6 tips to streamline your business process and achieve success
Proven tips for business owners to introduce automation into their workflows and streamline their business process.
10 August 2021 · 8 min read
Many business owners brag about burning the midnight oil all week long; logging 80-hours per week to move their business forward. While there’s nothing wrong with putting in the extra effort to ensure that the business is operating as intended, the fact is working that much sucks. More importantly, it doesn’t have to be this way.
By taking a few simple steps to streamline business processes and operations, these entrepreneurs can become more efficient with their time and achieve greater success.
This article unpacks some proven tips for business owners to introduce automation into their workflows and implement streamlined processes for improved efficiency across the board. Let’s dive in!
What does it mean to streamline business operations and processes?
Streamlining is just another word for simplifying. So when we talk about streamlining business processes, it means looking for ways to simplify or eliminate inefficiencies in work-related tasks. This generally involves taking advantage of technology, modern business management techniques, and generous amounts of ‘outside the box’ thinking.
While the digital age has made starting a business become much easier in recent times, running the business profitably presents its own unique set of challenges every step of the way. For example, marketing is a lot different now than it was a few years back. It’s the same case with supply management, hiring, bookkeeping, project management, and many other facets of business operations.
For many business owners, this means it’s harder to take decisive action towards achieving success. This is especially true for solopreneurs who pretty much have to handle every task themselves. Under these circumstances and the possibility of even more challenges down the line, it is crucial that business owners streamline their work processes and strive for maximum efficiency.
Another important aspect of streamlining business processes is the commitment to continuous improvement. As a business owner, you cannot afford to get too comfortable with a particular business process or workflow. Over time, new processes will need to be introduced to keep up with changing circumstances, as was the case when the COVID-19 pandemic rocked the globe in 2020.
What are the main benefits of streamlining business processes and workflows?
Streamlined processes present a number of great benefits for organizations and help entrepreneurs have better control over their business. These benefits include:
Improving productivity is one of the main goals of any business. By simplifying how you and your employees get work done, you can reduce or even cut out instances of inefficiencies and missed deadlines. Streamlining workflows also helps provide team members with a more accurate idea of what’s expected of them. Eliminating unnecessary steps enables them to focus more on the delivery quality output.
Better time management
Streamlining means identifying and eliminating bottlenecks, thereby saving time and ensuring tasks are completed faster. With fewer tedious tasks on your plate, you will likely be able to have better control over your available time. In today’s fast-paced and highly competitive business landscape, having some free time is a luxury very few can afford. Even if it’s something as little as buffer-time in between tasks, it’s still a huge advantage for your organization.
Process automation, whether through software solutions or modern management systems, can eliminate overheads and improve your company’s bottom line. For example, imagine how much money you can save on paper and postal services when you automate your invoicing process and handle everything digitally. Almost every aspect of business management can benefit from automation. And whatever money you save can then be allocated to other pressing areas in your business.
The cost of poor communication in the workplace isn’t measured in dollars alone but also in time wasted. Results from a 2017 survey published on GlobeNewswire show that up to 15% of work hours are wasted on inefficient communications. This may not be an alarming statistic for small businesses, but for organizations with over 500 employees, the dollar value of that waste can reach over $5 million per year.
Streamlining business processes is a great way to improve communications among team members and their supervisors. Tasks can be tracked online, while notifications and reminders can be automated. Most project management systems also feature built-in communication tools like instant chat, so it’s easier to get your message across to anyone without leaving your workstation.
Businesses with streamlined processes tend to have more transparency in their operations and workflows. Modern management systems help provide greater visibility into processes, which can lead to reduced errors, missed deadlines, and redundant work. Since these systems typically have clearly documented procedures, they can also result in improved accountability and simplified employee onboarding.
Which business processes should you streamline first?
Every organization has a plethora of business processes and workflows that they can streamline. Under ideal conditions, every aspect of business operations should be streamlined until you achieve maximum efficiency across the board.
The reality, however, is quite different. Amid limited resources and an ever-evolving landscape, business owners must learn to prioritize what work processes and operations they can afford to optimize at that time.
The best way to do that is to outline all the business processes and workflows in your organization. Categorize them by the department and rank them by importance. Evaluate each one and identify any inefficiencies — unsatisfied customers, rising expenses, low output, missed deadlines, ineffectual time management, and so on.
Most organizations focus their process improvement efforts on areas that deal with revenue generation and customer satisfaction. It’s up to you to decide what focus areas to prioritize. Whatever you choose, take the time to consider how it will impact your bottom line along with the expected return on investment.
Our top 6 tips for streamlining your business processes and workflows
1. Map the process
Once you’ve determined which business processes you want to simplify, document each step, so you know exactly what the process consists of and how to implement the needed changes. Attention to detail is essential here as some processes are broad and may contain sub-steps that will need to be tweaked.
Process mapping doesn’t have to be complicated. You can simply use a pen and paper to document the steps and get a top-down view of the process. That being said, the fact that you’re using a physical document means it’s harder to share with team members and collaborate on. You can also use flowchart software or a dedicated workflow management system to set up the process mapping. These are generally easier to use, especially if you have a large organization. Plus, they offer useful features such as the ability to make large-scale modifications and track work in real-time.
