5 Ways to Streamline your Business

Streamlining your business saves money. It saves time. It saves manpower. All it takes is a little time to think about how you are currently doing business and how you can improve on what you are doing. For business owners who are too busy to reinvent the wheel, here are some proven ways to ensure a more streamlined business.

1. Change direction if you need to

Streamlining isn’t limited to cutting back and dropping activities. You need to start by consolidating or changing the work you do to align it with your goals. It may feel scary now to change direction, but it becomes scarier later when you don’t reach your goals.

2. Reduce time

A task will expand to fill the number of hours given to it. Usually if you give an employee 3 days to finish a task, they will take 3 days to do it, yet if you give them half a day for the same task, they will also finish it. I have found that being results focused and specific will help save time. If you give a person an exact deadline to complete important tasks (eg. Wednesday at 14:15), they will become more productive.

3. Motivate your staff and offer incentives

In my chicken farming days (many moons ago) I had to slaughter a certain number of broilers a day. I realised that my staff’s priorities were not necessarily my priorities and that I would not get the result I needed if I simply paid them for a day’s work. I put myself in their shoes and thought about what would motivate me. I had excellent results when I told my staff at the beginning of each day what the target was and that they could leave once the target had been met. Sometimes they worked so well that they finished a day’s work at noon! There was no compromise on quality either, because the work was not deemed done until I was completely satisfied with the quality.

4. Systemize your processes

Think of how you can make things easier, faster and cheaper. Create template emails, template forms and documents, auto responders, automatic payments, a “roles and responsibilities” chart, digital timesheets, etc. Solve your problems once. If a task has to be repeated, create a system for doing that task. This will also ensure that you have a standardized way of doing business.

5. Use remote workers

Only pay for what you use. See my post on the 8 Ways small business owners can benefit by outsourcing. You have an incredibly diverse talent pool at your fingertips and can choose the best for your business. Your overhead costs are less. Your business becomes more productive and streamlined.

5 Key Benefits of a Standard Operating Procedures Manual

One of the most useful systems to streamline your business is having a Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) manual.  This manual lists the all the tasks that are essential for your business success, how to do these tasks, and who is responsible for the tasks listed.

This sounds useful, but are there specific measurable outcomes if you have a SOP manual in place?  The answer is a very definite YES.

Your productivity improves, and as a small business owner, you need to be highly productive to succeed.  Five benefits are listed below.

Reduced learning curve/training time for new employees

When someone is new on the job, your well-written and researched SOP can be a lifeline to them to be able to know how things work.  For instance, you can ask your new employee to make all the arrangements for you to organize and attend a workshop in another city.  By referring to the SOP, your new employee will know exactly which travel agency you use with their contact details, which type of car to hire/service to use, how many quotes to get regarding the venue, how to communicate with the workshop delegates, etc. without having to ask you about it all.  It’s a great time-saver and confidence booster for the new employee.

Ensured business continuity

When a key staff member is on leave or not in the office for some reason, work does not have to stand still.  By referring to the SOP someone else can take over the urgent tasks and do them correctly the first time.

Standardized processes

The SOP makes it easy to find out what policies and procedures are in place to handle repetitive situations/tasks.

Delegating tasks becomes a no-brainer

A good SOP will include the organogram of the business, as well as have a short job description and contact details for each staff member. If you need to delegate a certain task, you can see at a glance who will be able to help you or advise you.  You can stop micromanaging, as it is clear who is responsible for what.

Ensure that your clients are getting the best possible experience with you

Because there is a standard way of dealing with client queries, refunds, promotions, follow-up etc., you can make sure that each client is treated fairly and equally, enhancing their interactions with you.  You thus provide the best possible client service.

A SOP is a living document, which is subject to change.  (It is good to review it quarterly). It is therefore useful to have it in electronic format on a web-based collaborative system so that all employees have access to the latest version.

Do you need to put together a clear and straightforward SOP, compiled in simple language to convey practical information?  Please don’t hesitate to contact Virtual Productivity Solutions to help you put it together.  Your business will thank you for it.

Tweaking your system can have a huge impact on productivity!

When you examine your business with the eye on increasing productivity, remember that it is seldom necessary to make major changes.  Rather look at what you have, and then find ways in which to streamline it.  The illustration below is an example of a small change that made a huge difference.

