The Contradiction of Capacity and Flexibility


The Contradiction of Capacity and Flexibility

In business, we need both capacity and flexibility, but there are times when they just don’t mix.

Strategically in a serviced based business, we want to be highly productive and utilise the capacity we have available in the most efficient way possible to make the most revenue.

Whilst productivity at 75% or 80% sounds like there’s flexibility, the reality is that the other 20% to 25% is spent in admin tasks, internal meetings and a plethora of small tasks. And these aren’t considered specifically client delivery tasks.

Recently, I was asked to do some work which I knew would take me close to a day and a half. The challenge was that I already had work planned for the next day and then two full days of meetings. For me, there was no question about what to do.

The decision was simply to put off the work I’d planned for the next day and prioritise this new work. It needed to be done urgently and I would keep working until it was done, which on that particular day was close to midnight.

The joys of being your own boss mean you do what it takes and if it means working into the wee hours, we just do it without thinking.

But if that same work was to be done by an employee, I wouldn’t expect them to work late and thus the job would have been completed presumably later the following day, that is assuming that the employee had the capacity to take on the extra work. 

Our capacity has its limits.

This brings me to one of the challenges of capacity. As the work grows so too the hours required to deliver. The challenge? When to employ the next (or first) team, member.

There’s that awkward time period when there’s really too much work for the existing capacity but not really enough to justify employing another person even on a part-time basis.

Sometimes, biting the proverbial bullet and taking on another team member while scary from a cash flow perspective may just be the right decision.

Now, the accountant in me strongly recommends that you update your budget and cash flow projection to see what the impact of the costs of a new team member will do to your figures, but that’s not what I want to focus on.

The issue is having the flexibility to take on new work, do one-off project work when it comes your way, and to consider whether having another person would allow the business to grow.

Having the flexibility of available time that isn’t already allocated to known work provides a couple of different outcomes. Firstly, it may free up time for you or your team members to actively seek new work, whether from existing or new clients.

Secondly, the extra space that available time provides is when creativity comes to the fore, it provides time for thinking, reflecting and considering different courses of action. 

Bringing Capacity and Flexibility Together.

Having flexibility in your capacity means that you have time to plan, time to think, time to strategise, time to prepare the budget and time to look at your cash flow projections. You may have time to take the family out or perhaps even a holiday.

The other challenge is having significant spare capacity which can be challenging as your mind will start to panic about where the next dollar is coming from. But if you’ve prepared your budget and cash flow forecast you’ll know what you need to do. 

It’s a bit like setting a financial revenue goal. I’m amazed at how often when a revenue goal has been set, it’s achieved. This is sometimes to the surprise and amazement of the business owner who never thought they’d achieve it. 

While we want the high capacity needed to make a profit, having spare capacity to be flexible is an important component too.

Our minds work in mysterious ways, give yourself the gift of flexibility and free up some capacity to allow yourself to dream and set those goals. You may just be pleasantly surprised when you reach them.

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