Unfortunately, many small business leaders spend far too much time focusing on the day-to day tasks that need attention but don’t build the business. Not enough time is spent working on the business itself, on tasks that develop and grow a company. This leads to a stalemate of progress. In order to reverse this algorithm, you need to focus on methods of streamlining your business to improve how it operates on a daily basis.
Be magical with automation
Automation is the equivalent of the small business’s fairy godmother – wave the magic wand and it all happens instantly. So many of your systems and emails can be sent out automatically, such as reminders for renewals, follow-up on product purchases, bill paying, and purchasing stock. Nearly anything that you need to do on a regular basis can be programmed into a management system to be dealt without input – or with input from a lower-level employment.
Be upfront with customer support
Dealing with customers personally drains your time and energy, and although you should always provide an option to speak to a customer advisor, make sure your customers have plenty of opportunity to discover the answer for themselves first. Have a comprehensive FAQ section on your website, which you can add to if recurring questions arise. Include a detailed knowledge base of articles and provide a forum support system.
Set up a system that directs customers to each of these places in turn; if they can’t find the answers they require online, then signpost your customers to email or chat support, with phone support as your final option.
Sort out the calendar
Nothing robs time more than distraction. To avoid getting side-tracked, set aside time every week or month for certain tasks, blank them out in your calendar, shut the door, power down the phone and deal with them. You can streamline this process even further by delegating a day every year when every annual bill is paid, or website updated, or staff appraisal completed.
Delegate to accumulate
Some small business owners hold very tightly to the reigns and don’t want to let go, believing the only way to progress is to control everything. A smart entrepreneur understands that delegation is key to achievement. Hire wisely and put your trust in experts, instead of trying to be jack of all trades. You’ll be a better business leader if you can monitor every sector of your company, but that means you will have to sacrifice a bit of the granular knowledge and instead place trust in your middle management.
Your company may not be big enough to support full-time departments employed for specific tasks. Outsourcing neatly fills this skills gap, by allowing you to contract out to experts as the project demands. Perhaps your website needs a re-design but you don’t employ a full-time webmaster, or you need some urgent copywriting or analytics.
By using contractors you also only pay for the work, not for the time, which encourages freelancers to work as efficiently as possible on your behalf. If you find someone you truly like, develop a relationship with them – you can at least use his or her services again, or perhaps one day turn them into a full-time hire.
To meet or not to meet
Communication technology is now of a high standard, and more and more people are turning to video conferencing, conference calls and Skype to hold long-distance meetings. Less time and money is spent on travel, and it streamlines the whole process of meeting with developers and suppliers.
In-house – consider whether you need a weekly meeting with every team – would an email suffice just as well? Certain information is better relayed and understood in person, but resist the urge to hold meetings for the sake of holding a meeting.
Analyse your analytics
Analytics are both a gift and a curse. No business can operate efficiently without tracking its marketing campaigns effectively, yet it is very easy to lose hours in the world of analysis. Instead, install a centralised analytics dashboard that amalgamates and tracks all of your campaigns across all your different media streams.
As your business develops, you may find your company is being pulled in too many directions. At this point, it may be wise to specialise and streamline the direction you want to take your business. Focussing your efforts into the most profitable aspect of your business will increase your overall efficiency.
Trimming the fat to reveal the lean meat can take time and effort, but the results are always worthwhile. A streamlined business operates efficiently and profitably, leaving you time to enjoy the finer things in life. Let’s face it, a fillet steak is always tastier than a pork chop.