- Focus on Business Growth and Strategy
- 3 Rules for Small Business Efficiency
- Cut Costs and Maximize Growth
Q: How can business owners focus on business growth and strategy instead of the day-to-day operational tasks that can take up all their time?
A: Small business owners can organize their business for operational efficiency, allowing time for strategic planning, growing their business, and cost-savings.
How many times have you heard the phrase, ‘Work on your business, not in it’?
Albeit now a cliché, this mantra should still be considered the golden rule for any entrepreneur seeking small business growth.
Because done right, it means you — the founder — are released from the daily ‘busywork’ of running a business. You’re free to focus on achieving your vision.
Let’s break it down.
Working in your business means you spend your time carrying out day-to-day tasks and fighting fires, which leaves little time for strategy or execution.
Working on your business means you take a step back from operational duties and focus on how to achieve business growth.
Think of it this way:
Working ‘in’ your business makes you a cog in the wheel. Working ‘on’ your business means you’re the engine driving it.
Sometimes however, it’s easier said than done.
Small business owners are dedicated and hardworking.
When you’ve poured your heart and soul into starting a business, and you’re proud of the work you do, it can be extremely difficult to step back and assume a leadership position.
So how do you achieve this golden rule?
A little efficiency and strategy can go a long way. In this guide, we break down some of the key strategies available to help you save time, operate more efficiently, and focus on small
How are Efficiency and Strategy Related?
An efficient business is one that streamlines operations to maximize productivity.
It is not weighed-down by slow processes filled with stumbling blocks.
Efficiency allows for increased productivity with less time and effort. This frees up the business owner to carry out more strategic thinking — in other words, how to attain the business objectives and vision — which in turn fuels growth.
Likewise, strategic thinking allows for better planning, which further increases the efficiency of the business.
It also promotes cost saving. A team that can work more efficiently with fewer roadblocks will reach their objectives faster, and produce more.
This upward spiral builds exponentially.
The more efficient a business gets, the more time there is for the business owner to analyze its structure and make it even more efficient.
Additionally, this planning allows a business to find growth opportunities by cutting unnecessary costs and reallocating those funds.
Now we’ll explore how to put this theory into practice.
What Can Small Businesses Do to Boost Efficiency?
There are three key strategies you can implement to make your business run more efficiently:
Let’s take a look at each of these strategies in turn.
Repeat after me: We humans are not built to multi-task.
When we think we’re multi-tasking, we are actually task-switching. We can switch tasks very quickly — but it’s not the same as focusing on multiple things at the same time.
Worse, switching tasks is actually detrimental to productivity.
Jumping from task to task doesn’t mean you get more done. Instead, you force your brain to constantly switch gears, which means you work harder and use more energy.
Start with the jobs you dislike and get them done as quickly and as early as possible. Make it the first thing you do in the day.
This productivity approach is known as ‘eat the frog first thing in the morning’ — a famous piece of wisdom that’s most commonly attributed to Bill Gates.
We’re human, and we put off the jobs we dislike. But if it’s your job to ‘eat the frog’ (or in other words, to do something you dislike but you must do it anyway), make sure you get it done as soon as possible.
Once that’s done, you’re free to power through the rest of your day a little more happily. This approach can help you avoid procrastination, prioritize your tasks better, and work more productively.
By consolidating and streamlining your workflow, you’ll have a better chance of attaining what some people call ‘deep work’.
Deep work, according to author Cal Newport, “is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task”.
If you have ever focused so intently on a task that time slips away unnoticed, you’ll recognize the feeling of deep work.
It’s a highly focused state that enables you to master complicated information and attain a very high level of productivity.
“In short, deep work is like a super power in our increasingly competitive twenty-first century economy. And yet, most people have lost the ability to go deep—spending their days instead in a frantic blur of email and social media, not even realizing there’s a better way.”
Now compare this highly productive state of deep work with task switching.
Constantly flitting from one thing to the next is the opposite of deep work. In fact, repeatedly switching tasks can kill productivity by as much as 80%.
