How Productive Are You At Work?

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We’re notoriously bad at estimating time. We underestimate how long something will take to do and overestimate how much time we have to do it… a deadly mistake.

The livelihood of your business depends on you being able to estimate how much time you and your team spend on work tasks.

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Most humans can’t estimate their time accurately. This is why enjoyable events seem short and the boring ones seem to last forever.

~ TOGGL.COM

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THE FACTS

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A McKinsey&Company study of 1,500 executes (General Managers or above) across the globe have found that only 9% of respondents were ‘very satisfied’ with the way they spent their time.

Close to a third were ‘actively dissatisfied’.

More shockingly, nearly 50% admitted that they weren’t concentrating enough on the strategic direction of the business.

After speaking to hundreds of business owners, I’d say that nearly 8 out of 10 business owners are not paying enough attention to the strategic direction of their business or planning their success each year.

When was the last time you thought about the type of projects you want to spend your time on or how many hours a week you would like to work?

You can’t effectively calculate how many hours you want to work, if you don’t even know how long it takes you and/or your team to complete a task or project.
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“Time is the scarcest resource, and unless it is managed, nothing else can be managed.”

~ PETER DRUCKER

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Businesses have feast and famine cycles because business owners don’t know how long things take them to do.

They get stuck in the cycle of drumming up business and then having so much work that they can’t keep up… Then they’re left with no time to do marketing, sales and follow-ups calls, until they hit the next bust cycle.

This happens because they:
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  • don’t know how long it takes to get a new client
  • don’t know how long client projects really take to be completed
  • don’t factor in how long ‘marketing activities take to kick in’ and they wait until clients have dried up
  • don’t schedule weekly time in their diaries to do the important money-making activities in their business.

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Business owners who start tracking their work hours are normally shocked by how little time they spend on high impact activities that make money or move the business forward.
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EXAMPLE:

Let’s say you want to sign up 1 new client per week.
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1. Is that a realistic goal for your business and the industry you work in?

In some industries it can take 8-12 months to sign up a new client which means you’ll need to work this into your strategic planning for the year. On the other hand, you could have a business where 100 customers a week is the norm.
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2. Do you know which 2-3 activities will bring in a new client/customer each week for your business?

This is not about trends or what works for other people, it’s about what works for you.

Is it: Paid online advertising like Facebook Ads, phone calls, your Instagram account, building relationships with the right suppliers, your online or brick and mortar shop, speaking at events, print advertising or even radio/ TV advertising?
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3. How much time do you need to devote to these activities every week to be successful?

Well that will depend on how long it takes you from start to finish to sign up new clients – is it 5 hours, 3 days, a week or perhaps 8 months? Your approach would be very different for each.

These are the things you need to know if you want to stop the boom and bust cycles in your business. So where do you spend your time at work – is it on firefighting, admin, managing staff, operations, procrastination or business development?

Let’s find out.

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Track Your Time At Work 

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THE EXERCISE
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Tracking your time for a week but ideally one month will help you understand:

  • how you use your time at work
  • when you’re most productive
  • how ‘dead’ time zones occur and how to fix it.

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You might think you’re working as productively as you can, but many factors influence the time we take to do something e.g. energy levels, illness, stress, the environment, willpower and of course interruptions.
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Do you know how long it takes you to:

  • make follow-up calls with potential customers who previously requested information or quotes
  • contact existing clients for referrals
  • prepare and send out a quote or proposal
  • create a marketing email to clients
  • prepare for and have a client meeting?

Make it your mission to find out this week.

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THIS EXERCISE WILL PRODUCE SURPRISING RESULTS:
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#1 Start today and have a look at currently scheduled activities in your diary for the day + week.

#2 Edit each calendar entry for the week by adding how long you think the activity will take you to complete e.g. Meeting with Edward (150 min or 2hrs 30min) – include preparation time, travel time + actual meeting time.

#3 Decide how will you track your time e.g. pen + paper, excel spreadsheet or time tracking app. Don’t spend hours researching all the time management apps available, it defeats the purpose!

Keep it simple by downloading our time tracking template (in Excel) or sign up for the free version of Toggl or TrackingTime.

I personally use Toggl and it took me less than 5 minutes to sign up and get started. It tracks activities in real time or if you forgot to start the timer, you can later add the time manually. Both desktop and smart phone versions are available.

