Featured image by Monkey Business Images
When you first start up a business, it’s often a bare bones affair. The staff might consist of yourself and a handful of other people, and you tend to keep things simple. But once things start moving and more operating components come into play, your business functions can get complicated quickly.
The bigger your business gets, the more potential there is for inefficiencies, bloat, and murky operating procedures. If there’s an area where you feel like you’re spending a disproportionate amount of time, chances are there’s a procedural fix. Here are three things to keep in mind as you’re reviewing and streamlining the way your business functions.
Data storage, scheduling, and a host of other business functions can be tedious and time consuming. Choosing the right technology can make those necessities operate more efficiently, whether it be in regard to time or physical space.
One good example is with scheduling appointments and meetings. In the past, finding an available time slot among multiple parties could take several rounds of phone calls or emails. Rather than doing that or running into situations where people get double booked, you could implement a meeting scheduler. With a meeting scheduler, you and your employees can link your calendars and know when there are open slots for all parties concerned.
RELATED ARTICLE: HOW TO BE BETTER AT TIME MANAGEMENT
Another example of how technology can simplify your business functions is with electronic document storage. If there have been issues of multiple copies of electronic documents floating around, that can cause problems. But if you use an electronic document checkout program, the issue is solved. Employees must check a document out of the system to work on it, and the system tracks every change. Nobody else can work on it until it’s checked in.
In fields such as accounting and law, it’s imperative to have one working copy and know exactly what’s in it. So even though the process of checking a single electronic document in and out might seem tedious, it decreases confusion and risk. And when it comes to important business practices, reducing risk should be high on the priority list.
Depending on the size of your team, it might take up too much time to do regular check-ins with every single employee. But just letting everyone’s work go completely unobserved or reviewed is a dangerous practice.
The same goes for the minutiae of every department in your business. For example, if spending on office supplies seems high, it’s important to know why. However, it might not be the best use of your time to go digging through individual receipts.
That’s where quality supervisors come in. By having regular meetings with the supervisors in your company, you can retain a bird’s eye view of how well your business functions as a whole. If something looks strange in the monthly or quarterly reports that come your way, your supervisors should be able to answer those questions. Also, it keeps your employee oversight responsibilities minimized, as your supervisory staff should be reviewing those under them. For this to work well, you need to focus on two things.
RELATED ARTICLE: GOING GREEN IS ONE IMPORTANT PILLAR OF BUSINESS SUCCESS
First, make sure you appoint supervisors who have good leadership skills. This isn’t always directly correlated with years of experience or skills related to the functions of the department. You could have an inside sales employee who does extremely well with annual sales and has 20 years of experience. But what if that person is not assertive, doesn’t train others well, and wouldn’t report coworker negligence in order to avoid conflict? A supervisor must understand the functions of both the job itself and the department as a whole in order to be effective.
Second, you need to check in with your supervisors regularly, not just when there’s a problem. Supervisors can oftentimes be your first warning when something within your business is starting to show signs of instability. Your sales team lead might be noting that the average time from contact to closed deal has increased substantially. The effects of that might not be seen for months, but knowing how trends are going allows time for mitigation tactics.
You’re almost always going to need a little bit of redundancy in your business. This can come in the form of cross training or having a backup plan for major systems and processes. Failure to do so can cripple your functionality if something unexpected happens.
Redundancy becomes a problem when there’s extra work with no significant benefits from the duplication. Let’s say you run an online magazine and have two main departments, advertising and editorial. The two departments are likely going to exchange information and would both benefit from using project management software. If the two departments use different software, that could be a big problem.
First of all, the redundancy means some of the same information needs to be entered more than once. That means two opportunities to enter something incorrectly in addition to the time waste factor. If at all possible, both departments need to use the same system or at least make sure the systems are integrated.
Choosing integrated software can go a long way toward eliminating extra work and keeping data consistent across your systems. This can make a big difference in how well your business functions.
For example, QuickBooks recently announced that it is ending its integration with Bill. For businesses that regularly use that integration, losing it might inspire them to consider other options. One possibility could include moving their bookkeeping software to one that still integrates with Bill, such as Xero. Whatever the solution, avoiding the necessity for duplicate data entry keeps things efficient and lessens the risk of error. In other words, eliminating the need for duplicate data entry will definitely streamline your business functions.
Listen to your gut on business operations. Maybe information is reaching you too late or your time is being spent on small items that cause big problems. Whatever the problems, don’t let them continue unchecked. By catching inefficiencies and oversights early and implementing the proper tools and procedures to correct them, your business functions will greatly improve.
RELATED ARTICLE: DIGITAL PROCUREMENT OFFERS 5 BENEFITS TO ORGANIZATIONS