The following is a guest post from Randall Davidson of Audio Transcription, a transcription service.
During the recession, businesses had to figure out how to do more with less. One investment many small businesses didn’t consider was investing in productivity training for their workforces. By teaching time management tips to your employees and learning some yourself, your business can attain that elusive goal of doing “more with less”—in good economic times and in bad.
- Always put a time frame on your questions to coworkers. Ask, “Do you have 20 seconds? I just need to ask you a short question.” That way, your coworkers will know the “size” of your request and will be far more willing to entertain your question, as opposed to having to ask them several times or having to schedule a meeting with them, both of which waste time.
- Anytime you’re considering integrating a new system into your business, consider whether or not that system’s data will sync with other systems. For instance, you don’t want to use an invoicing system that won’t sync with your accounting tools. That would mean you would need to manually move data between two systems, which will lead to a lot of wasted time.
- Be blunt and to the point without being disrespectful. If you make it known regularly that you care about your employees, they’ll understand if you take a more direct than usual approach to dealing with business issues. Don’t beat around the bush if you can avoid it.
- Delegate. Delegate. Delegate.
- Don’t track truly unnecessary data. While you can track your operations from every which angle, as soon as you think of a new piece of data you want to track (i.e. sales of a particular product on Wednesdays), unless the tracking of this data is 100% automated, always wait at least a week before delegating the tracking of this data. There’s often a huge operational cost to tracking data and waiting a week will cause you to stop and reevaluate just how important collecting that data is to you (often you’ll find you don’t really need this data).
- Consider completing your legal paperwork quickly with legal assistance websites like LegalZoom.com. Websites like these allow you to take care of your routine legal documentation needs (like incorporating a company, filing for a trademark, etc.) for a fraction of the price of hiring your own lawyer. The forms are easy enough to fill out that you’ll likely save a lot of time compared to shuffling to and from a law firm. Though there’s no substitute for the professional help offered by a trained attorney, because of time and money constraints, such help is not an option for all small businesses (especially those just getting started).
- If you’re involved in management (not customer service or sales), don’t answer your phone. Have callers leave a message and have one of your employees screen the voicemails.
- Encourage your employees to write internal emails only using bullet points. This not only makes emails quicker to write and read, but it illuminates the main points of the emails.
- Explore how form letters can play a time-saving role in your organization. Can 50% of your customer inquires be answered with boilerplate letters? If so, start using canned responses to respond to frequent customer concerns. A customer service FAQ will also save you a great deal of time.
- For simple graphic design work, go with a graphic design company like 20dollarbanners.com that has a very defined purpose and a streamlined process. Don’t solicit bids from lots of different designers and review their past work. Another way to save time sourcing your graphic designer is to go with a graphic design crowdsourcing company like 99Designs.com, a website on which you submit your graphic design needs and designers submit their work. You only pay for the one you select (and you don’t pay anything if you don’t select anything).
- Purchase cash registers that automatically disperse the correct amount of change.
- Get to know the programmers in your organization. Anytime you’re carrying out a repetitive computer action (i.e. a lot of copying and pasting), ask your friend if there might be a quick way to write a script to perform the action.
- Learn everything you can about crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing can be illustrated by the idea that instead of having one person do 100,000 tasks, you could have 100,000 people do one task each. The leading crowdsourcing websites are Mturk.com (Amazon’s crowdsourcing service) and CrowdFlower.com. I’d be surprised if there wasn’t a way that you could integrate crowdsourcing as a time-saving element of your work flows.
- Tackle problems head on. Never assume a problem (with an unproductive employee or an irresponsible vendor) is ever going to just fix itself. Deal with it early, because these problems just tend to grow otherwise.
- Be sure that you’ve given your employees the power to make routine decisions.
Randall Davidson is the lead project manager at Audio Transcription, a small business and general transcription company. With a client base that is very deadline-sensitive, Randall and his team integrate many of these tips into their daily operations. Of the various transcription services offered by Audio Transcription, small businesses tend to utilize Audio Transcription’s business transcription services in order to save time.