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Personal Finance

How to strengthen business efficiency

open communication
Promote a culture of open communication among workers. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Business efficiency is one of those things that have a tendency to run hot and cold. It is an abstract concept that can get lost behind deadlines, logistics and accounting. It waxes and wanes in cycles as we realise things are falling behind and strive to bring them back up to speed again. It is something that can always be improved, and as it improves it will help raise the bottom line of any company, corporate or SME.

To grow and succeed and try to stay one step ahead of competitors, a business needs to be efficient. Each time you find a way to improve a process or cut out a small chunk of time, your business gains ground and everyone moves forward. So let us take a look at a few things that can make your business more efficient and help keep it that way.

Encourage innovation. The inspiration for innovative ideas can come from both within your business and externally — from customers, suppliers, technological advances, among others. The key is to filter the ideas, so that you end up investing in those which are most likely to deliver the best returns.

Businesses are more innovative when staff know and understand what is happening in other areas. Someone may have an idea that could also benefit another department. Make sure people are able to share their ideas without risk of them being criticised or ridiculed. You could also capture ideas using brainstorms, workshops and/or suggestion boxes. Offer incentives to staff for coming up with ideas that increase your bottom line.

Automate tasks. Business automation is not a luxury; it is a necessity in today’s competitive environment. Automating monotonous tasks saves your employee time and allows them to do more productive tasks that require critical thinking or a human touch.

Promote open communication. Most business embraces the open door policy, but try to think beyond that. Don’t just tell employees they can come to management when they need something, but really encourage them to speak their minds and share ideas with each other as well.

Encouraging communication and collaboration between employees, departments and management will increase morale and creativity, which will ultimately lead to higher productivity. You can’t be everywhere at once, nor will you see everything. Your employees may be able to spot an area of your company that could be made more efficient, or a process that could be streamlined. Make sure they feel comfortable voicing their opinions, and offering feedback, especially when it comes to improving efficiency.

Use the established process. If you have a project that is already underway, trying to speed things up can result in cutting corners. If we try to cut corners to speed up the process, something gets missed, which must be fixed later and costs time and money.

Things go more smoothly if we stick to the process we started with. Processes can be changed, but they should be changed intentionally and with communication to the full team after the potential change has been approved.

Know when to stop. While it is important to smooth out as many kinks as possible to help your company run more efficiently, you also need to know where to draw the line. Not every process can—or should—be automated, just like not every meeting will always end at its scheduled time.

It’s important to strive for efficiency, but don’t let the goal of running a more efficient business overshadow other goals.

By getting feedback from your employees throughout the process, you’ll be able to monitor what is working and what isn’t, and improve your business efficiency—all the while continuing to grow and strengthen your business.

Increase customer awareness is vital in generating interest in your products or services. You can increase customer awareness through: marketing, including through social media— see more on social media for business making the most of your website - read about best practice in web design encouraging word of mouth from your loyal customers.

Using management software can help track progress, and stay on task. It saves the time of having to go back and forth on emails, and it also lets us track progress more efficiently.

Build ties with suppliers. Talking to your suppliers can often provide valuable insight. Suppliers are working with the same products as you, and speak to your competitors as well.

Learn how to negotiate - small extras can add up and often negotiating will result in better relationships in the long run.

Use technology. Technology can help you improve the way your staff carry out tasks. It can either speed up existing processes or allow new, more flexible ways of carrying out the job.

In order to work out the best technology for your needs, you should assess your current systems against your requirements.

Improve your working practices. You can greatly improve your business efficiency by looking at current working practices, and making improvements where possible.

Look at your staff and try to get an understanding of the tools they use for their tasks and how they approach them.

Save money through resource efficiency. In most small businesses, operating costs are the main financial burden, especially in the early years.

By cutting down on unnecessary expenditure and managing your resources better, you can save money and make your business run more efficiently.

Energy efficiency and green operational practice are now widely accepted in the workplace.

Practice lean thinking and Six Sigma. Operations management is a way of organising your business in order to improve efficiency. Lean thinking method focuses on only spending money on resources that create value for your customers. Anything which does not ultimately increase value for your customers is considered wasteful and a target for savings.

You should view lean thinking as a way of thinking and a way of changing the culture of your business for the better.

Six Sigma methods are data driven and this data can be used as a management technique across all businesses in order to improve operations. Lean more about using Six Sigma to reduce inefficiency and waste.

Audit your processes. Finally map out a workflow to describe processes your employees should follow. By looking at all the tasks they need to carry out, you can often spot opportunities to save time and avoid duplication of work.

This may include redesigning the way your staff work with digital and physical content to ensure they use their time efficiently.

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