#4 Track your time daily for at least one week to get a grip on your time patterns. Work in 30 minute increments.

Don’t get hung up on tracking exact minutes when you do it manually – rough estimates are fine. You might be off by minutes but certainly not hours, which is still better than not tracking your time at all.

#5 At the end of a day compare what you’ve planned to do and the time you’ve allocated for the activity VS what actually happened.

Now we can start making informed decisions and tweak your behavior daily for better results.

 

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EXAMPLE TIME TRACKER IN EXCEL

 

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 PICK UP THE TRENDS

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Once you tracked your days for about a week it’s easy to spot trends in how you spend your days.
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CLARIFYING QUESTIONS

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By looking at your results over the last week:

  • On a scale of 1-10 how happy are you with the way you spent your time?
    (1 = lowest, 10 = highest)
  • Where was time wasted? 
    (note the times + the specific activities)
  • When were you super focused and got a lot done in a short period of time?
    (note the times + the specific activities)
  • How much did you stray from your planned activities?
    (hardly at all, only a few times, all the time)
  • What were the main causes for this to have happened?
    (distractions, firefighting, admin, staff, operations, procrastination)
  • Which activities didn’t get done at all?
    (reasons for this)
  • What will you start doing next week?
    (changes to improve)
  • What will you stop doing next week? 
    (changes to improve)

Answering the above questions will help you become aware of your energy cycles and the tasks you love to do and avoid to do.

This will help you to plan your days around your most productive hours where you do your best work in the shortest period of time and help you start noticing the tasks you dislike doing or procrastinate on doing.

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WHAT TO DO NEXT
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  • Create blocks of 1-4 hours of uninterrupted work-time every day around your most productive hours.  Use this time to focus on high level business activities that bring in money, tasks that require problem solving or creative output and important meetings.
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  • Leave low level activities that require less intensive focus like admin or website updates for low-energy times.
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  • Identify major distractions (staff walking in with questions), unplanned crisis (IT failure) and time-wasters (checking social media) and create processes or systems to help you better manage your time.

Once you start recognising and replacing bad habits, you’ll be surprised at the difference it makes to your working week, your levels of happiness and to your bottom line.
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QUESTION:
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What was your biggest realization when you started tracking your time? Leave your comment below.
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#smallbusinesssuccessskills

Alicia-MenkveldAuthor: ALICIA MENKVELD  Creator of: BUSINESS CONFIDENCE ACADEMY Alicia Menkveld is an award-winning entrepreneur for the last 17 years who loves to travel and lived on three continents to date. She is an international speaker, author and a trusted adviser to small business owners and leaders. Alicia is an authority on business strategy, mindset and productivity for individuals and teams. Streamline your business to support your lifestyle.

6 Bad Habits That Kill Your Time Management

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As people, we have good intentions but temptations, short attention spans and bad habits get in the way of our time management and overall business and life success.

// Have you ever been a diet but ended up eating a tub of cookies + cream ice-cream (my vice) on the first night?

// Have you ever signed up at the gym and then found a good (normally work-related) ‘reason’ not to go?

I have… and it’s the same in business…
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We have good intentions BUT bad habits keep us from being productive, more organised and getting things done.

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And we can only improve our bad habits once we’ve identified our blind spots.

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“Live less out of habit and more out of intent.”  

~ AMY RUBIN FLETT

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6 Bad Habits That Kills Your Time Management

The first step to discover which of your bad habits are killing your time management, is to track your time at work for a few days but ideally for 1-2 weeks to pick up trends and repeat offenders in your habits.
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Use a simple time management tracking system to track your days in 30 minute increments e.g. 

1. pen + paper

2. an excel spreadsheet (download ours on this page) or

3. a time tracking app like Toggl or TrackingTime.

I personally use Toggl; it took me less than 5 minutes to sign up and get started.

It tracks time management activities in real time or if you forgot to start the timer, you can later add the time manually. Both desktop + smart phone versions are available.

For instructions and the full exercise to track your time at work, see the blog post I wrote here.

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Once you start tracking your time, you’ll quickly discover where you leak time, energy + money… every day.

And like most business owners you might be shocked by how little time you spend on high impact activities that move the business forward.