One important tip here is to make sure that you involve people who use these processes regularly. These people may know the process better than you, so their input will definitely come in handy. For example, if you’re looking to streamline your invoicing process, then make sure to get input from your finance/accounting team members.
2. Seek to automate as many repetitive tasks as possible
In most organizations, there’s no shortage of repetitive, mind-numbing tasks. Preparing invoices, scheduling blog posts, manual data entry, sending payment reminders — these are just a few examples of repetitive tasks that can benefit from automation.
The main problem with these types of tasks is that they’re time-wasting. And in most cases, they’re not even billable. Plus, these tasks often require different skills. So you and your team members are basically doing work you don’t enjoy with no direct impact on the company’s bottom line.
Utilizing automation tools can help you drastically slash down on your workload. This allows you to focus your time on productive activities. For example, if you’re struggling with posting content on your special media pages, you can use an automation tool like Buffer or HootSuite to automate the scheduling and posting. These tools allow you to schedule posts for weeks or months in advance. You can also set up automated email campaigns with good customer relationship management (CRM) software. This saves you time in crafting new emails and sending follow-ups.
The good news is that there’s likely an automation tool for every business process. So it’s simply a matter of finding them and using them to transform your workday.
3. Outsource what you can
There’s no reason to take on all the business-related tasks on your own. Get certain tasks or processes completely off your plate by outsourcing them to people who know how to get the job done. The main benefit is that you can get more done in less time.
Not only is this a great way to streamline your business processes, but it can also reduce your overall expenses. The costs of hiring a freelancer or independent contractor are generally lower than the costs of hiring an employee, whether full-time or part-time. You’re simply paying for the service rendered or task completed. Whereas with an employee, you have to pay certain benefits and deal with tax-related paperwork.
Some of the most common tasks or work processes that you can outsource include administrative tasks, content marketing, website maintenance, lead generation, and basically any task that you shouldn’t be doing yourself and can’t be handled by an automation tool. Remember to do your due diligence and thoroughly vet potential contractors before onboarding them. The quickest way is to have them provide a portfolio of their completed projects so you can immediately see if they fit the bill of what you need.
4. Motivate and empower your employees
Sometimes it’s not about streamlining a particular workflow or process. It could just be that your employees are demotivated and are therefore only putting in the minimum required effort on the job. There are many reasons for low motivation levels among employees. It could be that they’re being asked to take on new tasks with no training provided. Or maybe the compensation package is no longer attractive. It could also be stress caused by external factors.
For example, over 69% of employees in the U.S. blamed their increased stress levels on the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed that period was one of the most stressful times in modern history as uncertainty loomed across the horizon. In any case, empowering your employees and keeping their morale up will go a long way in improving the time and cost efficiencies of your business.
In fact, contrary to popular opinion, your primary focus as a business owner should be to take good care of your employees. In turn, they will take good care of your business. Offer them competitive rates, foster a positive work environment for them, and let them enjoy perks, like flexible schedules and remote working arrangements. These can improve motivation all around and ensure that they keep working for you with enthusiasm.
5. Analyze outcomes and expectations
Streamlining processes and revamping workflows can often be an extensive affair. It’s important to have a clear understanding of the potential outcome of these changes. In some cases, you might even discover that streamlining certain business operations is not worth the effort as the expected ROI simply doesn’t measure up to the cost of the initial outlay.
Think about how these changes will impact the dynamics of your team as well. For instance, if you’re investing in automation tools, it’s likely that you’ll need to let go of some of your staff since their work will now be done by software. If you fire too many people within the same period, morale is likely to suffer, as your employees will be left wondering if they’re the next to get the boot.
6. Plan for the long term
It might take a while to fully implement new and improved business processes in your company. Don’t expect it to happen overnight. Take things slow and implement your changes gradually. It may also take time to get your team members up to speed on the new processes. Make sure your management team is on board with the streamlining efforts, and be sure to ask for feedback from all stakeholders.
Remember also that there’s no perfect process, so it’s important to focus on continuous improvement. Leave room for growth and changes in your development process. The last thing you want is to spend a couple of weeks or months streamlining a particular business process only to realize that it’s not bringing the intended results, and now you don’t have the resources to make the necessary adjustments.
Streamline your business processes with B12 today!
B12 offers a number of powerful solutions that you can use to streamline various aspects of your business operations. First off, our team of design experts can bring your business online in as little as two weeks through our AI-powered web design services. If you think that’s impressive, wait till you see what’s under the hood.
Our websites include built-in business process management (BPM) tools, such as a streamlined billing and invoicing system, an online scheduling software, and a state-of-the-art contact management tool. You can also entrust your business’s marketing needs like SEO, copywriting, blogging, analytics tracking, and more to us. The B12 team works tirelessly to deliver quality results for our clients. Sign up today to get started, and let us help you streamline your business processes to achieve greater success.