If you ask me, a good deal of success in work (and in life) comes from doing what you need to do every day. If you can’t get done what should have been done today, how are you ever going to get done what you need to do tomorrow? You’re carrying tasks from today into tomorrow and you probably won’t have any more time tomorrow than you had today. The cumulative effect of not getting your day’s work done builds up quickly, especially when you work in a project-oriented business like the typical A/E/P or environmental consulting firm. There are always deadlines and unanticipated crises. But if you spend all your time doing yesterday’s job, you are bound to feel stressed and turn out lower quality work. In our management consulting assignments with firms all over the U.S. and elsewhere, we routinely see procrastination in several areas— with detrimental effects on the entire company. Here are a few: Turning in timesheets. It has to be done on time, all the time. In most firms, it’s the principals and senior managers who are the worst offenders! If you can’t get your timesheet done, the bills can’t go out, the accounting period can’t be closed, financial reporting is delayed, and corrective action is not taken. All of this is avoidable if everyone gets his or her timesheet in on time. Filing expense reports. Some people wait weeks, or even months, to turn in expense reports. They’re “too busy.” Then the bills can’t go out. Or they do go out, but they are missing $2,000 in trip expenses, which is hard to recover from clients two months after their job was supposed to be over. Logging in payables. The day a bill comes in to your firm, it should be logged into your system and scheduled for payment. Why is this important? Because if you don’t do it, you won’t have an accurate cash flow forecast. You will instead face 11th-hour demands for cash that you may not have on hand. Getting draft invoices turned around. No delay is acceptable. I can always turn my bills around— no matter where I am. Faxes and e-mail make it possible to review bills 24 hours a day, anywhere on the globe. If you don’t get your bills out, then all you are doing is hurting cash flow. Just think about it: A company that does $7.3 million a year in revenue is billing, on average, $20,000 a day. That means that a three-day delay in getting bills out sucks up $60,000 in cash! Cash is hard to come by. Cash can be invested in things that make you money. Needlessly financing receivables because you can’t get your bills reviewed is dumb! Making collection calls. These calls need to be made on schedule. If bills are supposed to be followed up on at 30 days, you cannot afford to wait 42 days or longer. Get today’s collection calls over with today and collect the money so you can get back to selling and doing!Sending out project status reports. These have to go out on time. If you don’t have time to do it today, what is going to change that will make it easier to do tomorrow? Clients and other team members have to be informed of what is going on with their projects. Their work, their reputations, and their incomes may be depending on it. If you say you are going to send out regular project status reports, you need to do it! Sending out meeting minutes. Send them out now. Any delay potentially results in people doing the wrong thing and wasting their time. Be considerate and get these things out! Confronting out-of-scope service requests. Delaying these discussions will almost always result in difficulty getting paid later. People have short memories, especially if it’s something that they want to repress, like asking you to do something that they aren’t paying you for! The sooner and swifter you act, the better. Returning phone calls. Get them out of the way. I like to use my cellular phone to return every call I can before I get back to the office so that I have time to do what needs doing at the office. Plus, there’s the whole issue of perceived responsiveness that has long-range implications on the firm’s reputation and ability to win work. Each time you delay in returning a call, you could be jeopardizing your future. Dealing with unhappy clients. This must be done now. Any delay in responding to a letter or a phone call is tantamount to an admission of guilt. Confront, confront, and confront. Sure, I know a lot of these things are no fun. But that’s why you get the big bucks, right? Originally published 8/23/1999
About Zweig Group
Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.
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