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Expert Answers to Biz Questions

Listen in! Pick up some expert advice to a reader's question that we selected from CyberSchmooz.

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How to Fine-tune Your Business by Looking at It One Process at a Time

 

As the owner of a business, it’s up to you to see that your company runs smoothly like a well-oiled wheel and that none of the spokes are broken. If all is as it should be, then everything moves forward. If your company is doing well, then each of those spokes is performing as they should.

However, if you feel you could be growing faster or there is a problem in profitability, then it’s time to look at your company one process/spoke at a time.

Invest in Improvements or Seek Alternative Solutions

You may find that you simply need to invest more time, money, and effort into one or more processes, and that would mean an in-depth look at performance. Most often, you are simply faced with business process improvement in one or more departments, and that’s something which can be dealt with. If a department isn’t functioning, it’s time for an upgrade.

Think of it like technology – perhaps your equipment is outdated and not able to handle the workload you are expecting. Or, perhaps you have employees who are not pulling their weight. Even so, if everything appears to be in good running order, you may want to bring in a business improvement team to help you see things you aren’t seeing. Sometimes that’s all it takes to find a weak link – a new pair of eyes.

Use Process Improvement to Reduce Taxes and Satisfy Clients

Improving your business processes can help you operate more efficiently as a whole, which in turn will lead to tangible financial benefits. Aside from increasing efficiency, any new equipment or machinery that is purchased for the purpose of improving workflow can be deducted as a tax write-off come filing season, so the improvements can also directly reduce your tax bill.

In addition, with streamlined processes, you’ll be able to accommodate a higher volume of tasks without sacrificing quality or client satisfaction. Of course, companies that provide fast turnaround times are praised and preferred by their clients. Thus, process improvement provides a double-sided benefit by saving money on the back-end and enhancing your brand image on the front-end.

Create a Prioritized List of Mission-Critical Processes

Now that you’re prepared to invest in process improvement financially and you’re aware of the strategic benefits, you’ll want to create a comprehensive list of all mission-critical processes, starting with the most critical. Within each process, you should create a sub-list of steps that are required to complete that process. With this list written down, you’ll find it easier to formulate alternative methodologies since you won’t be keeping track of everything in your head. You should give the highest priority to processes that directly affect your financial bottom line or the quality of your products/service.

Utilize A/B Testing to Compare Multiple Process Variations

In many cases, there will be more than one viable solution for each process improvement problem, so you may want to try several approaches to determine which is the best. By taking this extra step, you’ll already be ahead of most of your competitors who would go no further than the typical steps of brainstorming and implementation. Beyond simply implementing changes, you also need to monitor and measure the results they’re producing to give yourself metrics-based feedback that can help you decide which proposed solution is the most effective.

The easiest way to complete this step is to make a list of metrics you’d like to improve and then monitor how they’re affected over the course of a week following the implementation of your process adjustment. Although this process is referred to as “A/B” testing for obvious reasons, there’s nothing stopping you from cross-comparing three or more alternative solutions in order to find the best one.

Invest in Individual Employee Efficiency

The efficiency of any process that is carried out by an employee is directly determined by that employee’s personal capabilities and productivity level. Thus, it makes sense to invest in employee training to give your workforce the knowledge needed to perform optimally. Providing specific instructions and policies for employees to follow eliminates delays and shortcomings caused by guesswork and lack of immediate guidance. With your employees properly educated and prepared, supervisors and managers won’t have to stand over their shoulder and bear the brunt of workflow interruptions caused by uncertainty and unnecessary inefficiencies.

Every Process Counts Towards the Bottom Line

Many company owners and managers don’t spend too much time focusing on micro-management, preferring instead to look at the “bigger picture”. The problem is, ignoring the small things in your company portrait will only lead to a sloppier brand image overall. Thus, it’s important to take every process seriously, as even a seemingly insignificant improvement could lead to a breakthrough that boosts profits and opportunities exponentially.

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