Whether you’re a new entrepreneur or an established business magnate, your small business operations can suffer from inefficiencies, such as meetings dragging on for hours and projects suffering months of delays. So what can a business do to improve its productivity?
The good news is you can sharpen your focus and avoid wasting time by following simple principles. Here are 7 best practices in business to help you reach peak efficiency.
1. The Pareto Principle
Also known as the “80/20 Rule,” the Pareto Principle is named after the turn-of-the-20th-century Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto. His most well-known observation was that roughly 80% of Italy’s land was owned by 20% percent of the Italian population, indicating that income distribution was concentrated among a small subset of landowners.
This uneven distribution is found in the most unlikely places, including much of the natural and social worlds. By definition, in business, the Pareto principle also applies, meaning roughly 20% of your efforts are responsible for 80% of your results.
This isn’t a hard-and-fast mathematical truth, and it essentially means that your efforts — or any cause to an effect — won’t necessarily yield an equal outcome. With that in mind, identify what seems to be working for your company and zero in on it.
There are times when you need to throw all of your effort and resources into a project. Still, there are other instances when you’ll need to be judicious about your time and energy, and scale back when you weigh the outcome’s expected impact on your company.
2. Learn How To Delegate
Delegating aspects of your small business operations is one of the most underrated aspects of how to efficiently manage a business.
As business scales, it becomes increasingly important for owners and managers to delegate responsibility to subordinates for 2 reasons:
- It takes work off the manager’s plate, allowing them to focus on more important tasks.
- It helps train the employee for future leadership positions.
When delegating responsibilities to your staff or team members, consider the following tips to help generate the best possible results for optimal small business management:
- Explain the desired outcome in plain terms
- Bring in supporting team members when needed
- Provide necessary resources
- Assign responsibilities to staff members with the appropriate authority to handle those tasks
3. Limit Your Face Time
How often do you hear “Got a minute?” throughout the day?
Impromptu meetings can interrupt your workflow as they rarely last for only a minute, sometimes dragging on for a half-hour or longer.
To avoid unnecessary interruptions to your small business’ operations, try scheduling your face time.
The next time someone asks “Got a minute?”, ask them politely if they have 10 minutes to meet at a designated time to discuss the matter.
Make sure the discussion is kept within the scheduled time frame and ensure that you remain on topic.
4. Stay Focused on Your Projects
The American Psychological Association (APA) has found multitasking does more harm than good when it comes to brain function and overall productivity in the workplace. The brain is “not designed for heavy-duty multitasking,” according to the APA. Several experiments published in 2001 reported its young adult subjects lost time when they switching between tasks, and the amount of time lost increased as the tasks became more complicated.
Although business owners sometimes have no choice but to balance multiple jobs or tasks, you should, whenever possible, limit the amount of projects you’re handling at once.
If you’re struggling to manage what’s on your plate, divide your daily tasks into manageable chunks, with the highest-priority objectives scheduled earlier in the day. This way, you can attack each job without diverting your focus.
5. Be Strategic with Your Meetings
Not every business meeting is necessary. This is why an increasing number of small and large businesses alike are turning to Slack and other workplace messaging tools to discuss team-related matters in real-time.
If a meeting can’t be avoided, you can speed up the process by emailing the agenda ahead of time and asking everyone to review it.
If you rely on meetings to discuss your team’s plan for the day, ensure that you schedule the meeting as early as possible so it won’t disrupt your small business operations once everyone is deep into their daily tasks.
Called a “Daily Huddle,” 10-minute meetings first thing in the morning can help energize your team members, increase employee productivity throughout the day and keep them on task. Although a huddle may seem like a loss of 10 minutes, the return for your time is usually high. Such meetings have been shown to motivate employees and allow them to ask questions and solve problems that might otherwise slow productivity later in the workday.
6. Embrace Technology
If you want to improve your small business management and increase employees’ productivity, you should provide tools to streamline or automate workflows.
Today, there are countless tools and pieces of software that can lighten your employees’ workloads. Automation services currently exist that can handle the following business processes:
- Payroll services
- Email marketing campaigns
- Project management
- Data entry
- Enterprise resource planning (ERP)
- Marketing funnel management
For example, MailChimp can streamline and schedule your email blasts to help you get messages out to your audiences faster and with less effort. For sales, Salesforce, Marketo and other customer relationship management systems should be a staple in your business’ software lineup. There are also plenty of excellent payroll automation services, such as Wagepoint and Quickbooks Online, to help you pay your employees.
In addition, make sure you keep technology updated. For instance, migrating your data to the cloud, where all team members can easily retrieve and upload data on an as-needed basis, can save you time and effort, keeping you focused on your key priorities.
7. Promote Intrapreneurship
One of the predictors of small business success is whether you can foster a culture that encourages workplace intrapreneurship. Intrapreneurs are employees with the drive and creativity of entrepreneurs.
If you have a team of go-getters willing to take risks and experiment with new methods to get the job done, encourage innovation. Allow your employees flexibility as they work on projects and launch alternate standard operating procedures for improved small business operations.