When you only have a handful of employees, you need to make sure that they’re all doing their jobs efficiently to keep your business running profitably. One of the great challenges in that is that many businesses have their team stretched pretty thin. We have gone through the era of trying to “do more with less”, and in many cases is really means we have people wearing multiple hats, working long hours, working under pressure and not leaving us with capacity to grow.
The current job market makes this an even greater challenge. Finding talented and motivated help, with the right experience and work ethic, for what you can afford to pay is no easy task. Many positions remain unfilled. Otherwise, you settle for the best available candidate, accept less productivity or the business owner picks up the slack – often at the expense of other responsibilities.
One remedy for this issue and these challenges is process improvement. In most businesses there are many, many process. We have processes for marketing, lead generation, sales, ordering, delivery of service, customer service, accounting and others. Most processes (as opposed to tasks) involve a series of steps and multiple staff members. And embedded in all of these processes is “waste”. It is the elimination of that “waste” that offers the greatest opportunity to get much more done with the staff you already have.
So what is waste in a process? It is really any step in the process, any time spent or resource used that does not add value to the customer. When we tell a customer how long a process takes, we need to recognize that the whole process includes much more time and resource than those steps that the client really values – or cares about. Years ago, when I had my accounting practice, I might have told a client that I would get their taxes done in a week. But the reality is very little of that week was actually working on that tax return. During that time there was waiting, discussing it with staff, asking for missing information, double or triple checking the return, may reprinting something that was not initially correct, and other steps. All of those non-value added activities need to be reviewed and analyzed to determine what it would take to lessen them or eliminate them.
The result of that effort is generally less time to complete projects, less cost to the company, less stress to the employee, better flow of projects and money and happier clients. With so many processes, stiff competition and limited staff, continuous improvement efforts can allow a business to increase employee productivity, and everybody wins!!!