Seven Tips To Make Your Business More Efficient
While I have run a micro-business these past five years, I am certainly no expert in all the ways of business, but I have learned key lessons along the way. Within this blog post, I want to share my insight to save you time, energy, and heartache in your own business; whether you are just getting started or are looking to make your business more efficient, anyone can apply these to their own processes to make life (and work!) a little bit easier.
1. BATCH YOUR WORK
When I first started out, if an email would ping in my inbox, I would answer it instantaneously. What's wrong with that, you say? It disrupts me from the task at hand, prevents me from on completing one item because I'm multi-tasking, which leaves numerous unfinished or not completed tasks, and shows clients that I will answer correspondence at all hours and right away.
Enter this wonderful thing called batching. Now, it might seem intuitive to most people, but this is something I really struggled with in the first two years of business. I felt all over the place, like I was busy all the time, but was never actually getting anything done (sound familiar?)
To simplify, let's think about baking. When you make dough, you don't just make enough for one cookie, you make a whole batch. When you make one batch of cookies, you get a dozen yummy cookies instead of just one cookie. The same principle applies to your work flow.
As an example, I will use my current business model to give you an idea of how I plan my week into a batch system.
Monday: Misc. Office Work
Wednesday: Film Editing + Graphic Design
Thursday: Research + Writing
Friday: Writing + Blog Edits
Saturday: Day Off
Sunday: Day Off
As you can see above, I don't do any one particular thing multiple days of the week. For instance, on Tuesdays, I focus strictly on filming my YouTube Channel content and nothing else. If I finish filming on Tuesdays, then I begin work on Wednesday's editing, but that usually doesn't happen.
By batching my efforts, I focus on doing one task really well instead of a myriad of tasks throughout the day haphazardly. I am able to complete projects without being sidetracked by the millions of other things I want to get done. All in all, this method promotes efficiency in business, moving forward on goals, and getting things done.
Bonus Tip: Batching works in all areas of our lives. Food prep? Check. Housework? Check. Hobbies? Check. Try adding batching to another area of your life and see how much focus you gain in that particular area!
2. RE-PRIORITIZE WHAT IS URGENT AND IMPORTANT.
The biggest lesson I took away from Dave Ramsey's Entreleadership book is to set up 'quadrants' in my business. What I mean by that is this: you have to prioritize your tasks from what is most urgent and important to everything that is not urgent as well as not important. See the handy-dandy graphic below to give you a better idea of what I mean.
I know early on in my business, I would answer an email immediately, not recognizing that I was doing myself a disservice, because the email probably wasn't urgent. I'm certain a lot of us do this where we respond to a text right away or let some interruption side track us segueing into another task even though it's not important or urgent; thus, taking effort, time, and energy away from what really needs to get done!
With prioritizing your to-dos, you can focus on what is most essential to business processes while getting rid of distractions, time wasters, and unnecessary interruptions. And, you'll be surprised by how much time you get back in your day!
BONUS TIP: When working on an important project, put your phone on do not disturb and your email on 'vacation mode' as this let's people know that you are currently unavailable, but will get back to them as soon as you can. Doing this also removes the pressure on your end to respond immediately to any requests that aren't urgent.
3. DELEGATE WHAT YOU CAN.
When you first start your business, you wear all the hats: maker, webmaster, graphic designer, brand ambassador, accountant, social media manager, sales associate, CEO, customer service representative, etc. That is a lot for anybody to take on and do well. As your business becomes successful, you'll want to consider delegating tasks to other individuals to continue to foster growth and free up your time to focus on what's next in your business.
This can mean you hire employees to help you in the production of goods or services or perhaps you decide to bring on a marketing expert to facilitate all of your advertising, content creation, and social media management. When you delegate, you want to be sure to hand over duties that don't really play into your strengths. Instead, connect with talented individuals who are experts in their field that can elevate your brand and business.
