Small businesses are the backbone of any economy. They create jobs, stimulate growth, and drive innovation. However, many of the small businesses we work with have limited resources and budgets. In order to grow and thrive in today’s competitive landscape, these businesses must find ways to increase efficiency and streamline their operations.
The success of a business depends on the quality of the team and the talent that it attracts, but it also depends on their ability to think differently and to utilise the tools around them in the most productivity-enhancing ways. The best part of working for Thinkroom is the opportunity to help the SMEs we work with find and use the innovation around them to boost their efficiency and grow their businesses faster.
One of the best ways for small businesses to increase efficiency is by leveraging technology. Today, there are countless programs and tools available that can help automate and streamline business operations. Cloud-based project management software like Asana, Trello or Monday.com can help small business owners keep track of tasks, deadlines and various other processes. Accounting software like QuickBooks or Xero can automate help with bookkeeping tasks and generating financial reports. Tracking of important sales activities can also be done through automated software. Some of my favourites are Salesforce and Hubspot, but there are many other similar CRM software tools out there.
We always encourage our SMEs to ensure that they build their businesses on the right platform for their needs. The only way of doing this is to put in the hard work and research what will work for you in the various processes that you want to automate.
Top tip: Always keep in mind a hybrid work model as this is a reality nowadays.
During this phase of research, ensure that you look for platforms that can speak to each other, especially if one platform cannot attend to all your needs. There is a wide range of integration software options out there for various platforms, all of which can help massively in bringing various workflow, CRM, and other software tools together. Some of my favourite examples include Zapier and Make.
For the entrepreneur that is on the move, there are various apps that can keep you up-to-date with your cloud-based solutions. G-Suite, Office365 Power Automate and APP – iPhone’s automation app – are some that spring to mind, but there are many more.
Research what is best for your business and have the end goal in mind. This will enable you to build on top of tech in order to reach that exit that you have planned. You might not need a platform that can accommodate 200 users at the moment, but you could need that in the future.
Top tip: Do your research and make sure that you start building on the right workflow system so that you don’t have to migrate later.
Another way small businesses can use innovation to boost efficiency is by adopting a lean start-up approach. This means focusing on creating the most value with the least number of resources possible. By eliminating waste and focusing on what really matters, small businesses can increase efficiency and drive growth through using tech platforms.
Being part of a small business usually means that you are used to the constant need to change, pivot and adapt, and this personality trait is vital when it comes to finding new ways to grow and innovate.
In addition to technology and a lean start-up approach, small businesses can also increase efficiency by implementing and maintaining a continuous improvement mindset. You had this when you started the business, so don’t let it go once the business is up and running.
Constantly seeking out opportunities for improvement and implementing changes will always drive efficiency and growth. Conducting regular performance reviews amongst your team can be a great way to create a safe environment for employees to give feedback if done through the right process. Gathering feedback from customers and employees, and experimenting with new processes and strategies is also a good idea. Honest feedback is always more valuable than having employees or customers trying to make use of your processes that don’t work. At the end of the day, most SMEs and start-ups exist because they have an in-built level of agility and mental flexibility and a desire to change the world, so it is a natural flow for this to carry through into the growth of the business.
Top tip: Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback – it will help you to grow!
Great talent is a scarce commodity. To retain talent, we have to incorporate their retention into our business’ operations and processes. Take a moment to consider what will bring efficiency to your people rather than bogging them down with unnecessary processes. Just as you think about the need to operate on a lean budget in order to maximise profit, so too should you be thinking of lean processes to help your people and not hinder them.
Small businesses can also look to increase efficiency by focusing on their core competencies and outsourcing tasks that are not central to their business. For example, a small e-commerce business might outsource their shipping and fulfillment operations to a third-party logistics provider, allowing them to focus on marketing and product development. When outsourcing some of these activities, also assess if you need these activities to integrate into your system. Start building small but always keep in mind that you will scale the business.
Top tip: Almost any administrative repetitive process can be automated.
At the end of the day, there is a way for every small business to use technology and innovation to increase their efficiency and grow their businesses faster, and all that is usually needed is the drive and time to find those platforms and to implement them.
By leveraging technology, adopting a lean start-up approach, implementing a continuous improvement mindset, and focusing on their core competencies, small businesses can streamline their operations and achieve success in today’s competitive landscape, and we can help you do that.
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