The value of time management

BY ROD McDONALD

I have a friend (we all do) who is continually late. He walks in at the end of meetings looking for a full recap. He misses busses. The habit affects his employment.
He is a good fellow who would give you the proverbial shirt off of his back if you needed it. But he would be late doing so. He drives me crazy. My friend and I were having a coffee and I told him that no matter what he is late for, and he is late for most events, he always has an excuse. “I missed the bus. I ran into someone who needed my help. I stopped into this place and it should have only taken five minutes, but they were behind and I was there for 45 minutes instead.” The list goes on and on. 

I bring this up not to rant, but rather as a way to discuss time management. We all have 24 hours in each day, and how we use that time determines our accomplishments.  
Smart time management increases productivity, financial success and personal serenity. Some people don’t connect time management and serenity. But nothing upsets my emotional wellbeing more. There’s nothing more irritating than wasting time in the greenhouse searching for a tool that has been misplaced. We’ve all been there.
I explained to my friend I don’t make excuses because, “I am paid for my production, not excuses.” It was harsh, but true. Customers pay for finished work. 

YOU CAN’T SELL FROM AN EMPTY CART 
Still, not everyone understands the concept. There is a fellow in our neighbourhood in Saskatoon who is quite a lovely person. He builds excellent fences and decks, but lacks organizational skills. 

Our neighbour built a deck for a friend. The project was just four boards short of completion when the contractor ran out of lumber. Instead of finishing the job, he left it, idle, for months, leaving the customer irate, and his business without the paycheque. These kinds of companies rarely stand the test of time.

Retailers face the same issue when they fail to order products on time. We don’t make money on products that aren’t in stock. The adage, “You can’t sell from an empty cart,” while over a hundred years old, remains relevant. 

Some customers return to your store when their item is in stock, but many will shop at a competitor instead. That’s no way to build a client base.
Time management is about being ready to produce and sell. 

BE READY FOR SPRING
One October I walked into Dieter Martin Greenhouses in Saskatoon and saw a staff member putting the finishing touches on cleaning the greenhouse. She had, at most, two hours of work left before everything was “tickity boo.” I joked, “Getting ready for the spring, are you?” And she laughed and said, “I guess I am.”

I often share that story with greenhouse operators, especially when I see their place is not tidy or organized in January. I told one operator, last January, “Now is the time to get ready as spring has an annoying habit of exploding upon us.” It is true. Spring never washes against the shore. Rather, it’s an incredibly intense event that leaves garden centre professionals scrambling for their lives and sanity. 

MAY IS FOR SELLING
Many years ago I had a sales rep drop by during the busiest part of May, ready to go through his catalogue. He was new to me, and therefore quite surprised when I bluntly explained, “May is for selling not for buying.” Reorders, sure, but new orders aren’t my thing. He and I did not click. He left disappointed and I was irked. He failed to understand time management.

Time is precious and I strive to spend it wisely. I like to plan out my day, week, month and year. I try to ask myself, ‘What is the most important thing or tasks that we need to accomplish today?’ Prioritization is critical on the road to success. Randomness creates chaos. 

Many years ago a young person who worked for me moved to Vancouver. She found employment with a local landscaper, but it only lasted two weeks. She explained that each day began at a local coffee shop around 10 a.m. The business owner would arrive and ask, “What are we doing today?” Never mind the late start, it’s impossible to run a successful business without a daily action plan. We all know someone like that, and they rarely stay in business long.

FIND STRUCTURE THAT WORKS FOR YOU
Not everyone is a long-term thinker or strategist. However, structure is a key part of reaching personal and professional goals. In 1978  when I was still in my 20s, Wade Hartwell from Golden Acres in Calgary presented a seminar on strategic planning. He told the group how he had been told to write out a five year business plan at a course he had taken. That sent my young head reeling! How could anyone plan that far ahead? At that point, I was just trying to survive. 

As difficult as it was, I wrote out a five year plan on where I wanted my company to be and what it would require to get there. Pretty amazing stuff, considering my gross sales were only $50,000 that year. 

I planned to have a year-round operation with annual sales over $1 million. I wrote out my plan and worried that if anyone read it, they would accuse me of having an opium induced dream. Eventually, I achieved those goals. I often refer to a business plan as being a map, and without it, I would be lost.

THE BANKER AND THE GARDEN RETAILER
I always enjoy telling a somewhat ironic story and I do have one in my repertoire regarding time management.

Many years ago, my bank requested my year end books so they could peruse the numbers. Not a problem. I provided the accounting books. My account manager phoned me and asked about the increase in utilities. I explained the new greenhouse was responsible for the increased gas and electricity charges, and that satisfied his curiosity.

To my surprise, and I am tempted to use the word astonishment, on my next bank statement there was a charge of $250 for examining my accounts. I wrote my account manager the following:
“Dear Sir:
“I read from my bank statement that you have debited my account to the sum of $250 for reviewing my accounts and books. Rest assured, I do not quibble. You devoted time from your day to do this and I, above all others, fully understand the concept of time is money. 
“As we discussed my account, we also discussed your Credit Union. I informed you of a number of deficiencies that The Credit Union has in their system. I informed you as to how to correct those deficiencies, which would lead to an increased profitability for yourselves and increased customer satisfaction. 
“My recommendations are of great value to your organization and they required not only my time but also my experience. As we agree that time is money, my fee for that service is $250. Kindly credit my account.”

He did.

Stay on the road to success and never forget the value of time. 

Rod McDonald owned and operated Lakeview Gardens, a successful garden centre/landscape firm in Regina, Sask. For 28 years. He now works full time in the world of fine arts, writing, acting and producing in film, television and stage.

Landscape Trades June 2018