Productivity is critical for any small business. Large firms have whole departments for different functions and have the luxury of moving at a slower pace due to their size and established nature. Small firms, on the other hand, have no such luxury. Small businesses must look for every opportunity to improve sales and productivity.
Here are a few ways small business owners can do just that.
1. Avoid hires, but especially toxic hires.
Employees are a major source of overhead for businesses, and a significant source of potential headaches. Beyond the payroll, taxes, benefits, and infrastructure to work (computers, email, phone, and server space to name a few), people need to be recruited, vetted, trained, and supervised. Some won’t get along with each other; others won’t get along with you or your clients. Some will get along with others one day and not the next. People sometimes leave without notice, get hurt or sick, handle personal matters on company time, or even steal from the company. Occasionally, they’ll get a little work done.
These days most job functions can be filled by independent consultants, freelancers, or interns, who only get paid when you give them work to do, and have far less interaction with you or your clients than a full-time employee. To increase productivity, try to delay hiring people as long as possible, or avoid it entirely. Potentially toxic employees are to be especially avoided as they can quickly poison office morale and act as a huge drag on productivity.
2. Incentivize workers for achieving specific objectives.
Whether you end up with full- or part-time staff, or utilize only freelancers, it’s important to incentivize people for achieving specific, strategically-selected objectives. This serves as perhaps the best way for you to firmly align their goals with yours. It’s best to avoid broad objectives or less measurable items like “improve team spirit.”
Instead, try to make goals specific, measurable, trackable, and achievable by different means. Examples might include closing a certain number of high-profit sales, selling a certain number of add-ons in a certain timeframe, achieving a certain level of collections, or bringing average invoice collection time under some set amount of time. The important thing is to carefully select goals and then reward people for achieving those goals.
3. Focus people on goals rather than process.
People are different. They look at the world differently, they strategize differently, they have different priorities and skills. To boost sales or productivity, it’s important to avoid telling employees how they should achieve their objectives, and instead focus on motivating them to meet their goals.
Without question, you should provide training and make sure your company provides the best tools and resources, but let the people who work for you determine how best to apply tools and training to achieve success. They may come up with ways you hadn’t previously contemplated, or even help develop a new process that could benefit your company in other ways.
4. Use reviews as an opportunity to identify improvement.
Regular reviews should be done not just with full-time staff, but also with freelancers and contractors that you use. Examine your working relationship, what’s going well and what’s not. Explore areas where your employee/contractor can improve the value they provide your company, but also ways that you can improve as a manager.
Go over the goals and objectives they’ve been given; review those that have been met or missed. Are your interests aligned? Are their assigned objectives relevant and reasonable? Could they be doing more? Could you?
Utilizing these hacks may seem time-intensive, but they are all valuable ways to improve the sales and productivity of your small business. It’s worthwhile to periodically take time away from your daily business activities for these types of exercises, and even more important to gradually make this kind of thinking a more significant part of your overall business strategy.
If you really want to improve the productivity of your company, it’s important to regularly work on your business rather than in your business. While those items listed above in no way represent a comprehensive list of ways to improve productivity, they are a number of hacks that you can use to start boosting the productivity of your small business.
Una Lawlor is Content Marketing Manager at Advance Systems, a company that provides world-class enterprise HR software. Una has over 10 years’ sales and marketing experience in retail, media, finance and technology. A graduate of Trinity College Dublin with a degree in English & French, Una has extensive content writing experience and specialises in the field of people operations and HR management. You can find Una on Twitter (@lawloru) and Linkedin.