The Logistics of Time

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Time is a funny thing – it’s the scarcest resource we are allowed to use. There are countless books, software programs and systems that aim to help us manage and control it, but for the small business there is a complex set of variables that come in to play.

Image: gadl via Flickr

I’ve begun to apply the term logistics more broadly when it comes to running a business. The term is commonly used when referring to the idea of delivering a product or set of good from one location to another, but what if you began to think about the logistical consumption of time to deliver a result from one state to another. I think that’s what small businesses must do at the highest level and the manager or owner of that business brings the highest value when they can orchestrate, not manage, time – the organization’s greatest resource.

Stay with me on this because now I need to add another layer. Today it’s not enough to show up and create a to do list and call it a symphony of time. Today every business has three clocks running at all time – and the management of the flow of goods, information and other resources, energy and people and depend on observing each of these clock – although they run at different paces.

Today’s business needs to live simultaneously in real time, deal time, and meal time.

Real time – Information and opportunities come at us today at astounding speed. Businesses must create systems and processes that enable them to take advantage of marketing, PR and product development opportunities instantaneously. Failure to monitor and thus seize real time competitive advantages is a threat to even the most entrenched players. Of course, it’s never been easier to chase the new shiny thing too. The creative view of world events through the lens of a marketing strategy is an arena that you must hire and manage for.

Deal time – This is where the technician lives – “Hey all that mamby pamby Kum Ba Yah stuff is great, but we gotta get some business in the door.” yep, it’s the cold hard reality of running a business. Deal time is always on the mind of any business facing a payroll or college tuition payment and it’s one that must be dealt with realistically. It may mean getting out from behind the computer and knocking on some doors, but it may also mean time spent refining what an ideal customer looks like and how to increase what you charge for your services. Keeping your sights on a better experience and higher rate of conversion may just be the best use of deal time.

Meal time – Ultimately the business is fed through attention given to the long term vision of the business. This comes from allocating resources and consistent chunks of time to things that may not pay off today or even next quarter for that matter. This is the hardest area to allocate resources but, like planting seeds in the spring, it’s the area where the entrepreneur must ultimately come to live almost full time. Have you crafted and communicated your vision, values and mission?

The proper attention to each is where the harmony lies and it’s something that you can simply feel in healthy businesses. What if you planned your day with each of these clocks in full view? Would that change your to do list? Would that make your time pass like orchestrated logistics?

I would love to discuss your view of time here – do these 3 clocks ring true for you?


Logistics, UPS

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