The death of a business isn’t always due to some major catastrophe. Rather, there is always the possibility of the ‘death by a thousand cuts’. Small mistakes, repeated time and time again, can do just as much damage as one big mistake. With your employees, it’s easy to help them make these mistakes less. But it’s not always their fault. Sometimes, it’s the fault of how the business is organized. Plugging up the holes in your business is about identifying lost time, money and effort. Here are a few ways of doing that.
Your physical space
First, you should look at the layout of the workspace. Your workers can get a lot more done with less effort even if you just rearrange it. This is obvious in cases of applying lean principles to manufacturing and construction business. But even in the office, little physical changes can make a big different. For example, making the office a more pleasant environment for your employees to work. Maximise light and use the more ergonomic equipment. Don’t let headaches and stiff backs detract from their ability to get their work done. A break-away space can also be a very useful tool. It’s a space employees can take their work when a different environment might help them break out of a funk. Your employees don’t work in a vacuum. They’re affected by their environment, so make that environment more positive.
Care about your inventory
For businesses that produce, sell or ship products, your inventory is one of the most important sources of loss you need to cut down. The actual loss of inventory is an obvious concern, but it’s not the only one that can end up costing you. If inventory isn’t moving through your business at a rate matching your needs, it’s halting your business. It can mean late deliveries or not having the items that your customers want you to have in stock. Services like a national fulfillment center can help you unclog your inventory and keep everything going smooth. Otherwise, you do not only cost yourself the potential revenue of that product but also the esteem of a potential customer.
Retaining your people
One of the most costly parts of any business is the workforce. But a significant portion of that cost, in particular, comes from what it takes to hire and train new members. The best way to fight those costs is by doing more to retain your staff. Employees need to feel worth to stay with a business. Sometimes this worth can be shown with benefits like insurance or retirement plans. It can be shown with incentives used to reward good work. A lot of people also seek upward momentum; the chance of promotion or development of their skills. No-one likes to feel like they’re stuck in a job, so do your part to eliminate that feeling.
Give everyone more worth
Developing your employees is a good idea because it makes your staff happier to remain at work. It also helps you cut down the risk of loss in another way. In this instance, we’re talking about cross-training in particular. Many businesses will find themselves in the situation of being held up or otherwise disrupted by the lack of a certain team member. Whether it’s due to temporary leave or that employee quitting. Cross-training spreads the skills of one team member to another. That way, no role in the business is fulfilled solely by one person. Training is a lot more effective in the long-term and less costly than having to hire a temp.
A handbook for your business
If you’re serious about reducing lost time and effort, then take a closer look at how exactly your staff works. Low productivity isn’t necessarily a fault in them as a worker. It may be a result of a poorly organized workflow. Systemizing your business is about finding ways to cut steps out of work processes or find quicker methods of doing things. Then you codify it, make a ‘handbook’ for that task that your employees can use in future. Trust in employees’ initiative, but be willing to work with them to improve their workflow. You may occasionally find yourself spending on software and tools to help the process, but it’s worth it in the long-term.
Becoming more accessible
Your business might also be losing potential customers. Not just because your inventory and fulfillment systems might not be up to snuff. You might be turning them away at the door, flat out. One of the ways a lot of businesses fail to be more accessible is by declining certain popular forms of payment. Most common of those is the credit card. But failing to provide their services in other languages for certain markets can be as big a misstep. As can neglecting to make your website responsive in design, so users on mobile devices are unable to access it. Take a look at your customer experience and how you make your services available to more of them.
Don’t forget old customers
We’ve mentioned retaining your staff, but how about retaining your customers? Many businesses will spend significantly more effort in gaining new customers than keeping their old ones. But it’s returning customers who will, in the long run, prove the most valuable. Maintain customer satisfaction by providing top notch support. Make sure your staff are not only able to solve customer disputes, but are polite and easy to deal with, too. Follow up with customers after purchase. Send a thank you note with their product. Forward them exclusive deals or recommendations well into the long term. A good way to measure customer satisfaction is by asking for referrals. It’s also useful for keeping the most enthusiastic of your customers vocal about the positives of your services.
Keep it all measurable
An important way of knowing how well you’re doing at making your business more efficient and cutting loss is by measuring it. Do it in the large scale, looking at the business as a whole. Then look closer at the results of individual employees. Creating measurable goals is the best way of doing that. Set key performance indicators for your staff and your business. Not only does it make it easier to communicate your goals to your staff. It also provides real results and helps you identify major sources of loss. Vague goals don’t help. Follow the SMART rule. Keep them specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. Otherwise, they will be much harder to track.
Foster better communication
We’ve focused a lot on managing your staff to better use their time and efforts. But so far we’ve missed one of the most important factors in that: communication. Poor communication leads to mistakes being made and often a lack of accountability. So it’s important that communication is fostered in a few ways. Number one is giving everyone the time to speak and be heard. Keep meetings short, perhaps using the standing meeting method. But give your staff turns to set the agenda on something that matters to them. Be willing to hear them out more often. Number two is keeping track of communication. Keep work projects and tasks on a planner that anyone can see. You can use software that shares the workflow overlook to each computer or even put it up on a big white board. Look at the tasks that need to be tackled and who is responsible for it. Keep buck-passing to a minimum.
Reducing loss in the business will always be an ongoing practice. You can’t afford to stop scrutinizing. When you do, the cracks will begin to reappear. Stay vigilant and keep investigating the different ways you might be harming your business.