Commercial Business Management Retail Service

The New Four-Letter Word in Your Shop: Busy

Order Reprints
The New Four-Letter Word in Your Shop: Busy

"I can’t understand why there is no profit, we are so busy.” “I need to hire more staff; we are so busy.” “How are you doing?” “Man, it’s great we are so busy.” “Hey, you need to spend more time working on your business rather than in your business.” “I can’t, I am so busy!”

Busy. A small business four-letter word that causes a lot of pain. Who can argue with busy? Busy means making money, right?

Wrong. Busy is nothing more than activity. Whether that activity is profitable is whether to call it productive or a waste of time. I would like to suggest to everyone reading this to take a challenge for 30 days: Give up the word busy. Put a curse jar in the shop, charge anyone $5 if they utter the new profanity, and donate any money on the 31st day to a local charity or school. I want our industry to eliminate the word “busy” from our vocabulary.

In our 20 Group meetings, if someone says a bad word, they owe the treasurer $5. I’m thinking of adding the word busy to that list made famous by George Carlin. Busy doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t matter if someone is busy. What they need to do is prioritize the multiple tasks they must do each day and give the business the most bang for the buck.

I once had an employee call me two hours after closing the store to complain he couldn’t find a missing dollar while counting the drawer.

I’m sure he was busy the whole time counting and looking for that dollar. But as an hourly employee, he was not productive. He cost me $8 looking for the $1.

When recruiting for members to our 20 Groups, I often hear from potential members that they just can’t come to a meeting. Why? Yup, they are busy. They just can’t step away from the business for three days. But they need help, they aren’t making the margins they should be, their payroll is out of control, the competition is eating them alive. But they sure are busy.Let’s take the next 30 days and start challenging each other to see if we are productive. Replace that curse word with being productive. “I am doing the most productive thing on my to do list at this moment.” “I have a billion things to do this week, but I am going to make sure I do the ones that get me the best return on my time.”

Let’s be extremely clear about why being productive is more important than being busy.

Fifty years ago, you would hear people say: TIME = MONEY. That calculation has changed. Today, and increasing exponentially in the years to come: TIME > MONEY. Much greater.

“I don’t have enough time to get all the things done I need to do” is what we all hear, from everyone, all the time. We hear it from customers, as well.

They are increasingly putting demands on us to improve our processes so that it favorably impacts their downtime. No one likes waiting. No one likes standing in a line. It’s a waste of time.

Challenge yourselves to stop the status quo. Do something different with and about your business starting today.

Don’t accept busy as an answer. Start accepting more appointments to better organize your day (reducing “busy times”). Challenge any long-held belief that it “can’t be done that way because it never was before.” You may just open wide a system that lets you be more productive and less busy.

That being the case, the best option is to start making a conscious effort to prioritize what is valuable to you and the business and, just as importantly, when an employee tells you they are busy, to question exactly what they mean by that.

And hold the curse jar open for their $5 deposit.    ■

Dennis McCarron is executive director of Dealer Strategic Planning Inc., a company that manages multiple tire dealer 20 Groups in the U.S. ( To contact McCarron, email him at

See other columns by Dennis McCarron here:

Using 'Return on Sales' Measurement to Guide Purchases

Technology and Talent: Now is the TIme to Get Ahead of the Learning Curve

here are 3 TYpes of Learning: Each Has its Upsides and Downsides

Batters' Up! Leadoff to Cleanup, Here's How to Grow Your Business

You must login or register in order to post a comment.