Productivity and efficiency are frequent topics of conversation for businesses for a simple reason: when you figure it out, your revenue increases. Better business productivity and efficiencies equal increase revenue.
Achieving that perfect level of productivity and effectiveness can be challenging for small businesses, however. All businesses, including small business, are an intricate machine, made up of various parts. From customers and employees to vendors and suppliers and everything in between. So, how do you get all of these moving parts to move in the right direction at the right time?
The purpose of this post is to give you some overarching tips that can set you on the right path to boosting your small business productivity.
Everything takes time, 10 minutes here 30 minutes there and suddenly your day is gone. The errands and tasks you do at your business may be different than other companies, but there are strong similarity in how you do them.
Think of it like this: when you make a grocery list, you get all of the items at once. You don’t drive back and forth between home and the store for each item. In the same way, you should consolidate your errands and tasks.
Group similar tasks and or project work on a specific day or time of day. Use the morning to answer your email, and once again in the afternoon, for example, instead of checking your email regularly throughout the day.
By consolidating your errands and tasks, you put an end to distracting multitasking and regain the focus needed to finish something.
Take control of your meetings - This one is HUGE. Have you fallen victim to unproductive meeting syndrome? Have you experienced one or all of the following in your company meetings:
- Rambling without purpose or going off agenda
- People doing their own thing
- Unprepared participants
- All talk, no action
These and many more are telltale signs that you suffer from nonproductive meeting syndrome.
Here are a few tips to keep your meetings short and save your business from an expensive exercise in time-wasting;
- Set your priorities first. Before you start spring-cleaning your calendar, make sure you have a clear understanding of your priorities. This way you’ll know how much time you can dedicate to meetings. Know what areas need your input or what individual projects you need a helping hand on, and select the meetings you’ll attend accordingly.
- Make sure the meetings you attend have a clear purpose. You’re probably familiar with the phrase I survived another meeting that should have been an email. These are the meetings that aren’t held for a clear purpose, but rather for “information sharing,” “group input,” or “group discussion.” Instead of attending them, try asking for a brief summary of the information via chat or email.
- If the meeting doesn’t have a clear agenda, don’t “attenda” Without a written (and shared) agenda, there’s not much preventing the meeting from turning into a “social gathering.”
- Ask for the agenda. If you don’t have enough time to prepare for a meeting, you’re better off skipping it. There is no point in getting the whole team in a room if no one had the time to put together a few coherent ideas.
- Don’t leave a 30 minutes window between meetings. It takes the human brain an average of 25 minutes to return to the previous task after an interruption. Thus, it’s very unlikely to get anything done during a 30 minutes break between meetings. A good rule of thumb is to schedule back to back meetings with a 10 minutes break between them or leave at least a one hour window between them.
- Make sure there aren’t too many attendees on the list. You don’t need scientific proof to agree to the fact that the more people you invite, the more productivity declines. If you have to solve a problem or make an important decision, you don’t need more than eight people in the room.
- Are the key decision-makers invited? Without the right people, any meeting is pointless. You need to make sure they are invited (and confirmed their attendance) to advance the projects.
- How long does the meeting take? According to Parkinson ’s Law, the work expands to fill the time available for its completion. This concept applies to meetings. Team members take as long to conduct the meeting as was scheduled, whether or not that much time was required. So think again before you hit the “accept” button. It might be better to ask the organizer to rethink the agenda and maybe split the conversation in 2-3 meetings, with specific lists of attendees.
- Is there a time limit? This is a rather rare situation, but there are times when the leadership team calls for an ad-hoc meeting. Avoid attending a 3-hours long “town hall meeting” by asking the organizer to provide an approximate end time.
- All attendees must share their documentation before the meeting. Don’t waste your time with that; that’s not the purpose of a meeting. You are there to make an informed decision, so get all the information you need before that time. If you’re tired of long threads of emails and a full inbox, try using a chatting app with your team. You’ll be able to communicate faster, share files and, most importantly, reduce the time spent in unproductive meetings
By following these simple tips, you can easily spot unproductive meetings, clear your schedule, get more out the time spent in meetings and focus more on the work you love.
Ready access to information
You would be amazed at how many times I have been asked to evaluate a business, and it’s functionality, and I find that virtually no one knows where to located even basic information regarding the day in and day out functions that the company needs to perform.
Forcing your team to go hunting for the information they need is not productive. It’s also pretty frustrating for your team and encourages a lack of accuracy. After all, it’s easier just to guess rather than hunt down the information.
Below is a generalized list of items that you should be providing for your employees. Obviously, each company has different needs, but this should give you a general idea of what to provide.
Your team needs to know:
When they work. An app like When I Work is perfect for team members who need to get immediate answers about their schedule. It answers who is working, when they are working, and questions about vacations or time off. Team members are part of a team, and they need to understand the schedule as a whole, not a separate unit.
Customer support knowledge base. For team members working directly with your customers, they need ready information to answer customer questions. Without that fast access, they face the frustration of the customer, and your business’s reputation takes a hit.
Customer history and tickets. Access to past customer interactions, transactions, and support tickets allow your team to build off each other’s work instead of having to reinvent the wheel each time a customer has questions.
Communication channels. How does your team communicate? Simplifying and unifying that into one place keeps the important information that your team is creating in their daily communications accessible. If some use email while others use Skype, your communication chain is broken.
Details about group projects. Does your team know the goals of the particular project they are working on? Do they know where they are at in the timeline of a project? Make that information available so they better understand where they fit and what needs to happen.
This is just a start. Think about the kind of information your team needs on a daily basis for your specific business. Do they have it at their fingertips, or do they have to go to a manager and work up the chain to access it?
Whether an online database or actual books or manuals, the information needs to be available to everyone. This also means a reliable phone and computer network, depending upon your business, and continually updated software and hardware. Nothing is as frustrating for a team member who wants to do his job and has to fight the tools to do it.
If information is power, reducing easy access to it is a serious weakness for your business, and it wastes time.
These are just a few key areas in which you can improve your companies overall productivity. They range from small to large, but all if done correctly will improve not only your companies productivity, but will also improve your employee satisfaction which in turn will improve your customer satisfaction and work to increase your bottom line.
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