Small businesses don’t have the luxury of waste. Without huge teams and unlimited budgets, business owners must make every minute, dollar, and hire count. Identifying inefficient processes and replacing them with better practices can help companies save money without sacrificing quality in the bargain.
How to Increase Business Efficiency
Check out these top tips for increasing efficiency in your small business:
1. Automate Frequent Sales Tasks
Great salespeople understand that selling is like dating. You need to show the other party respect and consideration, but you can’t ignore the reality of the numbers game. The more conversations you have, the more opportunities you get. You can boost profits and save time by automating some of your top-of-funnel sales tasks.
Personalized communications and automation company Mixmax advises small business owners to schedule automated follow-up emails with sales prospects. Not only does that help you keep conversations alive, but it also allows you to put your own personal touch on each email. You work hard to find qualified prospects, so don’t let them go after one or two misses. This in turn can boost your conversion rate without dedicating extra time to prospecting.
2. Find Trustworthy Outsourced Partners
Small teams of never-say-never employees are worth their weight in gold. That said, no team with fewer than a dozen people has room for experts in every field. When you need expertise in an area outside your core business vertical, look to the freelance world for help. Once you find someone who delivers quality service on time, hold on to that person for dear life. Even if you have to pay a bit over market rate, the returns are more than worth the investment.
If you haven’t worked with many freelancers before, the Society for Human Resource Management provides a comprehensive list of questions to ask potential partners. SHRM also includes suggestions on how to manage projects with freelancers, ensure you retain the rights to the work, and keep both sides feeling appreciated.
3. Tell Employees to Stop Multitasking
Have you been looking for “great multitaskers” in your job postings? If so, stop immediately. Multitasking is a myth. People who attempt to multitask inevitably accomplish less (and with lower quality) than they would by focusing on one thing at a time.
Instead of encouraging employees to stay on call at every moment, teach them to block off time to focus on their projects. Encourage a little leeway — something that should take one hour usually takes 30 minutes when accounting for interruptions and shifts in focus. When your teams quit multitasking and learn to bear down on one thing at a time, you will notice an immediate difference in both quality of work and quantity of projects completed on deadline.
4. Get Real about Your Schedule
Your employees aren’t the only ones who need a scheduling reality check. Saying “yes” to every demand won’t help you get more done, no matter how desperately the person asking begs. On the contrary, when you bend over backward for every customer, employee, and business partner, you lose the ability to prioritize, which can end in disaster. Avoid the headache by creating a calendar and sticking to your schedule so you know exactly how much time you have.
Appointment.com recommends blocking out time for tasks, denying requests for last-minute meetings (outside of emergencies), and planning for breaks throughout the day. You’re not a machine. Without a few breaks throughout the day, your energy will drain and your focus will wane. Give yourself a little breathing room and learn to say “no” more often.
5. Ask your Employees What They Would Change
You might know everything about your business, but your employees know more than you do about their daily grind. Talk to them about the most frustrating parts of their jobs and see if you can work together to find a solution. You may not be able to help customer service reps screen calls from rude customers, but you can help them create better documentation to make technical calls go more smoothly.
HR company Insperity advises leaders to be as specific as possible when soliciting feedback from employees. Talk about the future, not the past. What would make their lives easier? Are there processes or people within the company forcing them to duplicate their efforts? With a few brief conversations, you can put together an actionable to-do list of items that will provide immediate boosts to your employees’ productivity (and earn their respect in the process).
Small businesses win against big companies because of their agility and craftiness, not because they refuse to change. Get creative with your efficiency initiatives and listen to suggestions from your trusted team members. With enough tenacity, you can slash waste in your business down to a minimum and spend more of your money and time doing work that boosts your bottom line.