Here’s an example analysis of a business owner’s day with an explanation of the six most common habits that kill your time management and productivity.
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BAD HABIT #1 – OVER-SCHEDULING WITH NO BUFFER TIME

In nearly every incident described above, a failure to allow sufficient time to get things done will severely hamper your business’ success, your health, your integrity and client relationships.

No other habit ruins your day and time management quicker than not planning enough time between appointments.

It’s like dominoes falling with a knock-on effect on your day that can’t stop e.g. doctors’ practices running late, and once the first domino fell it’s a run-away train you can’t stop.

Life will happen – from traffic jams, accidents and sick kids to a coffee spill on your shirt. Be prepared and plan your days better to stay in control and keep your stress levels as low.
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HOW TO BREAK THIS HABIT
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If this happens often, start scheduling buffer time before and after each meeting + activity.

Allowing 30+ minutes before and after appointments will help a great deal with unforeseen circumstances like meetings running over, traffic jams and presentations or computers not working.

Scheduling extra time will significantly lower your stress levels, make you a happier person and help your time management immensely. You’ll move from an overflowing calendar to one with breathing space.

Luckily it’s also easy not to waste any time while waiting for someone else as most applications are cloud-based, so you can:

  • check your email
  • login to accounting or project management software and update tasks
  • listen to a webinar or podcast
  • post to social media
  • do planning or
  • simply sit and enjoy a coffee.

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BAD HABIT #2 – CHECKING EMAIL FIRST

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It sounds so obvious but checking emails first thing in the morning or when you get to the office, is very bad for your time management.

In this example, the business owner didn’t factor email checking into the initial plan but gave in to the temptation, and they were already running late.

If they didn’t check their email, the staff meeting would’ve started on time and possibly ended on time too.

It also sets a bad example for your team when you seem to care more about your emails than keeping an appointment with them.

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Remember, what you see in your inbox dictates what you do next NOT what you planned to do.

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Non-urgent emails are a dangerous distraction and it’s also one of the most difficult temptations to resist once you’re in your inbox.

Low-level emails steal time from high level money-making activities like supporting your team, keeping organised and on time, reducing office stress and solving customer problems you get paid to do.
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HOW TO BREAK THIS HABIT

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  • Decide on 2-3 dedicated times to check your email during the day and do not check it in between e.g. 8am, 12pm and 5pm
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  • Add a notification to all your outgoing email to inform the sender by when they can expect to hear back from you
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  • Include instructions on what to do and who to contact in case of an emergency
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  • Learn to delegate email checking to staff or a virtual assistant who can scan your email and only let you deal with the important issues
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  • Set up standard email templates so your staff or a virtual assistant can easily answer various email inquiries correctly and up to standard
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  • Ruthlessly unsubscribe from and delete non-urgent email.

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BAD HABIT #3 – UNPRODUCTIVE MEETINGS

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In the above example, all the meetings overrun that day which definitely indicates a bad habit, and nothing kills time management and productivity like long and unproductive meetings.

The example meetings could have overrun for a number of reasons:

  • They started late and therefore ended late
  • They didn’t follow an agenda
  • There wasn’t a time limit set at the beginning of the meeting
  • A lack of preparation – things that could have been sorted via email or other means was left for the meeting.
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Once you start tracking all the time around a meeting it’s easy to see how expensive meetings are in terms of cost per hour and how little time in a day it leaves for productive work that matters.

This includes: meeting preparation time, the actual time spent in a meeting, travelling time to and back from a meeting and emails around the set up.

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HOW TO BREAK THIS HABITblog-image-key-ideas1
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Try the following tips to have more meaningful meetings:

  • Determine the importance of all meetings
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  • Determine the duration of the meeting ahead of time
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  • Decline ad hoc, last-minute meetings without an agenda and reschedule to a time that suits you better
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  • Allocate days of the week to have all your meetings
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  • Try ‘walk + talk’ or standing meetings – it keep things short and fresh air is good for creativity and your health.

It’s said that the Queen’s weekly audience with her Prime Ministers throughout the years have always been between 20-30 minutes – if a country’s issues can be discussed in such a short time, I guess the rest of us have no excuse!

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BAD HABIT #4 – NOT GETTING THE RIGHT HELP

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Spending time on any issue outside of your zone of genius when you’re already running late, is silly and a waste of precious time.

