Take Control of Your Technology

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Joe is a multiunit owner of several quick lubes commuting to his office. At the beginning of every week he compiles a to-do list with the most important items he must get done that week. Today’s plan is to review their advertising results for the past quarter and make adjustments for the remainder of the year. This is a very important task, critical to the success of his business. Advertising is a large expenditure that delivers new customers while maintaining brand awareness with past customers. During his commute, an alert on his mobile phone went off telling him he had a new email. Since he was driving he left it alone. Two minutes later another a text message alert sounded, but he also left it alone. Another few miles and another alert, this time from Facebook. Arriving at his destination, he opened his email account to find a notification from one of his stores that a team member called in and would not be there today. He sent an email to another store requesting they send someone to help his shorthanded store. The text message was from another store manager asking how he should handle a customer issue. He made a decision and sent it back to the manager. He opened his Facebook messenger to read his message from his brother who lives in another city.

He entered his office and poured a cup of coffee, then sat down at his desk to open his computer. Several more emails had arrived while he was sitting in the parking lot. An hour later he was still answering and sending emails.

Do You Work for Technology or Does Technology Work for You?

Does the above story sound like one of your days? Do you feel stressed, and there is just too much to do most days? We all have so many devices — a computer, a tablet, a mobile phone and even watches that enable us to interact with others. All these devices should help us get the job done, but do they?

Technology is exponentially changing our world every day, month and year. I have no idea what our world will look like in the next five years, much less the next 10 years. What I do know is to be successful, you must take control of your most valuable asset, your time. As a quick lube owner or manager, you must be able make a plan and then work your plan. You must take control of your schedule by using technology, not letting technology use you.

With cell phones, text messages and email, we should be more productive than ever before. Our ability to communicate with others has never been easier. At the same time, it has never been easier to lose control of our time. By responding to every alert and message, we are giving others permission to take control of our day. As outlined above, Joe lost control of his day before he even got in his office. His habit of responding to every alert as they came in let technology take over his day. He became the employee, and technology became the supervisor.

Take Control

Time blocking is the key to control your day. A time block is just what it sounds like. You block out certain times of each day to do certain tasks. For example, set a couple of times each day to review your messages. Every message takes time; a decision must be made. Even sending it to the wastebasket is a decision. Most others will require some action, such as forwarding them to someone else to handle. Do something immediately, or leave it for a later. Turn off all alerts from email, text, Facebook and other social media sites. Pick a time in the morning and afternoon to review all your messages. Inform your team members and other frequent contacts of your decision and times. This way they’ll know when to expect a possible answer from you. Once we have taken control of our electronic devices, how do we decide what we should be doing?

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” –Peter Drucker

In an earlier article (Super Customers), we discussed the Pareto Principle as it pertains to our customers. This principle is commonly referred to as the 80/20 rule: 20 percent of invested input is responsible for 80 percent of the results obtained. In that article we discussed how 20 percent of your customers were responsible for 80 percent of your sales. This same principle can be used to take control of your day and become more productive. First, identify the daily tasks that must be done — the ones that make your business run. In most cases there will be less than 20 percent of your activities in this category. An example of these items on this list would be anything that relates to customer service. Taking care of your customers must come first. Providing a wow service will bring your customers back.

The two tools to manage our time are the 80/20 rule to decide what needs to be done, and time blocking, deciding when they should be done. In a quick lube or a group of shops, the third item that must be addressed is who should be handling each task. Decide whether you, the owner, or a district/group manager handle it; consider a store team or staff member.

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

In Joe’s example above, he lost his focus and started putting out fires. He became a fireman when he should have conducted fire prevention. As Peter Drucker pointed out, the leader must teach everyone to do the right things at the right time. Decide what task must get done, and then assign the best person to each task. A supervisor should be spending 80 percent of their time on tomorrow’s work. Examples of tomorrow’s needs are training, ordering inventory, forming a marketing plan, etc. The current day’s work is all about customers and serving their needs. A trained store team will be in charge of their needs. Yesterday’s work is following up and completing a task after the service has been performed. Paying invoices and other bookkeeping items is a perfect example. If you spend 80 percent of your day paying invoices, who is planning the next marketing campaign or organizing a training meeting? If the best person to manage the future is always putting out today’s fires, there will always be more fires.

Our plan to take control is built on the three Ws: what needs to be done, when to do it and who should be doing it. This process will not only improve your business significantly, but it will also improve your quality of life.

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