Chemists short on time management skills

Research into the way small business operators use their time has found time management is rarely performed well in small firms, and time management skills are often lacking.

Past research has shown that most business owners tend to work long hours (typically 50-60 hours a week), often sacrificing their weekends and social time to concentrate on their business. They usually only take very limited holidays each year and often report a sense of “chronic time shortage”.

A recent study of of 155 retail pharmacy owner-managers in WA measured what proportion of their time was spent on six different management responsibilities: marketing, client relations, dealing with external stakeholders, record-keeping and paperwork, business planning and strategy, and other issues (such as staffing matters or technology issues).

The typical small business owner spends the majority of his or her time (almost 60 per cent) in direct contact with clients. Dealing with paperwork and administration tasks occupies another 15 per cent, which leaves only a small amount of time free to focus on marketing, growing and planning for the business.

Our research found three distinctively different types of managerial time styles – shop floor owner-managers (who focus on customer contact and relationships), pro-active managers (whose priority is business development, marketing and strategic planning), and dutybound proprietors (who concentrate on administrative tasks).

Shop floor managers spent more than 80 per cent of their time spent dealing with clients, and represent the majority of business owners. The proactive group spent more than 20 per cent of time on marketing, planning and external relations, while the dutybound group spent more than 20 per cent of their time on administrative duties.

The shop floor profile employed fewer staff, but interestingly had a similar turnover to managers not using this style. The proactive style employed more staff, and had a greater turnover than managers not using this style.

We have published our research in the paper Time Management Amongst Small Business Owner - Managers: An Analysis of Retail Pharmacies in Western Australia by myself and Geoffrey Baker, Department of Psychology, Murdoch University.

* Michael Schaper is a lecturer at Curtin Business School

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