Time Management

One thing I am positive no business owner has been able to invent is more hours in a day. I am certainly not about to give you the solution either because there is none. But as a small business owner there really is no skill more important than the ability to manage your time effectively.

My wife works as a Chemical Engineer for ExxonMobil and we have 3 boys ages 5 and under. As you might imagine (and I am sure anyone out there with kids doesn’t need to be told), juggling kids schedules with your work schedules is tough. Not to mention when they decide to get sick without scheduling it in my planner!

Adding to my own personal challenge of juggling my time is a full time client job on top of owning a company, a desire to find some time for some leisure activities (translation….my golf game) and of course the one that immediately suffers, exercising.

So naturally the most important thing on this list is family and everything gets dropped or rescheduled when we have a sick kid. This is very tough with 2 working parents as I’m sure many of you can attest to those mornings when one wakes up with 102 temperature and you immediately get into the game of dueling planners to see who can miss work that day to stay home with the punk kid that decided to get sick, I mean the poor little guy.

My father in law is a CEO of an engineering company that by my standards is huge.(100+ employees with offices in several states). I am 100% convinced that he has invented an additional 5 hours in a day. He is always busy traveling for work but still somehow finds a way to always drop everything when my kids are in town to visit grandpa, he plays in a tennis league, he serves on a charity board, active in his church, take care of his aging mother one weekend a month, and somehow finds a way to run 1000 miles a year. Quite frankly it makes me tired just to THINK about the schedule he manages.

My point in bringing his schedule up though is to remind myself that if he can cram all of that into a day/week/month/year then if I can’t make time a few days a week to go for a run then I am just making an excuse to not work out and I certainly have no excuse to drop my work for an hour and go play outside with my sons.

Now my goal in this blog isn’t to just tell you about me but hopefully to share a few tips that have helped me along the way to manage my time.

1. Delegation – If you are a small business owner than I am going to go out on a  limb and say you have pretty strong convictions and some may even call you a control freak. That may even be one of the reasons why you are in business for yourself today. However, one of the things I have come to accept over my 7 years of owning my company is that I cannot do everything and going one further..I can’t control everything.There are certain things that I am good at that I insist on doing myself and there are other areas where I yield to someone else.

2. Know Your Weaknesses – This sort of plays into the second tip on my list which is to know what you are good at and also to know what you are NOT good at. When i started the company I did everything myself. I quickly realized that i struggled with the proposals and the financial side of things. After a few years of spinning my wheels and wasting a lot of time on this I turned over my books to someone and he eventually turned into a blessing as he now handles everything financial related with the company and saves me a LOT of time..and frustration.

3. Surround yourselves with Good People – This cannot be emphasized enough. If you surround yourself with good people, you will succeed. If people on your staff want to do more and be involved, try to find ways for them to get involved. Start small and give them opportunities to show they can handle more. Or, they will fail at something small and that won’t ruin the business and then you see that you shouldn’t turn over more to them.  Give them a chance to try though. It not only will save you time in the long run if it pans out, it also makes them more attached to the company and it’s success.

4 – Work Efficiently – I am far from the most efficient person on the planet but I do think I have gotten very good and figuring out what I need to spend a lot of time on and conversely what just isn’t that important to waste time on. Often we are sent data requests that ask for a large amount of information. Before I begin to complete it I think about what this information is going to be used for. If the answer is that it is going to be filed away and never looked at again, I am not going to spend hours finding the answers. Spend time on whats important.

5 – Combine things when possible – I love to play golf. Now that I have 3 kids I definitely don’t play as much as I would like. So what i try to do is combine my love of golf with some of the things I need to do for work. I have a few people that I am friends with that own businesses and I love to get together for “meetings” with them on the golf course. I also am in the process of brainwashing my boys to enjoy golfing so they can make me go play golf more …but I digress.

6 – Finally, come up with a system that works for you. Be it a planner, a checklist on a piece of paper, a $2 calendar (my old school wifes way to manage her schedule), google calendar….whatever works. The point is figure out a system and stick to it. I never understand how people don’t manage a calendar. How do they remember everywhere they need to be and when (the answer is they usually don’t). My wife and I actually sit down at beginning of each week to discuss our upcoming week. So she can figure out when she can go to the gym and I can figure out what nights I can schedule meetings without impacting my family schedule. Another part of our system is that I work early in the morning (usually at my desk already by 630am and I try to leave my client job by 4PM the latest so I can spend some time with my kids before it is dark out and then I pick up some company work after they go to sleep at night. This is my PLAN everyday. now for all you project managers out there you know that plans are made to be changed as my wife can attest as my BlackBerry rarely leaves my pocket.

