Smart tire dealers are doing more than wishing and hoping for a better new year. They're planning for it by devising ways to make better use of their time. There's an old joke about a man who hurled a clock because he wanted to see time fly. But veteran owners and managers know they need not pitch the proverbial timepiece.
After all, routine business days make time lapse quicker than the blink of an eye. You may not be able to harness time per se, but you can sure use it more wisely when you put your mind to it.
Prioritize and delegate
The first-and perhaps toughest-task dealers must accomplish next year is concentrating on leadership and planning issues. Simultaneously, they must delegate more workaday chores to the staff. My experience working with owners and managers indicates this is so much easier said than done!
I think Richard P. Morgan, tire industry veteran and president of Morgan Marketing Solutions, Dallas, Texas, summed up many dealers' dilemma best:
``I often find the boss is out delivering tires to a good account because he likes doing it and enjoys the personal contact with customers. But his time is better spent back at the store working on important issues facing the store. Let the workers deliver tires!'' Mr. Morgan advised.
The failure to prioritize is also evident in other areas. For example, it's no secret that many associations must scramble to ensure decent attendance at their events.
Recently, a state association president who was discussing the challenge of building convention and trade show attendance echoed Mr. Morgan's sentiments.
``Because Saturday is a big retail day for many dealers, it's difficult to convince them to leave their stores and attend association events. But isn't that why they have employees-to run the store while they go learn something new and important?'' he said.
Let's face it-state conventions and trade shows are the only annual opportunity some dealers have to sweep out the mental cobwebs and soak up fresh information on sales, marketing and management.
What's more, a state event is probably the most cost-effective learning situation-it's local and allows the dealer to cull practical, impartial tips from peers and from ``formal'' presentations.
Let's also face the fact that traditionally, the fellows who need fresh information and new solutions the most are usually the toughest to turn out for association events.
Any impartial observer would agree this dealer's business needs help. But unfortunately, outsiders cannot know the cold, cruel, inner truth the down-at-heel dealer harbors: His business will crumble without him, trapping willing but helpless workers beneath tons of brick and mortar!
To me, missing trade shows and seminars is the ultimate managerial failure. True, the tight economy has forced many dealers to run with leaner, meaner crews. On the other hand, a dealer also has months to prepare to leave the store for a couple days. When he can't get away for a short time, the situation only confirms his need to learn how to prioritize and better manage his time.
Set, keep boundaries
It should be a foregone conclusion to dealers that they must read constantly to keep up with a rapidly changing marketplace. Dealers who constantly see their ``in'' baskets overflowing need to prioritize reading time.
One of the most practical ways I know to accomplish this is to go ``cold turkey.'' That is, break completely with old habits by defining and implementing a daily reading hour. Consider a morning time because statistically, most people are mentally sharpest in the morning.
Give the staff the latitude and authority to deal with the morning rush. Explain the importance of your reading hour to the business' health-and ultimately, to their job security.
Given the information overload businessmen face today, nothing short of a nuclear attack should interrupt the boss' reading hour!
Finally, assigning new emphasis to employee training is a vital but overlooked time saver. Skeptical? Grab a pocket calendar. Faithfully log in all the time you spend daily solving problems and arbitrating employee or customer disputes.
Review each entry on the calendar and ask yourself if inadequate training was the real root cause of the problem that devoured your time. If so, seek appropriate additional training (technical, sales, etc.) for those workers.