What Franchise’s resident business agony aunt Angie Coates, founder and CEO of Monkey Music, answers your business and entrepreneurial conundrums
What’s your best time management tip?
Running a family and a business calls for time liberating strategies. Domestically, I bought stocks of generic birthday cards and batch cooked ready-to-go food, etc. Professionally, I amassed an impressive collection of (unused) Filofaxes and tinkered with numerous types of digital diaries. Neither had any real effect.
Eventually I realised I was trying to make the impossible happen. I was never going to make more time - what I needed to do was plan my time and use it better.
So now, every Friday afternoon I plan my working week ahead in one, two and three-hour slots. I start by categorising tasks into ‘ urgent’, ‘must do’ and ‘do’.
Urgent gets a fixed (unmovable) time in my diary for the next week. Must do tasks are allocated a movable time, but immovable day. Do tasks get done if there is ever a free moment.
Every evening I review my to-do list for the next day, adding in the smaller things that inevitably crop up. I have a rule that all urgent tasks are completed on the day they’re allocated. This often means working around family commitments and late into the night.
For every project, I work to a timeline. Milestones go into my long-term diary, with my time to plan the next phase of a project booked in months ahead.
Day to day, I’m clear about two other things:
Number one is getting a few of the bigger tasks out of the way first thing and before checking my emails. While working on these I am unreachable - no phone, no email and no interruptions.
Number two is, whenever appropriate, I pick up the phone to speak to people rather than sending an email. I find emails enormously time consuming and distracting, so I mainly use them to communicate to lots of people or as a record of a meeting or conversation.
I think of my time as being packaged in different sized colourful boxes: always know what you want to achieve and by when; break that objective into smaller tasks and allocate them the right sized box; ruthlessly stick to your daily plan; and only check your emails at lunchtime and only write an email if you really need to.
Is it better to have five large customers or 50 smaller ones?
This is an interesting question because every company will have different considerations and key strategic decisions to make in relation to managing their database of customers.
While fewer large customers may achieve the same revenue as lots of smaller ones and be more time efficient to manage, 50 smaller customers are lower risk and offer the potential for greater growth.
If five customers were to become four, then the 20 per cent loss of revenue, especially with a largely unchanged cost base, would be a big hit. If you lose a few of your 50 customers, the hit is likely to be six per cent, so it’s much easier to manage.
Growing revenues from 50 small customers should also be easier than from five large ones.
Lots of smaller customers means growth from cross-sell (new product to existing customer) and up-sell (higher value product to the customer) should be relatively easy and cheap, whereas to grow a large customer from add-on services/products (in percentage terms) will require higher value add-ons, which may be more complicated.
50 smaller, happier customers should also mean lots of advocates for your brand. In my experience, customers marketing your products and services for you is one of the best ways to attract new customers. This way, with more smaller customers you should attract more new customers, something that’s critical for any healthy business.
To summarise, if my business had 50 small customers, as well as being a lower risk option, I would expect to grow new customer numbers faster and increase the average value of each customer. 50 smaller ones it is for me.