In today’s highly competitive market, business owners are frequently so focused on how they can bring in more money that they ignore growing inefficiencies that are lurking in the background – quietly and continuously cutting into their profits. The more products and services you offer, the more employees you take on, and the more customers you serve, the more important tackling inefficient processes head-on becomes.
The good news is that there are plenty of simple, often intuitive ways to do this – and it all translates into happier, more productive employees, a healthier profit margin, and more satisfied customers.
- Identify your biggest problem areas, brainstorm solutions, and test drive
Shaving off a few seconds here and there is not your goal. You’re looking to address the biggest bottlenecks and inefficiencies first. Get all your employees involved, and have a (brief!) brainstorming session. Get the ideas flowing by making some suggestions of your own first.
A few ideas might include:
- Reorganizing your stock room so items frequently sold or used together are kept together
- Letting staff in creative roles, or employees who need to focus intensely on analytical tasks, work from home full- or part-time
- Looking at cost-effective forklift rentals to reorganize your warehouse from top to bottom
- Getting quotes from alternative suppliers who offer faster delivery
- Implementing a system such as Slack for office communication
Once you have your action plan, implement it straight away and monitor whether it’s helping or hindering closely. Every business is different, and tactics that look great on paper might not work so well in practice. Learn what you can from these, and move on.
- Organize tasks and schedules around reality
Pose a very simple question to your employees, department heads, and yourself:
What do you spend the most time waiting for?
Sometimes there’s a simple solution – like shifting around some of your employees’ schedules to better synchronize with what’s needed when. Other times, the issue may be outside of your direct control – like waiting for a supplier to bring in a delivery.
In these instances, make sure employees know what other tasks they could be tackling – such as helping out another team or a colleague who’s overloaded. This is also a great way to encourage cross-training. The more employees know how to perform critical tasks, the better – as they can potentially fill in if someone is off sick and keep the ball rolling!
- Outsource non-core functions to the experts
If you run a busy plumbing company, the chances are good you’re not giving as much attention to your marketing, SEO or social media as you should be. Trying to take on everything from balancing the books to conducting new market research might feel like it’s going to save you money – but that just isn’t the case if it’s taking your time away from what you do best. If you outsource to firms or freelancers with a good reputation and a proven ROI, then you can rest easy knowing the professionals have it covered.
- Encourage ‘single-tasking’
While lots of people believe they’re great at multitasking, the data just doesn’t tell the same story – and that goes for both men and women. The best way to perform any given task thoroughly and efficiently is to devote your complete attention and focus to it. In a busy workspace, however, there’s usually plenty to keep workers distracted – and that might include you. Wherever possible, avoid assigning a new task or breaking an employee’s concentration before they’ve completed what they’re working on.
One technique that many companies find to be particularly useful is to block out sections of the work day either for meetings and collaborative work, or for focused, active, interruption-free working. It’s when you’re constantly jumping between the two that productivity flies out the window!
If it’s tedious, monotonous, time-consuming, repetitive and prone to human error, it’s probably a job for a machine.
- Hack your meetings in half – or get rid of them altogether
It’s astonishing how much time people spend in meetings – and when that time is not being spent productively, it hurts the organization in several ways. Realize that a one-hour meeting with ten employees is actually costing you ten man-hours, and you’ll start to see why.
If you need to have a meeting with your workers, stick to the agenda, make sure you’re only bringing in employees who actually need to be present, and adjourn the minute you’ve discussed the points in question.
To hurry things along, some CEOs swear by ‘stand-up meetings’. Basically, people are a lot more likely to jabber and chat when they’re sitting comfortably. Make them stand, however, and everyone’s more motivated to get back to work!