“I’m too busy to get anything done.”

To think like this is to think bailing the water out of your boat is better time spent then stopping the leak. Your business, like your boat will eventually sink. Yet we allow the day to run us sun-up after sun-up. There was a length of time when I would spend 65 hours a week in the office. Being a good time manager, I would always start my day with a plan. Keeping a running to-do list, I would assign my to-do’s to open time spots on my schedule. I thought I was very efficient in doing things right. However, I was still working long days. Why?

The items on my to-do list would come from all the issues that would pop up during the day that my staff would pass on to me. At the end of each of these long days, I would feel beat-up and exhausted. I had scratched out most of the to-do’s on my list but I had added just as many new ones. It was like the boat scenario. I was efficient at bailing out the water as fast as it poured in the boat, but I was not effective in stopping the leak. This is when I discovered that efficient and effective were not the same thing. I needed to become more effective.

I had proven to be efficient, I did things right, but I was not effective, doing the right things. I had to let go. My job was not to take tasks from my people, my job was to train my people to handle those issues themselves or recruit people that could. I had to be effective. The most interesting lesson here was how much more time I had at the end of the day. My most effective days, I spent only 7 hours at work, sales increased, profits increased and morale improved.

Today I have the greatest job in the world. I get to visit companies around the county every week. I get to know the culture and people. I learn the market and study there competition. I’m hired there to teach, but I also get to learn. Learning not just what works, but identifying what doesn’t. The most troublesome thing I see in companies is the owner who is so busy making sure everyone is happy, they don’t find time to measure progress.

The common denominator in profitable companies is that the owners are looking at their numbers. They know where they need to be and they steer the ship to get there. The common link between the unprofitable companies is that they do not know that they are un-profitable. They have an idea but the reality is always much worse than they thought.

In every business there is a time when you need to bail the water out. Looking at your numbers and measuring progress is like using the gauges on the boat to determine how effective the bailing will be. You might find that you have enough fuel and power to get the boat moving fast enough that you can make it ashore before the boat sinks. Or you might find that the water is just not that deep. What you can’t do is start bailing and hope the situation gets better. Sometimes luck falls in your lap and the wind blows you ashore while you are bailing. When this happens, you need be able to recognize how lucky you were. But most managers take credit for the luck even though they had nothing to do with it.

A effective manager can Identify the leak quickly and implement a plan to save the boat. Manage by your numbers and enjoy smooth sailing.