Leadership optimize

10 ways to make your business more efficient

If your business isn't taking off -- or worse, if it's going downhill -- it's time to look for inefficiencies that may be plaguing your systems and practices.

If your business isn't running at top efficiency, you're failing. In today's world of instant access, social networking, and constant connection, working with inefficient systems and software could quickly lead to a series of micro-fractures that can bring your company to its knees. Though you may not see it happening at first, at some point the failure will become obvious.

To avoid this, your company must be working at peak efficiency. But when you're already deeply embedded in your systems, software, and managerial practices, how can you retool your company for a more efficient environment? Here are 10 tips that can help.

1: Don't expand too quickly

I've seen this happen many times. Businesses start seeing dollar signs and think that the bigger they get, the better their bottom line. Those dollar signs blind them to the fact that expanding too quickly means the proper systems and training can't be put into place. When you're small, your workflow is designed accordingly. If you expand too quickly, you can't properly adjust workflow, the systems that support workflow, or the employees who must manage the workflow.

2: Don't employ technology until it is thoroughly tested and understood

This is another issue I have not only witnessed but have fallen victim to. Companies are often seduced by the idea that a piece of software or hardware will make their workflow infinitely easier. A PR-pro can easily sway them with numbers and user quotes. But you can't always tell whether that piece of software is well suited for your needs and staff. If you're thinking about new tech, get a demo of it and test it before you buy it or insist your employees start using something that will, in the end, cause serious inefficiencies.

3: Don't make technology decisions unless you have considered the users

I've been on both sides of this coin, and I know how frustrating this can be. There are users within your company who, in many ways, know how things work better than you. They're in the thick of the workflow every day. Those people need efficient tools and systems in place if they have any chance of getting their jobs done. If you're about to pull the trigger on a technology decision, make sure you have discussed this decision with those it affects.

4: Make communication a crucial component

One of the last aspects addressed within business is communication. When communication is poor, work is inefficient. Period. Communication could be as simple as an open door policy or as complex as a content management system designed to ensure every single piece of work is documented. Regardless of what you do, place the highest priority on communication. Make sure staff can easily communicate with their fellow workers. Make sure the company can communicate with clients. The second communication fails, efficiency fails.

5: Use secure and reliable technology

There are times I have been on the receiving end of technology that simply doesn't work. When I work within an office, I make sure I can use a Linux box for the majority of my day because I'm far more efficient with that platform than any other. When you deploy technology, make sure it is secure and reliable. Having to work with unreliable software (or hardware) is one of the prime reasons people can't get their work done. Viruses, malware, underpowered hardware... it all adds up.

6: Prepare for disaster

It doesn't take a natural disaster to bring down your business. A break-in, dead server hardware, a disgruntled employee -- many issues can cause a company disaster. Unless you have an effective means of dealing with disaster, you will be dead in the water until the ship is righted. And even after the ship is righted, it may take awhile to get workflow back up to speed. Make sure your disaster plan continues through getting hardware back up and running and getting users working productively again.

7: Don't create redundant management tiers

Micromanaging is bad enough. But when you add redundant layers to management, you wind up with too many cooks in an already complicated kitchen. Those managers can often wind up in a war of egos, causing further roadblocks to efficiency. Make sure your chain of command isn't clogged to the point of confusion and paralysis. If you expect efficiency from your staff, make sure the managers above them can also work in an efficient manner.

8: Don't give your employees more work than they can handle

You know when an employee quits and you dump their work on another employee, thinking you're going to save a dollar? That is one of the single worst roadblocks to efficiency you can put in play. Once employees reach a certain saturation with duties, their efficiency drops exponentially. If you don't overload your employees, you should be able to expect efficient work from them.

9 Have a sufficient network pipe to handle your network load

How can your staff possibly work efficiently if you have insufficient or unreliable data pipes? With a constantly clogged pipe, your staff won't be getting much done. As a remote engineer, I have experienced plenty of instances where a data pipe was either too slow to do my job or a network connection was dropped. This is one of those issues that's simple to resolve: Just upgrade your pipe. Don't let those things that are easily controlled caused problems.

