As an entrepreneur and business owner for the last 18 years, I remember well what the start-up phase is like; you wear every hat under the sun – from receptionist to doorbell-ringing salesman to production manager to accountant (if you call personally sending out homemade invoices every month being an accountant!).
Fast forward many years down the line, and I now have a large team spread across the country and my challenges are immensely different to when we were in start-up phase. For one, my team works remotely, and I need to know whether they are productive or not. The challenge of monitoring productivity while still running and growing the business, all the while constantly avoiding the trap of slipping into micro-management, has lead me to these findings.
Productivity doesn’t happen by accident. It’s a deliberate process and a daily challenge.
Just because you, as the owner of the business, have a fire in your belly compelling you to work 14 hour days, including weekends, doesn’t necessarily mean that the team you’ve hired have the same zeal that you do. So the battle starts – do I still try do it all myself, with a bit of help from the team, or do I let go and empower my team so that I can start dreaming over my business again? The reality is that letting go is often more mind-numbingly terrifying for entrepreneurs than getting a root canal without anaesthetic. It takes tremendous courage.
Here’s a comforting thought: You don’t have to take a blind leap of faith to empower your team. There’s no Indiana Jones ‘invisible bridge’ across the chasm, because there is no chasm if you have the right business processes and systems in place. In fact, you can ‘let it go’, and simultaneously gain more control over your business than ever before.
1. First Things First – Hire Right
Your team is your most valuable asset in the business – they reflect who you are, what you’ve sweated blood to achieve and built, and what your business is about, more than the products or services.
By the same token, one bad apple in the team can do more damage to your brand than your strongest competitor. Employees who are skilled and have the right attitude are often more productive, responsible, communicate better and work faster with fewer mistakes.
If the target is improved productivity, this is your silver bullet. Culture-fit is more important than qualifications and skills on a page. Fight for this, it’s important.
Alternative Option: Virtual Staff (Outsourcing)
This is a viable option if you find you are too busy to handle your day to day activities, but cannot justify hiring a full-time employee to perform these tasks.
Virtual staff or outsourced resources become like a team member who just happens to work remotely, so it is important that you carefully consider who your supplier is, much as you would a permanent employee.
Virtual teams are strongly relational and require a fair amount of personal investment and guidance from you on the onset in order for them to understand your brand, product and needs accurately, especially if they are customer-facing.
Thankfully South Africa has a wide selection for us to choose from, with everything from PA, finances, marketing or call centres services at our disposal. The bonus is, you get the work done without the potential HR challenges.
2. Get a Goal, Stick to it, and Measure it
You know how demoralising it feels when you have too many things to do, and not enough hours in the day to do it. Stressed and burnt out employees are the opposite of productive, and is not something to brag about or a sign of being successful.
Busy is not the goal – productivity is.
Processes and policies give a team structure and a framework for efficiency and measurable productivity. It’s also easier to notice when something or someone is missing the mark or causing bottlenecks and unnecessary delays and quickly respond to that.
Here’s how we do it:
- Set your team targets and tasks that are realistic and achievable within a given period of time. Your team will feel more motivated to achieve these goals, and will enjoy a sense of accomplishment once achieved.
- Put procedures in place that follow best practice for your industry. If this is not something you feel you have time or the skill set for, involve your team and brainstorm this – it might surprise you how well they know your business and what ideas and insights they have. Alternatively, ask a systems analyst or business coach for assistance. Map these procedures and processes out in a document or more visual platform, like Visio, and circulate them throughout the business so that everyone knows the fastest, most accurate way of performing a task. This can also filter into the KPI and regular assessment and incentive processes.
- Get the right software to help your team track orders, projects, inventory and invoices. Try and avoid multiple data capturing points as this can increase errors and be an unnecessary burden on your admin staff. Look for a single system that incorporates the production process from start to finish. We like Slack and Skype for internal comms, and keeping our inboxes solely for client comms. This makes for faster turnaround on client email responses. For project management and time tracking we like Trello, Asana or BOS. BOS (Business Operating System) also includes functionality for quotation generation, stock management, accounts, resource management and reports, so that helps.
