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Is Your Online Business Leaking?

Is Your Online Business Leaking? post image

It doesn’t matter if your business is just getting off the ground or whether it’s been established for many years, there will always be a time when you need to take stock. Not literally inventory your stock on hand (well you might need to do this if you are a retail business), but look at where your business stands today, and how successful and profitable it really is. Many small business owners don’t step back and look at the whole picture to figure out if their products really are making them the money they think, or if they could be doing a better job.

I’d be willing to bet when you take the time to evaluate your own business, you’re going to find some leaks. Maybe you’ll find a huge hole which might actually be easier to plug than the small cracks that drip away quietly. The small ones are often much harder to find and while one little crack might not make too much of a difference, when you put them altogether they do.

Put on your goggles, ‘cos we’re about to go leak-hunting. Leaks can fall into two basic categories – financial and time – but you can have more categories and label them as you wish. It’s all about evaluating and making your business better.

Here are some possibilities:

Time Leaks

  • Surfing the internet and browsing social media
  • Chatting online or via telephone with friends and family
  • Overboard research – spending too much time obsessing over small decisions
  • Family distractions, such as planning the weekend
  • Multi-tasking ineffectively (quietly raises my hand)
  • Coaching others for free
  • Blog hopping and generally wasting time reading the internet
  • Being a perfectionist – Better to have something now, than the perfect thing next week/month/year
  • Getting ready to start and general procrastination
  • Reinventing the wheel every time instead of setting up systems. If you have to do something more than once, try to automate it.

Financial Leaks

  • Buying products and services and not using them
  • Pricing your products and services too low
  • Once more – Coaching others for free
  • Not backing up your systems or products
  • Doing everything yourself instead of outsourcing
  • Not using the best tool or software for the job
  • Not keeping an accurate track of your finances
  • Paying recurring fees for things you don’t use or that aren’t producing a positive ROI

Spending money is not leaking money if it’s on something that positively impacts your bottom line, today. Don’t hesitate if it’s going to grow your online business.

We all have leaks, big and small. It’s what we do about them that helps us go forward. Come up with your own list of your business’ leaks and evaluate what they’re costing you. Time leaks are monetary losses too!

Once you’ve come up with your lists don’t spend a lot of time chastising yourself. Instead come up with your hole-fillers. As a creative business owner or entrepreneur, you CAN come up with solutions and ways to successfully implement those solutions. Revisit this leak-finding exercise periodically and consistently; perhaps quarterly, semi-annually or annually. You’ll be glad you did.

What leaks do you think you would find in your business if you honestly looked today? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment below.

About the author: Paper Free Invoices started out as a small blog for my invoicing software business Paper Free Billing but has morphed into something much more useful. I’ve really enjoyed reading the guest articles and speaking with guest publishers so much so I’m always looking for talented bloggers to contribute. If you have any questions or feedback on this article, please find your voice in the comment section, we will try to answer every genuine comment!

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  • Phyllis Moore

    This is a great overview of leaks. You have listed most of the ones I have thought of as well as some I hadn’t considered. This is very helpful!

    Perfectionism is a huge drain of time and energy as I know from personal experience. As the expression goes, “the perfect is the enemy of the good.” It’s far better to get something completed that’s good enough rather than obsess over minute details. There are always opportunities for revisions and changes down the road.

    Procrastination is another one. It tends to go hand-in-hand with perfectionism. It can often be the hesitancy over starting something because of fear of it not being perfect. I have found that holding myself to my to-do lists daily has helped greatly. I start with the tasks I perceive as most difficult and/or challenging and work through the list. It gives me a sense of accomplishment to do so.

    • Thanks Phyllis

    • oivas

      Hi Phyllis,

      Your idea of the to-do list is a good one. I think I am going to use it too. I can jot down the jobs or activities I need to get done in a day and start with the most difficult (or perceived difficult) ones and go through the list.

      I can sense the feeling of achievement that I may feel at the end of the day. Thanks for sharing that!

      • Phyllis Moore

        oivas,

        You are quite welcome! Yes, this strategy does work and I’m always looking for ways to improve it and fine tune it.

        Along with the to-do list I also set time limits for tasks so that they do not take up too much time — especially those difficult or dreaded tasks. The time limits are actually quite liberating. It’s a mental and emotional reminded that the task is not going to take all day and I can move on to the next one and the next one.

        • oivas

          Hi Phyllis,

          I agree, setting up time limits are so important. So, I understand that you are fine tuning your strategy, so do share whenever you come up with new ideas or ways of managing your time.

          I cannot thank Steve enough, for writing this article and generating so many thoughts and ideas, as an allied output!

