In a recent GoGetta survey, our research found that the main struggle for small to medium sized businesses is around efficiency.
Although larger companies are more easily able to absorb mistakes, for SMBs, delays or internal errors can have a detrimental effect on your business. As you’ll know, running a business leaves you with very little time left in the day – and some days, the challenges seem insurmountable. From keeping on top of cash flow, establishing (and enforcing!) processes, paying contractors on time, and knowing when to grow your team, your overall efficiency has a direct impact on your productivity and profitability.
We have put together our top seven practical tips on how to improve efficiency in the early stages of running a business.
1. Review your processes and procedures
In the early days of your business, it can be easy to stray from the processes and procedures you set yourself before opening. And this isn’t such a negative, providing you take the time to review how the business has changed from your expectations, and what revised processes you need to create.
You can do this by keeping a simple task diary for a fortnight. Every day, note what you are doing, and for how long. Keep notes on feedback or comments your are getting from your staff, customers, and suppliers; as well as any pain points that have emerged in your daily work.
From here, you will have a better picture to identify the following:
- What is taking up the most of your time?
- What are the recurring issues in the business?
- What are the most significant mistakes being made?
- Where is your ‘spare’ time emerging, and how can you utilise it better?
2. Stay on top of your finances, and review cash flow regularly
If there is one thing that you cannot allow to get away from you, it’s your finances. As a small to medium sized business, chances are it’s either you or a bookkeeper maintaining the profits and losses of your business, meaning that it can sometimes be delegated to the bottom of the ‘to do’ list.
You must set aside time weekly to analyse in detail the cash flow of the week, as well as forecasting what bills or other costs are on the horizon. Getting the big picture will allow you plenty of time to prepare for any tight spots where your profits might not exceed your losses.
If you are finding that is happening often, it’s time to rework your cash flow. Get paid sooner by changing your payment terms, or install a 50% prepayment before starting a job. There are no hard and fast rules about how to be paid as a small business – it’s up to you to decide what is necessary for your business to stay afloat.
3. Knowing what to cut, and what to keep
In a small to medium sized business, there’s no room for dead weight – this applies to processes, equipment, and even suppliers and staff. Keep your business trim by having regular reviews of the costs your business is maintaining.
Are you hanging onto unused equipment in the hope of maybe picking up a job in that field someday soon? Then consider selling it and focusing on what business is actually gaining traction. Or, if you have a large number of casual workers that are costing big bucks, look to bring a handful on as permanent staff members and but make sure you are still abiding by the Small Business Fair Dismissal Code.
You need to be brutal when it comes to what to cut, and what to keep: with limited funds and a business to grow, everyone and everything on your books must be contributing.
4. Embracing new tech with automation
For the most part, administration for your business is all now able to be automated. Bookkeeping, timesheets, rosters, and communication can be streamlined with specialised software or apps.
“Business automation is not just a luxury; it is a necessity in today’s competitive environment,” says Sathvik Tantry of FormSwift. “Automating monotonous tasks saves your employees’ time and allows them to do more productive tasks that require critical thinking or a human touch.”
Equip your employees with the tools they need to collaborate with each other, your customers, vendors, and partners. Capabilities such as interactive calendaring, videoconferencing, and document sharing help to keep everyone on the same page and bring out their best.
5. Good enough is actually good enough
One of the greatest culprits of inefficiency is perfectionism. Setting yourself a task and refusing to finish until it’s ‘perfect’ will detract you from the long list of other things that need attention within your business.
If you struggle with time management, give yourself a daily schedule. Commit to only spending a certain amount of time with one particular item before either delegating or moving onto the next thing. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted by impromptu ‘Do you have a minute?’ meetings or last minute jobs – stick to the schedule.
Learning that ‘good enough’ really is good enough will be your greatest lesson as a business owner.
6. Discover targeted marketing
If you are finding yourself spending a lot of time trying to source new customers, you should review targeted marketing techniques so that you can be speaking to the right audience, every time.
Targeted marketing exists across most social media platforms – Facebook especially – as well as via website and Google search. It may seem overwhelming at first, but once you figure out how to use it, you can speak to customers based on location, industry, and even age.
7. Outsourcing and delegation
Like most small business owners, you probably feel that the best person to complete a certain task is…you! But if you make yourself the sole manager for your business, tasks will become bottlenecked and you won’t be able to gain pace or grow.
Do what you do best, and outsource the rest. Don’t try to take on every job within your industry: once you get the job, be prepared to outsource some tasks to contractors. When it comes to management, train other staff members to manage at least 50% of your daily tasks – even if you need their help all the time, knowing that you have the option to free up your schedule is important. And then the hardest part of all – learning to delegate when needed.
Running a small business all comes down to making the most of your time and abilities. Efficiency is not something that comes naturally to most of us – it takes hard work and commitment to ensure your business doesn’t become weighed down with useless tasks or badly managed processes.
Set yourself some efficiency goals, and before long, practice will make perfect!