You know the old saying that “time is money.” When it comes to your small business, improving the efficiency of your operations can boost your bottom line as well as increase your competitiveness. One area that can help enhance efficiency is technology. Among today’s technology cloud computing and unified communications can streamline team collaboration and customer service.
With your data in the cloud, team members can access information from anywhere, easily collaborate on the development of a document or presentation from any device, and invite a customer to review or edit a document. Transferring core business operations to the cloud such as email, accounting and phone services not only cuts costs, it reduces the amount of time spent on upgrading software and hardware.
By unifying all of your communications – phone, email, instant messaging, fax and more – through one interface, you eliminate delays in reaching team members or addressing client issues. Also the ability to launch a web or video conference via unified communications and easily invite others to join reduces travel time and expense.
While technology helps boost your small business efficiency, it is not the only means to reduce the time and effort to get things done. Also not every new tech tool on the market pays off in enhanced efficiency and productivity. Before implementing any new technology, consider your long and short term business objectives and make decisions that support them.
Four more steps to enhance efficiency
Outsource: One way to free up your time is to outsource some of your activities, especially those where you lack the expertise and/or they are taking up too much of your time. Bookkeeping, marketing, and human resources are areas where you can find many professionals and service firms to take over the job, saving you time and cutting costs in the long run. Your marketing agency can be very instrumental in helping you attract leads and HR outsourcing firms can recruit candidates, screen prospects and train new employees on your small business policies and procedures.
Evaluate suppliers: You may find that bottlenecks in your operations stem from problems with your suppliers. Periodically review the companies that your small business depends on, whether they provide products or services. Consider rate of on-time delivery, customer service and system or service upgrades. If you are always waiting for a supplier or vendor to get back to you when you have a problem or question, and the wait is holding up your operations or your ability to service customers, it may be time for a change.
Monitor morale: Don’t underestimate the impact of employee morale on your small business efficiency. When employees are feeling undervalued or overwhelmed, it affects their productivity and efficiency. Periodically check in with your team to ask how they are doing and how you can help improve the office environment. Maybe you need to provide more private work spaces, get headsets for employees so they can tune out background noises when they are on the phone or improve or build a break room. Some employees may just need a day off so they can attend to personal needs or unwind.
Keep training: Make sure you team continues to be up to date on their skills and acquires new ones to keep up with the demands of your small business. Also consider the benefits of cross training team members so that someone can step into a role if an employee becomes sick or leaves.
These are just some ways to enhance efficiency. You may decide to use software to track the monthly productivity of your team or bring in a consultant to discuss ways to improve time management. The key to efficiency is to set your objectives and review your small business performance on a periodic basis to make sure the two are aligned.