Those thin long bits at the top of your wine bottle that allow a smooth pouring of your 5pm pickup. The point of them is to make sure your wine/ beverage of choice doesn’t rush out and spill. Heaven forbid you waste any Happy Juice. *smiley wink emoji*
More figuratively alluding to a place in your business where things are squeezed and tightened and slowed down. In the literal sense, they are necessary and good ( not spilling wine) , in the figurative sense, they are not good. They prevent good people from getting on and doing the business at hand.
We talk of ‘reducing’, ‘removing’, ‘alleviating’ bottlenecks. But we never really talk of how we do that, or why the bottleneck exists in the first place.
The most common bottleneck in a small to medium sized business, sadly, is the owner, owner-manager, or hired gun that runs the place. Because your baby is exactly that, your baby, and usually you are unwilling, or unable to fully trust your staff, or outsourced vendors (even just a little bit, admit it). You want to be sure every moment of the experience is on brand, and just perfect for your clients. And at some point, that obsession with being in control of the experience overrides your common sense, and your clients start having bad experiences. Delays in getting their emails responded to. Delays in getting the answers about their projects. Just so many long delays.
And if you’re a complete control freak, perfectionist, with trust issues, such as myself, then well, you likely are the biggest and worst bottleneck. As I am, very often.
Now, I know the answer to this, and I also know , as anyone who identifies with my predicament, that resolving it is so much easier said, than done.
The answer is a 3 pronged attack
1) Answer emails promptly. (responsiveness)
2) Pass on the work to others promptly (delegation)
3) Encourage clients to go directly to the relevant staff. (creating autonomy)
I am managing 3 fairly well I reckon, and I try very hard not to get in the way of my super stars too much. They are exceptional at what they do for our clients, and I really don’t want to get in the way of that.
I manage to do number 2 about 50% of the time. Mostly because I just barely manage number 1. I have tried everything imaginable to get on top of the 200 odd emails from real people, clients, suppliers , vendors , partners , networking contacts , that I get daily.
I’ve tried doing my emails in ‘blocks’ at a specific time of day –  and on that day , 3 clients had severe hardware failures which they emailed me because my email address was the only one they could remember. Yeah, that went well.
I also tried the block-time method 2-3 times per day – slightly better – except clients started ringing my mobile to find out if I had received the email, and then we ended up discussing the email , while I was trying to pay salaries sort out wages and resolve issues with 2 bookkeepers across 2 continents. Yup – that went smashingly well too.
Lately I kind of settle for a ‘thinning of the herd’ approach. I first scan for emails that can be passed onto my staff and I try do so as quickly as a I can. Then I scan for emails where I can reply immediately with info or an answer,  and finally , I add the emails that require some work effort or input from me beyond a ‘read-reply’ to my task list, and work my way down.
It doesn’t always work as well as I’d like to be honest, traveling to visit distant clients usually leads to a bigger backlog for a while.
It has also been suggested that I should clone myself by several clients and friends. I am not so sure the world is ready for 2 of me.
Advice welcome from any other lady Bosses our there grappling with the issue of being a bottleneck.

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