- Create a culture of excellence where efficiency is recognised, applauded and rewarded. If a team member has found a way of doing a task more efficiently than the norm, let them share it with the rest of the team, and consider including their personal process into the team’s process.
- Measure it: If you cannot measure the return on investment of your human capital (your team) and your infrastructure (machinery, software, etc) then you probably have very little insight into the profitability of your business and the productivity of your team. Knowing the productive hours of each member of staff will greatly influence your decisions on quoting accurately, resource allocation and team utilisation. Once again, BOS shines here.
3. Schedule a Daily Check-In
The worst thing you can do as a business owner is remove yourself from the business – even if it is under the guise of ‘business growth’ and important work.
Try and avoid being constantly out at client meetings, or chasing sales or being unapproachable when you are in the office. You don’t have to physically be in the space to touch base with your team, so schedule a check-in to see if they need your input and how they are progressing.
It can be a phone call, and email or on whatever system you use for internal comms. It can be five minutes a day, but it makes your team feel that they are part of something bigger, that they belong and that their work is important.
It also provides a platform for you to weigh in on decisions or give them support and helps you panic less about the status of work.
Look for software that has scheduled reminders and a calendar function. Alternatively, software that offers a dashboard view of work in progress will also give you more of a helicopter view of the business.
A bonus would be if it is cloud-based, so that you can check in on your team regardless of where you are – on site, at a client, on holiday or at home!
Now you have more clarity, more control, and more opportunity to run your business holistically and with freedom.
Finding the right balance between doing it all yourself, leaning on technology and efficiently allocating team resources is your productivity sweet spot. Take the time to invest in this, and you won’t look back.
Working Remotely? Why You Need A Car
The cars available at vehicle auctions in South Africa consist of both sedans and zippy hatchbacks which are perfect for town driving and will get you to your in-office meetings on time.
Remote work can be an amazing experience. You do not have to wake up at 5 am to beat the morning traffic and you can work from the comfort of your own home office (or bedroom). Working remotely can become lonely and you might have to visit the office for certain projects. This means that you will need to have a car.
If you are in search of an affordable but reliable car, vehicle auctions in Gauteng could provide the perfect car to meet your needs. Not sure why you need a car if you are working from home? Below are just some of the reasons why it is a necessity.
You might need to go into the office
While some remote work does not require you to be in the office, there are some instances that you might be required to go into the office. This can prove difficult if you do not have a car and have to rely on public transport.
Public transport can be unreliable, which means that you might not arrive on time for meetings or project conferences. Being on time for meetings and group chats is important, and being late can add to your stress levels. Having a car will help to make this journey easier. The cars available at vehicle auctions in South Africa consist of both sedans and zippy hatchbacks which are perfect for town driving and will get you to your in-office meetings on time.
You will need to perform daily errands
Whether you work from home, from a coffee store or in an office, the truth of daily life is that there are always errands to run. And without a car, you might not be able to perform these errands easily.
Grocery shopping can become heavy to carry home if you walk, and an appointment in a suburb far from your own might have to be cancelled. While these might not be as important as your work, you will soon find it frustrating having to call for a lift from a service such as Uber whenever you need to leave home. Not only will this become costly, but you will find it ineffective if you are in a rush or need to be somewhere at a certain time.
You might get lonely
Remote work does allow you a lot more freedom, but you have to put in the same hours as an office job. And these hours can become lonely if you are cooped up inside all day, alone. Having a car will allow you to meet up with friends in the afternoon or weekends.
Auctions will provide you with a diverse array of cars to choose from, including 4×4 options for those who enjoy longer journeys and adventures. Becoming lonely can be distracting and cause you to run behind on your work. If you are looking at working remotely but know that you could fall victim to this feeling, be sure to socialise with friends and family whenever possible. Having your own car will make this possible.
