Small Changes, Big Impact: 5 Ways to Make Your Business More Efficient

Small problems can create big barriers for business, and countless companies face them each and every day. Even worse, most don’t realize just how distracting, time consuming and destructive they really are.

Do any of these “little” problems ring true for your business?

  • It takes too long for your team to locate common, everyday supplies and equipment in your workspace.
  • Your drowning under a sea of paperwork.
  • Things are chaotic, because there’s no single plan or guide for operating your business.
  • You and your team can’t focus your energy on growing the business, because you’re bogged down with everyday tasks.
  • Your schedule is chaotic, and you and your workers frequently end up double-booked and dealing with unexpected, last-minute cancellations.

The good news? Little things like these are often simple to resolve ― and doing so can pay off big for your company. Check out these five easy ways to run your business more efficiently.

  “It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.”

― Arthur Conan Doyle

“The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes”

1. Optimize your space

rule

Based on Pareto’s rule, if your business is like most, you probably use 20 percent of your supplies or equipment 80 percent of the time, and 80 percent of them only 20 percent of the time.

Why not organize your warehouse, supply room or office so regularly-used supplies and equipment are grouped together in an accessible,  highly efficient space? It can save time and money not having to rifle through things you don’t use in order to get to the ones you do. This can be particularly important if you have a warehouse or regularly load trucks to get equipment and supplies to workers or clients. Warehouse and shipping inefficiency is a big cost-drain on many companies.

Case study: Jeb’s mining business in Texas operates under the 80/20 rule. There were certain supplies and tools they used in the field each and every day, which they found made up approximately 20-25 percent of the total items in their warehouse. The rest were things used for repairs, spare parts and tools for specialized mining operations and tasks.

Jeb decided to reorganize the warehouse space so the 20-25 percent of equipment used all the time was in an area near the loading dock. Everything was instantly easier to find, and it cut the time it took to load trucks and get supplies to the mine workers by one-half hour or more each day.

2. Get out from under your paperwork

The purchasing process is one of the biggest reasons why most companies generate, manage and file lots of paperwork. That’s because most firms purchase hundreds of items from countless vendors. The frustrating thing is that many of these are regular orders that change little from month-to-month.

papers-1

If you’re using paper or spreadsheets to manage these orders, you could be missing out. An online purchase ordering software system could get this process under control and reduce or eliminate confusing paperwork. There are many cost-effective options, and they’re generally easy to install and implement. Most will work on the computers, tablet devices and smartphones you’re already using to do business.

An effective purchase ordering system will allow you to store and reuse orders you place on a regular basis. It also lets you set rules so you can control who orders what for your firm and how much they can spend. In addition, it keeps all the information related to your company’s purchases in a single database. This makes it easy to search through orders, deliveries, invoices and other documents online to find the information you need any place, any time.

Case study: Pat manages the back office of an electrical contracting business. Her filing cabinets were filled with paperwork related to electrical cables, components and other supplies she ordered every single day. As hard as she tried, she could never find the information she needed when she got a call from a contractor asking about an order.

One day, she had enough and downloaded a relatively simple purchase ordering software system. Within a few weeks, she was able to create a simplified database that allowed her to place regular, consistent orders with vendors with a single keystroke. It became easier to find the status of any order at any time, so she could quickly let her contractors know when they could expect the parts they needed to complete jobs.

This simple change gave Pat more time to do research and source unusual and hard-to-find electrical components. She was also able to save the contracting business money by eliminating costly orders from unauthorized vendors.

3. Think like a project manager

If your workplace is a chaotic one, it could be because your firm doesn’t manage projects effectively. Most people who aren’t project managers dislike the concept of project management ―it can feel controlling and restrictive. But it doesn’t have to be.

Consider implementing a simple project management system. Find a software program and get trained on it. It will allow you to create project plans and schedules that take into account problems and issues you could face on every job, and will help you feel more confident in your ability to deliver on your promises to your clients.

While you’re at it, have the members of your team get trained on basic project management skills. Many firms find this helpful because it provides structure; the entire organization shares a common vision and vocabulary on how to manage and complete projects together.