  • sha2814

    How true! When working from home, time leaks can be the worst enemy! I don’t honestly label one of my leaks as procrastination – but more of an ADD issue. I get distracted easily – because my brain is way ahead of my hands.
    To help with this, I use the timer/alarm on my smartphone. At night, I line up my tasks for the next day on my phone’s calender. Then I set the alarm reminders at specific times so that I get ‘jarred’ back on track. For example, I schedule an hour for my blog at 10 am. So at 11 my phone alerts me that it is time to move on. This really helps me stay productive throughout my day!

    • Yeah working from home can be a minefield of distractions!

    • oivas

      Hey Sha2814,

      I face this problem of doing one job and continuing with it, without consideration for the other tasks at hand. For example, I have a full-time job and I also write in my free time, so when I am writing I tend to continue writing, chipping away some time from my job. I need to bring in that balance with your phone alarm trick.. Thanks a ton!

    • Phyllis Moore

      sha2814,

      We are on the same wavelength. I was just writing about how I schedule my tasks and give myself time limits and I scrolled down and read about your timer/alarm. That’s a great idea! I had been doing pretty much the same thing by watching the time on my computer.

      I think all of these time-management strategies are so helpful. Likewise so is sharing them with others. I’ve learned a lot from this article and from the comments. It’s an ongoing process to improve and to cut out distractions and I find it a gratifying process.

      In fact, what I do to help keep myself from being distracted is to schedule in an “official distraction” and keep it very short — say five minutes or so. It’s amazing how refreshing that can be, especially because I know I will get right back to my tasks at hand.

  • oivas

    Honestly, I had never ever thought of this. I am a process and an audit consultant and I know revenue leakages in an organization. I had simply not given enough thought to online leakages. This is kind of a new zone altogether to me.

    The points you mention are so pertinent and I wonder why I didn’t think of it before. For example, I do catch myself logging on the net for some work and ending up surfing all kinds of sites for absolutely irrelevant news. Thanks for pointing that out!

  • MoBowen

    I used to have a sorta, kinda bad problem with time leaks. My guilty pleasure, you ask? The Huffington Post. And those darn entertainment websites. You know, the ones with headlines like, “Who wore a shower curtain to the Grammy’s?” I don’t even read that stuff while standing on line at the grocery store. But every time I see one of those headlines online, I want to click.

    Anyway, I solved my problem by doing two key things:

    1) The night before I turn off the computer I plan my next days work schedule. I need to have 5 things on my list. I can usually get 5 things done during the time the kids are at school. But 5 isn’t so overwhelming that I feel like my list is never being completed.

    2) I time EVERYTHING using the Pomodoro technique. This mean I do 25 minutes of work and 5 minutes of break time using either a kitchen timer or FocusBoosterApp.com (which is free).

    I do a lot of content writing and using the Pomodoro technique has definitely helped me think, research and write faster.

    • Very interesting, I’d not considered using that.

      For our readers who might not be aware of what this is, heres an excellent link all about the pomodoro (Italian for tomato) time management method…
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomodoro_Technique

    • oivas

      MoBowen,

      I must say I am growing more intelligent being here at this site. I didn’t even know that there was something called as Pomodoro technique. Also, Steve, thanks for sharing the link. I am going to check it out instantly.

      I think that in a way, I am taking this 5 minutes break, sub-consciously. When I am at my office desk, I notice that I work for sometime and then get up and walk few steps and then come back and start again. I think I qualify for the Pomodoro technique award, without knowing it! :-)

      Thanks for sharing!

      • MoBowen

        Oivas… I find that a lot of people actually work this way, but they do it unconsciously. They may stop for a few minutes… look at Facebook… grab a cup of coffee… more Facebook, and so on. So what should be a 5 minute break actually ends up becoming a 20 minute time leak.

        When you start using the Pomodoro technique consciously, you will get a lot more efficient because you’re working on a set schedule. It helps you to keep your breaks in check.

        I’m glad I could help you!

        Monique

        • Phyllis Moore

          MoBowen,

          Likewise, I am also very appreciative for what you shared about the Pomodoro technique.

          That is similar to what I had been doing — I mentioned how I schedule in “official” five minute distractions — but this is so much better; it’s more systematic. I’m going to try it. I’m sure it will help my productivity soar as I also do a lot of content writing. I had already set a goal to work on becoming faster. I can see already how that method will help.

          I was also rereading the article, and I must say, I am also a recovering multi-tasker — I’ve learned the hard way how much that backfires. You think you’re getting things accomplished, but your time sprawls and you wind up with not much to show for it. I think the Pomodoro method will be helpful in addressing this issue as well.

          I’m learning so much from the dialogue here. It’s great that we have a chance to share our methods and strategies. As I see it, when we work from home we should also be committed and motivated to learn the strategies and methods that will help us become more productive.

  • Scottf14

    My business doesn’t leak, it’s a waterfall of lost time and efficiency! I really do need to focus more and stop procrastinating so much. I could make a lot more per hour of work than I do currently. However, I spend so much of my time surfing the net or simply pacing in my living room that it should be considered criminal!