Three Ways Small Businesses Can Increase Productivity
Increasing productivity is a challenge all business owners and leaders face, but with these great tips, boosting productivity is much easier!
When growing a company, productivity is often low on the list of priorities for business owners. Instead, revenue is king—right up to the point at which they realize non-productivity and inefficiencies both affect top-line revenues and EBITDA. That’s the point at which most business owners start to reprioritize.
I will never forget talking with a frustrated CEO regarding a customer issue that had occurred the week prior. When the CEO was asking questions and trying to figure out what had caused the issue, a member of her team responded, “We make mistakes all the time. This mistake didn’t even cost that much. Why are you so upset by it?”
As a CEO, business owner, or business leader, that statement should make you cringe. Even though any single situation itself may cost a company very little to fix, there are lasting effects on the customer relationship, and similar incidents that happen on a daily and weekly basis add up quickly.
Here are a few places to start when reprioritizing productivity to the top of your list to forge a cost-effective path to growth.
Find Clarity and Focus to boost productivity
Lack of clarity and focus are two of the top productivity killers I see in businesses. I have personally experienced it in my own business. As business owners, we tend to get caught up in chasing growth and often get lost when it comes to what our businesses should be doing. How often do we ask core questions such as, “What business are we in,” and “What problems do we solve for our clients?”
Without clarity and focus for our business, we can end up diving down countless rabbit holes going after “the next big thing” or making the same mistakes over and over again.
Start with establishing clarity on:
- What is your business model?
- Why does your business exist?
- What are the core competencies of the company and the team?
- Who do you serve and why do you serve them?
- What problem are you solving for your clients?
Once these questions are answered unambiguously and the answers are understood throughout the company, everyone can start focusing on the activities that are focused on the business’s core mission.
Clarity and focus are the foundation of organizational productivity. It is the equivalent of the secret decoder ring to a cipher or a coded message. Once you have that, all of the traditional business concepts that may never really have made sense to you or for your company start to fall in to place.
For example: The infamous “strategic planning” process will now have a purpose. Strategic initiatives should support the answers to the above questions. Those initiatives will continue to help drive focus throughout the company and provide some guiding principles for decision-making.
My company, Cerius, is a great example. Like most businesses, we spent years figuring out the answers to the above questions. Until we did that, most of our activities were a matter of trial-and-error rather than following a purposeful and strategic direction. I probably don’t need to tell you that trial-and-error is a costly and unproductive route for learning.
Once we clarified what we do, how we do it, and whom we do it for, that helped us focus all of our activities on building for growth.
- Cerius helps companies avoid costly mistakes when bringing in contingent executive expertise such as an interim executive, management consultant, and advisors.
- We leverage our core competency: vetting executives for their expertise and how they can best solve business problems.
- We serve the C-Suite. We save our clients time and money by providing vetted resources.
Know Your Talent
Your team often has skills that reach far beyond the realm of what each person was originally hired for. Find out what they do with their personal time. Managing children’s activities and associations such as the PTA can translate to valuable skills for your organization.
I worked with one client who had no idea one of his employees was working on a graphic novel. The employee was in customer service and had untapped design and creative writing talents that could be leveraged by the company. The employee was happy to expand his activities to something he loved, and the company avoided hiring a freelance designer or copywriter at $75-100/hour.
Give your team members the opportunity to show what they can do beyond their traditional, everyday tasks. Give them the responsibility and ownership to “figure it out.” In most cases, you will be pleasantly surprised how much more will get done when they are empowered to be part of the creation process.
Another example is a client who for years had been putting off establishing a formal safety training program. As the company grew, the lack of a safety program was negatively impacting it in a number of ways, including direct costs. The CEO finally assigned the project to one of the newer hires who had been brought on to be the receptionist/accounting clerk. The task of implementing a safety training program was given to the new hire simply because she wasn’t working at 100%+ capacity yet. Over a period of four weeks, the employee wrote a script, got the whole team involved, put together costumes, and choreographed one of the most entertaining “Dos and Don’ts of Safety” I have ever seen.
Fully leveraging your existing team and giving them ownership of projects within their scope of skills and talents is one of the quickest ways to improve productivity for your organization.
- Rent Your C-Suite
I spent about fifteen years of my career in a company that was less than $5 million for all but thirteen years of that time. We did eventually start to experience high growth, but as is the case with so many growing companies, cashflow was tight. We needed to fill a number of top leadership positions such in areas such as human resources and finance, but the budget only allowed for about half of the market salary for each position.
So, like most organizations in that situation, we hired what we could afford. Unfortunately, we got what we paid for.
Although the people we hired were competent, the company needed far greater expertise and experience than they could provide. Looking back, I can add up the hundreds of thousands of dollars and thousands of man hours that were wasted on trial-and-error that could have been avoided if we’d had the right expertise.
This is one of the reasons I fell in love with the concept of renting C-suite expertise. As the operations leadership of that company, I would have welcomed the relief of being able to rent what we couldn’t afford full-time. It would have made the resources of the business not just more productive, but also a much more enjoyable place to work.