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Setting Up Systems

How to Get Everything Done By Doing Less

If you want something done right once and you have no other time commitments, then the fastest way, in fact, is to do it yourself.

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Most entrepreneurs subscribe to the philosophy: “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.” This mantra, accepted by many small-business owners as fact, is only half true. If you want something done right once and you have no other time commitments, then the fastest way, in fact, is to do it yourself. However, if you want something done right repeatedly, day-in and day-out, all day long, and you don’t have the time to do 10 full-time jobs all at once, you can’t do it yourself.

To get everything your company needs done, you must transfer procedural knowledge, decision-making guidelines and a schedule from inside your head to your employees.

Here is how you do it:

1. Document the process.

Every kind of work in a business follows a process. There’s a process for the best way to answer the phone. There’s a process for shipping products.

In most small businesses, the knowledge about how to do everything is stuck inside the entrepreneur’s head. In situations where employees lack knowledge, the employees will either guess what is supposed to be done or constantly pepper you with questions that take longer to answer than just taking action yourself.

To solve this dilemma, document the step-by-step procedures for how to complete a commonly performed task in your business. There are three ways to do this:

  1. Write a procedural manual describing how to perform a task.
  2. Create a checklist describing the steps – assuming your employees already have the skills to do each step but often forget or skip steps.
  3. Make a video using your smartphone as you perform the task, explaining aloud what you are doing and why you are doing it.

The next time you assign an employee a particular task, just give her the manual, the checklist or video tutorial.

Related: How to Email Like a Pro

2. Document decision-making guidelines.

In most small businesses, employees will ask you, “What do you want to do?” As an entrepreneur, you make decisions big and small all day long. To grow a business without driving yourself crazy, you can’t delegate only the tasks to others. You have to delegate decisions to others as well. The key to getting others to make good decisions is to provide them with the implicit decision-making guidelines you personally use.

When an employee asks you, “What do you want to do about this situation?” without even realizing it, you run that decision through a set of decision-making criteria. If you want to extricate yourself from these decisions, write down the decision-making criteria you usually implicitly use and give the list to others.

For example, in my company, my staff uses three criteria to make any customer service-related decision that isn’t already documented in our procedures:

  1. Does the decision protect our reputation?
  2. Does the decision favor the customer?
  3. Does the decision cost less than R2 000 to implement?

If the answer is yes across the board, staff members can make a customer service decision for themselves without having to ask me first. If the decision will cost more than R2 000 but less than R4 000, they can still make the decision without me, but they are expected to notify me after the fact. If the cost is more than R4 000, they need to ask me first.

So far, they have made the same decision I would have made 98% of the time. Best of all, there have been virtually no meetings, phone calls or emails to discuss these decisions.

Related: The Rewarding Side of Business Systems

3. Create a schedule.

To ensure the right things get done in the right way at the right time, you need to follow this final step: creating a schedule. Create a list of daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly tasks that need to be done for each role in your company. For more complex tasks, reference where staff can find the procedure manual, checklist or video tutorial that explains how to do the task.

Follow these three steps and tasks will be completed, decisions will get made and things will be done on-time with only minimal involvement from you.

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Why Skype When You Can Video Conference?

Why purchase a video conferencing system to expand my empire when I can get Skype for free?

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If you’re looking to put an end to time-consuming, expensive and exhausting business travel or just considering the next step to boost your business’ productivity, you’re likely to be faced with the ‘Skype vs video conferencing’ dilemma. Why purchase a video conferencing system to expand my empire when I can get Skype for free?

While Skype provides a great solution to staying in touch with friends and family abroad at no cost, certain drawbacks, such as limited resolution, high bandwidth usage and the fact that the service is only available to Skype users, make this a less-than-ideal solution in the professional environment.

Until recently, professional video conferencing has been inaccessible to most businesses in SA due to its high cost of ownership but Yealink has changed this by providing professional video conferencing solutions designed for SMEs, offering a perfect balance between high quality, ease-of-use and affordability.

Related: (Video) Video Conference Etiquette for Dummies

Here are some of the key reasons to choose one of Yealink’s video conferencing solutions over a free video conferencing service.

1. Increased reliability

Free video conferencing services do not offer a performance guarantee. You run the risk of poor call quality or dropped calls due to network issues. While this may be a free service, it could cost you your business’s reputation.

Corporate video conferencing solutions (VCS) only require one megabit of bandwidth – half of what is needed for Skype – allowing high-quality video, even under fluctuating network conditions.

2. Improved visual and audio quality

While Skype allows for multi-participant calls, there are limitations in terms of visual and audio quality.

Skype does not have zoom-in and focus camera functionality, allowing only the host of the call to be seen in the corner of the screen during a multi-participant call. Poor audio quality and echoing is also often the result of Skype’s microphone being built into the camera.

