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.
Why You Should Gamify Your Business
Businesses do not succeed unless we understand why they operate and what their founder’s intentions are for creating the business.
Sweat pouring down his forehead, staring intently at the chessboard, an anxious Bobby Fischer faces imminent defeat. A few uncharacteristic blunders at the beginning of the game has the audience on pins and needles. It’s the height of the cold war and a stalemate between Boris Spassky has an unnatural weight for a chess match. The cameras cramp the space, distracting Fischer and causing him to throw the game. Then another.
Anxiety is higher than ever. Finally, Fischer demands that cameras stop piercing the so-called “Match of the Century.” Then, suddenly, he began to win. He won again and again until finally, he was unstoppable. Final score: Fischer, 12 and one half, Spassky, 8 and one half. Fischer was now the undisputed world champion and the world couldn’t stop talking about it.
Why games motivate us so deeply
How could a game, a game that later wasn’t even televised, capture the world’s attention? How could a simple chess match capture the imagination of an entire generation?
Games are powerful things. Unlike real life, games have clear goals, constant coaching, and immediate feedback. There are points, winners, losers, upsets, dark horses, and reigning champions. Everything is organised in a refreshingly understandable, trackable way. Experiences are tallied into points, matches are organised into tournaments with the promise of prizes, advancement, and adulation.
Gamification, in this sense, is actually quite old. It has been practiced for generations. For time immemorial, games have taught us important skills, both technical and social. Now, however, a few game changers are using gamification to create outstanding products and drive business goals.
How gamifying a business task works
In business practices, you can use gamification to help motivate employees and to understand the motivations of your customers, clients, and business partners. When put into practice, this can mean major surges in productivity and profitability. Think about it: We often have friendly competitions among team members to help motivate them to perform to the best of their ability. This is a simple gamification strategy that can be implemented in any business to a wonderful result.
Gamification, according to Yu-kai Chou, author of Actionable Gamification and pioneer within the gamification industry, is a mixture of game design, gaming dynamics, motivational psychology, user experience design, neurobiology, technology platforms, and behavioural economics. This may sound like a loose classification of complex and disparate fields, but it’s actually an adept definition of an all-encompassing philosophy on life and what motivates us to do what we do in our daily lives.
The drives that motivate us
What about gamification makes the philosophy so effective? There are eight core principles that are considered what is called the “octalysis,” a conceptualisation created by Yu-kai Chou. Basically, Chou posits that eight core drives motivate us in every facet of our lives. Not only can we use these drives in our personal lives, we can also use them in our work and business lives.
A mixture of drives can give us varying degrees of interest, dedication, and motivation. These core drives are as follows according to the octalysis: meaning, accomplishment, empowerment, ownership, social influence, unpredictability, scarcity, and avoidance.
The last three mentioned on the list can be used in negative ways to achieve participation. For example, using avoidance, or the feeling that you must act in order not to lose something can cause people to feel manipulated in the long-term. However, avoidance can be built into your motivation matrix if used properly and sparingly.
Truly, each drive has to be used with context, in the same way employing avoidance has to be monitored and managed. All these motivations can be employed to help better your organisation by finding those key intrinsic and extrinsic motivators that help you accomplish your business goals.
Gamification is the simple practice of identifying motivating factors and qualifying them through a myriad of ways.
In some cases, gamification boils down to simply analysing our motivations accurately so that we can either change them or manipulate them to better serve us. There is no better arena for this time of analysis and planning than business.
Businesses do not succeed unless we understand why they operate and what their founder’s intentions are for creating the business.
Wise Words From wiGroup On Building A “Wow” Company Culture
wiGroup has three underlying visions that form the basis of the business’s culture. Bevan Ducasse calls them the 3Ps.
1. Passionate people
I loved the idea of starting a business and coming to work each day with passionate people who love what they do. Working in corporate there were too many people who just wanted to get to the weekend, and I found that really sad. You go through your whole life not enjoying what you do. One of the main books I read that got me there was Richard Branson’s Screw it, Let’s do it. His whole philosophy is about fun and loving what you do.
We even have a full-time coach that everyone can access. It’s up to you to book time with him, but everyone does, thanks to a culture of self-growth and personal development. His time is fully booked. I had to build a business case to justify the hire, but I worked out that If I increased the productivity of 100 people by 10%, you effectively have ten more people working in the business. It’s hard to put a tangible number on it, but what we’ve seen is that the productivity, attitude, leadership and personal growth equates to roughly 20% across the organisation of 150 people.
I believe that great organisations find people and make them come alive in what they’re brilliant at. There are things I don’t like or am not good at that other people love. If you’re not good at something, get the right person in. Focus on what you’re brilliant at to move the needle. But do the same for your employees. We all have aspects of the job we need to do that we don’t love, but the core of what we do should align with our passions.
2. Remarkable product
We’re passionate about building solutions that add value to people’s lives. How do we add value? We never build products for the sake of it — everything we do fulfils a purpose.
This speaks to the sustainability of the business, which ultimately comes down to balancing people, product and profit. Just chasing profit without a focus on product isn’t sustainable, and nor is looking after people and not profit. But you can never lose sight of your people either. If you’re running a company and focusing on your product IP, you’re missing the mark — this speaks to how fast things are changing. Your IP is your human capital. That is the one thing that will give you a competitive edge over five, ten or even fifteen years. The product you have now won’t give you the competitive advantage in ten years.
This vision is completely ingrained across our team: That’s what we’re about, seeing people come alive, building amazing products, and being sustainable in terms of the profits we generate.
