19th February 2020

Be honest. Are you a distracted director?

If you’re reading this you’ll no doubt fall into one of two camps:

  1. You know you should be doing something else but this caught your eye and now you’re intrigued to know more
  2. You’re totally in control of your own time and ensure you schedule in time each week to read articles which will inspire or support you in running your business.

No – don’t worry, there won’t be many people opting for the second category.

That’s the point. As someone running a business your time might be precious but most owners find they are pulled in too many directions, often away from the most important aspects of business management and commercial growth.

When was the last time your day’s schedule went to plan?

It’s important to take stock of how you spend your time and regularly assess whether you are working as effectively as possible. This is the key to long term sustainable business development.

Distractions come in many forms when you run a business and to some degree it does go with the territory. As an SME owner you need oversight of every function of your business from finance and marketing to HR and business development – this is vital to ensure the right and proper running of your business – but you do need to draw the line when it comes to ordering the toilet roll or booking the Christmas party and watering the plants.

Here are our top tips for identifying your distractions and then practising delegation – that dark art which too often eludes busy company directors.

Work out what’s distracting you

From my work with company directors over many years, and being a company director myself, I know the pitfalls only too well. Most of the distractions come in two forms – financial or non-essential admin.

Financial distractions

Financial distractions can feel difficult to walk away from as good financial management and positive cash flow are the life blood of commercial success.

However, getting involved in the minutiae of invoicing, supplier payments or when the credit card bill needs paying is not the best use of your time.

Action plan

Review you financial processes and the people you have in your business as well as external resources you can use. These days the online accounting platforms are sophisticated enough to enable non-accountants to have a good grasp of the finances.

There are many people you can call on to ensure your business is running efficiently from freelance bookkeepers to part time staff looking for a few hours a week. Your job is to keep an eye on the overall health of the business, it’s someone else’s job to process the paperwork.

Look at all your systems, review your payment terms to suppliers and then do one or two payruns a month – this concentrated effort means mistakes are less likely.

Make most use of automation for you and for staff. These days there is an app for everything from expenses and mileage to time management and team messaging.

Administrative distractions

This is where is gets fun. If you find yourself ordering the toilet roll, watering the plants or descaling the kettle you’ve gone too far.

Unless you are a sole trader these jobs need to be done by someone else on your team. It’s time to learn the art of delegation and more importantly – empowerment.

The difference is that delegation can sometimes just be asking someone to undertake a specific one off task – but you’ve had to remember or notice that this task needs doing therefore adding to your mental load.

Empowerment means giving authority to someone else for the whole job – that means they take on the routine or the regularity of remembering this job needs doing – before someone is caught short in the toilet or the plants die.

Action plan

Review all your staff’s roles and responsibilities; create reporting structures which don’t rely on everyone reporting directly to you.

Write a task list of these common distractions and hand this over with clear and specific direction on timelines and details. Delegate the detail not just the job.

Distractions of course aren’t all bad – a new business call is the best type of distraction – you’ve just got to be available to take the call!