Do you remember why you started your own business? For many, it might have been to achieve a more balanced lifestyle, spend more time with family, simply be the boss or be in control of how much you work, and when. All that however, requires one thing: time. That’s a resource most SMBs find themselves lacking, and one that can’t be recouped once it’s spent. How can SMB owners save up enough time for life’s important priorities without putting profitability and long-term success at risk? Here are three ways to do so:
PICK UP THE PACE WITH AUTOMATION
Time moves fast when your business moves slow, and the sheer pace of doing business can often leave SMB founders scrambling to keep up. Often, founders lose the most time to relatively low-level tasks: administrative or routine processes which, while still essential to keep the business running, draw them away from more strategic work that generates real long-term value. Ideally, SMBs would hire new staff to handle those mundane tasks, but that’s a luxury only the few with ample working capital can afford.
The alternative: automate as many of those tasks as possible. Today’s technologies allow even SMBs to streamline many aspects of their operations by either fully or partially automating their workflows.
Cloud-based ERP platforms, for example, can automate a range of processes from inventory management to financial reporting, helping SMBs handle these day-to-day requirements at a much faster speed, with much less effort. Other platforms, like those for marketing automation or CRM, can speed up how SMB owners engage with new customers or follow up on potential service issues. Ideally, SMB founders should look at automation at the very start: installing the right ERP platform with CRM capabilities from day one can save them even more time that might be spent retro-fitting the business with new technology at a later stage.
At some point, every SMB grows beyond its founder – but bringing on new people can often cost the business more time than it’s meant to save. While they ought to ensure employees are performing up to standards, it’s easy for founders to fall into the trap of micro-managing their people, spending too much time on getting training perfect, or setting standards higher than they need to be. That’s understandable when you’ve invested so much time into building the business.
SMB owners do themselves a favour when they trust their employees to get the job done with minimal hand-holding. Instead of trying to do their job for them, give employees access to the right tools and data to help them navigate the day-to-day tasks of the business. With inventory and logistics management, for example, that might mean giving a logistics manager higher-level access permissions to the ERP system, while also letting customer service staff see (but not control) stock levels in real time. It’s also worth asking employees what tools they need to do their job more efficiently – and potentially save SMB owners even more time in the process.
EMPOWER YOUR PEOPLE
SET YOURSELF A 'SAFE ZONE'
SMB owners have many reasons to stay connected to their business 24/7 – but that doesn’t mean they should. While cloud-based ERP platforms, financial software, and other tools give them access to all their operational data from any device, founders shouldn’t indulge in constantly doing so. Instead, they may consider designating certain times to check on their business’ status – ensuring those times don’t interrupt more important matters like family meals, hobbies, or other personal pursuits. And ideally, those platforms should consolidate and streamline all the data into a single intuitive dashboard that takes only seconds to assess, limiting the amount of time founders spend staring at their devices trying to work things out.