I spent a few weeks recently letting a room in a By To Let property I own in south London, and as a result have had to travel up to town several times to manage viewings.
For reasons I don’t really understand, the other tenants aren’t interested in doing any of the meeting and showing themselves as part of the filtration process, so I’ve been doing it all. (You’d think they’d want to run the rule over prospective house-mates.)
And I don’t know whether it’s a generation thing (I suspect it is) – all the tenants are 20-somethings – but the level of reliability generally is quite appalling. (I know: I sound like Prince Charles).
If I traipse in to town with a prospective five candidates to meet, at least three won’t turn up, two of whom won’t even bother to let me know (and this in spite of e-mails and texts requesting them to confirm the day before and the day of). Of course I don’t want such unreliable people as my tenants anyway, so you could argue they’re doing me a favour, but still. And of the two (if you’re lucky) who do show, if one of them actually arrives at the appointed time, it’s a pleasant surprise.
There are of course some exceptions who stand out like a shining beacon, but for the majority, you wonder how they are ever going to get and hold down any sort of job.
I’m genuinely interested in the motivation: I make it clear to all of them that I am making a journey into London for the specific purpose of meeting them, yet they behave as if really I’ve little better to do with my time, and whether they turn up, or when, is of little consequence (which of course it isn’t for them, which is probably the issue.)
And it’s nothing to do with British (or foreign) culture. The place is like the United Nations. The chap who eventually took the room – lovely Spanish chap from Galicia – apparently waited outside for a few minutes because he was a bit early, which endeared him to me no end.
Regardless of my room-letting travails, ‘Time’ is without doubt one of three core issues that beset most small business owner/managers. (The other two are ‘Team’ and ‘Money’, since you ask.)
There aren’t enough hours in the day to do all the things that need doing. I’ve written about time management before and I don’t propose to reprise the whole shebang here (read “Eat That Frog” if you want a quick and easy educational).
But scheduling and time-keeping is an essential part of any business person’s role – employers and employees. Some professions depend on the accurate keeping of time-sheets for billing purposes, or for back-checking profitability on a project-by-project basis.
So if we’re confronted with a generation which treats time and time-keeping as elastic concepts, how are we to run anything like a tight ship?
Of course it may be that many of these flaky individuals will eventually figure it out and knuckle down in the interests of staying out of the gutter. Or it may be that my house’s very location tends to attract a higher proportion of the attitudinally challenged.
From a business owners’ perspective, there are only three ways to improve the constant calls on your time:
- Delegate: get others to do everything that isn’t of long-term strategic importance
- Delay: just don’t do stuff that doesn’t look or feel really import ant (like answering every fatuous e-mail that comes in: ignore them for a week or more, and see how vital they still are).
- Delete: stop doing unnecessary, unproductive things. Keep a time-sheet for yourself for a fortnight; then review how much could have gone into one of these three categories.
And obviously only employ people who are constantly on time, complete projects on schedule and understand the commercial imperatives of the clock (even if many of those imperatives are imposed by clients for purely artificial reasons.)
How do you do that in recruitment practice (apart from noting whether they turn up on time for their interview)? Consider giving a short-list of candidates a small project to carry out remotely with a deadline for completion and return. Then you’ll get an indication of who can cut the mustard, both attitudinally and aptitudinally.
David Croydon: 01844 238692 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org