Increase Productivity: Identify Where and How?
As CEOs of our businesses we need to constantly be adamant about getting more from our current resources and efforts. One of the biggest mistakes a business owner can make is staying in Status Quo. In order to be successful in our business we must embrace the philosophy that, “Good enough never is.”
We become more productive and profitable by maximizing our results (output, service, deliverables) while minimizing the amount of time, effort, risk, money and energy we use to produce those results.
The exciting thing is that there are plenty of opportunities to improve productivity and profitability in our business. Going after those opportunities does not have to be a boring process, in fact, it shouldn’t. It can be a fun and enlightening experience. It’s a combination of gathering relevant information and then creative problem solving. Here is the process I am recommending:
1. Identify Processes In Your Business
Before you can identify how to improve things you need to be aware of what is happening currently. The first place to start is to identify the different processes you are using in your business. I am stating this as the first point, because not every business owner has clearly defined processes, which is absolutely critical to improve productivity. In one of my upcoming posts I will talk in more detail about how to identify processes and how to create process maps.
The reason why these process maps are important is because once you have charted them, you can objectively look at your processes and more easily identify where there are inefficiencies, unnecessary steps, or not proper delegation of responsibilities.
2. Become Familiar With Your Financials
This is another fundamental step in order to increase productivity. You need to know your business finances, and the financial resources it takes to produce your goods or services. The easiest place to start is your Profit and Loss Statement. The second document that I highly recommend getting familiar with is your Cash Flow Statement. Study them, ideally with your accountant, an industry expert, or a business coach. See where you can reduce cost and operate more efficiently.
3. Get Feedback From People Who Know
Talk, and more importantly LISTEN, to your employees and customers about what they see can be improved. Be sincere in your asking and your listening. You will see that your employees usually know where things can be done more efficiently. Reward constructive feedback and create a culture where your employees and customers feel comfortable suggesting improvements. If you have good relationships with your vendors, this might be another place to gather helpful feedback from.
4. Have a Think Tank Meeting
The next step is to compile your findings from steps 1-3 and invite key people to a think tank/brainstorm meeting. You can do this step by yourself, but you will get much more powerful results if you can bring together some people who are committed to your success and include them in the process. Examples of key people could be your key employees, your accountant, business coach, other industry experts, etc.
The main purpose of the Think Tank is to identify specific strategies and action steps that you and your business can take to improve the productivity of your business. In order to do that you must take on an opportunity mindset. The following types of questions are a good starting point for the discovery process:
Which of resources are we underutilizing?
What processes or departments within our business are under-performing?
What past or current relationships could we more fully leverage (i.e., customers, employees, vendors, suppliers, advisers)?
What is the most efficient use of our time and talents?
Which strategies will maximize our results?
What best practices can we learn from our competition, or other industries?
Ideally you give everyone attending the meeting a couple weeks to study your findings before the actual Think Tank meeting. That will make sure everyone is already familiar with the information and everyone’s energy can go towards the creative and constructive process, rather than just absorbing information.
Now it’s time for implementation! Hopefully the Think Tank Meeting has provided you with lots of good strategies to improve the productivity of your business. Now it is your turn to carefully determine which of the strategies need to be implemented and almost more importantly, when? It takes time and focus to bring about change. If you try to implement too many things at the same time, none of them will stick and you can end up with a lot of breakdowns and defeat the whole purpose of this exercise.
I strongly encourage every business owner to go through this exercise, or some form of it, at least once a year. The results you can achieve by such a focused approach are absolutely incredible and make the effort it takes well worth it.