Efficiency, productivity and creativity. They are just three ingredients in a much larger recipe to make a successful business. The trouble is; many entrepreneurs lack one or more of those items in their companies. As a result, things don’t run as smooth as they should.
Do you feel like your business isn’t the slick operation that you had hoped? If so, you might think there isn’t much you can do about it. After all; being so busy running your business, you may seldom have time to put things right.
The good news is that you can do plenty of things that won’t take up much of your time. What are these magical business hacks, I hear you ask? Well, keep reading and you will find out!
Automation is your friend
Even a hundred years ago, entrepreneurs found ways to automate some tasks. Nowadays, technology helps us to do even more without any physical interaction! One of the essential tips I can give you is to embrace automation with open arms.
So, just how can you automate your business? Let me share with you a few examples:
Warehouse Automation – conveyors reduce the need for walking the length of warehouses. Your staff can use their skills on other tasks, increasing stores efficiency;
Software Automation – many of today’s applications can automate tasks. For instance, you can record macros that record common keystrokes and menu selections;
Telephone Automation – you could introduce a caller menu system. People can select the department they want by pressing a number on their phone’s keypad.
Foster a culture where people talk to each other
There’s nothing worse than running a business where your staff seldom talk to each other. Yes, you want your employees to work and not stand around chatting all day. But, many good ideas are born out of simple conversations.
All too often, people rely on non-personal communications. You know the ones I’m talking about: email, SMS and instant messaging. What if your staff got encouraged to spend more time talking to each other face to face? There are many advantages to fostering such a culture in your workplace.
First of all, there would be fewer misunderstandings. Why? Because you can see the reactions on people’s faces to what you or they are saying. That means it’s harder to “take” something that gets said the wrong way.
Second, verbal communication is quicker than email. It allows people to get straight to the point. And it does so without appearing rude to others.
And, third, it helps develop closer working relationships with your teams. I often find companies where teams are more like competitors than people on the same side. Talking also helps workers to understand what their colleagues do each day. Many criticisms of people’s roles in the business are often unfounded. Why? Because they seldom know what it is they do and how they do it!
Encourage people to avoid interruptions
When you’re in the middle of working on a major project, the last thing you want is to get interrupted. As a business owner, you should encourage your staff to adopt a low-interruption policy.
For example, don’t have meetings unless they are critical to what people are doing. Only check and respond to emails during set times of the day. And put all mobile phones on silent! By asking your staff to follow such simple ideas, their productivity will increase.
In some job roles, it makes sense for certain people to work in isolation. I know, that doesn’t seem like an appealing idea, right? The truth is, some folks work better when they aren’t surrounded by people.
One idea is to allow staff to use “quiet zones” in your office when they need to do so. For instance, they might need to finish a deadline in silence away from other staff members. If your staff get easily distracted, going to a quiet zone will be a boon for their productivity.
Make sure your technology is up to scratch
I don’t know about you, but I find that using the latest gadgets helps me to be more efficient in my working day. The sad truth is that IT is an afterthought for many businesses. Sometimes you’ll come across organisations that use ten-year-old computer systems.
Sure, they might have been OK for use back in 2005. But, today’s software titles and operating systems demand more hardware resources. In layman’s terms, you need faster computers! So, what do you do if you know little about today’s modern computer technology?
One idea is to entrust such decisions to a knowledgeable IT support company. They can help you plan your office network and organise systems that meet the needs of their users. Such firms can even tell you if your Internet speeds are too slow for the size of your office.
Other things to think about are the devices you use for printing, copying and scanning. Can you use a simple desktop all-in-one device? Or is a fully-fledged photocopying and printing station a better idea?
You will also need to consider the security aspects of your IT as well. If your office has Wi-Fi, does it use adequate encryption? And does it allow plenty of concurrent users? As you can see, there are plenty of facets when it comes to technology. Make sure you are using the best gadgets and infrastructure for your needs. Otherwise, you could end up dragging behind your competitors.
Encourage your staff to share resources
One big problem that many companies face is where team members don’t share resources. I’m talking about things like file templates, project notes and even customer details. Some people do that deliberately. Others assume that their team members won’t need to use their resources.
You should encourage a working environment where all team members share resources. Yes, some information is confidential and should only get allowed on a “need to know” basis. But, for the most part, things like customer details should be an open resource.
Consider using enterprise software to help you with that quest. Popular examples include Oracle and SAP. Of course, nothing is stopping you from having an in-house solution made for you. But, you may find it more cost-effective to customise an off the shelf solution.
The thing about running a business like a well-oiled machine is that you need to improve how you do things. There might be two different ways of achieving the same result but which is more efficient? To help your business grow, you need to analyse what you do and devise ways to improve those methods.
Typical questions to ask yourself during your analysis should include:
Is there a quicker way to complete this task without sacrificing quality?
Can I automate this task, and, if so, is it a cost-efficient idea?
Do I have the right people working in particular roles?
The idea is to look at your process and find ways of improving them. You may even find that changing the way you do things could save you money too!
Find ways to better manage your tasks
We all have our ways of accomplishing various tasks throughout our working lives. But, that doesn’t mean the way we handle those tasks is particularly efficient.
One ingenious way to better manage your tasks and those of your tasks is to use task management software. There are plenty of collaborative solutions that help staff reach project milestones. It’s just a case of selecting one that best suits your company’s needs.
The thing about working as a team means that everyone knows each other’s roles. That way, there is no confusion. And that lessens the risk of project deadlines getting missed.
Don’t be afraid to ask for outside help
For some reason, a few business owners believe it is a sign of weakness to ask for help! In fact, it shows that you want to build the strengths of your business, and that of your own.
There are plenty of organisations out there that provide specialist services. Earlier I mentioned how an IT support company can help with your computer needs. If you have HR issues, you could also use a firm that offers mediation services. There is a service provider out there for just about anything in business!
If you need help achieving a particular goal or overcoming a problem, don’t be afraid to seek it.
Don’t take on more than you can handle as a business
Last, but not least, you should know when to stop taking orders during busy periods. There is only so much a person can physically do. Not all companies have the luxury of being able to hire more staff. So, when your firm’s workload has reached capacity, just say “no” to new orders.
It might sound like an odd suggestion to make. But, it’s better to fulfil your existing obligations to clients than disappoint them. An idea to not let down any new customers may be to sub-contract any extra work. That way, deadlines can still get met.