Who doesn’t want (or need) to be more productive and more efficient? Certainly, as CEO of an SME, staying productive means we all get to come to work another day. As a country, Australians apparently work very hard, although it’s still odd to me that the whole country seems to shut down for half of December and almost all of January. I guess it means we have to work that much harder for the other 47 weeks of the year.
So, how can we be more productive? Well, there are lots of things you can do to not only stay afloat but get ahead, increase your productivity and have fun on the job.
1. Job descriptions should be closely tied to outcomes/KPIs
You can’t manage what you can’t measure and job descriptions should be realistic, relevant and have clear, reasonable and achievable key performance indicators (KPIs). Educate your team on how important it is for everyone to play a sales role and pull together for success. Take the time to meet with your employees regularly if not just to touch base.
2. Sieve the business
Sieve your business as if you were sifting husk-filled flour–let only the essential ingredients remain. Unfortunately, cutting out the ‘nice to haves’ is a necessary evil. Are those fresh flowers every week really necessary? In particular, get rid of everything that isn’t working really well. Look at your business critically from every angle, including partners, staff, your brand, the database, low return customers, through to suppliers. This process gives you a fresh look at how the business runs and gives you the opportunity to improve how the business operates and where you can reduce costs or even make new investments.
3. Regular work in progress (WIP) meetings to keep you on track
Even though we are a small business, we are a busy team managing a large portfolio of clients. It is absolutely critical that each of those clients is looked after properly – and if the account manager is away for whatever reason, someone else knows what is going on. So, we have a regular WIP every Monday at 10am and go over who’s doing what. Who’s away, who’s overloaded, who’s got free time, do we need extra help? Also, at the beginning of the year we hold our own Kick-Off, reviewing business objectives and where we’re going for the next 12 months.
4. Keep up to date with technology
Whether we like it or not, the world is changing and technology is leading the charge. These days, social media is the buzz and how people are choosing to communicate with each other. Printed copy still has a place, but in an online world, you must be able to access information, communicate and respond quicker than ever. For many, ‘technology = productivity’ and there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that this is the information channel of choice for the future, so use it to your advantage!
5. How’s your database?
It really is impossible to overstate how important your database is – the single most important piece of intellectual property you own and possibly your most important productivity tool. How much time is wasted trying to track down someone you met somewhere ? You know you put their business card somewhere but can’t seem to find it. It makes me frustrated just thinking about it. Keep your database clean, accurate and up-to-date. Modern database software means you can communicate with thousands of people by pressing ‘enter’. You can track responses, changes and, if you move on or your company does go belly up, you can be back in business in minutes. Now, that’s productivity!
6. Stay on top of your finances
The best piece of business advice I was ever given was to stay on top of the financials. Monthly delivery of Profit and Loss, and Balance Sheet, weekly delivery of Accounts Receivable and Accounts Payable and a constant, regularly updated cashflow forecast. By checking ALL my financials every month, I save a lot of time and grief and know exactly where I stand at any time. I know who has paid their bill, who needs to be invoiced, how much I have spent, where I’m at with bills etc.
7. Stay close to your customers. Ask how can we be more effective?
Keeping an existing customer is much less expensive and requires much less work that converting a new one. Partner with your customers and work alongside them. There is no need to try and sell something with every communication, but let them know you are there. Genuine care puts you front of mind. Reconnect; throw a drinks party, have coffee, ask how they’re doing, where they’re going and what you could be doing better together. Find out how the world has changed for them.
8. Outsource if necessary
Outsource all your non-core activities. Get rid of the stuff that you’re bad at, don’t like doing or just plain slows you down. By acknowledging your strengths and recognising your weaknesses, you maximise your results without increasing your headcount. If you concentrate on what you love, you’ll save a lot of time and enjoy yourself, rather than doing a half baked job on something you loathe doing.
9. Be honest with your employees
Your employees are not stupid. They can usually tell when things are up – and conversely, grim, stressed looks will indicate when you’re going through a tough patch. Speak to your employees often, let them know how the business is doing and what hard decisions you might have to make. Whether business is booming or struggling, your team will appreciate knowing where they stand and what challenges you, as a team, face together. And, they’re more likely to stay with you if you’re open with them. Some will take pay cuts, or work less days or whatever – partly to keep their job, but partly to help the business survive. Good teams pull together.
10. Have some fun
While sieving the business is important, make sure you don’t sieve out all the fun! Staff morale is important to productivity; anxious, stressed workers are too busy worrying about their futures to do much work. Fun needn’t be expensive – a couple of bottles of wine or beer on Friday night, buying a round of coffees on the office tab from time to time or a pizza night. If you are a small team, remember everyone’s birthday with a card and cake, or a small inexpensive present such as a $20 iTunes or CD voucher. Really, it is often the thought that counts and your staff will appreciate it and you.
So, there’s 10 top tips to think about. Maybe implementing just one of them will make you more productive this year.
–Sharon Williams is CEO of Taurus Marketing (www.taurusmarketing.com.au) and a member of the Dynamic Business Expert Panel.