8 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Streamline Their Business Workflow
As an entrepreneur, no matter what stage your company or startup business is in, it’s important to always make processes more efficient and more systematic. Projects are being put on hold, or meetings that once felt productive and useful now seem to drag on for hours. Perhaps, things like this happen too often, and you’re left with a bottleneck workload that has really affected your overall production.
This all means that you have to start streamlining your company’s workflow. Learn how to turn any challenging processes to the most effective and efficient systems to improve your business’ overall productivity.
Encourage In-Person Interaction
This one is effective in small-to- medium-scale businesses but still can make an impact for large businesses.
Online messaging like emails or chats will do for simple communication, but most of the time issues and conversations run more smoothly in person.
Face-to-face interaction can streamline getting to the bottom of a problem or issue, and more importantly, it can sometimes get important details cleared up more quickly. Information flows more freely in natural conversation, and can actually save time in the long run as compared with online messaging.
That’s not to say that messaging is useless. For quick, easy answers, that still should probably be your go-to for communication, but not everything is so simple. In-person communication should be encouraged and used to make sure that what could be cleared up in a two-minute conversation doesn’t drag out into a series of emails that miscommunicate an issue.
The face-to-face conversation also clarifies tone, urgency, and importance in a way that might be lost in email or online chats.
Take Things One At A Time
Multi-tasking is an important skill, but it doesn’t always bring out the most production. In a lot of cases, “single-tasking” works better. That means taking one task and completing it end-to-end before you start another.
Single-tasking can bring out the best results because tasks don’t get lost in the shuffle. You can pretend like you’re handling a bunch of things at once, but if nothing is being seen through, then you’re really getting nothing done.
If you take tasks on one at a time, sometimes you’ll just get more done.
Do Your Best To Limit Interruptions
If you bring a lot of people together to work, there will inevitably be interruptions.
These can take the form of unproductive meetings, extended lunches, or really any activity that doesn’t improve your business. For example, if there’s a meeting first thing in the morning, then another one two hours later, then lunch, then an afternoon meeting, no one is getting anything done.
It’s best to set aside time for work to move forward without interruptions. Even if you’re a business that needs to communicate frequently, there should be designated times for these conversations to take place and some oversight, so you’re not “over-meeting”.
Unscheduled meetings are not the only things that interrupt workflow. If you’re constantly sending company-wide emails or asking employees to follow tedious time-tracking reports after every task.
Interruptions take employees off task, and often it can take more than a few minutes for them to return to work.
Kill Unproductive or Unplanned Meetings
Look, meetings are an important part of project planning for any company.
As stated above, they can be an interruption, but they also can just be flat-out disruptive. Think about anytime anybody at work has asked you, “Got a minute?” One minute turns to five, five minutes turns to a half hour, and before you know it, you’re way off task.
Scheduling meetings are the way to go. Have outlines ready so the project doesn’t get derailed.
Aim for short, efficient team meetings in 10 minutes flat for the best productivity. Unless you’re planning out a large-scale project, you can simply use quick meetings just to make sure everyone knows their assignments and how to execute. Any other issues can be addressed down the line.
Meetings should also be set with a designated time in mind. If you tell someone that you want to meet at 3 p.m. on Tuesday without a time limit, it could drag on for over an hour. It’s important to be upfront with the purpose and timeframe.
For example, the perfect way to schedule a meeting is to send a message (or better yet, a calendar invitation) outlining the purpose, timeframe and expected duration of the meeting.
Stick With A Process You Know Works
Speeding up a project can often result in cutting corners.
If you deviate from a proven process, you’re more likely to take shortcuts and miss bigger-picture issues. This happens way too often in business. When businesses take the easy way out, it often ends up being more expensive down the line as it takes hours and money to rework and fix an issue.
However, if a process can be improved upon or automated, it is worth investing time and money to streamline things. When that’s the case, it’s best to weigh the pros and cons by looking at what the process currently costs in terms of time and money and what investments will be needed to improve it, making it cost less in the long-term.
Keep Communication Lines Open
If employees run into an issue with their work, they need to be able to feel comfortable letting those in management positions know.
The channels through which these concerns should be communicated need to be made clear to everyone in a workplace. That way, when there is an issue, there is a procedure in place to quickly make a change.
Companies should also keep these same lines of communication open for general feedback. If something can be improved, employees should be able to give feedback on business processes. After all, lower level employees are on the frontlines and may understand day-to-day needs more accurately.
Employees might also have a better understanding of how a company is viewed from the outside. For example, someone can point out an issue with the way the company appears from an online reputation perspective. These issues are important, and if the heads of the company are more open to hearing what employees have to say, they can easily be resolved.
Employees should be encouraged to look for ways to make a given company more efficient or to find ways to improve workflow. They should feel confident that their opinions and ideas matter. If that ethic is in place, the overall team production can be constantly improved.
Hire People Who Can Help You
This becomes a problem, especially as a business is growing quickly. Employees take on tasks that they are either unfamiliar with or take them away from what they do best.
If it’s possible, it’s always best to hire employees who can specialize in one or couple of tasks and really knock it out of the park. Hiring is hard. It costs money, it’s hard to know where to post, and it takes a ton of time to go through every single application. It’s best to cater your hiring process to the area around you. For example, if you live in New York, post to New York Jobs rather than aggregator sites like Indeed or Monster. It can narrow your candidate fields and decrease spam, so you’re not digging through irrelevant applications.
Know When Enough Is Enough
Not every process is scalable and not everything needs to be streamlined.
You have to know when being pragmatic turns experimental and you’re focusing too much time on trying to scale down your production. Taking too much time or energy into messing around with processes can actually slow down your workflow or derail it completely.
A good way to stay on task is to set goals. If you meet your goals, you can stop trying to improve a process, at least for the time being. You can always revisit in the future if you see another opportunity.
Improving your business model should always be on your mind, but remember, it’s a formulaic process that takes time to develop. There are not that many quick fixes in a workflow. Some things require tweaking, some things require a massive overhaul, and some are best left the way they are.
About Your Guest Blogger: Susan Ranford is an expert on job market trends, hiring, and business management. She is the Community Outreach Coordinator for New York Jobs. In her blogging and writing, she seeks to shed light on issues related to employment, business, and finance to help others understand different industries and find the right job fit for them.
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