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By Frances McGuckin

Some stories and discussions with business owners are more memorable than others. I’d like to share three with you that I clearly remember because they appear to be common complaints with other retail small business owners. In many cases, the solutions are simple. Read on.

Crying the no-money blues:
“My receivables are so high and my cash isn’t flowing!” moaned Dennis.
“Haven’t you picked up the phone and called them?” I asked.
“I’m too busy running the store,” he replied.
“Too busy to collect money?”
“Well, there’s so much to do, especially dealing with contractors,” said Dennis.
“Some contractors go broke quickly,” I mused, “You can’t afford not to be aggressive in your collections.”
“How do I make the time?”
“Hire someone part-time to do your collections,” I suggested. “A third party has a less vested interest in the customer and more interest in getting the job done. They don’t ruin the one-on-one relationship you have built with your customer, and if customers complain about being asked for payment, you can always comment with, ‘Yes, the credit department is doing a good job.’ Hire a mom who has worked in credit before and who needs a few hours work a week. Money is what keeps you in business, so you had better get back in control of it
“Yeah, I suppose I could hire someone, I don’t have the time, and I’m owed over $100,000,” said Dennis.
“It’s probably cheaper than using a collection agency who take one-third of the debt,” I added. “By then, it’s so far overdue that the chances of collecting fade very quickly

Where did today go?
“I go into the store with a plan every day,” said Brian in frustration, “and then I get caught up in the day-to-day ‘stuff’ that happens, and by the end of the day, I often feel that I haven’t achieved anything
“Do you use a time planner?” I asked.
“Well no, I don’t, but I do always have a plan in my mind. I need to make time to review my parts inventory and do some follow up on sales calls.”
“Write down your priorities using a daily time planning system,” I suggested. “Here’s a weekly sheet to help you. Make a priority list then slot what has to be done into the daily planner. It’ll get you back into a routine and a system.”

A few weeks later, I spoke to Brian, who was so pleased… to a degree.
“I used the planning idea, got my inventory sorted out, made sales calls every morning for about two weeks, and the business was just waiting there for me,” he said with a certain amount of pride.
“Are you still doing it?” I asked.
“Well no, things sort of got off the rails…”
“And you slipped back into old habits?” I interrupted.
“Yes, I guess,” said Brian. “If I keep to that system, it really works, I got some great results in those two weeks.” “That’s because you focused and wrote your goals down and gave them a time limit,” I replied. “It takes three weeks to break old habits Brian, you only have a week to go

"My employees are driving me nuts!”
“The minute I leave the store or I’m out of town, my employees are calling me,” complained Jennifer. “They are driving me nuts! They expect me to solve all their problems
“Why do they always call you?” I asked.
“I dunno,” replied Jennifer, “I guess because I always have the right answers
“Are they capable employees? Do you trust their judgment?”
“Yes, I guess so,” answered Jennifer, “they’ve been with me a long time
“Then turn your cell phone off,” I suggested. “But first, tell them that you trust their judgment, that you respect their ability to make the right decision. Show them that you are putting your faith in them. Give them a sense of ownership and responsibility. It becomes too easy to ask you and put the responsibility right back into your hands

On checking in with Jennifer a couple of days later, she was ecstatic.
“Guess what?” she said excitedly, “I was away from the store for two days, and did what you suggested, and just called in once a day, and they solved not one but five problems by themselves! And they really appreciated me telling them that I trusted their judgment. It may seem like a small thing to you, but it’s a big thing for me. Thanks Fran, I’ll keep working on this

What do these three stories have in common? These dealers had become immersed in their business, trying to do everything themselves, creating nothing but stress. Yet the solutions are simple — if you are ready to make those small, positive changes.

If you want your business to grow, don’t DOH: Dump, Overwork and Hyperventilate. Learn to better plan your time, and DAA instead: Delegate, Administrate, and Appreciate.

Frances McGuckin is an award-winning small business expert, motivational business speaker and best-selling author of Business for Beginners, Big Ideas for Growing Your Small Business (Canadian edition) and Taking Your Business to the Next Level: An essential step-by-step success plan (U.S. edition), to be released April 2005 through Sourcebooks Inc. The U.S., Indonesian, Saudi Arabian and Thailand editions are due for release in 2005. She can be reached at 1-888-771-2771, e-mail at

This column is available for syndication. For information, contact Frances McGuckin at

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