How to make your business more efficient
If you sidle along to a well-known online store and search for 'business efficiency' in its books department, you'll run out of fingers and toes quite a long time before you manage to count all the titles. There are thousands of the things.
But frankly, who has time to read them? Fortunately, Luisa Grey, who as a Director at Eazipay Ltd, one of the UK’s largest and fastest growing Direct Debit bureaux, knows a thing or two about business efficiency, is on hand to offer a few tips on the matter.
Let's start with communication. Clear communication is key to the success of anything you do in life and business is no exception. Good communication leads to getting things right first time, which is clearly more efficient than having to redo the work, and happier employees.
In extreme circumstances, bad communication can cost millions. In the 1990s a Chilean stock trader lost $30 million when he pressed buy instead of sell. Not content with that, he then lost over $100 million more trying to rectify the mistake.
Granted most errors on communication won't be that serious, but a lack of understanding, or a badly phrased email, can still result in delays and frustration all round.
Communication should of course work both ways. Employees need to feel they can ask if they don't understand something without worrying about feeling the ‘wrath of the boss’ if they don't grasp the nuances of the project first time round. And employers need to admit when they get things wrong, rather than blame the faults on innocent underlings. Businesses may, in some way, shape or form, ultimately be dictatorships, but there's no reason why you shouldn't be a benevolent leader.
Many businesses depend on technology, so it's critical yours works properly. Old or poorly supported software can cost thousands not just to repair, but also in lost clients who will ultimately get fed up when your server crashes as they are completing a detailed and substantial order.
And unlike trying to make a circle, technology is not an area where you want to be cutting corners. It might (definitely will) cost you more initially to get a system that works well, but it will more than pay for itself in efficiency and happy clients.
Part of this brave new technological world is the ability of your team to work from anywhere. Out of the office shouldn't be out of touch, so equip them with smart phones and an iPad or tablet so that when they are travelling to see clients they can still be gainfully employed.
And while we're on the subject of technology – back stuff up! Backing stuff up is a bit like taking out home insurance, and almost as exciting, but you'll be glad you did if you come in to work one day and find Gremlins have been at your mainframe. Backing up takes away time. Not backing up can take away livelihoods.
Facebook and other social media outlets are a lot of fun, but they can slip into your office unnoticed and move time forward. Before you know it, that early start you made has been wasted on a vigorous discussion of the merits or otherwise of last night's Bake Off.
As tempting as it is, there's a place for this sort of electronic gossip, and it's called home. If your staff can't resist a natter, install a water cooler. That way you'll at least be able to see who's not working.
Everyone loves a good meeting, or as they are also known by some, ‘work avoidance time’. But are they essential? Do they accomplish anything a good group email can't? Does everyone need to have a say? As we’ve all seen recently, too much democracy can have unexpected consequences. If you must have meetings, keep the agenda small and only invite key personnel.
Does it make sense to automate? Some things don't require the milk of human kindness and can be done more efficiently by technology. Take invoicing, for example. Do you send out lots of invoices? And then spend a lot of time chasing them up? Ever thought of setting up your customers to pay by Direct Debit? A lot of the time automated processes are just better and can leave you to spend your time more efficiently.
Ultimately, the question you have to ask yourself about any activity is – does it need doing?
And if so, by when? In your heart of hearts, you know what's important to your business, and it's pretty hard to argue that includes getting to the next level on Candy Crush. Strict time management, as dull as it is, will see you achieve a lot more and raise your self-esteem – and the company's profits - in the process.
Luisa Grey is a director of Eazipay Ltd, one of the UK’s largest and fastest growing automated payment processing companies. Eazipay provides regular Direct Debit collection and processing services to thousands of SMEs and corporate organisations in a wide range of market sectors throughout the UK, Europe and beyond.
For more information visit www.eazipay.co.uk