Streamlining Your Business Processes

As a business owner, your to-do list is most likely a mile long (or at least it feels like it is). You may be focused on becoming more organized, revamping your marketing strategy, or launching a new product. When thinking about your goals and upcoming tasks, I’d like to suggest an item that will have far-reaching impacts: streamlining.

You may be surprised at the wide-ranging impacts of creating greater efficiencies and streamlining operations. There are a number of specific solutions you can employ for various departments and functions – human resources, inventory management, accounts payable and accounts receivable – but there are a number of broader steps you can take that can be applied to multiple areas.

Here are my picks for streamlining your business:

Establish and Document Key Business Processes. Inadequate business operations will not sustain growth. If you find that no one in your company knows “the rules” in a certain area, you want to stop (or encourage!) certain employee behaviors, or it is apparent that no two employees approach the same process in the same way, you need to establish operational processes and workflows. Create structures and policies for everything from accounting to hiring to information technology. Once established, properly communicate processes via handbooks, printed guides, and employee trainings; onboarding is actually a great time to provide education about your various operational systems.

Not only will established processes help professionalize your business and build a foundation for growth (both in revenue and in staff), it will also save you time. When requests are always submitted in the same way or when projects always progress through the same steps, you can build your own systems to tackle tasks in a time-efficient manner and provide timely responses and approvals to prevent bottlenecks.

Automate. When completing a task, if you find yourself spending time rifling through files or encounter frequent duplicates, automation could be a good fit for that particular area. Review your use of technology to determine where you can implement automation to save time and increase accuracy. Explore what systems your accounting software can automate for you (such as invoicing), and look at software options for functions such as employee expenses, payroll, and tracking customer requests and submissions.

Consider Outsourcing. Managing personnel, filing taxes, and processing payroll are all essential tasks, but they can be incredibly time-consuming. There are often regulatory concerns tied to these areas, as well. Keep track of the time you spend performing human resources, accounting, and other services that are not in line with your skills or that detract time from servicing clients. Even if you outsource only a portion of those departments (just your hiring process, for example), you can free up valuable time and you will ensure compliance with ever-changing regulations.

Train and Empower Employees. Many business owners, whether or not they intend to, find themselves “in the weeds” as their business grows. Especially if you started your business, it can be hard to remove yourself from certain tasks and delegate to employees. But doing so will streamline your business, and is essential for growth. Delegate what you can and if you feel skills are lacking (but attainable), offer the training your team needs to take on more.

One caveat – even though the goal is to create processes and maximize your technology, your people are your biggest asset. Make sure you keep your employees engaged, regardless of how automated your business becomes, and ensure that the steps you take to change your company are well-communicated to all staff.

Yes, these steps require up-front investment of both time and money, but ulttimately save time and associated costs. This year, take a long-term view of your business and create the systems and efficiencies you need for growth.

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