10 tips to improve small business efficiency

  (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

There is a lot more to running a successful small business than having a good idea or offering products and services people want. Half of all businesses fail in the first five years. The fact is that much of small business success comes down to the little things most people would rather not think about. 

It is the stuff most people find boring that makes the difference. These are the good business habits and practices you form to save money or get a little more efficient. No one puts them in the spotlight, but they do so much to determine business success.

But what can you do to make your small business more efficient? This post will cover a range of tips to improve efficiency.

Understand Your Goals

You probably have the basic goals of any business in mind. You want to sell more products, win more customers, increase revenue, and grow your business. However, those goals might not be specific enough. Drill down and consider how much you want to increase sales or your customer base. Are you looking to expand operations or open a new location? You need to stay realistic when setting goals, but it is good to have a clear target to aim for.

Once you have your goals, break them down into tasks or milestones you need to reach along the way. Set clear metrics you can track to see your progress toward the goal. Once you have these tasks and metrics outlined, you can start developing plans to set your business on the road to achieving its goals.

Optimize Workflows

Have you ever questioned why you do things the way you do? Is it because it is the best way or because it is the way you have always done that task? Don’t be satisfied to follow a process just because it is the way you’ve always done something. Business owners should review all their workflows and processes to optimize for efficiency.

Start by listing every work process at your company. Take each one and break it down into the various required steps. Look for any bottlenecks or inefficiencies. Try to find any opportunity to make things faster, cheaper, or more streamlined. Even small productivity boosts can make a big difference in processes you follow a lot.

Be Ready to Delegate

Too many small business owners are reluctant to delegate tasks. You hire employees, but you feel like you can only rely on yourself to get the job done right. If you want to be as efficient as possible, you must be willing to delegate some of the work. As the owner, you need to save your time for the tasks that require your attention.

You need to make sure you are hiring the right people so you can trust them with tasks. Learn their strengths and weaknesses so you know where to put different people. Along with that, leaders need to be patient. If a person isn’t perfect on their first attempt at something, use it as a teaching moment.

Work With the Right Professionals

Small business owners often want to handle everything in-house. They think they can do all these jobs and do everything they need with the employees they have. However, there are some jobs better left to professionals with specialized knowledge, training, or experience.

For example, you might want to hire a small business CPA to help with your taxes. To start, it will save you a lot of time since you won’t have to do the work. Along with that, it can also ensure compliance. A CPA can also use their knowledge to help you find tax savings you might not know about. Along with a CPA, you might need to know lawyers, lenders, insurance agents, recruiters, and more.

Strive for Open Communication

Poor communication can be a real obstacle to success. When one person or group doesn’t know what the others are doing, it can lead to inefficiency in so many ways. It can result in the same work being doubled or poor coordination. A lack of communication can also lead to misunderstandings that may impact team cohesion.

Business leaders should establish a culture of communication in the workplace. Start by making it clear that you are available for discussions. Along with that, you must provide the means for effective communication. Make sure everyone has phones and company email addresses. You could also set up a group chat platform for group discussions. Having regular team meetings is also a good way to ensure effective communication.

Use the Right Tools

You have good employees, effective communication, and optimized workflows. However, there are many digital business tools you can use to make your company even more efficient. With the right tools, you can make the most of your employee’s time and get more work done. You can even automate a range of tasks so you and your employees can focus on tasks that require human attention.

For example, you could use task management software to keep workflows organized and running smoothly. Bookkeeping software can keep the company’s finances in order. You could use inventory management systems to track and order inventory. Many of these tools can even work together to increase efficiency. Some business software tools might also be free.

Invest in Employee Training

Your employees are an asset. If you want to know they can do the job and do it right, you should invest in training. By making them better at their job, you are also increasing their value to the company. It can be training your business handles in-house or with outside resources.

Beyond training, you should also ensure employees have access to the knowledge they need. You could make various training manuals and explainer videos your employees can access when needed. That way they won’t have to come to you or another employee every time they have a question.

Get Energy Efficient

Making business operations and employees more efficient is good. However, your business could probably be more energy efficient. If you are trying to save money at your business, finding ways to reduce energy consumption could be a way to save on your utility bills. This is especially true if you have locations like stores, warehouses, offices, or manufacturing facilities.

Review operations at different business locations. You could consider switching to energy-efficient lighting to save money. Upgrading systems like heating and cooling can also make a big difference. Look at the various machines and tools your business uses to see if they are as efficient as possible. If your company uses vehicles, upgrades to fuel efficiency could save a considerable amount on gas.

Consider Remote Work

One question for some businesses is whether they really need all their employees in the office every day. By allowing some level of remote work, you might be able to save money on some expenses. For example, some companies might be able to do a four-day week in the office with the fifth being work from home. Along with saving your employees from the commute that day, you can also save the expense of having the office open that day.

Business owners could also consider hiring various online freelancers for some tasks. One example is hiring a virtual assistant. With a virtual assistant, you have someone who can handle various administrative tasks for you. It takes the work off your schedule without you needing to hire a full-time employee to work in your office. Along with virtual assistants, you can hire web designers, marketing professionals, writers, graphic designers, and more.

Deploy Business Intelligence

Business intelligence (BI) can be a valuable tool for companies looking to take operations to the next level. With BI, you have systems for gathering, storing, and analyzing business data. It can take the data and provide valuable insights to make your business more efficient. It can also help you understand the operations of your business on a deeper level.

For example, BI can use historical trends to forecast future needs or changes. It could help you be more efficient with inventory management or staffing. BI can also help you find inefficiencies in different areas of the business. The best part is that there are software tools that can do much of the work for you while making the insights more accessible.

Incorporating these strategies can help drive efficiency at your small business. However, different things will work better for different companies. Try these tips and experiment to see what works for you.

This article was written in cooperation with Leona Jones