Aces salesWhat is an Ace?

I don’t think many of us would argue that “Cash is King,” the very lifeblood of every business. Owners and managers spend a lot of time trying to protect the King. It often starts with sales, making sure their staff is closing deals and getting good margins. They will work on trimming expenses, negotiating with suppliers for a new special deal, turning off lights, and lamenting the awful government regulations that are just “crippling small businesses.

At the end of the day, they will look in on the King one last time to make sure he is safe and secure. Many late days will end with more than a hint of worry – is the King losing weight? He doesn’t look good at all. What in the world is going on?

Well it occurs to me that if Cash is King, and I agree that it is, then

Time is the Ace

In my experience, time always has, and always will, trump cash. Throughout the years, I have seen a lot of money made, a lot of money spent, and a lot simply squandered. I have no doubt that there will always be more cash to be made in the days, weeks, and months ahead, and I am convinced that smart business owners and operators can find new ways to keep expenses in line. The supply of cash is probably not infinite, but I can’t see the bottom from here.

I look at a lack of cash as an obstacle, but for me it is merely a symptom and not the problem. A lack of time, and more importantly the knowledge that there is a finite supply, is for me the real trump card in managing a business. The best way to protect the King is to make certain that you and staff are holding 4 Aces, that your time in the business is well-planned, productive, and efficient. In my opinion, the only proven way to fatten the King is to work with a laser-like focus on efficient, productive processes.

I have spent the better part of my management career defining and refining the top four areas that I feel have the greatest impact on time management and productivity. Although these focal points have varied to a small degree over time, and have been occasionally adapted to meet changing business requirements, the basic concept has remained true. I believe my commitment to these four principles has been the key to the success I have enjoyed in business. For me, the four Aces of time management are…

Ace of Diamonds

To compete in business, every member of the organization needs clearly defined, measurable, and actionable goals developed to increase profitability and to protect and fatten the King. For a sales person, the Ace of Diamonds might include a sales quota and a targeted closing ratio. For the accounting department, the collection rate and days in AR might be included. Similarly, the production staff might target days to completion and service costs. The Ace of Diamonds will keep your team focused on the actionable activities that must be accomplished within a limited amount of time that will allow your organization to protect the health of the King. This ace will allow the owner / manager to measure the productivity of their staff while at the same time gradually raising the bar as current goals are consistently being met.

Ace of Clubs

Every member of your team deserves the proper tool for every task and ongoing training to ensure it is used efficiently. You wouldn’t try to plant a flower with a club, would you? A little bit of hyperbole, sure, but I think you might be amazed at some of the tools your staff is using, and the ways they are using them, to accomplish their daily routine.

I have often found it valuable to spend a little time “living a day in the life” of the members of my team. It’s usually an eye-opening experience that identifies opportunities to provide them with more useful tools for their tasks, or additional training on the best uses of the tools at their disposal. A simple two hour investment with a valued associate can produce hundreds of hours of enhanced productivity by nurturing the Ace of Clubs.

Ace of Spades

For me, the Ace of Spades that promotes a highly productive work environment is providing great communication and a high degree of visibility in all business activities. No one likes Mushroom Management – being kept in the dark and fed a lot of you-know-what. I have always tried to challenge myself to introduce new and creative ways to recognize performance and productivity – both good and bad – in highly visual ways that span all areas of the organization. By holding onto the Ace of Spades, I can be confident that my team members know that not only are their bosses aware of their performance and productivity, but so are their peers. Visibility and communication have always been a strong driving force in enhancing productivity and getting the most out of time.

Ace of Hearts

Early in my management career, I had a boss that I felt was riding me like a hobby horse. After months of increasing frustration, I decided I had to go to his boss. We had a pleasant conversation about my boss during which I was told, “Frank (my boss) has one of the biggest hearts of anyone I know but he just forgets it sometimes.” Those words had a very profound impact on me.

A genuine personal concern for all of your business associates has been my Ace of Hearts since that day. It is true that people will produce for a tyrannical boss, but to really achieve the greatest productivity, you staff needs to feel that their contributions are meaningful and that they are personally important to you.

So there you have my four Aces, my personal keys to productivity and time management around which I try to base all of my daily activities. I think some of my aces are universal to any business, while others might need a little adaptation to fit varying operational challenges and goals. I have consistently found that surrounding the King with these four Aces gives me the best chance to achieve my professional goals and fatten the King while I’m at it. Cash IS King. Just don’t forget about your Aces!