So next time you start task-switching, pause, reassess your to-do list, and focus on one task at a time. Your brain will thank you for it.
You’ll be amazed how many tasks can be automated with the help of technology.
Take a long look at your processes and workflows. Anything that’s repeatable or highly frequent can most likely be automated, either partly or fully.
Do or delegate?
As a small business owner, you’re probably a doer. It can be difficult to switch your mindset to one of delegation rather than doing everything by yourself.
Delegating can feel like you’re relinquishing control of your business. But in fact, it’s the opposite.
By delegating, you will free up your time, energy, and mental capacity. You can then use these precious resources to think more coherently about the long-term future of your business, and what you need to do to ensure its success.
That in turn gives you the ability to control your company’s future in a more efficient way.
Here are some key tasks you can delegate to other people:
- Accounting and bookkeeping
- Website management
- Tech maintenance and support
- Content creation (blogging, news stories, product descriptions, email content)
- Social media marketing
- HR and people management
- Call answering and customer service
The list goes on.
In theory, you could delegate or outsource every task in your business.
That’s owing to the huge array of talent that is now available through freelance or employment methods, and thanks to remote tools and technologies, which means small businesses can hire from anywhere.
Cost Saving: A Welcome Byproduct
One of the great outcomes of these three strategies — consolidation, automation, and delegation — is that small businesses can save huge amounts of money in the process.
When you consolidate tasks and work more efficiently, you become more productive. That means your output increases with less time commitment.
And since time is money, that’s an instant win-win situation.
Automation can help save money in the same way. Ultimately, it makes you more efficient — and by saving your time, you are free to focus on ways to streamline your business and cut costs.
As for delegation, by shifting tasks onto qualified workers, you’re not just saving your own time — but you’re ensuring those tasks get done by people who are more skilled and experienced.
They can get the work done quickly, and to a better standard, which produces better results for your business.
Depending on the stage of your business, you may prefer to hire freelance workers rather than take on permanent members of staff.
Thanks to the established network of freelance workers available to you, you have an opportunity to select the best talent at an affordable price.
Freelance skills are utilized as needed, often by the hour or by the task, so you can decide your budget and how far you can stretch it.
What’s more, since many jobs can now be carried out remotely, you may not be restricted by location — which opens up the talent pool further while also giving you more choice, and more bargaining power over cost.
Another example of delegation is utilizing a live receptionist service.
Live receptionists accomplish tasks for which you would otherwise hire a full-time employee. They answer calls, schedule appointments, take messages, and filter out spam and telesales, which reduces distractions and saves time, while also ensuring a quality call experience for your customers.
Utilizing services like these will save money and time, ensuring you and your team are able to focus on what matters most.
Ultimately, streamlining your processes and weaving cost-efficiency into your operations will ensure that your small business funds are allocated to the key strategies and services that will help grow your business.
More Ways to Save Money as a Small Business
There are hundreds, probably thousands of ways to save money as a small business owner.
A lot of these cost-saving ideas come down to strategies we’ve already discussed, such as automation and delegation.
Another key technique includes identifying any unnecessary business expenses — such as subscriptions you no longer need — and reducing or cancelling them (check for cancellation fees first).
Other costs may come with parking fees, office supplies and stationery, and interest added to debt and credit cards.
You may also be leaving money on the table by not claiming for business expenses that you’re entitled to. That’s where a qualified accountant can help — which is another good reason why it pays to delegate.
And if you think you need a full-time office, think again.
Getting rid of commercially rented office space can lead to huge cost savings.
You may be able to work from home, while some entrepreneurs prefer to use a flexible workspace solution, such as a coworking membership or a pay-as-you-go office.
Flexible workspaces can be hired on a short-term basis and used on an as-needed basis. This means that your office space will never sit unused, as is common with traditional office arrangements.
When you think about it, few businesses need a full-time office.