You know yourself better than anyone, so when ‘it’s not your thing’ stop thinking that ‘poking around’ will help to fix the issue.

Immediately ask yourself:

// Do I absolutely need to do this right now?

// Is there another way of solving this?

// Who do I know that can help me?

In this example, preparing for the client meeting without the presentation would have been far more beneficial to the business than wasting 20 minutes, getting stressed out and not doing preparation.

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Practicing your sales pitch always trumps a having presentation to win and keep business.

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HOW TO BREAK THIS HABIT
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  • Check presentations on different technology at least 4 hours to one day ahead of meetings
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  • Get an expert or (tech-savvy) team member to create and load presentations, is a must and a huge time saver
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  • If you have to choose between preparation + presentation, ditch the presentation and practice your pitch + listening skills
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  • Always delegate specialised issues to experts!

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BAD HABIT #5 – SKIPPING MEALS

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In this example, no time was lost but running a successful business requires you to be healthy and energetic, which you won’t be if you continue to skip breaks and meals.

Sugar levels and energy levels drop dramatically and it’s normally your clients, your team and family who suffer the most from mood swings and added pressure when you’re off sick.

Looking after yourself is key – factor it into your time management for the day.

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HOW TO BREAK THIS HABIT
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  • Don’t skip meals and breaks – they make you more effective and productive
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  • Always keep snacks in your office or car for unforeseen circumstances e.g. raw nuts, protein bars, protein shakes, fruit etc.
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  • Stay hydrated with water (not coffee!) to keep your brain in peak functioning condition
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  • Take regular breaks – 5-10 minutes for every 50 minutes of work e.g. stand up, stretch, stand outside, walk around the block.

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BAD HABIT #6 – NOT CREATING PROCESSES

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Things change and we need to stay on top of changes to keep our clients happy and our businesses profitable.

We need a process to help us stay on top of things and in communication with our clients.

// How do you let clients know you’re running late?

// How do you ensure they get the message?

// How do you ensure you or clients don’t miss out on important developments when you’re not in the office or have time to check email?

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Create a process to keep communication flowing.

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HOW TO BREAK THIS HABIT
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  • Tell people how you preferred to be contacted (call, email, messenger, text) with a message regarding urgent issues that need immediate attention
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  • If they can’t get hold of you, tell them to what to do next e.g. call the office and leave a message with a staff member or an answering service if you don’t have staff. Document the process and leave copies with all relevant people.
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  • Use driving or travel time for client calls or call-backs to stay up-to-date and save time. It’s also a great time to catch up with suppliers, family and friends.
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Clearly the poor business owner in the example had a terrible day filled with stress, frustration, anxiety and disappointment. By the end of the last call they are completely drained after a long day of stress and no food.

They were rushing all day and didn’t give anyone their best, including themselves. Now the last domino will fall with partner and/ or family demands waiting for them at home.

If this sounds like some of your days, it’s time for a change.

Better planning and the discipline to execute the plan will help you break these bad business habits once and for all.

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QUESTION:

Which of these six bad habits is the main culprit in killing your time management and productivity? Leave your comment below.

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#smallbusinesssuccessskills

Alicia-MenkveldAuthor: ALICIA MENKVELD  Creator of: BUSINESS CONFIDENCE ACADEMY Alicia Menkveld is an award-winning entrepreneur for the last 17 years who loves to travel and lived on three continents to date. She is an international speaker, author and a trusted adviser to small business owners and leaders. Alicia is an authority on business strategy, mindset and productivity for individuals and teams. Streamline your business to support your lifestyle.

3 STEPS TO EFFECTIVE DELEGATION AT WORK

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If you’re rushing every day to get it all done, falling behind on project deadlines and still have an ever-growing to-do list that keep you busy in the office till after dark…

… then it’s time for the D-word that let most business owners break out in cold sweat… DELEGATION!

The biggest problem I see with most business owners I work with is that we’re capable, resourceful control freaks who can do too many things well enough to get by…

It’s is a deadly combination for anyone trying to master delegation, because we’ll look at a task and think:

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This task will take me at least two to three times as long to explain it properly to someone else, so why not just do it myself? … and I bet the person won’t do nearly as good a job of it as I would!”

