Efficiency 101 for Small Business Owners
Posted by NANCY BAKANOWICZ
21 July, 2016
As a small business owner, there are times when you probably wish there were more hours in your day to get everything done. Unfortunately, science has not figured out how to add hours to the day, but you can learn how to work smarter. Working smarter makes you more efficient, and when you maximize efficiency you can actually increase revenue by bringing down overhead costs and standing out from the competition, not to mention giving yourself a little more free time for other, non-business related activities. Here are some ways that increasing efficiency can help you, your business, your employees and your customers:
Let employees work remotely. Believe it or not, employees who work off-site are often happier, more efficient, take fewer breaks and get more done than employees who always work at the office. They also tend to feel more valued, with a 7.75 rating (on a scale of one to 10) versus all workers at 6.69. Plus, it is really beneficial if you are short on space or funds to rent an office. If you’re concerned about how to conduct meetings with remote workers, worry no more – services like Skype make it easy to set up conference calls (and voice calls are free!) and if you need to meet face-to-face, most cities have cafes or other establishments that cater to work groups who need occasional meeting space.
Reorganize your to-do list. Have you ever noticed grocery stores have all of their items grouped by type? All the soft drinks are in one aisle, pasta in another, cleaning products in still another, etc. This is so when you go grocery shopping you don’t have to skip back and forth all over the store to quickly find what you need. Your to-do list should be the same way – organizing like tasks back-to-back makes you more efficient and better able to tackle more of what is on your list.
Automate what you can. In business there is always the necessity of human interaction, but there are some things you can automate to save yourself a little time. For example, automating social media content means that you can ensure your Facebook status updates and Twitter tweets are posted at the optimal time, but you will still need to carve out some time to interact with customers. You can also take advantage of a FAQ page on your website that will provide customers with answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) and general knowledge that doesn’t change often like hours, street address and phone number.
Limit interruptions. If your employees are having trouble completing tasks, it may be due to constant interruptions. If you are a meeting-heavy business, you might try eliminating some meetings and reducing the length of the remainder – try one short meeting first thing in the morning that gives your employees everything they need to know for the day. Constant email alerts, instant messaging and other notifications are also notorious interrupters and while many of them are necessary, they do create distractions. Try working in hour-long blocks of time without interruptions, then when the hour is up, check your email and IMs. You may also consider tools like Focus Booster that can help you work with fewer distractions.
“Single-task.” In his book, Are You Fully Charged, Tom Rath says that only one in five people have the ability to focus on one thing at a time at work. In other words, multitasking is more like multi-distraction, where more than one thing is competing for attention at any given time, and as a result, people are not able to effectively do any one thing. One of the more interesting recent business trends is single-tasking, which is the art of doing one thing at a time. It has its root in mindfulness, where you do your one thing and pay attention while doing it – the “be here now” philosophy – which helps reduce anxiety while getting more done. This Huffington Post article by Andrew Merle has some excellent tips on how to help you single-task.
While efficiency is important, you shouldn’t let its implementation overshadow other goals for your business. Bring your employees in to the discussions about efficiency, and let them give feedback throughout the process so you know what works and what doesn’t – something may look great in theory, but when put into practice it doesn’t work for your particular business and/or employees. The efficient running of a business can improve your bottom line, but remember if you end up with unhappy employees and alienated customers, you may want to rethink your efficiency tactics. When done correctly, everyone, including you, your employees and your customers, will benefit from efficiency practices.