Small Business Efficiency: 5 Tips to Optimize

improve cash flow

Running a small business is always challenging, to say the least. Between managing employees, customers, and finances, it’s no wonder many small business owners struggle to juggle priorities and stretch resources to meet the most critical needs. But with a few strategic and targeted efforts, you can achieve small business efficiency to optimize your performance while not unduly stretching your resources. This blog post discusses with you five easy tips to keep your small business running efficiently. These tips are not only beneficial for your business’s long-term success but also help you stay on top of things by setting priorities so you don’t face one crisis after the next. Anything you do to improve small business efficiency for your firm shows up in the long-run success for your brand. Keep reading to learn more about these tips and how you can start implementing them today.

small business efficiency
Image courtesy of SCORE

Small business efficiency

Setting priorities

When it comes to running a business, you need to make sure you plan ahead. Rather than a management style focused on crisis management, you must focus on setting priorities, project management using critical paths and timelines, and contingency plans containing well-thought-out strategies for when things go wrong.

The first step involves creating timelines by working back from project deadlines and estimating the time needed to complete each aspect of the project. That’s just project management 101. This defines the critical pathway, which is where a delay causes the project to fall behind schedule. Thus, your priorities should revolve around this critical path. Knowing when things are supposed to happen is essential for small business efficiency. It allows you to plan ahead and get things done in a timely manner. Ensure all major aspects involved in running your business have a timeline that establishes the critical path.

Next, bring all your timelines together into a master timeline. Here you might find conflicting priorities across different projects competing for the same resources. You must resolve these conflicts by prioritizing those most critical for success. For instance, you might make tradeoffs between purchasing a new piece of equipment needed to introduce a new product with a marketing campaign projected to return a high ROAS (return on advertising spend). You might choose to prioritize the marketing campaign since a lack of funds might impact multiple future projects negatively and strangle the organization. Note that in the image above, 82% of small businesses experience cash flow problems leading to failure. Earning income is, therefore, a high priority.

There’s almost always an element of politics in setting priorities. Your task, as the business owner, is to cut through the politics to ensure the survival and growth of your business.

Train your team

The best way to ensure small business efficiency is to train your team on their roles, new technologies, and conflict management. If you hire someone as a bookkeeper, for example, it’s crucial that they keep abreast of new changes in tax law and tools used in their role. Without proper training, employees fall back on what they know, introducing inefficiencies into your business that cost time and money. A trained team saves you time, money, and stress. An experienced and well-trained team also frees up your time to manage other aspects of the business, including marketing, sales, and operations.

As an example, I once worked with a client who provided stained glass for churches and other projects. The business was run by 3rd generation owners who felt tied to long-time employees who became like family in the small business. However, these employees were still using old cardboard patterns to cut glass for the windows because none understood how to use more modern Cad-Cam computer programs to guide cuts using laser devices. The process was slow (which drives labor costs higher) and provided less flexibility to take on creative projects.

More than simply training employees on advances in their job roles, they need training to avoid problems. For instance, training in new OSHA (US Occupational Safety and Health Administration) helps avoid injury and fines, as well as lawsuits arising from an injury.

Finally, management training and conflict resolution help keep your small business working like a well-oiled machine.

Communicate with your employees

Communicating with your team is essential for keeping your business running efficiently. But not just any communication fills business needs. You want to communicate regularly with your team members using two-way communication and transparency. Even a quick email after work suffices to keep everyone up to speed as well as show you care about your staff. But, you don’t want to bombard your team members with emails that distract from their work and contain useless information.

Implement an open-door policy where staff feels welcome to share ideas or issues that impact their job performance. A certain amount of time spent on non-work-related communication helps build camaraderie and esprit de corps that helps ease conflict, as well as build cooperation. But, don’t establish a business culture where staff spends too much time shooting the breeze.

Meetings form a serious waste of time in organizations, something reinforced by the lockdowns of the pandemic that forced employees to work from home. Before you schedule a meeting, consider whether you could accomplish your goal with an email. Also, choose attendees carefully so you don’t invite staff members who don’t have anything to contribute or learn from the meeting and really don’t find the topic interesting. Use technology to replace meetings to the extent possible. For instance, many project management tools are great at communicating between those involved in the project and eliminate the need for project update meetings.

Keep your technology running smoothly

Keeping your technology running smoothly is vital for small business efficiency. The key is to keep your technology as up-to-date as possible. This includes your computer, laptop, smartphone, and any other devices you might use. One of the most popular laptops for many small businesses is a MacBook. They are very portable and easy to use for small business purposes. However, a recurring problem with MacBooks is that they sometimes overheat. If you find you need to cool down your mac, try checking the air circulation or clearing out the junk in your junk folder as an overheated computer means unproductive time waiting for it to cool down. You should also keep up with repairs and hire IT support when you need it, especially when it comes to expensive technological equipment.

Cybersecurity is a major issue related to small business efficiency. Malware, data theft, and ransomware mean unproductive time to fix and repair your devices, as well as negative publicity. While cybersecurity is a major issue facing all types of businesses, the size of small businesses makes them less attractive to serious hackers. Also, there’s safety in numbers. But, you should still follow simple cybersecurity advice, such as constantly updating your devices when a new software version is released (especially your operating system), forcing employees to change passwords regularly, and removing old employees from the system promptly, as 98% of cyber attacks are the result of social engineering.

Ask for help, if needed

Another thing you can do to run a more efficient business is don’t be afraid to ask for help. Running a small business is extremely difficult. There’s only so much you can do on your own and still remain efficient. But when you’re running a small business, you should accept help when it’s offered. There are times when you need some help. Whether it’s hiring employees, delegating tasks, or just taking a break, so accept help when it’s offered to you.

You can also reach out to other small business owners for advice and feedback on how you can improve your company or the way you are running it. Join other small business owners in formal groups, such as the Chamber of Commerce in your area, or informal groups like a group of owners who meet for lunch or to play golf periodically. Chances are, other small business owners can lead you in the right direction with new ideas since they face many of the same challenges as you.

Conclusion

Creating a successful small business is no easy feat. Keeping up with everything is a challenge between managing multiple tasks, tracking client payments, and staying organized. But ensuring small business efficiency isn’t out of reach. But with a few strategic and targeted efforts, like those shared here you can run your small business efficiently with ease.

We’d love to hear from you about your experiences. If you’d like to share something or ask a question of the group, please enter those in the comments section below.

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