view of the “normal” activities in my professional life and was shocked at losses I’d accepted as the cost of doing business.

Years ago, my agency used to use a cumbersome software that took people – on average – 15 minutes to enter their time and to have those timesheets “released.” It’s only 15 minutes, right? Not really: for an agency of 10, that’s 85 business days worth of activity (assuming eight-hour days with hour-long lunches, 48 weeks of the year).

As business owners, we (should!) know the blended, all-in cost of an employee down to the hour. Say $87.12 per hour for the privilege of having an ass in a seat. Now, that 10 person shop just paid $52,000 for the privilege of utilizing time control—plus the cost of the software licenses.

Giving up on time control and the wealth of data it provides is suicide for a business, but $52,000 and 85 days of lost opportunity for any agency is a jagged pill to swallow. The sickening reality is that it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Add common, prospectively cumbersome tasks – tickets, workflow, non-centralized knowledge, etc. and the numbers start adding up astronomically.

It’s a long held axiom that entrepreneurs work long/hard, but I’d submit that much of that is trying to make up for lost opportunity and working harder to make up for systemic inefficiencies in a maturing business. The opportunity (read: necessity) is to look at everything in your business process with fresh eyes and critically evaluate the time and cost impacts. Hint: try not to do this with others around, as they’ll see the veins pop from your temples.

If that agency of 10 took their 15 minute time control transactions down to one minute, they’ve effectively shaved 93% of the cost off the activity and given themselves 79 days of additional billable time. Comparable and cumulative math for a pile of other areas, too. This “found time” can be levered to fuel growth, invest in R&D for your staff, or simply land more billable work.

As our grizzled controller continually reminds us, “if you watch the pennies, the dollars will come.” Now apply that discipline to your processes, activities, and your staff. You’ll be amazed at the amount of opportunity and savings you’ll generate.