There will be client meetings
Remote work will mostly mean that you work from home or from your favourite coffee store. But it can also involve meeting clients to discuss a brief, which can be tricky if you have to rely on public transport. Not only will being late cause you to stress, but it will be a bad representation of your company for the client.
If you are able to drive yourself to meetings in your own car, there is a higher chance of a successful meeting. An Uber driver might get lost and a bus might break down, but your own car is reliable and affordable. If you have to meet a client urgently about a project, having to rely on public transport can be disastrous.
It is vital to take the fact of client meetings into account when you decide to work remotely and ensure you are able to represent your company the best way possible.
There will be company get-togethers
A company that consists mostly of remote workers is guaranteed to have regular get-togethers so that all the team members can meet each other and get to know one another. Sometimes, these get-togethers might be far away, and you will need an easy and effective mode of transport.
If you are in search of a car to get you from home to the next work gathering, the auction cars in Gauteng will certainly fit your needs. Not attending company get-togethers and events will reflect poorly on your ability to work in a team, regardless of if your team works together in an office or not. You will be able to learn more about your team and the company as a whole at these events.
5 Traits Of Highly-Effective Scrum Teams
Here are the top 5 traits of highly-effective scrum teams.
Scrum teams can make quick work of complex projects. But accomplishing your company goals by utilising a sprint team is difficult because effective scrum teams are so exceedingly rare.
If you’re thinking of assembling a scrum team, you have to be sure that you’re working with talented individuals who can tolerate the stress hyper-ambitious project management frameworks invite.
Agile teams are ones open to change, to communication, and to improving processes as they define them. Scrum teams have all these same qualities but are unique from agile teams in a few key ways.
You must search for key attributes that define great scrum teams before you begin your company’s next project. Here are the top 5 traits of highly-effective scrum teams:
Scrum is one of the leading frameworks implementing agile. Agile is an iterative process whereby teams are self-organised and self-motivated, delivering working products in cycles and measuring the progress of their project through these deliverables.
Scrum team members do not hesitate to change requirements, expand or minimise scope, or add or remove a planned feature from an end product.
Changing roles, revisiting processes, or scrapping failed plans is not unheard of for scrum teams. In fact, even changes late in the development process are encouraged.
Scrum defines the length of the iterative processes. The time spent on each cycle is defined as a sprint. With each sprint, which is usually only two weeks long, a small fragment of the project is completed.
Upon the completion of the sprint, the scrum master (or project manager) leads a retrospective, using past evidence and performance evaluations to determine how they will go about completing the next sprint. The sprint structure demands ambition.
Successful scrum teams are passionate and ambitious. With each new sprint, they concentrate their goal of continually improving and expanding what their team can accomplish.
3. Open to criticism
One of the foundational principles of scrum is continual improvement. The sprints and the project retrospectives between them serve to help the team better identify problems. In order for this to work, every team member must be open to constructive criticism.
In addition, they must understand how to apply this constructive criticism to make processes better. The team, therefore, must communicate clearly and concisely.
The team as a whole must be on the same page about improving processes. The team must be cohesive, open to mentorship, and gentle but honest communication.
An experienced team is much more likely to lead your company to success than an inexperienced one. It seems like an obvious bit of wisdom but it is nonetheless true. While you may be attracted to hiring a young team of passionate and promising project managers and developers, it’s a better idea to bet on an experienced bunch.
Scrum is an incredible project management framework. Still, there is no substitute for experience. No matter how strong a framework may be, it cannot buttress your project against unexpected challenges – only experienced project managers can do that.
Scrum team leaders have to underscore the importance of constant communication on a regular basis. Ideally, scrum team members are cooperative, communicative, and transparent. The best scrum teams can achieve a high level of cooperation with little to no contentious feelings.
Additionally, scrum teams are cooperative with the organisation as a whole. Often, scrum teams want to communicate and cooperate with other departments within a company. Instead of working in the dark, scrum teams prefer to engage business people, product owners, and marketers with their development process.
