Running a small business is not for the faint of heart. Between filing taxes, hiring employees, managing client relations, and production, it's enough to drive the sanest person a little crazy.
Fortunately, there are ways to make running a small business easier.
These strategies improve efficiency and help create a more productive company.
1. Delegate the small things
There is a finite number of hours in a day. Regardless of your intellectual capacity and work ethic, you'll always have something on which you could be working. Most small business owners struggle with delegation because they are habitual doers. Even if these business owners do delegate, they micromanage the tasks, defeating the purpose of delegating altogether.
To run your business more efficiently, you must delegate. Take the time to learn your employees' strengths and weaknesses so that you can delegate more effectively. Put checks and balances in place so that you can monitor the processes in the beginning and relax control over time. Finally, trust your team to accomplish their roles. Delegation puts accountability on your team and can help them become more invested in the success of your business.
2. Automate processes and workflows
Small businesses often get bogged down with repetitive tasks. You can likely automate many of your frequent tasks. Many small businesses fear automation because of the upfront expense or its effect on employee jobs.
However, automating repetitive steps in your sales, production, or distribution process can increase your bottom line and free up your employees to work on other, more critical areas.
One area of small business that can easily be automated is digital marketing. For instance, this turn-key digital marketing machine uses gated content to drive email leads, followed by automated drip emails, retargeting based on actions and PR outreach for more visibility. The only manual step is creating the content; everything else is automated.
3. Consolidate tasks and remain focused
It's scientifically proven that you are more productive when you focus, for an extended period, on completing one task instead of multiple distracting activities and tasks. An easy way for small business owners to accomplish this strategy is by consolidating, or batching, tasks that require similar processes.
For instance, consider blocking off the first part of your morning to work entirely on your email correspondence for the day. This could be sales emails, follow-ups, client relations messages, HR, or any other departmental communication threads. Rather than doing sales emails in the morning and client services later in the day, working through all your email tasks at once will save you time.
4. Welcome change
Complacency in the workplace is an epidemic that can spread like wildfire. This can be particularly dangerous if it's top-down. As a small business owner, you represent the truest form of your company's culture. If you are not willing to change your processes, ideas, products, marketing, or any other aspect of your business, then you can't expect your employees to welcome change either.
Being willing to make changes is a necessity. Stagnant businesses will fall by the wayside when challenged by other companies, economic trends, or changes in consumer demands. Chuck Leavell, co-founder of Mother Nature Network, says his biggest tip for small business efficiency is to "prepare for change so when it comes, you can adapt on the fly."
5. Use available tools
A quick way to increase your small business's efficiency is to take advantage of technology and tools that were built to specifically solve problems with productivity. Some popular tools that can help your small business include:
- Whiplash to resolve fulfillment issues
If your small business sells products online, then you will need to make decisions about how to store and ship your goods. Using a fulfillment partner like Whiplash lets you outsource the storage, warehousing, shipping, and other inventory expenses to a company that specializes in fulfillment. This flexibility allows you to focus on what you do best-- making and selling great products.
- Calendly to streamline meetings
Successfully running a small business is hard enough. Why would you want to add the difficulty of coordinating meetings to your lists? Calendly is a web-based application that easily lets you schedule meetings without any email correspondence. Just share a link to your Calendly page, which is connected to your calendar, and users can find a time that works best for you both.
- ZipRecruiter to improve the hiring process
As your business grows, you'll inevitably have to find more employees. The hiring process isn't easy and can take a ton of time, money, and other resources. Consider using a resource like ZipRecruiter which posts and markets your positions to thousands of interested applicants. You then have access to a dashboard that shows you all viable applicants.
- QuickBooks for your financials
Accounting software like QuickBooks can be a small business owner's smartest investment. QuickBooks lets you easily manage your company payroll, accounts receivable, expenses and taxes in one place. Because most small business owners are not accountants or CPAs, finding an accounting resource can save you valuable time, while also improving your financial visibility. It also alleviates a lot of headaches when it comes time to file your taxes.
Successfully running a small business requires a great deal of time, energy, money, and other resources. If you want to increase your chances for success, focus on being as efficient as possible. You can improve productivity by delegating, remaining focused, utilizing tools, automating processes, and welcoming change.
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Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.