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Nine ways to improve business efficiency

How to build efficiency in business by upgrading technology, improving business processes and developing employee morale.

Contrary to common wisdom, there are actually two ways to achieve success in business. One is to sell like the wind and let your revenue build beyond your costs; the other to build in a business efficiency that boosts margins by driving down costs.

Of course, this latter example still requires you to sell, but it takes some pressure off the constant need to shift products and services in order to stay in the black. By building business efficiency, you can focus more time on cash-generating activities – a sure way to grow fast.

So how is it done? What alchemy turns a business from jogger into a sprinter? Is it even achievable? Read on for our top nine ways to make your enterprise lean and mean.

9. Zero tolerance on meetings

Employees often describe themselves as being in ‘meeting hell’. This happens when their days are pre-programmed with a series of sit-downs in which people talk endlessly and nothing is agreed. This is the very enemy of efficiency in business.

Meetings can be extremely important, even productive, but not when businesses lose sight of why they happen. Weekly catch-ups, ‘can I borrow yous’ and meetings to debrief about meetings all risk draining time and energy.

Whip your meetings into shape by creating a 15-minute rule only. Ban long introductions and needless padding, demand that every meeting has a point to it and find alternative ways to communicate small issues without dragging in half the company.

8. Talk person-to-person

This might sound like a contradiction to point 1, but it’s hard to deal with challenges over email, text or even on the phone. Thrashing out problems person-to-person is quicker and it usually leads to a more satisfactory, mutually beneficial conclusion – tell your people to make it happen.

7. Automate and upgrade

Thousands of new software applications are released every year to boost business efficiency and with each new iteration, businesses have the chance to upgrade operations and processes to become more efficient. Nowhere is this truer than in the case of automation technology.

The internet of things, artificial intelligence and machine learning are all embryonic, yet new tools allow businesses to execute tasks in finance, HR and marketing – to name just three examples – much faster than ever before.

Cloud-based solutions are usually priced based on your need, so you don’t need to invest vast amounts upfront, unlike the enormous plodding servers of yesterday.

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6. Let the sales come to you

Marketing is vitally important in attracting attention to your brand and, in terms of business efficiency, your primary target for investment should be online. Your website is your shop window to the world, so make sure people can find it.

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is good, but even better is search engine optimization (SEO), which is the act of making your website more visible by doing the things that search engines such as Google value.

Social media can also draw in the crowds, but be careful to pick the channels that are best at attracting traffic. It takes time and effort to build a social media following, by drip-feeding excellent content, so conduct regular audits to ensure you’re getting a healthy return.

5. Say ‘no’ more often

The world is full of distractions. These come from employees, suppliers, partners and even customers. By saying ‘yes’ to everyone, you’ll soon find revenue generating business is marginalised. It’s a fine balance, granted, but occasionally letting people down can be good for business.

By selecting only the projects that build your business – and remember these can be long-term wins as well as short-term ones – you’ll be committing resources effectively and cutting out waste. That’s key to efficiency in business.

4. Fail fast

Any business worth its salt experiments from time-to-time. This drives innovation and occasionally it delivers new products, services or ways of working that bring real value. But it doesn’t happen every time, so learn when to say enough’s enough.

Pet projects can turn into white elephants fast if they are left to run and run. By experimenting, assessing, modifying and, if necessary, ditching, you’ll separate the things that improve your business from those that drag it back.

3. Maintain morale

An exhausted workforce is inefficient, so don’t make the mistake of flogging your people until they’re falling asleep at their desks. Long hours don’t guarantee more work and there’s every chance that standards will begin to slide. Real business efficiency is about getting the most out of your people, which means knowing when to give them a break.

A good morale-boosting tip is to communicate broad business goals across the company, to even the most junior workers. It’s fine for people to understand what is expected of them personally, but true motivation comes when they understand how they fit into the Big Picture.

2. Optimise your office

People are a product of their environment, so ensure the workplace gives them the right vibes. Space to breathe, up-to-date equipment, break-out zones and communal areas all build a sense of ‘team’. Rows of desks just don’t cut it anymore.

1. Track business efficiency

As with everything in business, it’s important to track the performance of your business efficiency measures. Are your people raring to go? Does their equipment empower them to do the best job? Are the numbers going in the right direction (revenue up, costs down)?

Your programme should deliver positive answers to all of these and more. If it doesn’t, consider ways it can be improved and make it happen.