Build Your Dream with these Efficiency Tactics

Building Your Dream Business

You’ve worked hard for your dream business. You love it. You grow it. You’ve created a community of people to help it thrive.

But are you running efficiently?

Efficient processes can churn out the most precious of gifts for SMBs—time, money, and a valuable competitive edge. An inefficient process, however, can devour resources and make everyone miserable.  

Take a look at bill payment—how many steps does it take to get a paper check into a vendor’s hands? Seems like it wouldn’t take many, but that’s so very wrong.

These are the 6 efficiency tactics you need to implement to build the business of your dreams.

1. Commit time.

This may sound obvious, but it’s necessary. When you block off time to devote to building efficiency, you’re acknowledging the need for it and prioritizing it. It means you move from complaining about a problem (or denying it) to actually solving it. Block off time on your calendar—even if it’s just 10 minutes a day.

2. Identify processes.

You know what processes give you a migraine. Or you at least have a vague idea. Make a list. Talk to employees about improvements they’d like to see and why. Then prioritize. You don’t have to refine every process at once, and you don’t have to do it overnight. You can start small, get some efficiency experience built up and go from there.

3. Document.

You can’t improve processes if you don’t understand them. Documentation is key. What’s the current workflow? Who is involved? How long does it take to finish from beginning to end? What are the pain points? This not only lays everything out but also exposes the parts of it that can benefit from efficiency.

And as an important bonus, the documentation will give you a baseline for measurement. You can’t track the impact if you don’t know what it looked like before.

Let’s use bill payment as an example—these are the sample questions you need to ask:

  • How many bills are paid a month?
  • Who are the vendors?
  • How are bills paid? Via paper checks? ACH transfers? EFTs?
  • Is the company getting hit with late fees for slow payments?
  • Who receives the bills and how do they receive them? (for example—by mail, by email, via a portal, etc.)
  • How do they get reviewed and who reviews them?
  • Does the review process change based on the amount of the bill or the vendor involved? Why?
  • Do you have too many—or too few—reviewers?
  • How long does it take a bill to get paid from beginning to end?
  • How much time does it take employees to complete the bill payment process?
  • Is the same person approving the bill also paying the bill?

4. Let technology do the heavy lifting.

Use technology to automate manual steps, and you immediately gain efficiency. Apps and solutions exist for almost any irksome project.

Here’s an idea of how automation would work in the bill payment process with Before, your bill payment approval process might look something like this:

  • An invoice arrives on your desk.
  • You take it to accounting.
  • They give it a cursory review.
  • They then determine the workflow for approval and …
  • … walk the invoice over to the next person for review.
  • The person forgets to review it.
  • The first person has to remind them.
  • The person forgets again.
  • The first person has to remind them … again.
  • The person reviews it and then hands it over to the next person to review.
  • That person reviews and then has questions about it. They send the question to the first person for answering.
  • The first person has to dig through filing cabinets of past payments and contracts to answer the question.
  • Worst case scenario, if they don’t have the information they have to call the vendor for guidance.
  • They then email an answer to the person asking.
  • That person provides the final approval for payment.

And we haven’t even touched on getting the payment out the door. 

With, the process looks like more like this:

  • An invoice arrives in
  • evaluates it against corporate guidelines and determines its review workflow.
  • It sends the invoice to the authorized first person to review via an email notice.
  • The person clicks the link in the email or visits the mobile app, reviews the invoice and approves it.
  • The bill automatically moves to the next designated person.
  • That person approves it, and it is routed for online payment via ACH transfer, EFT, eChecks, credit card payment and more.
  • The person authorized to release payment clicks ok and sends the payment.

You control the process by setting guidelines and workflows, and enforces them. It simplifies employee interactions from shuffling papers back and forth to a few efficient clicks.

5. Standardize, standardize, standardize.

Everyone needs to use the same technology. Follow the changes to the processes. It doesn’t invite efficiency if one employee out of five refuses.

When you share the revised process and technologies that support them, you need to provide training to get everyone up-to-speed and on-board. Then, run the updated process and release the proverbial hounds!

Once you’ve standardized, you set the stage for scaling. That way, when you grow and more people and activities arrive, you can easily accommodate them.

6. Measure.

Try to gauge how your new efficiencies impact your operations. Can you track time savings or determine the amount of money you are saving?

With bill payment, you can look at indicators such as:

  • Decreased amount (or no) late vendor payment fees
  • Less staff time needed to handle bill payment
  • Increased speed of process overall
  • Reduction of money spent on supplies such as printer cartridges, check stock, envelopes, etc.
  • Easier access to bill payment information (online document management, mobile access) and how that increases convenience

Remember: the hunt for efficiency never ends. Once you have an efficient process, there’s eventually room to refine it as companies evolve. Set a time to review the new processes on an annual basis (at a minimum) so you can identify ways to cultivate more efficiency.

These 6 efficiency steps will make your dream job more, well, dreamy.

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October 26, 2017