1. There’s no such thing as an ‘aha’ moment
It’s not about one good decision I’ve made; it’s about the thousands of little decisions we make every single day as a team that make a business. For me it’s about the fundamentals that you buy into, and that’s people, products and profit. We’ve launched products that fail and others that are a huge success. To get through the failures it’s important to focus on a philosophy of how and what we want to be as a company.
2. Add value first
Our mindset is to add value. It’s the grit that pushes us through failure and keeps 150 people focused and doing great things. I am one of many people. I have a strong role, but I’m still one of many. When you’re looking outward at what you do for others, you stay motivated. A lot of what we do is helping a retailer understand how to unlock third party value. We will connect two brands who we believe could work well together, like a Discovery and a Kauai. Did you know that you could drive value to this retailer, and that retailer could add value to you? We all live in our own worlds and verticals, but knowledge is power. The greater your understanding of the landscape and synergies around you, the more value you can add.
3. Business is creativity
You need to be open and teachable and have a mindset that says ‘you’re never there, there’s always something more to learn.’ That’s how you foster creativity and innovation, by always asking what’s next, and how to make something better.
4. Never stop learning
You don’t have to read 50 books a year — two great books a year can give you incredible insights if you implement what you’ve learnt. There’s so much you can learn from the people around you too — ask questions, join networks and find a mentor.
5. Raise leaders, not followers
This is crucial. You need to find the right people, and then empower them to lead. I realised this a few years ago — if I really wanted to scale the business I needed to raise people who were leaders and wouldn’t just follow me. The top level of leadership is the ability to raise other leaders up, and that’s where we should all aspire to be.
This is a big one for me, and we learnt it the hard way. We were doing too much, we lacked focus and clarity. These are such powerful tools. If you can bring clarity to teams, you create a clear picture that everyone can follow. Delve into the details — what are you doing, why are you doing it, what does good and great look like, what are your timelines?
The clearer the picture, the exponentially higher the chances are of a team being successful. This includes targets. These shouldn’t be a shot in the dark — they should be unpacked, examined and clarified.
7. The best defense is a strong offence
Worrying about competitors serves no-one — it just keeps you up at night. Instead, you should be pushing yourself — how can we do this better? Keep looking for the next thing to do and improve, and then execute it properly. If someone disrupts us and I know we did the best we could and gave everything — I’ll sleep well at night. But if it’s because we became complacent and rested on our laurels? Well then, we deserved it.
Wasted Employee Time Adds Up: Here’s How To Fix It
Your team wouldn’t be idle if you gave them anything more important to do.
Employees want to be productive, but sometimes the allure of time-wasting activities is just too tempting. When that happens, it’s up to leaders to keep everyone on track.
According to research from Salary.com, 89 percent of employees waste at least some time at work every day. Thirty-one percent waste about 30 minutes, but the top 10 percent waste three or more hours each day. That extrapolates to more than 15 hours per week of wasted productivity, shedding light on the immense costs associated with poor time management.
The people who waste more than half their workdays on non-work activities are far beyond the help of time management training. Their employers don’t have enough work for them, or these employees need to find new roles.
This guide is for everyone else. While occasional breaks are great for the mind, excessive time waste leads to lost productivity, lower morale and decreased employee retention. Even employees who would otherwise be high performers can get caught in time-wasting traps, so leaders need to step in before things get out of hand.
To avoid low productivity and improve employee time management, follow these tips.
1. Set specific productivity goals
Employees – even the best self-starters – need objectives to work toward. Leaders who don’t set specific goals invite their workers to waste time. Whether it’s a sales quota or the creation of a new marketing campaign, give employees something concrete to achieve.
Don’t micromanage, but do provide consistent feedback to let employees know when they’re on the right track – and when they aren’t. People who don’t feel like they have the support of their managers are more likely to feel stressed than they are to feel motivated.
Give workers the tools they need, and make yourself available for questions and feedback; then, step back and let employees work toward the goals you helped them set.
2. Schedule tasks in chunks
The same type of work should take about the same amount of time to complete. Help employees create timelines for different types of projects so they know how quickly things should move across their desks.
Say your marketing team creates a lot of case studies to show potential clients. Help the team develop a schedule that follows projects from client interview to content development to graphic design. Determine how long each step in the process takes, then assign a deadline to each part of the larger task.
When employees understand how long projects take and how long it takes to complete each piece, they don’t have to scramble at the last minute. This steady stream of effort prevents workers from falling into a cycle of working overtime to compensate for earlier procrastination.
3. Show employees how their work affects the whole
Employees who waste time typically do so because they don’t see the point in working faster. To them, the company and their co-workers do just fine, no matter how well they do their job.
Related: Dealing With Employee Misconduct
In this case, the issue isn’t about time management – it’s about employee engagement. Keep employees in the loop about what the company is accomplishing, and tie their work to those achievements. Recognise the contributions of outstanding employees and departments. Constantly communicate the mission of the company and how employees help further that mission.
Financial bonuses for a job well done are nice, but people respond even more positively to personal praise. Write handwritten thank-you notes to employees who go above and beyond. Include employees on customer communications when they solve a problem or provide great service. The more employees see the effects of their work in action, the more motivated they become to work hard.
This is especially true when it comes to teams working together. Some employees struggle to see the connection between their work and the company’s objectives, but when they see how their productivity (or lack thereof) affects their co-workers, they feel more motivated to help their team thrive.
Employee time management has a cumulative effect. Engaged employees who get things done inspire others to follow suit. Those who have little to do (and those who don’t do what they should) bring others down. Use this advice to develop an office filled with productive, time-conscious teammates.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
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