Yealink’s VCS support full-HD dual systems to display people and content at one time and, thanks to integrated packet loss, you can be sure of a high quality viewing experience. The system’s Full-HD PTZ, 12x optical zoom PTZ camera allows you zoom in, out and around the room with a clear picture at all times.

The Yealink VCS phone has several built-in microphone arrays and supports 360-degree voice pickup, so you won’t have to shout across the room.

There’s also no need for squishing up to hear other attendees. With an optimal expansion microphone KIT, the voice pick-up range can be extended up to 5 metres and video phones are available for desktop video if you don’t fancy joining the rest of your team in the boardroom.

video-conference-in-south-africa

3. Ease of use

Concerned about complicated VCS equipment setups? Don’t be. Yealink VCS plug-and-play simplicity makes installation quick and fuss-free. And thanks to VCS unique industry-intelligent firewall, there isn’t even a need for firewall configuration. Bonus!

While Skype appears simple to use, its multi-party settings are not as intuitive as those of its one-to-one call functionality.

Related: While Tech Investing Slows These 3 Growing Industries Are Getting Hot

4. Management and support

Unlike Skype, Yealink’s video conferencing solutions offer the peace of mind of top-quality, 24/7 support. Yealink provides scheduling, software updates and reporting over a controlled secure network infrastructure.

5. Unlimited access

While four people can participate in a multi-party Skype call, quality is unreliable whereas Yealink’s VCS allow for eight participants, bridging a client site which allows for a more secure, controlled and reliable VC experience.

Finally, while Skype is limited to 100 hours per month for multi-party calling, you are able to use Yealink’s VCS as many times as you want per month.

Related: From Simple Idea To Sideline Business: How Nkosenhle Hlophe Spotted An Opportunity

Want to learn more or book a VCS demo? Click here to get in touch and we’ll show you why it’s worth investing in one of Yealink’s premium video conferencing solutions.

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Setting Up Systems

3 Ways To Avoid Catastrophic Failure By Streamlining Day-to-Day Processes

Type up “small business failure” on a search engine and you get tons of overwhelmingly depressing results showing various statistics demonstrating that there’s a realistically slim chance that any business will survive past the 15-year mark.

Harald Merckel

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Type up “small business failure” on a search engine and you get tons of overwhelmingly depressing results showing various statistics demonstrating that there’s a realistically slim chance that any business will survive past the 15-year mark.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the chances a business founded in 1994 will have survived to this day dips down to 20 percent. There is, of course, the issue of context whenever you’re looking at a cold statistic that does little to paint a picture of how businesses reach such a high failure rate. In addition to that, failure rates vary depending on other circumstances such as industry and political climate.

You will find a vast ocean of pundits attempting to provide their own two cents on why businesses have a high failure rate, and they will tell cite anything from poor management to the lack of a presence online.

After looking through the various reasons, there’s one thing that many have in common and it’s in your control:

Businesses will often lose the momentum they first had because they do not manage to keep up with the demands of running their everyday operations.

They can’t talk to their customers effectively online, their service quality doesn’t match the expectations of a fast-paced fickle market, their inventory is disorganised or the business itself doesn’t differentiate itself enough to make a mark on visitors.

Related: 3 Ways You Can Use Mobile Apps To Improve Your Customer Experience

Businesses that don’t have all of their ducks in a row cannot hope to address these issues. It is only logical that the first thing everyone needs to do before going any further is to face the elephant in the room by streamlining daily business activities in such a way that they are (at the very least) manageable.

Organise the backroom environment

Behind every jar of honey you buy is an army of bees that have traveled thousands of miles to make each spoonful. We know honey is made this way, yet we seldom ever ponder the journey each bee took to making that entire jar that’s now sitting in your cupboard.

Businesses work in much the same way; there are backroom processes that keep the ship afloat each and every day. Although few customers will ever see these mechanisms, their impact on the forward-facing side of a company is on full display.

Having the right software to run your back office will come a long way in helping you to avoid experiencing trouble in these departments. Applications like ProWorkflow do an excellent job of streamlining task management, invoicing, and many other functions that are often overlooked when hunting for inefficiencies that need addressing.

Get social with your online base

business-processes-and-online-presence

One of the things making large corporate entities stand out online right now is their ingenious use of social media. While there are many who see this as a carte blanche to spread a dizzying array of bland boilerplate marketing content in a desperate attempt to be relevant with the “cool” crowd, there are stellar examples of companies like Starbucks, Etsy, Calvin Klein, and McDonald’s using platforms like Twitter to embrace trends and engage directly with customers.

When you look at these brands extending their presence, it’s tempting to think that they have teams of people entirely dedicated to browse social sites and start conversations.

