In corporate speak, “getting efficient” is code word for closing offices and removing sloppy excess, a polite excuse for letting people go without actually calling it a firing.
In a small business, it means doing more with what you have. Or, more simply, breaking your streak of throwing money at problems in the hope that they improve or go away. Here are five ways to boost efficiency in your business.
1. Multiply goals by a factor of 10. With a small business, there is the flexibility to try new things, many of which will be a waste of time. How do you purge this list in advance? Take it and multiply everything by a factor of ten.
Trying to land a new $75,000 contract? Why not $750,000? What would you and your team have to do to make that happen? Do you need 2,500 new leads? Why not 25,000? Need to cut costs by $10,000? Why not $100,000? Have an annual sales goal of a $1 million? Why not $10 million?
By going through all of your to-do's and multiplying them by a factor of 10, it quickly becomes evident which of those projects, if given the time and attention they deserve, will have the biggest impact. Drop the rest.
2. Get out of the way. There's nothing like debilitating sciatic nerve pain to reveal the path of enlightenment. One day it just happened. Bam. Each time I moved pain shot down my leg. I couldn't go to the office. I canceled meetings and trade shows. I hugged a bean bag while nibbling on pain pills. My wife worried about me, and I worried about the business.
Six weeks later I was back in the office to discover that everything had ... thrived. I never knew what a roadblock I was to the growth of the business by just being in the office. With me out of the way, my team skipped the "run-things-by-me" part and just started doing it. They stepped into their power. The business strengthened. Things moved more quickly.
These days I only work in the office two days a week. The rest of the time I work from home and stay out of their way.
3. Don't answer the same questions next week. We encourage our clients to call in or email for any questions. Not only is it an opportunity to interact with our clients and learn more about what they need, it’s a chance to see where we can become more efficient.
If 10 clients a day are calling in about the exact same thing, the question becomes, “Can we simplify this process on our website? Can we automate it? Can we create an FAQ video that documents this process for the client?” Most of the time the answer is yes.
Instead of having to constantly hire new people to handle the busywork associated with growth, we just identify and eliminate the busywork.
4. Get your Kolbe on. Get people into a zone where they are using their natural strengths. It makes them way more efficient. Kolbe isn't an intelligence test. It's a quick 20-minute series of questions that determines how a person naturally does things.
Do you need to hand off a project to someone who will finish it quickly and thoroughly? Then put the person with a "follow-through" score of eight or higher on that task. You want a new project to get off the ground? Don't give it to a fact finder or it will die in committee. The list goes on and on.
You might discover that the person you have in business development would be better suited for accounting and vice versa. Assign projects based on people's natural inclinations and stuff just gets done.
5. Con-zone-trate. Sometimes we forget that we are animals. I mean that literally. Part of the brain's job is to continually scan the environment for danger, food, sex or bright, shiny objects. We can't turn this off. It makes it hard to concentrate.
We can, however, choose to override this part of our biology for stretches at a time. Doing this creates incredible, lasting focus. Grab a great pair of headphones and listen to music geared specifically for concentration. It acts as a beta blocker for those animal instincts inside of us for just long enough to complete the task at hand.
Try the 60 beats-per-minute soundtracks at www.focusatwill.com. Search for "beta brain waves" on YouTube if you really want to get into your zone. We supply headphones and an updated list of "focus music" urls in the office. When the music turns on, the urge to check Facebook (bright, shiny object) disappears. Stuff gets done.
Streamlining entrepreneurship isn't just about having the latest efficiency app. It's about stripping the unnecessary out of the day to day and recognizing that operating in your sweet spot of efficiency is your next big opportunity.
Related: 5 Ways to Become a Better Manager