‘Know your limits’ is valuable advice for all aspects of life but in business it can be the difference between success and failure.
Every business owner should know the maximum amount of business they can handle – whilst still guaranteeing a good service – without burning themselves out. This may be a number of jobs, clients or projects.
Lots of the business owners I meet are in overwhelm – they’ve done an excellent job of building their business and reputation to a point where they now can’t keep pace with the demand for their products or services. So the customer service experience starts to become compromised – and if that goes unaddressed it can topple a business. Especially in this social media age where it’s so easy for people to share their poor service experiences. Which is why we need to know our limits.
So how do you work out your capacity?
The first piece of advice I give to these business owners is to book at least two half days a week in their diary for non-chargeable work such as admin, invoicing and planning. Too many people try to squeeze these tasks into their evenings and weekends but this significantly increases the risk of burning out or becoming bored with the business. This idea of stepping back from delivery to focus on the running of the business is often met with resistance but I can guarantee that it absolutely is feasible in most businesses and will pay dividends in the relatively short term.
With these tasks accounted for, you can then also easily work out how many working hours that leaves for billable work and how many clients, orders, sales or projects you can service properly in that time.
And when you’re a one-man band or have a small team, knowing your capacity can pay dividends in two ways – either by prompting you to focus your marketing/business development efforts if sales fall below what you know you can comfortably service or by giving a valuable early warning of when you should start thinking about taking on your next team member if sales start to nudge your capacity figure.
Of course, the trick is then to grow your team in the right way. And, depending on the nature of the business, it’s often those non-billable tasks that can be the first to be assigned elsewhere. And I speak from experience, the first people I brought on were an assistant to take responsibility for the day to day admin including managing my diary and a marketing expert to look after marketing campaigns and social media. These people are operating in areas of their strength, which are not mine! This frees me up to do what I do best i.e. working directly with clients. Plus, all my team are self-employed, meaning that I’ve increased my capacity to serve but not my overheads.