10: If an employee has an idea for a more efficient way of handling a task, listen!

Sometimes, those whose job titles don't start with the letter "C" might come up with a brilliant idea. Not only will you benefit from that great idea, but employee morale will get a nice bump from the understanding that you trust and respect your staff. Besides, those staff members are the ones who actually have to do the bulk of the work -- they probably have some killer ideas on how to improve it.

Other tips?

Efficiency should be one of your top priorities if you want your business to thrive and grow. Without efficient systems in place, each phase of growth will only cause more issues, perpetuating the cycle of inefficiency. Take a close look at your company. If you can honestly say that everything was designed and built for the most efficient workflow, you're already miles ahead of your competition.

Have you experienced inefficient practices and environments with your own work? What suggestions would you add to this list?

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

10 comments
kirangodbole
kirangodbole

absolutely this 10 ways to make your business more efficient ...good article

ksuresh716
ksuresh716

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Viktor_f
Viktor_f

True. Sometimes companies give a lot that forces people to overtiming. As the result - the lower productivity. Read that Apple use such strategy. Strange for that

kmed11
kmed11

[quote] "2: Don’t employ technology until it is thoroughly tested and understood" [/quote] I definitely agree. With that said, I think it must be a [b]priority[/b] to thoroughly test and employ prior to your business booming. Far to often, small businesses wait until a certain benchmark to invest in necessary technology which makes it difficult to manually enter the historical data and learn/train others on the new system, all while trying to maintain current business levels and customer satisfaction.

lykawinnett
lykawinnett

I agree with this. As a business owner, you should have a good relationship with your employee by listening to their ideas or suggestions. This can help increase your business' productivity and revenue and lower turnover.

monica
monica

Excellent tips - we spend far too much time on the technology as the expense of the actual people who use it. My additional tips would be: Improve how email is used - most business people waste about one hour a day every day mishandling and misusing email. Increase the time and money spent on training people who use the technology by at least 20%. One hours training is worth an extra five hours productivity.

peter.brand
peter.brand

This makes me thinking of BPM-Software. Seems, even big vendors of this technology do not understand it. As you may see from the following observations: Lack of understanding #1 Though computer-technology, obviously, can only be used for automating the operation of already existing automatons BPM-protagonists do not understand that for applying computer technology to HR-management, they must, first of all, identify corresponding automatons, whose handling could possibly be automated. Lack of understanding #2 BPM-protagonists do not understand that the processes to which they want apply computer technology simply do not exist at all. Lack of understanding #3 Furthermore, BPM-protagonists do not understand that the kind of processes they have in mind and want to model, merely reflect there strange kind of looking at collaboration inside a company. Lack of understanding #4 Finally, BPM-protagonists do not understand that changing present collaboration management to business-process management would amount to bringing corporate collaboration under the principle of planning-economy referring to the deceased Soviet Union.

rob
rob

I'd like to take exception to this and suggest it be reworded. If an employee has an idea, listen! Only then can you decide whether it has any merit. You need to be open to ideas and you need to show your employees that you are. You want to encourage that dialogue. And that means you also need to feedback. If the idea is going nowhere let them know and explain why. If it's a good idea reward them even if it's only with praise. If the idea is good, but not something you can act on immediately then make sure you put it somewhere safe, with all the other ideas you intend to implement one day and again let the employee know that's what you are doing. A good management / employee relationship is no different to a marriage; you need to openly communicate and foster a relationship that supports this. By Rob Kellock, Avoca Beach, NSW

waltersokyrko
waltersokyrko

Improving efficiency is important. When making changes to improve efficiency, consider the impact on the whole organisation. I have seen units or divisions optimize their part of a process but the whole process across the whole organization became less efficient.

jsargent
jsargent

Make a realistic road-map so you know where you want to go. If something changes along the way it's not wrong to alter the road-map.