October 18, 2013
From smarter use of office space to time management, here are 10 ways to make efficiency savings in all aspects of business.
It’s the holy grail for small business owners – finding ways to make efficiency savings in all aspects of their operations. The good news is there are plenty of tools, tips and techniques available to help them make cost savings and boost productivity. Here are 10 of them.
1. Use technology to speed up workflow
Small businesses should be looking to innovations in technology to solve day-to-day inconveniences, says Bradley Duke, European managing director of mobile technology firm Zapper.com. For example, a huge amount of time is often spent on admin and sending information back and forth between various parties. A lot of it could be saved through document sharing.
He says: “This can simplify and speed up workflow. With so many free platforms and applications out there, such as Dropbox and Google Docs, you can increase productivity with no extra business costs. In fact, anything from communication, data sourcing and payments can all be managed from mobile devices, so you can grow your business on the go.”
2. Shorter meetings fuel efficiency
Hold a brief meeting standing up, every morning, where each person explains what they are going to work on that day. This will ensure everyone is on the right track and not wasting time on non-urgent tasks. By doing this standing up, you can make sure the meeting is energised and to the point.
3. Smart office space pays
Office space can involve a big outlay for SMEs, but it is also an area where some smarter thinking can make a real difference, says Jonathan Rosenblatt, managing director of Headspace.
“Sharing meeting rooms and other communal space, for example kitchen facilities, with other companies and individuals reduces costs,” he says. “For sole traders, this could mean working in an office environment alongside other businesses, as opposed to working from home or the local coffee shop.”
The added benefit of co-working spaces is that it fosters collaboration and creativity between the various businesses and people using the space. Steve Jobs was a famous proponent of this concept and the Pixar offices were designed with a huge central atrium to encourage random, spontaneous encounters between colleagues who didn’t usually work together.
4. Small changes, big savings
One way of improving efficiency is for business owners to make small changes to the way they handle their company’s expenses.
Karen Penney, vice-president and general manager for American Express Global Corporate Payments in the UK, says: “Invest in automated booking and expense programmes to minimise the time and cost involved with reconciling expenses manually. This will also provide an overview of expenditure, which allows businesses to establish clear expense policies, identify key suppliers and negotiate better supplier rates. Have regular meetings with suppliers to ensure they continue to meet your needs and to check you are effectively utilising the services they offer.”
5. Manage staff expenses
Implement a corporate card programme, which can help oversee and manage employee expenses and provide high quality management information.
6. Keep a firm grip on cashflow
“Turnover is vanity, profit is sanity, and cashflow is reality”, is an old saying that business owners would do well to heed, says Dr Steve Priddy, head of research at the London School of Business and Finance.
Dr Priddy says: “Identify the payment process and key names at your top customers that make up 80% of the business. Five working days after sending out the invoice, make sure you courteously call to check all is in order on the invoice. And know your forward order book. Only include confirmed when work is confirmed, probable when it is probable, and be sceptical about anything that is possible.”
7. Stay connected on the move
The growing trend towards mobile and flexible working means that employees are permanently connected and are increasingly working on the go. Phil Jones, managing director at Brother, says the new generation of portable print and scan technology offers huge support for business efficiency moves.
“Portable printers and scanners enable employees to work as productively on the go as they do when they are sitting at their desk. For example, they allow employees to print final amends to presentations in the car before heading into a meeting or scan important documents when out of the office into a workflow,” he says.
8. Use time more efficiently
Being more efficient is more about being than doing. It’s probably 90% mindset, says financial coach Wilma Allan.
“The shorter the amount of time you allow yourself, the more you will get done, so make sure the first 90 minutes of your day is focused on growing your business. Turn off your email and phones and concentrate only on that. Then divide your working day into 45- or 30-minute chunks – use a timer – and think of doing only that task,” she says.
Allan also suggests creating daily folders marked with the days of the week and putting into those folders the things that must be done on that day. Anything that isn’t completed gets put into the next day’s folder. This creates a good routine.
9. Get the best deal on insurance
Trawling insurance companies, either online or by telephone, to find the best deal on business insurance can be extremely costly in time. Danial Booth at insurance firm Jelf Small Business says business owners can save time by getting multiple insurance quotes from one place, either using a broker or a quote comparison tool. “But check the policy details to make sure that you are comparing like for like,” he advises.
10. Don’t be lax with the legals
In the hectic process of starting up a business, the founders often put off sorting out the legal matters until later, or not at all. However, the advice from online legal services firm Rocket Lawyer UK is to lay the right legal foundations at the start to avoid costly disruptive problems in the future.
Their spokesman said: “If you have started a business and decided to partner with someone, a friend or a family member, it’s important to have a partnership agreement in place from the word go. You may think this sounds overly official, but without this type of agreement, all sorts of disputes can arise, even between the closest of friends. This can be costly and damaging for the business.”