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Top entrepreneurs understand the key to success is continual analysis and improvement. A number of issues can fly under the radar for a long period of time, and that can slow down your business processes.
Many small businesses often share common complications. So how do you avoid being among them? Whether your business is run by two to three people or is operated by 200-plus employees, focus on consistently improving your efficiency.
Here are a few of the top tips to get you started.
1. Shift from fixed to variable costs.
Assess your business costs to evaluate whether you can shift any expenses from fixed to variable costs. It's critical to boost sales, and this change could prove to be quite beneficial. Take time to analyze all your expenses with care and caution as you make the transition.
2. Implement quick collection and payment processes.
When you structure customer agreements, ensure you're able to collect payment upon completion of work. Ask for a larger deposit at the job's outset so you have cash during the time it takes to fulfill your obligations. To avoid waiting on receivables, send invoices out right away. Some customers make it a habit to pay late. If you delay sending your bill, you could end up months behind where you should be.
3. Automate tasks.
Automate as many tasks as you can, including sending receipts and emailing or messaging your customers. Business automation is a necessity in today's competitive market. It saves you time and streamlines your employees’ tasks, enabling them to redirect their energies to more productive activities. There is an upfront cost to put these processes in place, but doing so will cut operational costs and elevate your efficiency over the long term.
Related: 5 Innovative Ways to Automate Your Sales Processes This Year
4. Hold short, daily meetings.
Meetings are considered essential, but they can tend to take up to too much time. Instead, run more efficient meetings that can be finished in 10 minutes. Smartly use these quick huddles to keep employees up-to-date on new developments. The narrow time frame forces you to keep your message to the point. Short, daily meetings eliminate the need for numerous meetings stacked in a single day.
Related: 3 Strategies for Making Meetings Really Work for You
You've been trained to believe you're at your most productive when you multi-task. The reality is just the opposite.
Want to be really efficient? Try single-tasking. Focus on only one task fully until it's complete. This allows you to do more, much faster. You'll stop putting off finishing assignments or leaving projects half-done.
You might feel productive when you're working on five or six things at the same time, but you're getting very little meaningful work done on any of them. Single-tasking lets you concentrate and execute.
Related: The Founder of Bumble Reveals How the 'Question of Nine' Can Help You Stay Focused
6. Control interruptions.
If you notice your employees having trouble meeting deadlines or completing their own tasks, a number of reasons could be to blame. Maybe systems and software aren't performing at optimal levels, the office thermostat roasts team members at their work stations or they're bookended by staff meetings at 9 a.m. and department-head follow-up at 11 a.m. Then there are constant chat messages, email alerts and notifications to triage and answer.
These constant interruptions and distractions cause holdups and delays. If you can't limit your company's meeting schedule to one, short daily get-together, hold the week's entire meetings on the same day to minimize disturbing your team members' work routines. Numerous apps and smart tools can reduce email notifications, sort incoming messages or help confine communication-based distractions.
Related: Are You Constantly Distracted by Technology? Here's What to Do.
7. Invest in task-management tools.
Even with individual team members single-tasking, a number of functions and operations are taking place at the same time within your business. It sometimes can be difficult to keep track of progress.
Invest in solid task-management software you can apply to your designated teams' processes. A good system will allow you to log and assign tasks, report on progress and look for patterns that point to greater efficiencies. You'll have a much clearer picture of how far you are from achieving goals. And you'll have the data you need to see where your business operations are lacking.
8. Employ smart sales strategies.
Small businesses generate roughly 54 percent of all U.S. sales, but any owner can tell you it isn't easy to ensure a consistent rate. There's no single, definitive way to increase sales. That's exactly why you need an amalgamation of smart strategies to grow your customer base. Type of business, location and industry or market space all are contributing factors.
Related: 5 Ways Facebook Bots Can Help Your Business
9. Focus on the present.
Time and money are your two most valuable resources — and the quickest way to waste them is to plan your operations around future needs. Focus on your present problems. Identify gaps and identify your immediate growth issues, such as knowing when it's time to add staff. Spend your time and energy optimizing daily problems, and you'll be more prepared for whatever the future holds.
10. Know when to step back.
It's natural for small-business owners to try to sort out as many issues as possible. But your business can't run smoothly if you overexert yourself and are always stressed out.
Pay attention to yourself so you can learn your realistic limits. Understand when you need to draw the line and press pause to step away. Not every process or task needs to be done right away. If your cash flow allows, hire or contract a team of experts to divide the workload.
Related: How to Effectively Measure Strategic Initiatives
Don't let your goal of a successful and efficient business get in the way of other things. Seek feedback from employees. With their input — and through some amount of trial and error — you'll learn how to discover exactly what's happening within your company. Just as important, you'll understand how best to monitor your business and make smart adjustments to correct your course.