Seven ways to streamline your business: part 1

With Anna Turner.

As you go about running and building your business you inevitably end up with ‘clutter’ that will slow you down and cost you money. The clutter comes in all shapes and sizes, from software to staff. Over the next two issues we will identify the main types of clutter and how to reduce it.

How to start

If you’ve been reading my articles for a while, you probably know what I’m going to write next. Yes, the first thing you should do is look at your business processes to identify inefficient systems and overlaps. From there you’re better equipped to tackle all the other areas of your business.

1. Processes

If you haven’t done this already, map out your cradle-to-grave*. This is the process for dealing with a job from the moment it’s an enquiry right through to the final payment. The cradle-to-grave clearly maps out each step taken, by whom, how, and when. It links to all the documents, software and other processes (eg: project-handover procedure) that carry a project from start to finish. This exercise will help identify and cull outdated processes, while also highlighting where the need is for new processes. This is the most important step to making your business more efficient.

2. Staff

Good staff are hard to find, especially at the moment, which is all the more reason to look critically at your team. Once your cradle-tograve is established, you need to make sure all the staff have a place within that process. No doubt you have at least one staff member who disrupts the apple cart. This may be due to poor workmanship or their lack of willingness to adopt new processes within your business. Either way, even if they’re a good tradie it doesn’t mean they’re good for your business. Removing these people from the team will likely cause an uptick in morale and productivity for the rest of the team.

While it’s very important to remove toxic staff from your team, it’s just as important to do all you can to not hire them in the first place.

Take some time to identify your company culture. Write up job descriptions that reflect this culture. When you hire, hire based more on the company culture than the skill set you need. Skills can be taught; culture is much harder to change.

Spend time and money on training and supporting the right staff. This will give you an opportunity to promote from within (a much easier option than external hiring), and fosters a culture of reward and career progression. This will develop a team that works well together and supports each other. A team you can rely on to go the extra mile because they are happy and loyal!

3. Software

If your business has been running for more than three years I can almost guarantee you’re using outdated software. That’s not to say you should change, but it’s high time for a review of all the software you use and how it interacts and fits in your cradle-to-grave.

As we grow our businesses, we adopt software to meet a need. As we grow, we end up adopting more and more software solutions to meet more and more needs. The average tradie uses between five and seven different software systems to run their business. And, as the software companies grow, they evolve, adapt and change to fill more of their clients’ needs. Most likely the solutions you’re using don’t talk to each other efficiently, and there’s a doubling up of data entry and/or still a gap you wish to fill. On top of that, the subscriptions get more expensive!

Start by taking a detailed look at all the software subscriptions you have. Identify where you are using them within the business and how effective they are at that job. Take a look to see if you’re using all the features of the software to its fullest potential. Does it overlap with other software you’re using? Or is there a new system (or upgrade of existing) on the market that could replace the three software packages you’re already using

The replacement software may cost time and money in the short term, but if it reduces the need to double enter data it’s very likely worth the additional money. And it’s also likely the one solution costs the same or less than the three you were already using.

Changing software is a pain in the backside, but each new system that comes on the market gets more effective and easier to use. It is really worth your time to investigate your options.

Next issue we’ll look further at how we can make cost savings and efficiencies with materials, vehicles, and contract.

 * Email for Anna’s Cradle-to-Grave template. 

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