The Business Plan with Bill Reagan: Time wasters

The Business Plan with Bill Reagan: Time wasters
Bill Reagan, who has served as executive director of the Alexandria Small Business Development Center for the last 25 years, is set to retire on Jan. 31.

Our lives are congested under the best of circumstances. We’re constantly stressed to accomplish what’s on our plates. The last things we need are intrusions that waste our precious time or require us to take extra steps.

In our business lives, we too often encounter unintentional but thoughtless time wasters. It’s frustrating to be on the receiving end of this behavior, and all of us have a responsibility to respect the time of others. Hopefully, describing some of these might deter more of us from inadvertently burdening others. Talk to your employees and colleagues about setting norms that thwart time thieves and become productivity proponents.


Websites should always consider what people are searching for. Many sites don’t have key information on their home page and require many clicks to find the basics. Some sites are not mobile friendly, so the functionality is limited for many users. Test your site with someone who knows nothing about your business and pay attention to their feedback.


There are many ways for emails to be time sponges. Some are pointless or do not provide an easy way to respond succinctly. Re-reading your draft before hitting send will make sure you’ve provided clear and easy action steps. That improves chances the recipient will respond. If you’re referencing something in the email, make sure there’s an attachment or link. Always include your title and contact information in an email signature so recipients know exactly who you are and have an alternate way to reach you.

Telephone and voicemail:

Too often, callers launch into details without confirming they’ve reached the appropriate contact. State your purpose up front, then follow up with relevant details. How often have you had to repeatedly re-listen to voicemails to catch the name and number? It’s frustrating and inclines us to ignore the call. Speak clearly and pronounce your name and organization slowly. When leaving a phone number, say it slowly and then repeat it. Then repeat your name and company.


When you refer someone to another individual, it behooves you to make sure you’re doing both of them a favor. Too often people are just trying to get rid of a situation, but blind referrals can waste everyone’s time. Check first to clarify whether the matter is in their wheelhouse before you burden someone else with something that you cannot solve.


We’ve all gotten stuck in an endless conversation without an escape. Don’t monopolize one person’s time at an event. Remember that event planning requires solid headcounts. Not RSVPing is rude and is an imposition when the planner must chase you down. With electronic RSVPs, there is no excuse for not responding.

Avoiding becoming a time waster requires us to be thoughtful and to take a little extra effort. We might have to invest a little of our own precious time, but making things flow smoothly is not only courteous, it improves communication and responses. It also enhances our standing among colleagues and potential customers.

The writer is executive director of Alexandria’s Small Business Development Center. The SBDC can be reached at