9 Productivity Hacks for Small Business Owners
An endless to-do list, disgruntled employees, and an annoyingly insufficient amount of hours in the day - all problems faced by small business owners.
Running a small business isn’t easy. And it’s not made any easier by inefficient, resource-sapping processes. Research shows that employee-related inefficiency costs American business hundreds of billions of dollars every year.
If your business is like a leaky bucket, draining time and money, then here are nine essential tips to keep in mind:
Outsource Non-Essential and Menial Tasks
It’s never been easier to outsource non-essential and routine tasks. Freelance marketplaces like Upwork and Fiverr enable small business owners to find talented people for complex projects. And crowdsourcing platforms like Amazon Mechanical Turk can be used to inexpensively complete routine, iterative tasks.
A well-developed outsourcing strategy is one of the fastest ways to reduce the burden on your current employees, lower costs, and free up your own time. Freelancers can become valued members of your team without the responsibilities of hiring a long-term employee.
Use a Small Business Management App
Are you struggling to manage multiple apps? Perhaps you still rely on outdated “legacy” software or - God forbid - an Excel spreadsheet?
Online schedulers for small businesses allow you to operate all of your core tasks under one roof. Appointment scheduling, billing and invoicing, client management, marketing - all managed from one central dashboard (with a heavy dose of automation thrown in).
Even for those jobs that require dedicated software, like analytics or eSigning, integrations make it possible for apps to communicate with each other, syncing information and saving time. Your suite of tools is called your “tech stack”. Build one that works for you. And make sure all your software is talking to each other.
Do you check your diary every morning or receive a notification about upcoming meetings?
Do you manually reach out to new leads, or do they receive automated emails?
Do customers have to make an appointment over the phone or can they take advantage of your online booking form?
Sales and marketing automation can significantly boost revenue for small businesses. Automation solutions are inexpensive and easy to implement. What’s more, these solutions drive benefits across the whole company, whether it’s in regards to employee performance, customer satisfaction, or overall sales and revenue.
Create “Standard Operating Procedures”
What makes McDonald’s such a successful company?
You might think the food is unhealthy, the employee practices are downright exploitative, and its ethical reputation is nonexistent.
But set those issues aside for a moment. Because there’s something that every small business can learn from the world’s most successful burger seller.
One of the key reasons that McDonald’s is so successful - perhaps the reason - is because it relies on specific, well-defined roles and processes. Every employee knows exactly what to do and when to do it. It’s like a machine.
Replicate this approach by creating “standard operating procedures”, detailed in one book or document that employees can easily access. Outline common processes in detail with specific instructions. This will limit mistakes, clear up confusion, and “standardize” the best ways to undertake tasks.
Measure Employee Performance and Delegate Accordingly
If you have multiple employees, it’s important to track performance across a range of outputs. This will give you a clear idea of where specific talents and skills lie.
When you know, for example, which members of your team are best at closing in-person sales compared to generating inbound leads, you can assign and delegate work accordingly.
Defining and tracking key performance metrics enables you to leverage your team’s skills for maximum results. Equally, you can offer training to “seal up” any areas of weakness when they become apparent.
Don’t Overlook Employee Satisfaction
According to research by Oxford University, happy workers are 13% more productive. Fostering a welcoming and enjoyable work environment and culture should be at the top of your list of priorities.
It’s easy for small business owners to sideline employee satisfaction, especially in the startup phase. Money is tight, stress is high, and non-essentials like ergonomic chairs and office plants are quickly sidelined.
But money spent on making your team happy is not wasted. Treat any expenditure in this area as a business investment, with clear and tangible returns.
Show Employees Their Progress
How do you motivate your team? It’s a perennial business question.
Managers, CEOs, and team-leaders are constantly trying to find the best methods, from bonuses to motivational seminars, to keep their team focused and productive.
But research shows that one method stands above all the others: a “sense of progress”. Employees that feel like they are making progress in meaningful work are more likely to remain “creatively productive” over the course of a working day.
Ensure that employees are aware of their progress by providing them with consistent feedback. And make sure you celebrate those small wins.
Leverage the 80/20 Principle
You’ve probably already heard of the 80/20 principle. In a nutshell, it states that in any activity, 80% of results usually come from 20% of the inputs.
What does this mean in a business context? Simply put, the 80/20 principle posits that 80% of your revenue is likely the result of 20% of your clients. This means it’s crucial to identify and prioritize that 20%.
Furthermore, by linking activities with outputs, you can hone in on tasks that are sapping your resources and restructure or replace them for better results.
Take Regular Tea Breaks
Ready for a tea break? If you’ve made it to the end of the article, you’ve earned it. But don’t make it a one-off event. Regularly drinking tea has been linked to better brain health and increased performance. That’s a productivity tip you can implement right now.
Running a small business is hands-down one of the most stressful and time-consuming jobs that anyone can do. But it’s also incredibly rewarding. If you’re like most small business owners, you’re driven by a strong sense of purpose and a desire to turn your vision into a reality.
That’s why it’s so essential for you to build up an arsenal of tested productivity tools and hacks. The strategies in this article are all straightforward and effective. They’ll help you save time, free up mental resources, and (most crucially of all) focus on what’s really important.