I spoke to a manager from Amey yesterday, who told me of their use of technology to manage some of their subcontractors on their contract with Birmingham City Council. For example, tree surgeons have hand held devices on which jobs and instructions can be allocated and work recorded.
This makes communication quicker, but particularly limits the need for worksheets and invoices. There is no dispute over what work has been done, and information is common (and accessible to the Council as client).
This led me to think of the importance of operating platforms for small businesses. This means everything that the business uses to “get the work done” – people, facilities, processes and technology. How these fit together make a huge difference to the success of the firm, and hold the key to productivity improvement. It is worth mapping processes and making step by step improvements.
And remember that one day you will not be there, due to retirement or otherwise. How well will your operating platform function without you?
When I was still in practice, I sometimes needed to work on a Saturday morning to ensure that everything was done. The decision was often made early on Friday afternoon, when it became clear that I was not going to complete my planned work by the end of the day. I found that my productivity following that decision was then much less than if I had taken Saturday morning off.
This is my own personal illustration of Parkinson’s Law. This of course states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
A danger for lawyers and other business owners is that long hours become a habit, rather than a necessity. Clearly injunction proceedings in the morning, or the office burning down, will lead to longer hours. But how many could achieve in 9 hours what they take 10 hours to do – and purely because 10 hours is their regular work day?
Lack of productivity is not the only issue, since stress is also a factor. For example families may be disgruntled that you spend little time with them. That can lead to divorce, in itself one of the most stressful events there can be.
Surely it is not possible to run a successful firm without long hours? Donald Regan, when he was running Merrill Lynch, one of the big players on Wall Street, expected his staff to leave on time. If they did not, then there was something wrong with their workload, the way they handled it, or with their support. At the same time the firm was aggressively expanding.
Do you need to take a step back to look at your hours? Are you close to being overwhelmed? If so, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how we can help.