A lot of businesses frequently work from home or ‘third place’ locations, such as client offices, coworking spaces, and coffee shops.
Add to that, very few people use their office on weekends. Or at 1am. Or during national holidays.
Yet they still pay for it round-the-clock.
Flexible workspace plans include all of the above for a set monthly fee. This can also make financial planning much easier for your small business.
Of course, the office still plays an important role in business.
According to Michelle Hay, chief human resources officer at Cushman & Wakefield, “The office isn’t going away. There is purpose for ‘place.’ Companies will become more intentional about using the space. They will use it for the 3 C’s: connection, collaboration and career development.”
In other words, even though an office isn’t necessary for day-to-day work, it serves a very useful purpose as a hub for collaboration or as a meeting place with clients.
The rest of the time, business leaders and teams can work from ‘anywhere’ — be it a flexible workspace or from home.
For entrepreneurs who prefer to work from home, a virtual office provides even more flexibility, which equates to a more cost-effective solution.
A virtual office provides all the essentials you’d expect from a physical office — such as a business address and mail processing services.
The big difference is, you don’t pay for full-time office space.
Virtual offices enable businesses to create a commercial presence in a specific location, at a physical office building, but without the cost or commitment of maintaining a workplace.
It provides a recognized business address, mail sorting and storage, and the option to access onsite meeting rooms and offices for a simple hourly fee.
You can add other services such as mail forwarding, dedicated meeting room access, a live receptionist call answering service, a coworking subscription, and more.
Find out more about virtual office and live receptionist solutions from Alliance at alliancevirtualoffices.com.
How Can Small Businesses Maximize these Strategies to Grow?
Let’s take a quick recap.
By consolidating, automating, and delegating, you — the business owner — will free up more time and mental energy to focus on your vision.
You will have more capacity to plan and think strategically, which will enable you to streamline operations, improve cost efficiency and productivity, and ultimately, achieve business growth.
So how do you put this into action?
Carry out a full audit and identify the tasks that can be consolidated, automated, and delegated.
Research automation tools and methods to transfer manual, time-consuming tasks to an app or piece of software that can carry out the work for you.
Figure out what to delegate and to whom. The key is to choose the right people, who have the skills and experience to carry out these tasks to a high quality, while maintaining a smooth, time-efficient workflow.
Now is the time to consider your business costs, too.
Pull up all your business expenditures over the past year and work through them, one by one.
Where can you save money? Go beyond mere cost comparisons. For instance, look at your workplace. Can a flexible office help you work more productively?
This could apply if you are currently leasing an office space. The question is, do you really need an office space 24/7? Because that’s what you’re paying for.
On the flip side, if you are working from home for ‘free’, does it provide a distraction-free, productive environment? Or are you struggling to achieve focus in a space that’s too noisy, or too quiet and isolated?
For both these reasons, consider switching to a flexible office.
The money you save on full-time office rental (or the money you gain through working in a more productive, inspiring workspace) can be redirected to hiring talent, purchasing software that allows your business to run at a higher level, or anything else that will allow you to expand into new markets.
By finding this sweet spot, you’ll free yourself to spend more time contemplating your company’s next move.
Small business owners can easily get stuck working ‘in’ their business rather than ‘on’ it.
This happens for many different reasons. Perhaps you’re too busy firefighting to stop and analyze your business operations. Or maybe it’s because you simply love the work, and you prefer doing rather than delegating.
But if you’re seeking growth, it’s time to make a leadership decision.
You could hand over management of the company to a business partner or a CEO. Or you could focus on ways to consolidate, automate, and delegate the day-to-day tasks that take up your time.
This exercise is always worthwhile, because it can reveal some interesting truths about your business — such as cost-inefficiencies. It can also produce some useful solutions to help streamline time-consuming and distracting tasks.
Whatever your future goals, a little more efficiency and strategy can go a long way and help you break out of the ‘busywork’ cycle that keeps you from growing your business. Do that, and you’ll already be a step closer to realizing your vision and achieving business growth.
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