The truth is that much of their social media engagement efforts come from the use of applications that help automate this in an intelligent way, letting them concentrate solely on the parts of social branding that help build engagement and retain it.

Tools like Narrow provide an enormous boost by taking a no-nonsense approach to Twitter interaction, showing you who’s talking about subjects that are relevant to your goals. Other applications like Hootsuite help you schedule posts ahead of time so that you do not have to spend every living moment on social networks.

This will effectively reduce the amount of time you spend on this activity to a couple of hours a week, freeing you from the headache of having yet another front to fight on.

Related: Using An Online Meeting To Talk With Your Subscribers

Keep your inventory in check

The reason that retail giants have no problem opening a gazillion locations is because they were able to keep their ducks in a row when it came to tracking everything they sell and acquire.

Having a systematic approach to inventory simplifies operations to the point that reproducing the model is a simple game of “plug and play”. They do this like every other successful and long-living enterprise still alive in the 21st century does. They use the magic of software.

Without this ingredient, you’ll be spending more time tracking where things are going and who’s paying for what than taking care of any of the other 18 million different things you have to do to keep the lights on.

It’s a not-so-well-guarded secret that there are solutions that even smaller contenders can use to keep themselves in good competition with their much larger counterparts, and one of those solutions is inventory management.

Software like Vend, for example, contains a variety of smaller applications that come together to form one of the most powerful point-of-sale and inventory management suites, even allowing for things like layaways, parked sales, and gift cards.

Related: How To Promote Your Blog By Following Your Passion

Technology may have advanced to a point where it perhaps has a stronger grasp on our daily lives than we’d like, but the game of retaining customers still operates on the same rules it did back when the first street markets began appearing thousands of years ago.

You have to make sure that they don’t find greener pastures elsewhere and one of the main ways you can do that is by showing them that you provide a fluid environment and a dedication to serve.

The difference is that today there are pieces of software that make these things a lot simpler. Take advantage of this and you’ll have a very strong chance of living to see another decade (or ten).

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Setting Up Systems

Speed Up Production Using Communication Structures

Find a structure that maximises the production line.

Neli Moqabolane

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Usually communication flows with the hierarchy structure of the company, e.g. from CEO to director to deputy director to manager to assistant manager, etc. Is this necessarily how communication should flow? With an understanding that communication needs to be orderly structured.

The type of communication structure in place has an influence on the production speed. Closing or opening lines of communication will determine the pace of production.

One structure can be ideal for a company, a division or just project. You need to know which structure will suit your conditions.

A communications structure can be seen as a pattern that directs who talks to who in the company. In the 1950’s Bavelas and Leavitt, sociologists researched communication structures.

Related: 6 Thought Provoking Leadership Quotes That You Should Actually Follow

The aim was to find the impact a structures has on problem-solving and production. These five communication structures are still relevant to today’s communication.

1. Chain/line Structure

Chain-line-Structure-communication

Communicators are positioned in a line or chain. Person 1 communicates with person 2, 2 with 3, 3 with 4 and 4 with 5. The communicators are only linked to the person next to them.

Communication is organised, however information may be misinterpreted, late or not reach the destination. I would recommend this structure for relaxed companies/situation where there is no deadline. To avoid glitches, use electronic channels as backed up.

2. Y Structure

Y-Structure-communication

It resembles the letter Y, person 1 and 2 on top can communicate with person 3. Person 3 is able to communicate with 4 who has connections with 5. Person 1 and 2 are not linked. The two will only know what 3 communicates. 3 has the advantage of most information since he can communicate with 4 who has information from 5.

In companies where communication is a priority this structure will not work. Time is wasted, and some might not receive the information. It however will function well where confidentiality is a priority.

3. Star Structure

Star-Structure-communication

Person 1 is at the centre, he can communicate with person 2, 3, 4, and 5 who have a direct link to him. This structure will be ideal for managers who give instructions to individual subordinates. For groups work this doesn’t work since person 2, 3, 4 and 5 are not linked.

Related: 5 Steps To Building Thought Leadership Through Social Media

4. Circle Structure

Circle-Structure-communication

There is no figure of authority, unfortunately things can go wrong. It is however ideal for peer and micromanagement communication. Each person is linked to two people on their sides. Person 1 is linked to 2 and 5, 2 is linked to 1 and 3, 3 communicates with 2 and 4, while 4 interacts with 3 and 5. This will work well combined with another structure, e.g. the star.

5. All-Channel Structure

All-Channel-Structure-communication

This structure will do well during crisis situations where all are clear of their role. The lines are open to all, there is no limitations. This quickens the flow of communication. What is negative is that there is no authority figure.

Read next: 5 Things Businesses Can Learn From Rugby

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