In an open groove mine in Johannesburg (South Africa), the production manager was not satisfied with the rate at which ore was brought out of the mine.  He was sure it could be improved on.  Sitting in his beautiful office with a view over the city, he decided that the problem was in the equipment, which was rather dated at the time.  So he ordered new loading equipment and new trucks.  It was a tedious process because of all the red tape in the organization, but a couple of months later the new equipment arrived.

The production manager eagerly awaited a report of increased productivity.  He was surprised and disappointed when he realised that there was no significant increase in productivity with the new machines.

Sitting behind his desk, he decided that the problem surely must be with the operators of these vehicles.  They probably did not know how to operate the new heavy duty machinery.  He then arranged training courses in driving and operating heavy machinery for all his mining staff.  The mining staff enjoyed the break from work, with the accompanying free meals and tea-times during training.  Once back on the job, they tackled their jobs with enthusiasm.

The production manager eagerly awaited a report of increased productivity.  His rage boiled over when the report showed only a slight increase.  He flew out of his comfortable chair, left his plush office, donned a working outfit and visited the mine for himself!

At the open groove mine, the problem was evident immediately.  Because of a rock jotting out on the side of the road in one place, only one vehicle could go either up or down at a time. Traffic going up and traffic going down had to wait for each other at that spot.

The surprised production manager had the rock blasted away immediately, and the traffic started flowing freely.  His next productivity report was very rewarding.  Production had more than tripled.

What “rocks” are preventing you from achieving optimal productivity?

5 Ways to Determine your Productivity Level

My definition of productivity is doing the right things right.  But how do you know whether you are doing the right things right?  Here are 5 basic steps to determine your productivity level:

Step 1

Are your activities aligned with your goals?   Are you aware of the goals of your organization, and how are you measuring up?  Have you set personal goals that are measurable and clear?

Step 2

Examine your work processes.  Are there systems in place to streamline the workflow, and are these systems effective?  Are routine tasks being automated as far as possible?  Are there policies and guidelines in place to help staff know what to do when?  Are you using the most effective method of getting each task done?

Step 3

Do you and your staff know how to do the best quality work?  Are you adequately trained to excel at your tasks? How do you measure the quality of your work?

Step 4

Do you have a workflow continuity plan in place?  Do you and your staff know what to do in case of emergency?  Do you have adequate backups, etc. in place in case disaster strikes?  Do you and your staff know what to do when key personnel are not at work so that the workflow remains constant?

Step 5

Do you spend time each week looking back at what has been accomplished, where you currently stand, and where you are heading?

Managing a small business is challenging.  It is so easy to feel overwhelmed with the amount of work you have to do.  There are so many distractions.  It is difficult to stay focused.  However, being productive leads to being successful and reaching your goals.  In fact, being optimally productive will give you the opportunity to take a break from your daily work and to relax.  Don’t you think it is time to focus on your productivity, in order to get the rest you need?

5 Ways to Determine your Productivity Level

My definition of productivity is doing the right things right.  But how do you know whether you are doing the right things right?  Here are 5 basic steps to determine your productivity level:

Step 1

Are your activities aligned with your goals?   Are you aware of the goals of your organization, and how are you measuring up?  Have you set personal goals that are measurable and clear?

Step 2

Examine your work processes.  Are there systems in place to streamline the workflow, and are these systems effective?  Are routine tasks being automated as far as possible?  Are there policies and guidelines in place to help staff know what to do when?  Are you using the most effective method of getting each task done?

Step 3

Do you and your staff know how to do the best quality work?  Are you adequately trained to excel at your tasks? How do you measure the quality of your work?

Step 4

Do you have a workflow continuity plan in place?  Do you and your staff know what to do in case of emergency?  Do you have adequate backups, etc. in place in case disaster strikes?  Do you and your staff know what to do when key personnel are not at work so that the workflow remains constant?

Step 5

Do you spend time each week looking back at what has been accomplished, where you currently stand, and where you are heading?

Managing a small business is challenging.  It is so easy to feel overwhelmed with the amount of work you have to do.  There are so many distractions.  It is difficult to stay focused.  However, being productive leads to being successful and reaching your goals.  In fact, being optimally productive will give you the opportunity to take a break from your daily work and to relax.  Don’t you think it is time to focus on your productivity, in order to get the rest you need?