Operating a small business is a juggling act. One of the struggles of being a small-business owner is finding ways to save time and money. Saving can be accomplished two ways: increasing efficiency and reducing operating costs. Keeping these ideas in mind will help you focus on your goals, projects and daily operations. For example, if your company relies on shipping products, switching to an online shipping provider can reduce your shipping expenses while increasing the efficiency of the shipping process.
Goal #1: How Do I Increase Efficiency?
Increasing efficiency can mean different things to different business owners. At its broadest definition, it means accomplishing tasks that are necessary for your business as quickly and effectively as possible. It does not mean sacrificing quality for quantity, but simultaneously increasing both. The following three techniques will help you increase your efficiency:
- Regularly Assess Your Processes. Spend time once or twice per quarter to take an in-depth look at every process within the company. This includes order fulfillment, customer service, accounting, human resources and management. Examine how each department, and maybe each employee, accomplishes its tasks. Are the processes they follow to accomplish their tasks necessary? Can these processes be reworked to accomplish the same task with fewer steps? You may be surprised how many unnecessary procedures are in place.
- Upgrade Your Technology. Outdated and slow computers not only frustrate employees, they waste time when it comes to completing tasks. Upgrade to newer machines when old ones start malfunctioning to allow employees to save time. Additionally, consider adopting new technologies, such as cloud computing and server virtualization, to streamline your company’s infrastructure.
- Provide Decision-Making Training. Employees are faced with decisions throughout their day. Taking too much time to make a decision, or asking others for their input, can diminish overall business efficiency. Instead, develop a decision-making training program that is customized for your business. Make sure all employees receive this training.
Goal #2: Can My Operating Costs Be Decreased?
Decreasing your operating costs lowers your overhead. This means it will cost you less money each month to remain in operation. There are three techniques that can help you spend less to operate, allowing funds to be focused on core operations.
- Outsource Peripheral Departments. A peripheral department is any supporting department that does not directly interact with the core of your business. Common peripheral departments that can be outsourced are IT, accounting and customer service. Outsourcing to firms or freelancers who specialize in these areas will decrease your payroll and benefits costs. Instead of maintaining internal employees for these functions, which can be costly, you will only have to pay a lump sum to a firm. This reduces your operating costs and may even increase efficiency.
- Partner With Other Businesses. Regardless of your product or service, there are likely other businesses that offer complementary products and services. Approach these businesses and see if you can combine your efforts. Cross-promotion, joint marketing pushes and overall cooperation can benefit both businesses. For example, a company that specializes in plumbing repair can team up with a business that manufactures pipes. Joint offers can be promoted, or one business can refer customers to the other.
- Assess Your Energy Use. Most businesses have large utility bills, regardless of the type of business. Examine how employees are using electricity and investigate how it can be streamlined. Making every employee turn off his or her computer and devices at the end of the day can reduce energy use. Consider switching to solar panels as well. The continued savings will make up for the initial cost.
Save Time, Save Money, Save Your Business
Having more time enables your business to increase its focus on operations. Saving money increases your profit margin and gives you more funds to invest in upcoming projects. By learning how to save time and money, you can save your business.
About the Author: Neil Miller is a contributing writer and small-business owner. He is constantly looking for ways to reduce his operating budget and increase efficiency. Both goals were met once he discovered DYMO Endicia Postage Technologies.