With only four months left in the year, many business owners are looking for ways to finish strong to make sure they end the year on the profitable side of the balance sheet. Over the course of the nearly 40 years of my career, I’ve learned that Benjamin Franklin was right, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” In other words, there are profits to be captured by making your business work more efficiently—or you might be able to consider the idea that efficiency is strength.
As a leader, finding ways to streamline processes, remove roadblocks, and facilitate your employee’s abilities to do their jobs makes them more efficient; and your business more profitable.
For example, early in my career I worked in my father’s industrial supply business. He sold bolts, nuts, and other hardware to manufacturers and industrial construction companies. On an almost daily basis, we would often cut bar stock to size for our customers, sometimes several hundred cuts at a time. In the early days, we used an abrasive wheel and a chop saw (a time-consuming and dirty job). It wasn’t very efficient and nobody liked the job, so we all avoided it as much as we could—which wasn’t very productive.
Although the chop saw seemed like a cheap way to get the job done, the day we bought a large band saw we could adjust to cut the material to the right size and automatically feed the stock to be cut, was a day for celebration. Now, instead of standing at the chop saw, we could start the job, the saw would feed the stock to the proper size, and all we had to do was keep it filled with material to cut. Not only that, we didn’t have to breath the dust from the abrasive wheel, we stopped avoiding those jobs, and we could do other things while the band saw did its job. It made things a lot more efficient.
The band saw made things so much easier, it was hard to imagine why we went so long with the old chop saw.
Big Results Through Small and Incremental Efficiency Efforts
Most of the time, it doesn’t require, what we felt like was a big change, (like the band saw) to generate efficiencies that have a big impact. Most of the time, small, incremental, and sometimes very minor efforts can yield very big results.
For this reason, I’m a big proponent of in-service training programs that leverage employee’s experiences and expertise that can help everyone be more efficient. In my current role, I spend a lot of time behind a personal computer; something that didn’t even exist when I started my career. This kind of sounds ridiculous as I write it, but I remember how difficult it was to learn how to use something as simple as a program like Microsoft Word, Excel, or PowerPoint when they first came out—now I don’t think I could do my job without them.
Over the years, I’ve learned numerous shortcuts that make me much more efficient in how I use the software. Some of those shortcuts I figured out on my own (a very inefficient way to do it), but most were shared with me by people who already knew. My more experienced colleagues were a great source of information that helped me be better at whatever my job was at the time. And, because we were sharing information, I had noticed and picked up a skill or two that benefitted them.
With that in mind, here are three things, that might appear small and insignificant, that you can do to help your employees be more efficient, your business more profitable, and end your year strong:
- Look at your office, your shop, or your workspace: Sometimes something as simple as changing the way desks fit together, or the way tool boxes are situated, or the way the work space is generally set up can make a difference. For example, we had everything we needed to weigh, count, measure, and box materials for shipment all in the same place and all together so preparing an order for shipment was easier. This part of the warehouse was also near the door, so it was easier to get it on the truck when it came to pick up. What can you do in your business to make the workspace more efficient?
- Make sure your employees have the right tools: I admit I am somewhat of a tool nerd. I’ve found, as an amateur and self-taught motorcycle mechanic, that having the right tool for the job makes it a lot easier and faster to get the job done. Do your employees have the tools they need to be efficient? It could be something as simple as a more robust Internet connection if your business is online or a well-stocked closet of office supplies—or maybe even that specialty tool for compressing the spring on a motorcycle clutch.
- Do you encourage and reward employees for finding ways to improve what they’re doing? I’m convinced that those closest to the work tend to understand it the best. As a result, during the course of the day they often notice things that would make their jobs easier and more efficient. If you have an employee or two who have the same suggestion, it could be worth considering make a change (if needed). What’s more, offering a reward to employees who bring forward ideas that can help your business be more efficient and profitable—or even stronger, is an even better idea.
Looking over the list, these are things you may have even heard before, but in the spirit of small things that can have a big potential impact, don’t ignore them because you’ve heard them before. See if there are ways to make small and incremental improvements in how you do business that will make your business more efficient and more profitable.