According to veteran journalist Glenn Kessler, of the Washington Post, the failure rate of early-stage businesses isn’t quite as dire as popularly believed. Still, as many as half of all small businesses fail or shut down before their fifth birthdays.
While there’s no magic bullet for small-business success, these six efficiency-boosting strategies can give your firm an edge in a competitive, ever-changing economy. See how many you can put into practice this year.
1. Set Variable-Term Goals
Set ambitious goals over variable terms: short, medium, and extended. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself and your team — that’s the point.
“You have to set goals that are almost out of reach,” says author Steve Garvey. “If you set a goal that is attainable without much work or thought, you are stuck with something below your true talent and potential.”
Set out milestones to guide your progress toward each goal. Hold yourself and others accountable for reaching these milestones, and conduct periodic analyses of your work.
2. Conduct a Strategic Tax Review
According to the experts at Global Resources, strategic tax planning is “the process of structuring and conducting business and personal transactions so taxes are either reduced to their lowest possible level, or eliminated altogether.”
Not every successful business has mastered tax planning, but it’s hard to deny that an intentional and strategic approach is good for operational efficiency — and, of course, the bottom line.
3. Bring on a Business Coach or Management Consultant
If you feel as though you’ve reached the limits of your ability to streamline your operational posture on your own, retain a business coach or management consultant to pick up where you’ve plateaued.
4. Automate Non-Core Processes
It’s amazing how much you can automate or outsource these days. Payroll and invoicing are low-hanging fruit for automation, easily outsourced to the cloud for a few dozen bucks per month. Basic legal tasks, such as incorporation and standard-issue contracts, are well within the capacity of reputable software platforms like LegalZoom. Even recruiting — long the bane of small business owners’ existences — is cheaper and faster with automated posting services like ZipRecruiter.
5. Eliminate Distractions
Easier said than done, perhaps, but no less crucial for it.
Every minute you spend away from the task at hand is a minute lost forever. Whenever you need to address an urgent matter, eliminate every possible distraction in your way: silence or turn off your phone, close the office door, close your email suite or put up an “away from office” auto-reply, mute your office chat, and let those sharing your space know that you’re not to be disturbed short of an emergency.
6. Invest in Productivity-Boosting Initiatives
If your company has employees, inspire them to work smarter. Entrepreneur and investor John Rampell outlines some commonsense tips to boost employee productivity:
- Setting hard deadlines
- Taking care of small (“two-minute”) tasks immediately
- Avoid multitasking
- Encourage (safe) work during commuting time
- Organize productive time in 90-minute intervals, broken by two-minute tasks if necessary
Reward employees who follow these precepts and coach (or manage out) those who struggle.
Time Is Money
You’ve heard the old expression, “time is money.” As a small business owner, it’s on you to live by that adage every day. Letting raw financials dictate your efficiency initiatives is shortsighted, even counterproductive. If you’re truly committed to transforming your company into a lean productivity machine, pursue an all-of-the-above approach.