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Time wise: 8 steps to successful time management

October 11, 2010
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It's difficult for any business owner who has invested his or her savings into one enterprise to pull back and realize what is being sacrificed in order to ensure that the business is profitable.

If you feel like you are spending an excessive amount of time at your wash, especially if it is at the expense of your personal wants, here are some great ideas and tips for managing your time successfully at work so that you are sure to spend some more time at home.

1. Evaluate your business plan

According to Personal Productivity Expert Peggy Duncan, a wash operator should re-evaluate the wash's plan if they find that they aren't spending enough time at home. This can be accomplished simply by asking if the process can be made better.

Bill Consolo of Chief's Auto Wash & Chief's Mfg., Cleveland, re-evaluated his business plan when he realized that he was sacrificing his family-time for work; he decided to switch from full-service carwashing to express exterior.

This switch has given him more time to spend with his children and has allowed him a steady income with only 15  20 hours on-site weekly.

Consolo said he made the switch in 1997 due to "sheer necessity." His wash volume had declined 45 percent since 1980 and labor costs were rising.

Since switching to express exterior, he spends more time with his kids, his wash volume has tripled and his revenue has doubled.

2. Learn to delegate

Many people have issues with delegating their responsibilities. We've all thought to ourselves — often after handing off a task and getting back a product that was less than desirable — that it would have been better if we had just done it ourselves.

But if you consider how you want your carwash customers to think, then you know exactly how you should be thinking.

Car-care facility owners are the anti-do-it-yourselfer. On a daily basis, the typical wash owner is convincing the motoring public to forego their usual DIY attitude and let their shop handle the maintenance of what some may consider their largest investment, next to a home.

If you take the time to train your staff properly and hire managers that you know you can trust, then delegating shouldn't be an issue.

Chuck Howard, Autobell Car Wash, Charlotte, NC, points out that he cannot be at all 43 of his locations every day, so delegation is just a natural part of his carwashing practice.

Howard is very selective in whom he hires and said that the company policy is to promote from within. This ensures that whoever ends up supervising a site has started as a line worker and moved up the ranks, knows the business and has already demonstrated a loyalty to Autobell.

This person, once promoted, is sent to shadow an experienced manager at another Autobell location so that they are trained in how to do their job right.

Delegation is the key, Howard said. By passing responsibility on to employees and trusted managers you create an atmosphere where you can trust that you won't have to make every decision yourself.

3. Have a set method of operation

As Howard points out, you can take a lot off of your own shoulders by having confidence in your employees to make decisions for you.

One way to ensure that employees make the right decision — meaning the same choice that you would make — is to have a set method of operation for each of your locations.

Even if you only have one location, make sure that you have a designated way to run the operation, hire employees, train employees, take orders, run numbers and the like.

Duncan, who authored "Put Time Management to Work and Live the Life You Want," said that any and every business should have defined processes and procedures, especially if you have multiple locations.

All locations should be set up and run the same so everyone knows their responsibilities and how to execute them.

This can be accomplished by using a streamlined way of training new employees, such as a how-to video or checklist, Duncan said.

Howard said that developing a system for operating the carwash, documenting that system and then developing ways to train newcomers on how to run that system is essential to freeing up more time.

4. Turn off your cell phone

This statement may sound like sacrilege to many, but when your cell phone rings it often interrupts what you're doing so that you can answer a question about something that could be put off until the task at hand is complete.

Instead, you answer the ringing phone, interrupt what you're currently working on in order to reply to another person's inquiry, solve their problem and then you head back to your original task without the same flow that you had prior to the call.

Duncan suggests putting time limits on phone conversations. If it's a call that you must take even though it interrupts what you were previously doing, give it a time limit and, if necessary, use an actual timer to ensure you hang up in X number of minutes.

5. Use a calendar
  • Palm pilots
  • Personal calendars
  • Microsoft Outlook

Whichever method you deem worthy of holding your personal meetings and accounts is fine, just make sure that you use it regularly and remain loyal to one medium.

Howard uses a day timer calendar as his only calendar. He doesn't use palm pilots or a desk calendar; this way he is sure to know where he has to be and when — the information is all kept in one place.

Howard pays for his employees to have day timers so that they are also sure to keep all appointments and return all phone calls promptly.

6. Don't forget your fillers

Inevitably, as a wash owner, you'll be kept waiting at some point in your day.

Save time consuming tasks for when you're waiting for a client, for someone to show up and fix a location or if you're in the car driving from one location to another.

For instance, if you have some phone calls to make — and a hands-free cell phone device to make them on — call while you're on the road. You'll be amazed how much time it saves.

Howard returns phone calls on his drives between sites. A typical drive can last for 20 to 30 minutes and he said that, thanks to the hands-free cell phone attachments, he can make phone calls en route to another site.

When you're at a location for a specific reason, don't allow a phone call to interrupt your work, answer that call when it is more convenient for you.

7. Cut the idle chitchat, use email

Howard feels that email is another great tool for modern day communication.

By responding to someone via email you can cut the chitchat out of the conversation. Though Howard feels that this can take the personal touch away from some social interaction it does save you time in the long run.

You get right to the message, however impersonal it may be.

8. Consider a change

Consolo is a good example of someone who had to revamp his entire business in order to revamp his life, but the payoff has been tremendous — both financially and personally.

He now has time to take his children — ages 9 and 12 — to play golf, to the YMCA for extracurricular programs and he also said that he is home for dinner almost every night.

Consolo said that by switching to a wash model that better suited his geographic location and life he lost some business initially, but has since grown his business and saved in labor costs with his new model.

For those wash owners who don't want to give up full-service, Consolo suggests adding the express exterior as an option but still offering the full-service option as well.

This will keep business up and still allow the operator to keep the business model they wanted.

Special thanks to Peggy Duncan, personal productivity expert and author of "Put Time Management to Work and Live the Life You Want" (