Small businesses are a world of their own – there's no strict hierarchy and everyone juggles different jobs and completes different tasks. As a small businesses manger, your job is to make sense of it all and apply smart strategies that will maximize the productivity of the team. From time management to use of specific technological solutions, here are 10 key productivity tips tailored specifically for the needs of small businesses.
1. Deal with your least desirable tasks first
At one point or another in your operation, you'll have tasks on your plate that you won't be enthusiastic about. Nevertheless, you should convince yourself and your team that they need your attention and should be solved first. If you don't get them out of your way early, they will be constantly on your mind and drag down your productivity as a team. Just deal with them, cross them off your list and you can divert your attention to tasks that are far more fun to handle.
2. Control your meetings
Business meetings are the worst that can happen to your schedule. Long, pointless meetings waste your time, your team’s time and basically solve nothing. People fear them or get annoyed by them, so it's in your best interest to keep your meetings short and to the point.
Make sure to stand during your meetings – it really helps to keep them short. Your meetings should have one central goal, and all participants should focus on this topic. Bring in only people who are relevant to the subject of the meeting and make sure that communication runs both ways. Remember that your team is at its most productive during morning, so don't waste that precious time on meetings.
3. Provide information
Information is the single most important aspect of your operation. Communicating data, the precision of information – they all affect your productivity. First of all, make sure that your team can consult a schedule if they have an immediate question about time off or vacation.
Team members who take care of customer service should have a database of information to answer consumer questions at hand. Access to a history of customer interactions and support tickets will help your team to build off each other’s work instead of having to start again every time a consumer comes forward with a question.
Simplify the communication channels used by your team. If members use different means of communication, the conversation will be unavailable to some of them and all your team will waste time on repeating one piece of information several times.
Finally, there's the information about the project. Your team should have a clear idea about the goals of the project and its timeline – this will help them to better situate their work and improve productivity.
4. Group interruptions together
This is an incredibly smart idea. If you've got an assistant group or team members constantly bother you with non-urgent questions, make sure that they don't interrupt your day. Create a file and place it in the cloud – this will be the space for all those questions added in real-time by your team remembers. When you've got time, you can have a look and answer them either in writing or by recording a voice message and sending it through email. Think about all the time you’ll recover by dealing with non-urgent questions in this way.
5. Set up email rules
If email communication is an important part in your internal communications, ask your team members to always include information about when they need a response. As you can imagine, it does wonders to prioritization. Another interesting approach is limiting emails – you can try to pose a limit on your team like 5 sentences per email if you think the emailing habits of your team are causing you and others to lose time answering them.
6. Track the actual performance of your team
It's important to track your performance – but not only of your website, but also your business as a whole. And it's not just about checking with your accountant, but about observing and responding to trends in your team and among your customers.
When tracking your team, try not to be too invasive. Check whether they finish their work on time or handle customer support in a timely fashion. Take a moment to assess the absenteeism at your company. Once you spot a negative trend, you'll be ready to look for solutions and manage it before it grows into a real problem.
7. Use technology to your advantage
As you may already know, technology is your best friend when it comes to boosting productivity. There's literally a wealth of apps and solutions to make a small business more effective. Some of those are for data storage, like Dropbox, others for meeting organization (for instance Any Meeting) or project management (Basecamp is everyone's favorite).
Trello will help you to keep track of your projects and deadlines. And you can easily organize and schedule your social media postings with Buffer or Hootsuite. All tools listed so far are free – imagine what sort of paid tools are waiting to get discovered and put into good use.
8. Make sure your team members are satisfied
Your team is the core of your business, so making sure they’re motivated and satisfied is key to boosting productivity. Provide your team with good tools for work – great solutions won't generate frustration. Create an office that suits their needs – it's a good idea to add a break room that will serve as their place to have lunch, relax and talk to each other. All of it away from the executive's eye.
Another part is showing that their opinion is important – by empowering them, you'll instantly create a sense of responsibility which will push your employees to work harder on their tasks. Make sure to celebrate important moments and achievements with everyone – such gestures are great for team building and create a positive atmosphere at the workplace.
You can invest all you want in technology or coaching, but a happy employee is the single best measure for boosting productivity – a team member who wants to do a good job is your best asset.
9. Have an open mind and learn from others
As a small business owner, you should be always on the lookout for new solutions and insights from the industry. One way to get all the gist is to subscribe to Lifehacker's incredibly interesting How I Work, where successful people share their best time management tips. (http://lifehacker.com/tag/how-i-work) In fact, this website will provide you with lots of practical advice on how super busy, successful entrepreneurs manage to salvage time to think about the growth of their business.
10. Develop a single purpose focus
A most coveted entrepreneur ability is to focus on what is really important. Correct prioritization does wonders to your schedule and productivity – making sure that every single task takes you a step closer to a goal is something you should share with your team. Your top business priorities are there to be built upon, one after the other – tracking them is your best way to measure your success.
All tips listed above will help you and your team to improve your time management skills and ensure that your operation proceeds smoothly and challenges don't divert your attention from a central company goal.
Marleen Clover is a Project Manager at Timeo.co.uk where you can easily check opening times and closing hours of UK businesses such as stores, restaurants, post offices, pharmacies, etc. She is enthusiastic about new technologies and internet science and believes in their potential to empower enterprises and individuals.