There is almost no way to achieve 100% efficiency in business, practically speaking. The upside to this is that there is always “room for improvement“. If you find that your business is chewing up time, effort and resources on things that aren’t directly related to growth and revenue, then it is time to take stock of what you have and see if there is room for improvement.
Almost always, small business owners labour away with inefficient procedures or poor web platforms, simply because they aren’t aware that there is room for improvement. I can cite any number of examples where companies have paid far too much for development of features that exist freely, have high operating costs due to inefficient or outdated software, employ too many people to do tasks that are easily automated, and so on.
There are a couple of general rules of thumb that I would like to run through quickly to help you to recognise when and where there is room to increase efficiency.
1. There is always more than one way to do it
Just because you have hired a WordPress developer who tells you they are going to have to implement expensive customisation in order to meet your requirements, doesn’t mean you have to fork out. Web platforms are all different and it is highly likely that you could find what you need on Drupal or Joomla without the need for bespoke development.
In essence, you need to always keep in mind that there are different options. If you hire a WordPress developer, they will approach the problem from a WordPress perspective only. They aren’t going to say, “we can’t do this“. It’s up to you to go and find alternatives…
2. Repetitive and time consuming tasks may be automated
So many small businesses work tirelessly on tasks that could very easily be automated. If you find you are spending a sizable chunk of your time (or paying someone else), doing the same thing over and over, then find out what it would take to automate it.
Remember, more often than not, someone, somewhere out there has probably already solved the same business problem you are having. All you need to do is find out what they did, is the solution freely or cheaply available, or do you have to get someone to develop a solution.
Spending $10 000 having a system developed that saves you 50 man hours a month, at $30 an hour, will pay for itself in about 7 months. Everything after that is savings.
3. Open source IS AN OPTION
The number of business people still laboring under the misconception that open source is of poor quality because it is “free“, is astounding. The fact of the matter is this; large, well supported open source projects are often superior to their commercial counterparts in every aspect.
Admittedly, there are some awful open source projects, but there are criminally poor commercial software products too. Simply do your research before making a move.
4. A penny saved is a penny earned… NOT
In one very narrow sense, this saying is correct – don’t waste money. However, many startups, entrepreneurs and small business owners make the mistake of trying to do everything themselves in order to save every penny.
This philosophy can be really detrimental to your business’ growth because not everyone can be good at everything. Part of being an effective business operator is knowing where your strengths lie, and how to efficiently overcome your weaknesses.
Spending 6 months teaching yourself how to build a website in order to save a few thousand dollars to have it done in a week or two, is not a good business decision (unless you don’t have any money, of course). The reason is that it is far more important to get up and running, generating revenue and building a customer base than it is learning how to build a Drupal website, for example.
5. Skills must be kept in-house… NOT
Of course, there is always going to be sensitive business information and dealings that are best kept in-house. However, modern business, and especially Internet businesses can be done in a virtual environment. Do you really need all that office space to hire web developers, internet markets, SEO experts and so forth, when all you really need is to find a reliable partner to take on that role for you?
By reducing your human resources, and outsourcing non-core work to reliable and trustworthy partners, you can help to keep focused on what makes your business succeed.
Admittedly, taking the first step requires a small leap of faith, but you can grow working relationships organically. There’s no need to ship out 40% of your business to a contractor you have never worked with. But, you can speak to people, get a feel for how they operate. Try them out with a small project, and as the partnership grows, feed more and more work to them.
Take a look at this real life transcript of a business consult between myself and a small business owner in New York. Armed with the information he learned in this one hour consultation, the owner was able to create his own effective marketing campaign that we work on together.
With a reliable contractor or outsourcing partner, you can reduce your operating costs substantially and get a better quality service than taking on everything in-house.