Bonus Tip: Can't afford to hire someone full time? Start out with bringing on a freelancer, college student, or intern a few hours a week as help and then work your way up to hiring a full timer.
4. CHOOSE WISELY HOW YOU SPEND YOUR TIME.
Time management is much inline with batching your work and delegating what you can. After all, there are only twenty four hours in a day. As small business owners, our time is our families' time. We have to be extra careful with what we say yes to, especially if it doesn't serve the greater mission behind our business.
When I began working as a makeup artist, there were several jobs I agreed to do pro bono for exposure, networking and portfolio imagery; however, after the booking, I'd realize that the job in question really didn't contribute to my book, allow me to make enriching connections, or grant me much more exposure than I had before. It was disheartening and frustrating to feel like my time and talents were wasted (lesson learned, I'd say!).
Towards the end of owning Joanne Maye Beauty, I became very safeguarded with the opportunities, meetings, and events I would attend. I made sure that I was purposeful with the jobs I would accept, the people I surrounded myself with, and the type of work I wanted to be a part of. I wanted to feel enjoyment in my work especially if that meant being away from the ones I loved or taking time away from doing other things that bring me happiness.
5. SET BOUNDARIES WITH CLIENTS.
I learned this one the hard way! Into the second and third years of my business, I felt like people were calling me and texting me at all hours expectant to receive a response almost immediately. Enough was enough. I decided I wasn't going to respond to phone calls, text messages, and emails before or after a certain time, unless it was an urgent priority for the next day's booking.
I took a stand, listed my office hours, and put a disclaimer in my email stating that it would take up to 72 hours for a response to all emails. I refused to respond to Facebook inquiries and Instagram Direct Message inquiries. As a professional, I make sure that my direct contact information are listed on all of my digital marketing, including my social media profiles, so people know how to contact me.
In your business, who have to let people know what is acceptable for how to get a hold of you, in what frequency, and when they should expect a response. Everyone's lives and rhythms are very different, so what is acceptable to one client may not be the same for another. Be sure to be straightforward and firm across the board for all of your business processes. This will help bring you more peace of mind in your business and have it feel less like a burden.
Bonus Tip: Setting boundaries is also very helpful when dealing with a difficult client. Treating all of your clients or customers the same across the board will go along way when it comes to the reputation of your business even if you are left with a less than ideal review. For more great insight into boundaries, I highly recommend reading Dr. Henry Cloud's book, Boundaries.
6. GO DIGITAL.
We live in a fast paced age. It is easy to lose clients, because of inefficiencies with our business. That could mean our websites were hard to navigate, the booking process was too complicated, the photos of our products aren't clear enough, or our ten page contract takes way too long to fill out and mail back. We have to make the processes in our business as easy, simple, and streamlined as possible for our customers and clients. I cannot tell you how many small business owners I know that still work with snail mail and hand written contracts. It's okay to start there, but as you grow in business, bringing everything into the digital age is only going to make business easier for you and more enjoyable for your client or customer base. You'll definitely gain more customer retention, because you've taken the extra step of removing the guesswork for your clients. Not technical? Refer to tip number three!
Bonus Tip: Not sure how to do something? Google It. YouTube it. Reference resource libraries. Many companies like MailChimp, Squarespace, and the like have oodles of articles and information to help small business owners build smart, savvy businesses, websites, and brands that clients will love and want to buy from again and again.
7. MOVE FORWARD.
Business isn't for the faint hearted. We all make mistakes in our business; I know I made at least a thousand of them and continue to do so everyday. On the days you feel defeated, rest, recuperate, and start again the next day. Remember, Woody Allen says 80% of success is just showing up. You'll make mistakes, but as you continue in your business, you'll learn, grow, and become a stronger, better person for it. Want to connect with other like minded people? Check out meetup.com or Facebook groups in your area to be a part of a community of like minded individuals that endure the same struggles and success that you do. It's very helpful to have others to share your journey with.
Bonus tip: Choose progress over perfection.