In this digital age, it’s easy to forget the practicalities that maintain a thriving business; in fact, we often default into wanting an app or service to take care of it for us.
While apps and modern connectivity certainly enable business and help us meet customers’ expectations, business productivity is still very much a process of ‘doing’, filled with tasks and duties that should be the core of any small-scale entrepreneur’s working day. A simple understanding of 1) what to do and 2) when to do it is often the first needed port of call for small business owners to markedly raise their productivity.
First and foremost, it’s imperative that your IT is sorted. Today’s consumers (and B2B clients) expect prompt and smooth service, and that inevitably means having your digital office sorted. Comprehensive IT support packages can keep your essential functionality rolling, and alleviate the need for you to personally command and repair your IT infrastructure on your own.
Your time is far better spent building your business; this is especially true in such a rapidly evolving space like IT. You need it, but you’re not the one who’ll get the best out of it－this is a field where the pros should be servicing your hardware and software, and advising you on best practices, overall market expectations, and trends.
How to Increase Business Productivity
Aside from the critical responsibility of ensuring your employees – and yourself – get paid every month, a few other obvious truths govern 1) the volume of work and 2) its enjoyment for the average entrepreneur.
Provide Clear Instructions to Employees
First, be sure to provide unambiguous instructions to those who need to know what to do and when you expect it to be completed. What do you need to happen now, this morning, who’s doing it, and are they clear on how it’s to be done and when it’s supposed to be finished?
It’s your job to leave no doubt in anyone’s mind about the expectations for the day, and to dream years ahead into the future; your employees’ jobs are right in front of them now, here, and it’s costing you money – so be crystal clear.
Maintain a Clean Working Environment
Second, live and work as uncluttered as possible, with your desk and office demonstrative of your clarity of vision.
It’s not about being fastidious or messy; it’s about manifesting a clear resolve, both in real terms and in how you manage your time. Real terms mean an organized desk and tidy books, components, or other stock that may be in your office or warehouse. No one respects or finds things easily in a mess.
Know What (and When) to Delegate
A clear resolve in your personal time management means identifying core functions that you either cannot or would not delegate, and visibly putting your energy to those tasks. There’s a catch, though－it’s not about doing what you enjoy; it’s about being honest about what you need to do, and what you need to delegate.
For instance, a furniture-building startup isn’t going to move beyond their hometown if the boss is in the workshop himself with a mallet and chisel every day. You cannot be the worker in that scenario for very long, not if you want to grow your business.
There are moments (especially when you’d like to demonstrate to staff and colleagues how something should be done) when the boss can get his or her hands dirty, but they don’t come around often once you have a modest cash flow. You need to be managing diverse inputs, not making stuff in the workshop or populating a marketing campaign－those baseline functions need to be built by others.
The bottom line? Delegate.
Good business owners know what to delegate, no matter how attached they might be to any particular activity.
Evaluate Your Own Performance
How is your performance? Your ability to do what needs to be done?
Planning and execution are very different; while planning is an immense aid to successful execution, only execution itself makes money. Be honest with yourself when you think about your average day, and evaluate your own performance accordingly.
5 Tips to Improve Your Performance as a Small Business Owner
These tips should help you perform at your very best even when other people and tasks are tugging at your brain:
Prioritize your to-do list items, and tackle small, quick tasks immediately.
This allows for a sense of productivity that will drive greater productivity as the day wears on. Following Covey’s dictate that urgency and importance are easily confused, concentrate on what’s truly important, both in the here and now and for future success－delegate the rest.
“Eat the cake first, then the icing.”
In other words, get tasks that you know you have to do but don’t enjoy out of the way during the first half of your day－it’s the kindest way to treat yourself when trying to build a business. With the drudgery sorted, you can maintain the feeling of optimism and enjoyment that’s essential to business success.
Time block complex tasks when possible.
Allocate longer tasks a given time frame; if you don’t finish within the allotted time, evaluate carefully whether you now need to postpone other responsibilities for the day, or whether you can justify finishing it up tomorrow in another allocated time slot.
Separate work and personal social media.
If you need to be on social media for work, keep it strictly to work-based screen time. Relegate genuine socializing to after hours; furthermore, it’s a great idea to have regular time slots for checking emails and messages.
Automate or use AI / chat bots to your advantage.
Responding to a customer the same day is excellent responsiveness, and more than adequate－consider setting up automated replies to alert them that you’ll buzz them shortly if the current volume is too great (that’s a hint towards employing someone to handle that kind of traffic, too).
In your daily meanderings, seriously contemplate automation. Indeed, as one of the two major drivers of near-future business (the other being customer expectations), automate where you can without compromising your client liaison or staff morale.
Learn to Say No
This last consideration is important, and a rough one for most entrepreneurs: you must learn to say no to things that don’t fit your plans.
Decide for yourself whether the upcoming meeting could, in a best-case scenario, further your current aims? If not, say no.
Saying no to meetings, add-ons, and a ‘trunk of junk’ is something every entrepreneur will encounter at some point while running their business. Unless it clearly ties in with where you want to be in five years’ time, roll on without it, and you will, indeed, be where you imagined yourself in the not too distant future.