Huge thanks to the Members who participated in our March round of ‘One Question Wednesdays’. Here’s what we’ve deduced from the results.

Time Management Tools

One of the most significant challenges we face as small business owners would have to be time management. To-ing and fro-ing with clients and trades, dealing with overflowing inboxes and managing social media accounts leaves little time for actually doing the work. We were keen to know which tool/s our Members have adopted to structure their days for maximum productivity.

Outlook Calendar proved the most popular, with 43% of the respondents nominating this tool as their planning preference. 20% are Google Calendar fans, and the avid Apple Calendar users accounted for 9%. Allocating appointments directly from emails to calendars certainly makes life easy, and setting up reminders helps ensure we turn up on time.

But while digital appointment calendars are easy and accessible, they just don’t work for everyone.

Not surprisingly (for a generally creative industry), 28% of our survey respondents said they still use an ‘old school diary’. The act of handwriting uses a different cognitive skill set to typing, and has been proven to be more effective when it comes to long-term recall. If you’re using a planner for problem-solving, too, the act of handwriting can improve your critical thinking and help you find a smarter solution more efficiently.

No matter which tool you choose, it seems it’s only as good as its operator – we suggest you find a system, get to know it and settle in for the ride. It’s important to remember that the search for the perfect time management tool can often be an act of procrastination. And it’s this habit of procrastinating that may be your biggest time thief of all.

Project Management Tools

We were interested in your project management tools, too. (Note: when we say ‘project management’, we’re not referring to the on-site-need-a-licence kind of project management – we mean getting your overall project from the first client meeting to the photoshoot.)

Asana was nominated as the most-used tool in this particular survey, with some mixed responses from those who use it (i.e. it had some lovers and haters!). Trello was very close behind – again with some mixed reviews – and good old Excel rated third. Judging by the comments we received, it would seem no system is perfect. The size of your team will impact your selection, and their receptiveness to using all functions of the product can make or break the system. The scale of your projects should be considered, too – don’t overcomplicate a straight-forward project with a complex management system, and don’t try to run a full-house reno with a stack of post-it notes and to-dos. Whatever the method you choose, allow yourself a reasonable amount of time to get your head around all of the functions.

Hiring and Outsourcing

The responses to this survey have given us much to think about here at KBDi. We learned that many of our Members are actively growing their teams through employment and subcontracting and can see great potential in building an in-house network. Employing Staff 45% of respondents employ one or more casual workers to assist them in their operations, and 34% have one or more full-time staff. 14% of participants employ at least one part-time worker, and 7% have one or more interns or apprentices in house. Several solo-operators indicated their interest in engaging staff, but worried about the associated paperwork and HR obligations. Our Partnership with Employsure could alleviate some of these concerns. We’d like to remind members that this resource is always available – contact our office for more information.

Outsourcing and subcontracting

We asked our members if they engage subcontractors, freelancers or external companies to help with various duties. 26% of respondents said they outsource drafting, and 21% wisely hand over their bookkeeping tasks. 14% contract outside parties to help with design work and 13% save time by outsourcing social media activities. Given the popularity of this team-growth option, we’ll be investigating ways to broaden the network of KBDi Members.

Cash Flow

Our cash flow questions produced plenty of fodder for an upcoming videoconference. In this survey, we learned that 32% of the respondents use Zero, 25% use MYOB and 22% use some kind of manual system (Excel, mostly). Quickbooks was fourth in line with 14%. We also discovered that the most commonly experienced cash flow hurdles were:

  • having a poor understanding of basic accounting terminology (assets, liabilities etc.)
  • getting timely payments from clients
  • keeping track of invoices and receipts, and
  • working with natural peaks and valleys of business and knowing how much to set aside for emergencies

We don’t have all the answers to these problems, but we’ve found someone who has. We’ve pitched the questions to a well-qualified numbers geek with great empathy for small business owners. This session will be posted soon – keep an eye on our events page for updates.

Of course, we always welcome the wise words of our broader audience. Use the comments below and share your wisdom.