As you dive ever deeper into the complex world of small business operations, there are dozens of buzzwords that are being thrown at you as constantly as the fires that you need to put out every day. ‘Incentivise’. ‘Synergy’. ‘Bandwidth’. Enough!
But here’s one you really do need to get your head around in a hurry: ‘Streamlining’.
It sounds just as buzzword-y as the others, but it really does get to the core of what you’re trying to do — run your business as simply and efficiently as possible by trimming fat, perfecting processes and maximising profits. And if you’re really lucky, with time to spare for a calm and crisp glass of wine at the end of the day.
How to get there may seem difficult, but ‘streamlining’ really does lose its obscure buzzword status once you understand the four ways in which it fundamentally occurs.
1. The Vision
If your business does not have a well devised long-term plan, the good news is that it’s not too late.
But why is it the necessary first step when you’re trying to streamline? It’s because the long-term plan is simply a recognition that while all of your processes may have specific purposes, they also all have an overarching goal.
Once that fundamental goal is basically clear, it’s easier to see how your processes might map out more of a straight line from the present day to the longer-term future rather than zig-zag and deviate at a whim from here until eternity, killing time and adding unnecessary complexity along the way.
2. The Analysing
Your existing ‘business processes’ can actually seem like a single monolith that’s hard to get your head around, but never lose sight of the fact that it’s actually just a collection of everyday jobs and tasks.
The reason it all gets confusing and lumped into one is for that very reason — businesses aren’t doing enough analysis of the steps taken on the way to (hopefully) turning a profit.
So the first thing to do when you’re trying to manage your business processes is actually to understand what they are — which means identifying them one by one and writing them down in a way that makes clear sense. That very process of ‘taking stock’ will usually highlight tasks that can be improved, outsourced, or eliminated altogether.
3. The Automation
If yours is like many small businesses, a big chunk of your processes have all of the following features: they’re fairly simple, they need to be repeated over and over again, and they’re time consuming. And that’s exactly when the advantages of automation really shine.
A wide range of industries look set to be affected by automation as the technology becomes available — but though it may change the landscape, it highlights the real human value in a role. Accounting is one such example. With the creation of specialised software, such as SMSF accounting software, the time hungry process of completing audits has been streamlined, leaving more time for accountants to spend with their clients.
The big benefit of automating the things that are otherwise done manually is that they will get done more productively and effectively — with the added bonus of reliability, ‘up-time’ and the eradication of errors as the cherry on the cake.
And once set up, automated processes happen cheaply, and administrating them is hopefully just a matter of a couple of clicks — leaving your leaner workforce free to do the things that really do add value in other key areas of your business.
4. The Outsourcing
Earlier, we discussed that in the analytical phase of streamlining, you will almost certainly identify processes that can be improved, eliminated or outsourced. Improved or eliminated processes are nice and simple, but outsourcing can have the added benefit of not just trimming a little fat or saving a bit of time and money, but actually supercharging your business in the process.
In a nutshell, it means taking a process — or a series of processes — out of the in-house functions of a business and delegating it to a third party or agency.
Take outsourced bookkeeping as an example — and then count the ways in which delegating those bookkeeping services can help you grow a small business. You save time and money in the form of staff and office space. And you then benefit from the education, experience, wisdom and technology used by your online bookkeeping service.
Deciding to outsource payroll services can have a similar supercharging effect. Most accounting experts agree that the typical small business is not well equipped for the demands and complexities of payroll services — and if they are, they’re paying for that dearly by keeping it in-house and constantly keeping up with the industry trends and tech.
Done right, outsourcing time consuming roles such as bookkeeping saves time, money, leverages the benefits of expertise and state of the art technology, ensures mistakes and laws are not breached — and so much more.
Streamlining business operations is now accessible to everyone.
Even if a business is going through good times, the Catch-22 can often be that as growth unfolds apace, those business processes became ever more numerous, complex, cumbersome and inefficient. So of all those annoying business buzzwords, it’s ‘streamlining’ that really is the best and often only route to simplification, efficiency, productivity and — above all — profitability.
From automating an everyday task to considering outsourced bookkeeping or payroll services with Befree, each of these four main areas of streamlining is a treasure-trove of potential business processes that can be done better, smarter, faster or cheaper — or all at the same time.