‘We can’t really double the time we have, so how can we make every minute count for two?” asks Lorette Pruden of Team Nimbus NJ in Belle Mead. As a scientist turned business coach, Pruden brings an analytical approach to helping entrepreneurs and business owners get more clients, make more money, and find the lifestyle they are searching for.
“After 10 years of working with business owners I find that time management is one of problems that I am constantly addressing,” she says. “That’s why I give several seminars on calendar blocking each year in my business.”
Pruden will bring her seminar to the Mercer chapter of the New Jersey Association of Women Business Owners on Thursday, April 8, at 6 p.m. at the Doubletree Hotel. Cost: $45. Visit www.NJAWBOMercer.org.
Pruden knows from experience the need to manage time. She is the owner of two businesses: Team Nimbus NJ, where she focuses on coaching small business owners in “the art of enjoying your business,” and Inventive Strategies, a consulting enterprise with seminars and workshops on effective team leadership and innovation strategies. She is also active in the New Jersey chapter of the National Speakers Association, where she will serve as president next year.
She also is a member of the board of the NJ Council of Farmers and Communities and is one of two volunteer managers of a farmers’ market that runs from May through October in Montgomery Township. Her work with the farmers’ market keeps her in touch with her family roots; many of her relatives are farmers in North Carolina.
Pruden never planned to be a farmer herself, but then she also never thought she would become a small business owner. Her first love was science and she received a bachelor’s in chemistry from Maryville College in Tennessee in 1970, followed by a master’s and Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Princeton University in 1981.
She spent more than 20 years with Mobil Corporation, where she worked in new product development and the management of innovation. Her job took her from “the lab bench to leading teams of scientists,” she says, and brought her her first experiences in time and innovation management.
Where am I headed? Pruden believes that time management is about much more than organizing half hour blocks of time on a calendar. “The most important thing about time management is to know where you are headed,” she says. “Once you know that, in following the course to your destination, it becomes obvious that you must do some things and not do some other things. Ask yourself, ‘What kind of lifestyle do I want and what kind of business?’”
She points out that there are as many business goals as there are business owners. You may have a “lifestyle business,” that is designed to pay the bills, or you may have a “hobby business.” That’s a term most people think indicates someone who is less serious about their work, but Pruden uses it to indicate a person whose monetary business goals are to pay for the extras in life, such as family vacations, summer camp for the kids, or even college tuition.
“Most small business owners are not beholden to stockholders, but they are beholden to someone — to themselves and their families,” she says.
What can I do to get there? Once you understand your own goals, it becomes much easier to plan what you need to do, both in your long term planning and in short term, weekly planning. How many prospects must you see each week to get the new business you need? How many hours must be spent on client work? How much time do you need for the administrative parts of your business, and how much time do you need to spend on personal and family chores and activities?
Once you have listed all of the necessary activities of your week or month it is common, says Pruden, to realize that there is just not enough time to do it all. That leads to the next question.
What should I give up? When you can’t do it all yourself, but it all needs to get done, the time has come to delegate, and that, says Pruden, is a skill most business owners have a great deal of difficulty learning. “We all believe we can do it best, but it’s not true,” she says.
“Know yourself well enough to know what you love to do, what you don’t like to do, and what you hate doing enough that it just never gets done. Those are the things you need to offload first,” she says.
For many business owners giving up the bookkeeping is the first thing they can do to ease their time and make their business more profitable. If you dislike bookkeeping and invoicing enough that you are letting your clients keep the money they owe you, you need to get help.
Block your calendar. The final step in time management is to sit down with your list of activities and chores and develop a realistic schedule. One of the first areas Pruden suggest business owners look at is their networking.
While meeting new people and developing more business contacts is a necessary part of any business, Pruden finds that most business owners go about it in a scattershot fashion.
“If you belong to just two networking groups and put your heart and soul into them you will build better business relationships than if you swoop down occasionally to seven groups,” she says.
But limiting yourself to two groups is not always enough. Many organizations offer a wide variety of meetings so that members have a choice of times, places, and types of networking activities each month. If you try to attend them all, you could make a career of the organization, rather than spending time on your business. Pruden suggests trying to attend one small group meeting per week and one meeting per month with a larger number of people in attendance.
Find time for yourself. Once these meetings have been scheduled in, you should plan time to make sales calls, handle client business, and take care of marketing and administrative needs. Don’t forget to also schedule in some time for relaxation — the 15-minute coffee break and longer times for exercise, relaxation, and time with family and friends. “If you are making lots of money but have no time to enjoy it, what’s the point?” asks Pruden.
Does Pruden follow her own advice? “I do it better than I used to,” she says. For example, when she became president-elect of the National Speakers Association she had to make a hard choice between her commitment to that organization and another organization she had been active in for years.
“Sometime you just have to admit you can’t do it all,” she says. That is the real secret to time management.