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And this type of thinking is exactly why most business owners work longer hours than they ever have in a job and they end up overwhelmed, frustrated, disillusioned and burnt out.

The ‘let me just do it myself’-mindset enslaves you to your business.

Delegation is one of the hardest things to master in your business but it’s also one of the most rewarding and freeing things you can do for yourself and your business, because it will help the business grow + keep you sane.

Mastering the art of delegation will free up your time and give you space to think, plan, implement and actually spend time on money-making activities instead of low level activities that keep you busy spinning your wheels + stuck in the weeds.

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“Deciding what NOT to do is as important as deciding what to do.”
~ JESSICA JACKLEY, CO-FOUNDER OF KIVA

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No one wakes up one morning and start recruiting or outsourcing tasks. Like most things in business, delegation and building a team are processes that take time to develop.

The delegation process involves various decisions, preparation + systems to work effectively before delegating your first task.

In this post, we’ll focus on the preparation needed for effective delegation.

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3 STEPS TO EFFECTIVE DELEGATION AT WORK

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TRACK + MEASURE

Do you know how you spend your time each day?

I’m NOT talking about the few things you schedule in your diary…

No, I’m talking about all the unaccounted hours where we’re really busy but can’t say what we’ve been busy with at the end of a day or week. Those hours that seem to slip away unnoticed and unaccounted for…

Unless we are super clear about what we spend our time on every day, we’ll won’t know which tasks can be delegated and who we need on our team of in-house and outsourced staff.

When you track your time, for at least a week but ideally a month, you’ll easily be able to spot your time wasters like a few ‘quick’ website fixes or ‘quickly’ designing graphics in Canva.

Perhaps for you it’s ‘quickly’ fixing your IT issues, doing all the marketing yourself or spending hours to find the ‘right’ image for your social media post?alicia-menkveld-key-ideas

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PREPARATION FOR EFFECTIVE DELEGATION

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Start today – track + document:

  • Every single task you do in your business for a few weeks including ‘quick’ fixes, meetings, training, planning, client work, etc.
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  • The time it takes you to complete each task from travel time, lunch time (or lack thereof), how long meetings + calls took, etc.
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  • Via paper, with an Excel spreadsheet or using a free online tool like Toggl. I explained the tracking exercise in detail, here.

Tracking how you spend your time will help you realize how effective you are in your business and whether the bulk of your time is spent on money-making activities or low-level, routine activities that could be automated or delegated.

Assuming you work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week with a revenue of about $100K per year, an hour of your time is worth at least $48 p/h.

Ask yourself, “Is what I’m doing right now, making me money and worth $48p/h?

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If you’re spending a huge amount of hours searching for images, going to and fro to set up meeting times or returning phone calls and fix IT issues, it’s a sign that elimination, automation or delegation is needed in your business.

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KEY QUESTIONS TO ASK:

// Which tasks/ activities can I completely eliminate from my schedule?

// How can I automate routine tasks?

// What can I delegate?

That’s the order: Eliminate, Automate + only then do we Delegate.

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DOCUMENT IT

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We certainly hope for the best, but what happens if the bus hits you on your way to work?

  • Can a team member or any other person walk in + run your business?
  • Are your business processes recorded?
  • Are your business systems clear + easy enough for someone else to follow?

If you answered No to the above questions, it’s time to get things out of your head and onto paper before you can even begin to think about delegation.

Remember, not even the most capable or highest qualified consultant/ employee in the world can read your mind or be expected to do a good job without access to the right information!

That includes clear objectives, super clear instructions, recorded processes + the responsibilities and timelines for each task.

Most business owners are quick to complain about incompetent staff, and yes sometimes we get a bad egg, but in my experience a lack of clear instructions + a lack of systems and/or processes account for up to 80% of project misunderstandings and work that business owners feel are ‘not up to standard’.

Yes it will take a few months to set everything up + train people to do the tasks correctly, but the reward is your freedom… to grow the business, to take a holiday or to spend more time with your partner, your kids or causes close to your heart.

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EFFECTIVE DELEGATION IS ABOUT:
  • being clear about the task + what the end result looks like for you
  • documenting the way you want the task done and specifying the templates or tools to be used to do the task
  • effectively communicating your expectations + giving clear instructions to the person who will do the task
  • being available to help where it’s needed and to make time to review the work + give feedback.

