How to ensure your small business operation runs as well as it can
Every business owner, manager or director strives to lead a streamlined and efficient place of work.
Symptoms of inefficiencies in your business may show up in missed deadlines, increases in customer complaints, lost documents or frustrated and overly stressed staff.
According to Pareto, the father of micro-economics, 80% of negative results experienced are due to just 20% of inefficiencies.
While this may be a surprising figure, it highlights the importance of understanding where these issues are in your business and how to rectify them.
Examine the big picture
When was the last time you revisited your strategy?
In a post-COVID world, many businesses have reprioritised their long-term targets to adapt to the changes brought on by the pandemic. Taking time to consolidate your business plan can help you to identify inefficiencies that may be blocking the path to reaching your goals.
It’s easy to lose sight of the big picture and get lost in the details. Aim for proactivity rather than reactivity by setting SMART targets (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time bound).
SMART goals can provide your business with direction and focus whilst shining a light on inefficiencies that may have previously been unclear.
Consider your commercial space, for example. Up to £10billion is wasted on under-utilised office spaces by businesses in England and Wales every year. Analysing business strategy may lead to the conclusion that premises are not being used efficiently.
You may then set a SMART target to save budget and increase space utilisation by time-sharing your space.
Using the SMART method would help to set a clear goal, and provide the tools needed to measure whether the decision (in this case time-sharing), is successful.
Dive into the details
Detail oriented thinking is just as important as big picture strategy.
Inefficiencies can hide easily in overlooked, everyday processes. It may be time consuming, but it’s worth re-familiarising yourself with the nitty-gritty of the major processes used in your company.
If your business offers online ordering, for example, start at the first input of that process—a customer placing an order.
Work through every stage of the customer journey from there to the output, which in this case would be the customer receiving their order. Are all stages of the process working efficiently?
The 5 Why’s Method encourages the repeated use of the question ‘why’ in identifying and solving problems and inefficiencies.
By honing in on the details and questioning processes that may have been used by your business long term, you can pinpoint where inefficiencies are occurring and address them.
Many businesses find that their processes are person-heavy, which can cause wasted time or duplicated work.
In fact, inefficient manual or paper based processes cost UK businesses £1.94million annually.
Focusing on the details of your day-to-day operations may reveal that switching to automation can alleviate delays or inefficiencies caused by human error.
Focus on feedback
Don’t underestimate the power of feedback.
Managing a business, having a good overview on all the moving parts whilst focusing on the long-term goals might result in unidentified inefficiencies slipping through the net.
Opening feedback channels can provide a valuable insight into where things might be going wrong while potentially delivering solutions.
There is distinct value in each employee’s unique insight into every-day issues that may arise within their role.
Inviting feedback from employees not only helps them to feel a part of the success of a business, but also provides an outlet to express any frustrations that might not otherwise be revealed without invitation.
Additionally, employees who communicate with their managers efficiently are three times more engaged in their work. Consider using anonymous surveys to allow employees to be as honest as possible.
Customer feedback is an instrumental resource in identifying any problems from an external perspective. Customers are at the final stage of your business’s processes, whether that’s in the form of the product they purchase or the service they receive.
Their feedback can illuminate what needs to be addressed, so that you can work back from any problems to find the appropriate solution.
Consider creating customer surveys and collating the responses to notice any trends. You can use incentives such as entry into a giveaway, or access to exclusive discount codes to encourage participation.
Essentially, without the demand created by customers the opportunity to supply would be obsolete.
With these tips in mind, you’ll be well placed to make your business more efficient before you know it—saving you profits, time and creating a great work environment.