Troubleshooting devices, programs, programming and the time it wastes.

I've been wrestling with GoToMeeting for several months now. At first I thought it was just a matter of tweaking; we’ve all had to do that with applications from time to time.  So I’ve gone about granting access to my firewall, turning off my antivirus programs, disabling my firewall and still I can’t get it to run.  Support was only able to get it running when we started in Safe Mode.  Do I have the time to fight this program that still requires Internet Explorer to run optimally? (Yes, I have a PC – hush you Mac friends, just hush!)  

With enough warning I can join a meeting – just takes me about 5 minutes to arrive and for everything to load.

This falls under the same category as troubleshooting a printer, scanner or any other electronic device I rely on to do run my business efficiently.  If for just one device I spend hours calling technical support, working my way through a dizzying maze of phone-prompts, waiting on hold, finally getting through to an agent in India who swears her name is Mildred but can hardly pronounce it (language-barrier) and then being told to perform steps I’ve already taken because Mildred is reading from a script, I could have simply driven to Staples and replaced it or ordered a new one online with free shipping.  So let’s do the math.

My published hourly rate is $85.  For four hours of frustration, troubleshooting, rebooting and updating drivers I’ve lost $340 in billable hours . . . and client work still has to be done.  For half that cost, I can purchase a newer device with more bells and whistles than the one I’m trying to salvage.

How are you spending your billable hours?  How valuable is your time? Would it be better spent doing the work that serves your clients and builds your busness?  Is it time and money well spent trying to learn another program, perform the duties of an IT support person, or an Accountant?

I admit I am not an expert in several areas: accounting, SEO, hardware installation and troubleshooting, security setup, painting the exterior of my house, plumbing repairs, electric services and auto repair, just to name a few.  I am happy to pay professionals for these services, sparing my family and myself possible electrocution when turning on the garbage disposal or a car accident because I didn’t tighten the lug nuts to secure the tires.

Knowing what you’re worth extends beyond what you charge for your time.  I have a dear friend who is a fantastic writer and proofer and enjoys it immensely but she spends only a fraction of her time doing either.  If she spent more time doing that than being caught up in the other aspects of running her business she’d enjoy more hours of each day (and she’s working on it)!
We’re in the last quarter of 2012 – the perfect time to make a few changes that will change the course of how you do business in 2013.  Here’s what you can do today.

  • Define what you’re really good at.  What do you know like the back of your hand and enjoy doing as well?  Think about what people consider you their go-to person for – you may have a few other marketable skills that you’re not promoting or getting paid for and that wouldn’t seem like work at all!
  • Forget about work.  Sometimes I'll spend hours on end in the garden or learning some glass skills.  This time doesn’t make me any money, but I derive a cornucopia of pleasure from it.  Of course, I’m not spending billable hours doing it, but I’m happier during my business hours because of it.
  • Decide what you can’t or prefer not to do.  If you’re lousy at math, don’t do your own taxes and don’t try to balance your own book.  Where do you end up frustrated and wasting your time trying to "save money?"
  • Turn to your network.  I’ve learned there is always someone willing to do what you don’t want to. This doesn’t only apply to your professional network.  Your friend’s son who’s in college is an Accounting major? Might he enjoy some real-world work helping you out once a month, lightening your load and earning a few bucks to boot?  
  • Build a list of reliable and trusted resources – and then use them.   Ask your colleagues, members of your business organizations, even your clients can be good resources for various services.  Clearly they’re smart – they hired you, didn't they?
  • The bottom line is there’s always a cost to running and maintaining a business and it’s smart to look for ways we can save.  But when you get right down to it, not all costs are measured in dollars and cents.  In the following week, make a mental note to jot down how many hours of your day just breeze by and how many you spend frustrated, depleted or confused.  Those are the hours you need to focus on eliminating from your day!