If you can’t make your business run smoothly, you’re setting it up for failure. No matter how genius or revolutionary your idea is, your venture won’t succeed if the way it’s functioning is chaotic and/or inefficient.
But how do you make your business “run smoothly”, exactly? One word: streamlining. It means analyzing your venture’s current workflows and simplifying them or making them more efficient.
In the long run, streamlining doesn’t just improve your venture’s efficiency – it also improves your team’s productivity and saves you money.
Interested but don’t know where to start? Here are six ways you can streamline your first venture.
1. Learn to Prioritize on the Fly
To practice, look at how you spend your own time. Then, ask yourself: “Am I spending it working toward the goals that matter the most to me?”
The reality is, everyone has only 24 hours in a day. So, if your business matters the most to you, why would you keep spending hours on your studies, for example?
Once you identify the tasks that aren’t the top priority for you, you can start looking for ways to offload them to someone. For example, you can turn to a paper writing service to outsource your homework. Or, you can take fewer classes for the next semester or two.
The same logic applies to both what you do for your business and what your team members work on. None of you can wave a magic wand to gain more hours in a week, so you’ll have to spend it on what matters.
2. Outsource Some Tasks…
Speaking of outsourcing. Especially at the very beginning, your business doesn’t have the resources to do everything in-house. You’ll have to do with a skeleton crew – otherwise, your labor costs will eat up all of the revenue.
So, you’ll have to identify your core activities – and outsource the rest. For example, it’s a good idea to offload these five tasks to professionals outside your team:
- Accounting and taxes;
- Marketing and SEO;
- Web development;
- IT management;
- Social media management.
3. And Automate Others
Other business tasks may have to remain in-house, but that doesn’t mean there’s no way to improve them. Take stock of those workflows and identify repetitive manual tasks. Then, ask yourself: “Is there a way to automate them, at least to some extent?”
How do you do that? Well, it depends on the task in question. Some tasks, like email responses and newsletters, can be streamlined using tools like MailChimp and ActiveCampaign. Others would require you to turn to tools like Zapier (it can automate just about anything).
Don’t know where to start with automation? Take a look at this list of some common tasks that can get offloaded to software these days:
- Social media management: you can schedule posts in batches with tools like HootSuite and Buffer;
- E-commerce customer outreach: if a customer abandons their cart, you can set up an automatic email to remind them about it;
- Payroll: tools like Gusto allow you to automate every part of it;
- Receipts: extract all the data you need from a bunch of receipts by scanning them with apps like Shoeboxed.
4. Start Delegating – Or Double Down on It
This concerns you as a business owner in particular. Too often business owners are trying to do everything themselves – they want to be a one-man band, so to speak. But that should be a cautionary tale for you, not a goal to strive toward.
So, be straightforward with yourself: which tasks are you most efficient at? Which ones do you ace? Those are the tasks you should be laser-focused on. The rest can be done by your teammates – that’s what they’re here for, right?
Once you know what you need to delegate, assess your team’s abilities and skills – and decide who will be a good fit for taking care of, say, logistics or inventory management.
Keep in mind, though: sometimes, no one on your team can take up more work. In this case, you might want to consider a new hire.
5. Use Collaborative Tools to Centralize Everything
As you might’ve understood by now, streamlining is impossible without the right software toolkit. And collaborative tools take up a lot of space in it, figuratively speaking.
Before talking about how you can use them for streamlining your business, though, let’s define what collaborative tools are. (No, it’s not just video conferencing apps like Zoom or Skype.)
Here are three types of such tools, along with some examples:
- Document management and sharing: Google Drive, OneDrive, iCloud, Dropbox;
- Project/task management: Trello, Zoho, Asana, JIRA;
- Collaborative work online: G Suite, Microsoft Office Online.
How would using them help streamline your business? Imagine your team doesn’t use shared cloud storage. Every time one of your team members needs, let’s say, recent receipts or order descriptions, they’ll have to ask another team member to send it to them. That’s a completely avoidable waste of time!
6. Minimize Bureaucracy
Look, some bureaucracy is a necessary evil. If you don’t keep track of all receipts, for example, it’ll be a nightmare when you have to declare your business’s taxes. (And you can miss out on some deductibles, too.)
However, paperwork just for the sake of paperwork only brings down everyone’s productivity – without providing any benefits in return. All those meaningless meetings and reports only eat up people’s time!
Here’s a good example: remote work reporting. Too often employers request their workers to write down what they’ve been working on and how long every day. That doesn’t only bring down their morale: they end up wasting their time filling out those reports.
So, take a hard look at your internal processes. Which of those meetings, reports, spreadsheets, forms, and docs serve an important purpose, and which ones don’t?
Streamlining is a continuous process. You can’t do it once, overnight or not, and forget about it. When you change a workflow, you have to test your new approach to it. Maybe, it’ll work; maybe, it won’t. Testing is the only way you’ll know which one it is.
Don’t get too frustrated if the new workflow doesn’t bring great results immediately. Often, you need to tweak it once again after the initial testing. That’s part of the process!