Case study: Jack runs a regional electrical contracting business with 12 different locations. Just a few months ago every location had its own set of rules, which caused a great deal of inefficiency and chaos for his business.

He decided to implement Microsoft Project, an industry-standard project management software package. This program allowed him to input every job from all his locations into the system, and made it easier for him to identify potential problems, issues and roadblocks related to the work. He shared this information with the managers of each location, and they quickly realized how beneficial it was.

The managers took some basic project management training together and implemented a few best practices throughout the organization. It quickly reduced most of the chaos the business had been dealing with, and got all of the locations to work cohesively. They were able to back each other up on jobs, share equipment and supplies and streamline the ordering of electrical equipment to save on costs and reduce waste.

Did you know? Using project management software can lead to measurable business improvements. The following chart uses data from the 2015 Project Management User Research Report from Capterra. It shows the percentage of businesses that realized the following improvements after they started using project management software.

project management data

4. Hire an office manager

Is your business a growing one and you’re finding it impossible to keep up? It might be time to hire someone to get things under control. An office manager may seem like a luxury, but it could pay off big in the long-run.

Many businesses grow by having all hands pitch in to handle everyday tasks like ordering supplies, doing human resource functions, scheduling deliveries, processing invoices, answering phone calls and more. At a certain point in a business’s growth cycle, it no longer makes sense for you and other skilled professionals to use their time doing these things. That’s when you know it’s time to hire an office manager.

An officer manager can handle office-related tasks so you and your team can focus on:

  • Delivering high-quality customer service
  • Improving processes and procedures
  • Developing new services to offer clients and customers.

office manager

Hiring a project manager doesn’t have to be expensive. You could start by bringing someone on part time and evolving to a full-time position as your company grows.  This article from Inc.com provides some great information on how you can find and hire the right office manager for your business.

Case study: Becky runs a business that rents electronic equipment to concert venues. She started the business five years ago on a shoestring, and it’s grown quickly over the years.

Because of this rapid growth, she found herself spending all her time in the office answering phones, doing billing and ordering replacement electronic parts and supplies. She started getting calls from her clients complaining that they were no longer getting the level of service from her they had grown used to.

This forced Becky to face reality and acknowledge the fact that her business had grown to a level where she could no longer manage it alone. She brought on Elizabeth, a part-time office manager, to help out three days a week. It cost her $750 each week, but gave her more time to connect with clients. Eventually, this led to her bringing in even more new business, which more than made up for the cost of hiring the manager. She plans to bring Elizabeth on full time soon.

5. Streamline your time

Do you still manage your company’s schedule using paper, a spreadsheet or the calendar on your smart phone, tablet or computer? This could be causing unnecessary problems for you and your business.

It may be time for you to look into business scheduling software. The right solution can:

  • Show all of the appointments booked with all of your team members any place, any time on your phone or other electronic device.
  • Manage appointments so you can manage your team’s time more efficiently.
  • Prevent time from being booked over days off.
  • Let your customers and clients book appointments online through your website.
  • Notify you and your team when scheduling changes occur.

Most scheduling solutions can integrate with other software your company is already using. Check out a few of the options available at Top Ten Reviews.

Case study: Matt’s electrical contracting business has reached critical mass. He has five employees working on projects all over Massachusetts, and simply can’t afford for his business to lose time.

About a year ago, Matt found that he constantly had to disappoint regular customers because he accidentally double-booked his workers. At other times, same-day cancellations kept team members sidelined, yet he still had to pay them for their time.

Matt finally implemented an online business scheduling system, which his electrical contractors loved because they could access their schedules out in the field via their smartphones. Double-booking situations quickly stopped, and less time was wasted because of cancellations. Within six months, Matt was able to increase his billable hours by more than 30 percent, which paid for the software many times over.

Conclusion

Small issues add up. The good news is, there are simple solutions that can pay off big time. Taking the time to fix even one can lift a burden from your company you may have never realized was there. So, what are you waiting for?