If you’re the kind of person who starts each day going through your email inbox, believing it’s the most obvious place to start work – and let’s face it, that applies to the majority of us – then Tracey Foulkes has news for you.
“It takes on average three minutes to read an email and most employees read each email three times before acting on it. On average people receive around 40 emails a day – which means you could be losing as much as four hours a day per employee, just to email mismanagement,” she says.
As founder of one of South Africa’s first professional organising firms, Get Organised, Foulkes is full of such statistics. Did you know that multitasking actually wastes time? It takes around 20 minutes to get back to a peak level of concentration once you’ve dropped a task, hopped to another, and then come back to the first. Middle managers spend two days a week in mostly unproductive meetings, and executives spend a whopping four. By simply making meetings more productive, a company of 20 employees with an average salary of R20 000 can save close to R450 000 a year.
On first consideration there may not appear to be much of a market for a company that helps people to be more organised, but these statistics suggest differently. “People often don’t see the need to get outside help in organising their workflow, space and time – until you show them just how much money they are losing to poor productivity, ” says Foulkes.
Her research and expertise in the area of professional organising have helped her build a company that in the past
financial year posted a 41,8% growth rate. After introducing a licensee model in 2008, she currently has eleven licensees in South Africa and recently went global with her first international licensee in Ireland.
Educating the market
First-mover advantage has given her a strong foothold in the market, but it’s also meant she had to do pioneering groundwork. “When I first started, professional organising was an almost entirely new concept in South Africa, so I needed to invest a great deal of time educating the market as to why this was a service they needed,” says Foulkes, who founded the Association of Professional Organisers in South Africa.
Most people don’t realise that being disorganised is a learned behaviour that can be changed. “They think of time as a huge bucket that’s always empty, so they have a sense that there is always time to get things done. Our job is to make them realise that time is a commodity, linked to money, and that the bucket is actually very small and can be filled quickly. This helps people to realise the importance of being more productive, and it’s then that they embrace the changes that we can help them make,” Foulkes explains.
Foulkes has structured the business to service both businesses and individuals. A free, no-obligation needs analysis service helps to generate leads, and the business offering includes hands-on organising sessions, training and workshops for groups and speaking engagements. Get Organised also sells self-productivity DVDs online, increasing the company’s revenue stream potential.
Part of Get Organised’s innovation lies in the tools it uses to show companies the extent to which lack of productivity is affecting their bottom line. “We do an assessment of their time, space and email management, based on the number of people in the company and the average salary per person. This gives them a cost figure which is then reduced through productivity savings,” says Foulkes.
The practical tools may sound self-evident, but the fact that so few companies are using them proves otherwise. And if they help you to save hundreds of thousands of rands a year, there’s clearly a great deal more to be said for things like making lists and prioritising tasks. Foulkes uses the example of email to illustrate just one way companies can achieve greater productivity: “Instead of spending the first couple of hours of the day doing emails, spend that time doing those things that are most closely linked to your revenue-generating or profit-making ability. This will mean that by the time you reach mid-morning or midday, you’ve done those things that are most important to your bottom line. If you do nothing else during the day, you’d have done the things that directly help you make money. Set aside one-hour time slots during the day to tackle email.”
Foulkes’ advice is practical and highly implementable. Organising skills might sound like a soft issue, but her clients can attest to the fact that what Get Organised does has resulted in them saving hard cash. N
Player: Tracey Foulkes
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