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PREPARATION FOR EFFECTIVE DELEGATION

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  • If you come across an undocumented process in your business, start today!
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  • Open a Word document, name it + write down the first few steps of the process
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  • Schedule a deadline to complete the document if it’s only you in the business OR flesh out the details every time you do the task until it’s complete
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  • If you have a team, nominate the person responsible for completing the document + set a deadline
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  • As the business owner or manager, schedule a date in your diary to review + tweak the document.

For a detailed blog post about creating business systems, click here.

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 PEOPLE + TECHNOLOGY

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Now that we know what to delegate and we’ve put processes + systems in place to assist the delegation process, we can finally look at who we need on our team + what technology we can use to manage our projects better and streamline our communication with the people involved.

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PEOPLE

Your people needs will largely depend on your  business needs, the stage your business is in + the longer term vision you have for the business.

When tracking your tasks you possibly noticed several hours wasted on trying to fix a website problem or creating a graphic for your social media. Perhaps you noticed that you never get time to do any marketing or planning.

If the time waster you noticed is something that cannot be eliminated or automated, it’s time for delegation.

You can:

  • hire an employee
  • outsource work to an independent contractor like a consultant or virtual assistant
  • or you can use a combination of both options for different types of work.

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I like to use different experts for specific things in my business e.g. Facebook Ads or Bookkeeping, and I want to be location independent, so I only use independent contractors in my business.

I always outsource to my weaknesses or dislikes:

  • I don’t like bookkeeping, so I outsource it
  • I’m not great at doing my taxes, so I have an accountant
  • I can spend hours wondering what to post on social media, so I outsource it
  • I cannot design logos, so I get a graphic designer
  • I dislike cleaning but love a clean organized home, so I get a cleaning company to do it for me.

If you’re not sure, remember to ask yourself, “Is what I’m doing right now, making me money and worth $XXp/h?” (whatever you earn per hour). If the answer is No, it’s time to delegate.

Although none of the people I mentioned above work exclusively for me, I still refer to them as ‘my team’ because they know my business, perform tasks the way I do it in my business and add tremendous value to me and my business.

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TECHNOLOGY

Technology will greatly simplify the delegation process and help to streamline communication between team members.

These days, technology can be used for nearly everything from file sharing, online appointment scheduling, project management and online training platforms to bookkeeping, invoicing and databases or CRMs (Customer Relationship Management Systems).

Technology will assure that each team member, whether in-house or remotely, has access to the same information in real time.

Here’s only a handful of example options of online software:

  • Accounting Software like Xero / MYOB
  • File Sharing like Dropbox / Google Drive
  • Appointment Scheduling like Acuity Scheduling / Appoint.ly / 10to8.com
  • Project Management like Asana
  • CRMs like Insightly / Capsule CRM / Zoho / Infusionsoft

Technology will drastically improve clear, consistent communication, effective delegation + help you build a team culture of collaboration and open sharing of information, even if team members are in different locations.

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PREPARATION FOR EFFECTIVE DELEGATION

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  • Analyze the time + task tracking exercise to see in which areas of your business you need delegation right now
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  • Work out if you need in-house staff or independent contractors
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  • Get clear on the tasks to delegate or outsource that will deliver the highest ROI (return on investment) in the next 3 months
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  • Choose the technology options that are right for your business to help you manage your tasks + teams effectively.

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QUESTION:

Which three tasks will you delegate first if you had someone ready to take them over right now? Leave your comment below.

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#businessconfidence

Alicia-MenkveldAuthor: ALICIA MENKVELD  Creator of: BUSINESS CONFIDENCE ACADEMY Alicia Menkveld, an award-winning entrepreneur for the last 16 years, loves to travel and lived on three continents to date. She is an international speaker, author and a trusted adviser to successful business owners and leaders. Alicia is an authority on business strategy, mindset and effectiveness for individuals and teams. Design your business to live the life YOU want.

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ON A SCALE OF 1-10* HOW HAPPY ARE YOU WITH YOUR BUSINESS RESULTS?

(* 1 = lowest, 10 = highest)

Score your business against the 7 Signs of a High Performing Business to pinpoint problem areas.

Learn how to optimize your business to improve your revenue + results this quarter.

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GRAB YOUR SCORECARD NOW.