Managing your time is one of the critical skills that help you to have an enjoyable work/life balance. These are some of the things that work for me but I’d be interested to hear any other ideas anyone out there may have they can share as well as I am always looking to improve this area of my life.


Your Passion Shines

Like I said in my intro, integrateIT is about to enter its 8th year of business (crazy still for me to believe) and just now am I at the point where we are confident in who we are and what we can offer to a big company when we partner with them.

In our first few years of business I used to send off an email to a Business Development guy/girl at a company like SAIC, CACI, BAE, KPMG, BAH etc and just hope they read the email before deleting it. If they DID actually read the email and for some reason wanted to meet with me,  I would walk into a meeting with them thinking to myself “why in the world would these people want to talk to me let alone do business with me”. Now after we have proven that we are capable of doing a good job on a proposal and following through on the work that comes after an award it has hit me….the people we work with at these companies need us. Without good partners they are nothing. Most of the companies they work with are small companies and they LOVE to work with companies that know what they are doing and don’t cause them extra work (or get their proposals thrown out for non compliance).They love to add companies that have a niche that adds to their overall story they are trying to tell their customer and so having a niche (Project Management expertise for us) is great to get you in the door. Also, once a big company finds a small company they enjoyed working with they will bring you along for the ride on future work. Just recently we closed our first partnership with KPMG (a major accomplishment). We did a great job on that proposal and a few months later we were sent a new teaming agreement for follow on work without ever asking us if we were even interested in teaming with them. 5 years ago if someone told me this would happen I would have laughed at them. My co owner David Baldini said the other night and I couldn’t agree more….”Just get us in the door to meet with them and we will close the deal”. The reason he says that and I totally feel that way as well is not because we are cocky, rather it’s because our passion shines through. Think about it, the people you are working with at these large companies don’t own the company, they could quite frankly care less how they grow and unless they own shares they don’t even really care how they perform. But as a small business owner, your company is your life. You LOVE this company like it’s one of your kids. You would do anything to see it succeed and that shines through when you talk about it. People often ask me about my company and apologize for bothering me or taking up my time. It’s funny because my response to them is “don’t be silly..I could talk about my company all day”. I really mean that. I could talk about integrateIT all day long. I am so passionate about the company that I started 7 years ago and have grown (with much help) into something I am so proud of that it HAS to shine through to the people that we do business with.

I truly feel that when you are passionate about your company that those around you can’t help but be drawn in and want to become a part of it. This is especially true when you are recruiting. Think about it, when you go for a job interview you usually meet with a recruiter. This recruiter is paid the same salary no matter how many people they recruit and they have no stake in the company. Compare that with when you as a small business owner recruit someone. That enthusiasm is contagious and anyone looking for a new job can’t help but be excited to work for a company like that. If you are a small business owner you need to be passionate about what you are a part of and you need to make sure that passion shines through. It’s something you can offer that the big companies can’t!

Allow me to Introduce Myself

For those of you that don’t know me my name is Geoff Keller and I am the President and CEO of integrateIT LLC. You have probably never heard of us because we are a very small company located in Northern Virginia. But we have been an extremely successful IT company entering our 8th year of business. Over these past 7 years I have learned a great deal about owning and operating a small business and lately a lot of people have been asking me for advice about starting or running a company and so I have decided to start a blog to share my thoughts and maybe exchange ideas with other small business  owners as well.

So who am I and how did I get here? I graduated from RPI in 1998 and got a job with General Electric in their Information Management Leadership Program at their HQ in Fairfield, CT. After completion I moved to Virginia to follow my college sweetheart Katie who had a job in the area (ExxonMobil). I held a few jobs in the government consulting industry down here and then took the leap in 2004 and started integrateIT. I will fill you in on details of how I started and grew the company as well as the lessons I have learned along the way.

Outside of integrateIT I am a father of 3 boys and a huge NY sports fan (except for the Jets and Mets as I don’t consider them NY sports teams). I enjoy spending time with my wife and kids playing golf and I am always challenged with the management of my time between all of these things.(another topic I will tackle later)

Like I said before I have decided to start this blog primarily because recently I have found myself being asked for a lot of advice on being a small business owner and after doing it now for 7 years I actually think I have some decent information that I can share with people. In addition, a major goal for me this coming year is to reduce my stress levels and for some stupid reason I think that by writing my thoughts down it will help with that. I am sure that will be proven wrong within weeks. The goal of this blog is not to talk about specific issues within my company but rather share general lessons learned about being a small business owner in a world dominated by big business. That being said, I will certainly not pass up a chance to brag about my company as it presents itself.

Well here goes….my first blog. I have no false hopes that this thing gets huge or anything but I hope the few that do follow enjoy it.