Time is Scarcest Commodity of Entrepreneurship

Shadow by Martin Lopatka from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Being an entrepreneur is one the most challenging and rewarding things I’ve done in my life. I have almost total autonomy over the type of work I do, and I get to hand-pick my clients. I get to write books, speak at conferences all over the world, and develop new products. Although my work allows me to be involved in creative projects, the one thing I can’t create is more time.

As an entrepreneur, I feel like I’m constantly running against the clock. There are only so many hours in the day, and every time I accept an invitation to an event or take on a new project, there are other opportunities I have to decline. I’ve also learned that I have to allow enough time to do basic things like rest; otherwise, I’ll get overwhelmed, short circuit my system, and crash-and-burn where I’ll need several days to recoup.

The older I get and the more complex my projects get, the more selfish I’ve become with my time. I’m grateful to have a receptionist who screens my calls and makes people contact me via email to set up appointments. The reason for this is simple: when it’s your turn, you’ll get my undivided attention; when it’s not your turn, you don’t get to distract me from my work. Every distraction is a potential delay. So, the fewer distractions, the more I can get done, and the more people I can help in the long run.

One of the biggest frustrations I have to deal with is people who waste my time, especially when I’ve set aside time for them, or worse, arranged my entire day around the expectation that they would meet a deadline or arrive for an appointment. I often run a “tight ship” when it comes to my schedule, so a delay can throw off the rest of the day. I’ll have to rearrange my calendar – and often not just for that day – and if I get angry on top of it, that can be really hard to shake off.

I had such an experience recently – a contractor working on my condo was more than an hour late for our appointment. He was supposed to arrive between 8:30 A.M. and 9:30 A.M. – and he didn’t show up until 10:30 A.M., and he didn’t call. While I waited for him, I channeled my frustrated energy into drafting a contract template where the parties agree to respect the other’s time and the penalty for wasting my time is paying me (at my hourly rate) for the time they wasted. (Yes, I had another lawyer put a set of eyeballs on this contract to verify it was legally sound. He said he was going to steal it to use in his life.)

This is a contract I want to use with all service providers moving forward. I wrote it to put everyone on the same page from the beginning of the professional relationship, where both sides commit to being on time for the other person. They acknowledge that I’m an entrepreneur, and as such, when they waste my time, they interfere with my ability to make a living.

This agreement is not as bitchy as it may sound on its face. I have to commit to following their policies for scheduling and rescheduling appointments too, and there are allowance for some delays – hitting every red light, etc. If it’s a situation where insurance is involved, it requires them to let me know two hours before my appointment time if there are any issues with getting the right approvals, so I’m in the loop, and perhaps it’s something a call from me can rectify.

Besides augmenting my service contracts with this mutual agreement to respect the other’s time, I want to bring the Law of Two Feet back into my life with a vengeance. If my needs aren’t being met wherever I am, or in whatever I’m doing, I have permission to peace out and do something different. It’s been a while since I’ve walked out of a meeting, but it’s something I may have to start doing more often.

One of the things I love about writing contracts is they can be customized for your needs (as long as the terms are legal). If you’re interested in getting a custom contract, you can contact me directly or a business lawyer in your community. I regularly post about legal issues impacting entrepreneurs on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and LinkedIn. You can also get access to more exclusive content that is available only to people on my mailing list, by subscribing here.

Networking Should Be Fun

The Other Side of the Trampoline by Peter Werkman from Flickr

The Other Side of the Trampoline by Peter Werkman from Flickr

If you’re a business owner, networking is part of your job. It’s a significant part of my job. I attend two to four events to shake hands and kiss babies every week. My goal at each of these events is to make connections and build relationships with other professionals in my community.

Because my goal is to create relationships, I prefer to network in smaller groups and one-on-one than at large networking events. Larger events tend to be loud, crowded, and you never know who you’re going to meet. You may meet some interesting people at these events but it also feels like it would be easier to find a needle in a haystack than to find the people you really want to meet. I prefer personalized introductions and specialized networking events like those geared towards entrepreneurs, social media professionals, local business owners, artists, and my fellow legal eagles.

Most of the time, a networking meeting involves meeting for coffee. Coffee is fine, especially from awesome independent shops like Luci’s and Lux. (The last cup of coffee I had at a Starbucks was so vile it made me never want to go there again.) I’ve networked so much that I’m a little coffeed out and I’m looking to change it up a bit.

I’m a big believer that if you don’t love your job, you should change it. In that spirit, I want to make networking more fun. Networking is really about making connections by sharing information and ideas between people. The location is simply the forum. So why not make it a fun-based experience?

I recently invited my email list to meet me for ice cream (ICE KREM!) instead of coffee this summer. Come on – it’s freakishly hot in Phoenix. We should have something refreshing. Besides ice cream, I’d love to network over a game of cards or Skip-Bo. For people who are a more adventurous we could go bowling or hit my favorite trampoline playground. I would be happy to meet with people before attending a book signing at Changing Hands or a movie screening by the AZ Tech Council or wander around the Phoenix Art Museum on a Wednesday night when it’s open to the public for free.

When the weather cools down, I think it would be fun to meet people while feeding the fish at the Japanese Friendship Garden, wandering around First Friday, or taking our dogs to the dog park.

So, if you are a professional networker who wants to kick the experience up a notch and you work in the same circles as me, drop me a line. Of course, if I find you unbearable or you hit me with a hard sell, I will assume you don’t understand the real purpose of networking and invoke the Law of Two Feet.

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