Procurement 28 July 2015

Four smart ways micro businesses can streamline efficiencies and increase productivity

Business leaders are often in a race against time
Business leaders are often in a race against time

The challenge for many business owners lies in knowing the best approach to adopt to maximise productivity. To help navigate this tricky environment, Lisa Ewens, head of commercial at Sage One, shares her step-by-step guide to help business owners streamline their processes.

In the business world, time is of the essence. When you’re running a micro business, it can often seem like there are not enough hours in the day to get everything done and focus on what will take your business forward. Between getting your operations off the ground, attending meetings and managing cash flow, it can be difficult to feel like you’re working efficiently and making progress.

Fortunately, help is at hand. Thanks to the rise of mobile and cloud computing, there are plenty of innovative ways to harness the power of technology to help you work smarter, boost efficiency and lighten your administrative burdens.

Facilitate collaboration

The secret to increased productivity in any business lies in strong communication and collaboration. How often have you wasted time through lost projects or with team members duplicating effort?

It’s essential for businesses to get a collaboration strategy in place. Online collaboration is a fast growing trend that can help improve efficiency without breaking the bank by empowering teams to share and work collectively on data and files effortlessly. Take advantage of the “always on” availability of cloud-based services, and use tools like Office 365, Dropbox and Google Docs, the stalwarts of productivity, for hassle free file-sharing and group collaboration.

If employees aren’t physically in the same place, businesses should make best use of technology such as audio and video conferencing and instant messenger. By facilitating communication and enhancing a sense of community between colleagues, you will also reap the benefits this will have in creating a happier workplace culture as well.

Implement flexible working

When it comes to working hours, the traditional 9-5 is becoming a thing of the past – particularly for micro business owners and managers. Employing a flexible working policy can be transformative. Being able to accommodate flexible and remote working brings tangible advantages such as lower office overheads and savings on IT infrastructure, not to mention those that are harder to quantify, including improved customer relationships and a more engaged and motivated workforce.

Flexible working means more than just working from home. It’s about enabling your staff or partners to work from any location, whether that’s from a café with a client, a customer’s headquarters or during their commute. Business opportunities can be won or lost in a matter of minutes. Having employees who aren’t tied to their desks means micro businesses can be more responsive, and is one of the key advantages they have over larger competitors.

For employers, empowering staff to work when they feel at most productive is key. Your workforce will also benefit from a better work/life balance, and save in both time and cost by avoiding peak commuting hours or saving on childcare costs. This will likely boost staff morale and satisfaction levels and result in reduced absenteeism, leading to a measurable increase in productivity. Perhaps, most importantly, your business will be seen as a progressive place to work, enabling you to attract and retain the best talent, regardless of where they are geographically based.

Consider a BYOD policy

Mobile technology is vital to growing a business. When it comes to empowering employees to work flexibly, it’s essential to ensure staff are equipped with the right tools. Yet like many small business owners you likely have a limited IT budget at your disposal. This doesn’t mean you should shy away from mobile technologies. Implementing a BYOD strategy (bring your own device) whereby staff can work off their own devices is an attractive option for micro businesses seeking to keep costs low.

In many cases, employees are far more comfortable and productive using their preferred software and operating systems. However, it is essential to consider implications regarding compatibility or data security further down the line. Ensuring your mobility strategy has a secure infrastructure at its foundation, together with clear and effective clear user policy guidelines is a fundamental link in the BYOD chain.

Unlock the potential of cloud

Using cloud software and services to manage your day-to-day operations may be just the ingredient you need to boost your business. The cloud has opened up new ways of doing business, of communicating, collaborating, and managing data. Online software and services enable startups and micro businesses to manage key business processes, from customer accounts to payroll, seamlessly from any location, empowering businesses to run their operations anytime, anywhere and offering considerable time savings.

Cloud services can also help to streamline inefficiencies by providing fast, flexible IT systems with increased resilience and reliability and 24/7 access to IT support. Storing information under a robust cloud provider agreement both limits the chance of a data security breach, and provides data backup in the event of an IT disaster.

What’s more, despite common misconception, cloud software doesn’t cost the moon. Pay-as-you-go style services offer micro businesses access to enterprise solutions at a fixed and low monthly cost, enabling each to easily scale subscriptions as business requirements dictate.

Streamlining inefficiencies and maximising productivity are pivotal to ensuring the long term health of your micro business and looking after your bottom line. It’s about working smarter, not harder. With the right technology in place, you will be able to spend less time on admin and back office processes and more time focusing on your customers and what inspired you to set up your business in the first place.

Lisa Ewans is head of commercial at Sage One, a British financial software company.

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