If you are running your own business, you may notice that every single minute of the day counts. In fact, you may find your staff and yourself spending hours working well after quitting time just to stay on top of the most pressing demands, every day falling farther behind on routine tasks. That being said, how do you make sure that everything is getting done when you have an endless list and somewhat strained resources? When you streamline your business, you can focus on what must get done without the distraction of extraneous tasks dragging you down.
How to streamline your business
The biggest element when you streamline your business is determining what needs to get done. Setting timelines so that critical elements of projects don’t delay the entire project goes a long way toward making your life easier. Think of your projects, your entire company in fact, as a giant system. For the system to work smoothly, some things just have to happen at a certain time. Employees must get paid on time, you need to order raw materials and inventory so that it arrives before you run out, you must submit bids by the required date, and a bunch more stuff.
But, some stuff isn’t critical or doesn’t have to be done at a specific time. For instance, it doesn’t help your business if you do one task only to wait on the completion of another before the entire project can move forward. This system approach helps you streamline your business by focusing effort on those elements of the system that cause the entire system to grind to a halt.
Of course, there are other ways to streamline your business. Read on to discover other ways to get more stuff done.
The first step in anything you do is to create a strategic plan. Ideally, your plan should extend as far into the future as possible, but at least 5 years. In developing a strategic plan, you consider your existing resources, including staff, then determine what you can reasonably accomplish with those resources. It’s possible that you’re running around like a chicken with its head cut off because you try to take on more work than is physically possible with the resources you can get your hands on. Try to take on too much and you’ll find you burn out and become less productive as exhaustion takes over your mind and body. The same thing happens with your staff.
Once you have a strategic plan, delve more deeply into the upcoming year of that plan to flesh out the details, including pro format financial statements that help guide your actions. Then, create action plans for various components of the strategic plan with sufficient detail to make implementation easy. For instance, if you plan a marketing campaign with Google Ads, you should identify:
- goals and metrics to track
- the responsible employee who oversees the entire campaign
- required resources including money, staff, etc
- a timeline that identifies deliverables and due dates
- elements of the campaign such as keywords, landing pages, images, etc
- some organizations use a signoff procedure to identify necessary approvals before launching the campaign
Below, you can find a template for an action plan.
Know when it’s time to outsource
If you try and do everything yourself, you may find that this is like spinning plates. If you do everything in-house, this puts you at risk as well, as you constantly have to pull people away from one task to get another task done that’s more immediate. This is inefficient as you lose time switching from one task to another. If you have to substitute an employee who lacks a necessary skill or one who is not proficient, you waste more time getting things done right.
As part of your planning, you must recognize when you must consider outsourcing a job to someone with more training or with the manpower to handle your overflow so you can make sure that you manage everything effectively. One area where many companies find they need outside help is IT services. Another big area to consider for outsourcing is your accounting/ payroll function. By outsourcing, you may find you save money, as well, since it’s more financially feasible to hire an agency than to hire employees when the job doesn’t require a lot of hours.
Track your time and projects
Automating things such as time-tracking helps you learn how your company spends time, so you can better budget your time and plan more effectively. Maybe you need a formal time and motion study such as that used in industrial operations or maybe you just need to estimate how much time it takes to perform common tasks. If you put in the work to get an overview of every activity you do, you can then find out how much time you are spending with clients, on each project, and even dealing with things such as internal admin.
You can also use these tools to discover if you have an inefficient process or if you have a broken system to identify where the problems are. You can then optimize the operation you have and you can also get an exact report of everything you need to know to make a better plan in the future.
Utilize collaboration software
There’s an app for everything in this day and age. If possible, you need to take advantage of tech so that you can streamline your business effectively. If you look at apps such as Slack or even Trello, you soon find that they can help you to keep everything organized as well as help you to assign jobs. You can also track progress and leave feedback through things like digital cards. Cloud software is great if you want to keep your data in the same place as opposed to keeping it all on a paper record, and this can help the environment too.
Using project management tools such as these also reduces the need for meetings by keeping everyone abreast of progress, problems, and changes so even the meetings you have are more productive.
Use other planning tools
Regardless of the type of business you operate, you can streamline your business by employing better planning tools. For instance, inventory is a part of almost every business. Having too much inventory means you pay fees for storing it and keeping it safe. Too much inventory also ties up your capital and, over time, this leads to cash flow problems that can quickly sink a business. Having too little inventory means you lose money because you can’t meet customer needs. These customers may well leave you in favor of another business able to supply what they want. Once they choose another business, there’s no guarantee they’ll come back next time when you do have stock.
It’s kind of like Goldie Locks where it’s bad to be too much or too little, you want your inventory to be just right. And, there are tools to help you plan your inventory more efficiently. These quantitative tools use historical data on time between order and delivery and variance in delivery times as well as demand to provide an economic order quantity that’s just right.
Reduce wasted effort
A lot of what you and your staff do is likely wasted effort. For instance, hunting for a needed item, whether in a storage room or on a computer, wastes time without providing any reward. By establishing protocols for storage that are understood by everyone in the company, you eliminate this waste.
Another wasteful element in a business involves re-entering data or manually transmitting data to another department or individual. EDI (electronic data interchange) connects companies, customers, and vendors with a shared computer system that eliminates the need for human interaction, thus saving time. As an example, when an order comes in, it automatically triggers a purchase order to replace items necessary to fulfill the order and sends it to the vendor. At the same time, the order triggers a picking order to the warehouse or a manufacturing order for your shop floor so staff can start working to fulfill the order as soon as possible. The accounts receivable department then sends a bill to the customer when the shipping label is entered into the system when the order is finished. Finally, the bill prompts the buyer to send payment.
A system like this reduces human intervention in a system that works well without them, alleviates mistakes that often follow when humans do perform these tasks, and reduces the amount of time between order and receipt by the buyer to improve cash flow and meet customer needs.
EDI is but one example of the tools available to help reduce the wasted effort in your business.
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