One of the biggest challenges of a service business is managing your inventory. Now you might wonder what inventory, besides a few stationary supplies you may have, that need to be managed?
Well, unlike a manufacturing, retail or a distribution business, where you have physical inventory that needs to be stored, sold and then replenished, service businesses on the other hand have a single and very unique inventory -TIME!
Time- It’s how you get paid!
Because as a service business, your product is the knowledge that you and your staff carry around in your head. Putting this knowledge or expertise to work is how you generate your revenue and that’s usually in the form of hours worked.
It can be argued that service technicians like appliance or auto repair have inventory, but for the most part you hire them for their knowledge and they in turn they charge you for the time it takes to fix the problem. Therefore, the parts although important, are secondary to diagnostic skills the technician possess, because without those skills, there wouldn’t be a part to sell.
Similarly, sales and marketing services companies also generate revenue by the hour, however, it is rarely shown as such as most fees are displayed as a total for a given project. But all the fees are calculated as an estimate of how much time or hours are involved in executing the project by the various staff members.
Establish some balance
One of the biggest issues with owners of service businesses is understanding that their inventory is finite and that they should be running their companies with that in mind. Unfortunately, this is contrary to how many of these businesses operate. They assume that they can just put in more time and work longer hours. Although feasible in the short term, it is rarely a long term strategy. Yet so many continue to do so.
There are some advantages to managing your business based on your available inventory of time. First off, it should bring a sense of balance to a business. Balance, as in work life balance.
Secondly, it would allow you to establish realistic delivery timelines to the customer. Let’s be honest, we all think we can complete an assignment quicker than reality dictates but that just stresses out your staff or annoys the client when we are late. So being realistic can reduce the occurrence of both.
Additional benefits of managing your inventory can be significant on the financial front. Foremost, you’ll quickly understand whether you are charging enough and whether your existing inventory of hours available can support your financial demands.
Calculate how much time you really have
Furthermore, you should also discover how efficient or inefficient your organization is and where improvements can be made. Increases in efficiencies can greatly enhance your profitability. A simple metric such as revenue per hour is great place to start in benchmarking any improvements. This calculation is done by simply dividing your total revenue by total payroll hours for any given period, including your own.
So, how do you calculate this inventory? Well, it is easier than you think, and it really doesn’t matter whether your staff is making $20/hr or $200/hr as it is the exact same calculation. Earning a higher hourly rate does not give you more hours in a day, as we all get the same 24hrs.
The following example is how you calculate your total available inventory of time in a service business.
1. Assume a 40 hour work week = 2,080 hrs
2. Assume 3 weeks vacation = (120)
3. Assume 11 statutory holidays = (88).
4. Assume 5 sick days = (40)
5. Assume 2×15 mins breaks/day = (12.5)
Total available hours 1855.5 hrs
So before doing this exercise, most owners assume they have 40 hours a week or 2080 hours per year per employee that are available to them. However, after taking into account vacations, stat holidays, sick days and coffee breaks, that number is reduced by 11% to 1855 hours per year or a loss of almost 6 weeks out of a 52 week year.
This number actually gets worse if employees are required to travel to clients as in the case of a repair technician or a salesperson. You can easily lose and additional 2 hours per day which is a potential loss of an additional 13 weeks per annum. So now we are down to 33 weeks of billable time in a year or 1335 hours from a high of 2080 hours. That’s a 36% reduction in available inventory or billable time.
Once you understand how much available time you have, you can now start to make realistic assumptions and projections. Of course, the challenge to all service businesses is the ability to maximize your available time inventory and make sure it’s productive.
Hiring more people not the best option
Unfortunately, the only way to increase your inventory in a service business, is to hire more people. But realistically, that’s not necessarily the best option, especially if you have demand peaks and valleys in your business throughout the year. So, finding tools or processes to increase productivity might be a better avenue to maximize your existing inventory.
Realistically, we are all faced with slack periods where there’s insufficient demand and people are not busy. Sadly, you can’t store any unused time for future use. Because once that minute hand on the clock moves forward, you have lost that inventory forever.
So, sit down with staff and explain the impact they can have on the business by being more efficient. Then ask them where the bottlenecks are and their suggestions to get rid of them, because once that inventory is gone, it’s gone!
You may also enjoy episode #59 Quit Digging!
Get More LIFE Out of Your Business
You shouldn’t be the hardest working person in your company.
Many small business owners find that even after the struggling start-up years, they’re working too many hours and still managing every aspect of their businesses.
Greg Weatherdon has been there, done that. As an entrepreneur, he learned not only how to get a business to the point of running smoothly, but also how to reduce the number of hours he worked, delegate more responsibility to his employees, and take longer vacations while his business chugged along like a well-oiled machine. And now he is providing the secret to success.
Do you suffer from any of the following?
1. Business ownership isn’t living up to the dream.
2. Endless workdays.
3. You can’t find good people.
4. Profits are less than expected.
5. You can never take a vacation.
You’re not alone. But there is a solution. As Greg demonstrates, with some time and effort, you really can Get More Life Out Of Your Business.