Time is money—we all get that. But what do we do about it?
I'd never looked at how time spent (on everything!) was affecting revenue for my nail bar. When we reached capacity in terms of the number of clients we could take on but our revenue hadn't increased, I knew it was a major red flag. My instinct was that it was time to hire. I mean, we were turning away clients all the time—and the only way to increase time available is to increase the number of people working, right?
That was my gut reaction, but luckily, I decided to try something else first. I went through all of the business's workflows with a fine-toothed comb, tracking how long they took. And in the end, it led to increased revenue.
Tracking your time doesn't have to be a slog. Here are 5 ways to automatically track your time so you can figure out where all those hours are going.
What I discovered by tracking my business's time
As humans (hi!), we tend to underestimate how long it takes us to complete an activity. (Zapier has an entire article about why we're bad at estimating time.) You can't guess how long you spend on something. You need to track it.
In the case of my nail bar, I adopted a booking system that allowed us to record every activity that we were doing when it came to client services—and how long each activity was taking. We had detailed reports each week, with an overview of what was happening in the business. I dug deeper into these reports and, upon closer inspection, I noticed that there was a lot of inconsistency.
Inconsistency among staff. For example, some technicians took an hour to do a manicure, while others were completing them in 30 minutes. This indicated to me that I needed better training.
Inconsistency among processes. Our processes were equally as inconsistent, with each staff member doing everything differently. I knew I needed to standardize processes to be sure everyone was working as efficiently as possible.
Inconsistency among pricing. We weren't charging clients according to time spent. That's not bad in and of itself, but it meant we were spending a lot of time on things that we weren't charging for. For example, a new manicure set would sometimes mean removing an old set (soaking it off). We usually soaked off for free as an incentive for the clients to return to us for their next appointment. But by tracking our time, we realized just how many hours were spent on that activity across all our clients (not to mention the tools and supplies required). We needed to start charging for this.
Inconsistency leads to inefficiency—which meant we were losing time.
The benefits of time tracking
Our success was highly dependent on how well we were able to turn time into revenue, and with the right data and reports, we were able to make the necessary changes.
We identified less profitable tasks. Every minute you spend on tasks that don't add value, you're taking time and resources away from tasks that do add value. We knew we had to either stop soaking off or start charging for it—we chose the latter because we knew it was an essential service.
We had more time to spend on creative tasks. We were able to reduce the time spent on basic services, such as our gel manicures, which meant we had wiggle room on increasing the time spent on creative things like hand-drawn nail art.
We avoided overstaffing. Sometimes you don't actually need more hires—and new staff can learn old inefficiencies and compound the problems. By looking at where you spend your time, you can understand if you're being as efficient as possible.
We avoided over-servicing clients. Everyone wants to go the extra mile for their clients. But at some point, the extra mile becomes the norm—and you start losing revenue. Because we knew clients wouldn't be thrilled to pay more, we added value to it as a standalone service by including hand scrubs and hand massages, as well as educating them about the health of their cuticles, and even upselling with cuticle oils and hand creams. It didn't take us any extra time (we did it all in the 20 minutes they were sitting there soaking their nails!), and we were able to charge for the value add.
We were always on time. Instead of estimating how long a session with a client would take—and running the risk of falling behind with appointments and irritating clients—we now knew exactly how long each service took and planned bookings accordingly.
We created transparency. When you and the client both know how long it's going to take to provide a service—and what that service entails—it helps build trust. We were able to tell each client exactly how long they'd be with us, and they knew exactly what they were paying for because the price was reflective of the effort that went into giving them great service.
This isn't about punching time cards—it's about understanding where there are inefficiencies. Tracking time at our nail bar increased team motivation, revenue, and client satisfaction.