Scrum is one of the most popular project management methodologies based on the agile approach. Scrum is everything agile is but with a bit more of a backbone.
Scrum teams embrace fast-paced environments that use an iterative process to handle complexity. As such, successful scrum teams are adaptive, ambitious, and co-operative. They are open to constructive criticism and can leverage retrospectives to better the project.
No matter how hard your team tries, they are sure to encounter challenges. Experienced scrum teams can handle this pressure with cool, calm, and collected demeanour.
Expert scrum teams are rare, but it is possible to assemble one with the proper attention to the traits that comprise the most effective scrum teams.
How Training Your Employees Will Prepare Them For The Future
Below are just some of the ways in which training your employees will help to prepare them for the future.
Employee training is an important part of any growing business. Your staff are the backbone of your business and so should have their skills improved whenever possible. By investing in training courses for your employees, you will be preparing them for the future and helping your company keep ahead of the competition.
In order to be prepared for any future trends, you should invest in training courses for companies that focus both on your industry and on more general skills. Not convinced? Below are just some of the ways in which training your employees will help to prepare them for the future.
They will stay on top of evolving skills
In today’s technological and digitally focused world, the skills we are used to are continuously evolving. This might mean that your administrative assistant will need to be able to use chatbot technology in order to deal with client queries or that your marketing team will need to learn about a new Google algorithm as it comes out.
Having a team that is up-to-date on all the latest skills and trends is one of the major benefits of training courses for companies. It prepares them for the future by allowing them to stay on top of evolving skills that they need for working in a fast-paced environment. Their knowledge and abilities will improve, making it easier for them to adapt to any new changes that occur in technology and their skillsets.
They will be able to use the latest technology
This goes hand-in-hand with staying on top of evolving skills. Being able to use the latest technology is vital to your business’ success, and sending your staff on training courses for companies which operate in the technological world will help with this.
Imagine if you had a personal assistant who was unable to answer emails because they did not know how to access them? Or if you had a content marketing team who did not know how to resize images in Photoshop for a new campaign? This would cost you both time and money, making it difficult to keep your business operating smoothly. But sending your employees on training courses will teach them the basics of technology so they can stay abreast of new developments.
The entire team will build their knowledge
Sending your staff on a training course will help the entire team to improve and increase their knowledge. And this will help with productivity, collaboration and efficiency, all of which are expected by consumers in a world that is becoming increasingly fast-paced.
You will also be allowing those staff members with different levels of understanding of a topic to increase their knowledge on the topic. This will bring the whole team to the same level and allow everyone to have opinions and offer suggestions on issues. By having everyone on the same level, you will be creating employees who can share knowledge and collaborate on projects, finishing on time, within the budget and exceeding customer expectations.
They can prepare for redefined roles
Technology brings with it new and redefined roles for your employees to adapt to. And with new skills becoming difficult to find, smart business owners will send their staff on training courses for companies so they can learn new skills and be prepared for redefined roles.
In some cases, it might mean that your staff have to learn new automation programs that deal with workflow. This will change their role significantly as they will be working hand-in-hand (so to speak) with new software. Your employees will have to be able to adapt to and deal with a change in their role without any issues.
You might even have to assign them new roles if technology continues to advance, such as bookkeepers becoming data analysts once their roles have been automated.
You can address weakness in abilities
Preparing for the future means that you will need to look at your employees’ current performance levels. One effective way to do this is to take part in training courses for companies. This will allow you to see what weaknesses your employees might have and address and rectify them.
You can prepare them for the future by working on their present. Training courses will show them what areas they might need to improve on and work towards bettering their skills. Not only will this help to build their futures in your company, but you will also be helping your company have an edge over the competition. Well-informed and well-trained employees are ideal for building business success.
Sending your employees for training courses not only helps to improve your business but can build up their futures immensely. It will also help your employees to prepare for the future and allow them to easily adapt to any new roles, technology and trends. Their skills will improve and they will be able to stay up-to-date with everything that is happening in your industry.
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