How to Build More Efficiency into Your Business

business efficiency

“How do I make my business more efficient?” is a question business owners or CEOs might ask themselves every day. While what constitutes “efficiency” might differ from one industry to the next, generally speaking, an efficient business is one that manufactures (and/or distributes) the products it sells without excessive cost, effort or waste. The result of this focus on efficiency means such businesses can afford to deploy greater resources for growth-related operations (including research and development) while keeping expenditures down and profits high.

So how can you go about building more efficiency into your business? As any TAB Business Owner Advisory Board member might tell you, look first into your own style of working and leadership (and then the rest of the business):

Get out of “reactive” mode. Too many CEOs waste valuable time and energy focusing on tasks that are urgent, but not important. “Putting out fires” shouldn’t be at the top of your job description.

Improving efficiency begins by looking closely at “where you’re losing time,” but this requires that you acknowledge “when you’re being stubborn and when you’re refusing to let go of the reins.” In other words, start delegating today.

Never hold a meeting without a specified purpose and time-limit. By and large, company meetings are inefficient. Leaders call them for vague reasons, inviting too many (and therefore, the wrong) people, and no one dares suggest the meeting should end sooner, rather than later.

Look at the possibility of convening a 15-minute “meeting of the day” where employees and/or managers can quickly describe their current work situation and then release people to go do their jobs.

Get rid of obstacles to communications. Often in a large company, there’s no centralised method for sharing valuable information, due to silos or independent divisions. Smaller businesses aren’t immune to communications obstacles either, particularly if the company culture doesn’t encourage people to share news and insights that might make overall operations more efficient.

With modern technology, there’s no excuse for not keeping everyone in the loop. Whether through video conferencing software or cloud-based intranets, don’t sacrifice efficiency due to miscommunication or other related issues.

Pay attention to employee morale. Happy employees are generally more productive and efficient employees. When you go to the trouble of hiring smart, talented people, it only makes good business sense to see that they’re well compensated, enjoy industry-standard benefits and have continuous opportunities for development.

Explore outsourcing options. Your business is very good at making and/or delivering a product or service to customers. It may not be particularly efficient in certain key operational areas, such as IT, HR, accounting, and so on.

In all these areas, outsourcing services focus on providing efficient service to client companies, and the overall costs may be less than what your business spends now internally. Imagine, for example, how much time and money might be saved if a quality job placement firm landed you the right employees for your business.

Always have a disaster management plan in place. It may not be a flood or earthquake or tsunami, but some unforeseen event can cripple your business if you don’t plan ahead. Being efficient includes contingency planning and devoting resources and information to take decisive action if a natural or man-made disaster occurs. Commit to a comprehensive analysis of specific potential threats and what you can do to mitigate them. Itemize your most valuable assets and layout crisis-management steps to keep these assets safe and secure.

And always have an emergency communications plan ready because “your ultimate priority during any crisis is to preserve the trust of your customers” and employees.

Want more advice on making your business more efficient? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!


How to Lead and Inspire Older Employees

FAN2038498It wasn’t always the case, but these days many business owners and CEOs are younger than the workforce they lead and manage. A “one-size-fits-all” leadership style is therefore likely to result in a troubled workplace environment since it fails to consider key differences in dealing with employees of the Baby Boomer generation or even with Gen-Xers.

But if you’re a young leader who truly wishes to lead and inspire your team, here are tips for bridging the generational gap and bringing out the best in your employees.

Acknowledge that differences exist.

There’s nothing to be gained by pretending a person in her twenties has the same outlook and skillset as another person in her forties or fifties. Start by recognising differences in perspectives so you can work toward coalescing different-aged employees into a cohesive team.

Don’t make assumptions.

Do you ever look at an older employee and automatically assume they’re “too old to change” or “can’t keep up with the times”? That’s prejudicial thinking and works against any leader hoping to motivate their workforce. Instead, consider the wealth of experience an older employee has and focus on his or her ability and willingness to learn new things.

Provide context for planned changes.

Yes, some older workers may resist a new company-wide initiative, if only because they’re wary of change in general. Often, this resistance stems from a lack of understanding about the “why” behind the new approach. Offering context helps answer questions and generates a fresh way of looking at a change that many older employees will embrace.

Take a flexible approach to communications.

Texting or email may be your preferred mode of expression, but you’ll have better luck reaching out in person with older staff who like face-to-face communications. Business author and speaker Ray Pelletier urges young CEOs and leaders who want to give feedback to employees to “get up from your desk and walk over to them to give it.” He adds: “The more human contact you give them, the more respect they’ll have for you.”

Don’t present yourself as “knowing it all.”

An older employee will naturally resent any young person, CEO or not, who gives off a know-it-all vibe. (Chances are, no employee of any age will warm to this leadership style.) Counter this impression by being both approachable and coachable. Take advantage of a seasoned employee’s perspective and ask questions aimed at getting beneath the surface of a workplace issue or challenge.

“Having members from different generations means more viewpoints and creativity—which gives your business an advantage—so use it,” says Nicole Laurrari, president of The EGC Group. “You can never over-communicate that everyone’s opinion and ideas count.”

You can build immense reservoirs of goodwill and trust with this approach. Employees will greatly appreciate that you value their hard-earned knowledge and will likely feel more motivated to please you.

Put them in charge of projects.

Laurrari also suggests giving a qualified older employee a leadership role in important projects. This person may not take the same approach as you would, but with their skills and experience, “they can bring viable solutions to the table that others members of the team may not have thought of.”

Invite an older employee to be a mentor.

Depending on the workplace environment, asking an older employee to mentor someone on the team might yield highly beneficial results.

You might also suggest they “present their expertise at lunch-and-learns and team meetings,” says HR professional Kazim Ladimeji. This sends the signal to younger employees that it’s worth their time to “approach more experienced workers for their insights and knowledge.”

Your chief objective as business owner and leader is to mould a team and forge strong connections between yourself and your employees. An open-minded, inclusive and sharing leadership style—aimed at everyone in the company, but especially older, wary employees—will pay off with a workforce that understands “we’re all in this together,” regardless of differences in age, perspective and experience.


The Elements of a World Class Team

Joe Zente, TAB Austin

It does not matter if we are talking about sports, music, sales, military, or business teams. The ingredients that produce great teams are identical. All world class teams have these five elements in common.

Players: A great team must start with great people. You would be hard-pressed to go to the Super Bowl without great athletes, or to produce a Broadway hit without great performers. All great players have a sense of personal responsibility. When something goes wrong on the team, they always point the finger at themselves first. When the team does well or when they receive personal accolades, they always look to congratulate others (not themselves) in a spirit of gratitude. Great players don’t only set goals and plan to win, they expect to win.

Leadership: Great leaders are multipliers. They understand that leadership applies to people and that management applies to things. Multipliers know how to inspire vigorous debate and understand that “all of us are smarter than any one of us.” They are confident in their ability to lead, but they do not believe that they are the smartest person in the room. They inspire their team to place “the elephants on the table” and to disagree without being disagreeable. They are self-aware and always “walk their talk.” Great leaders are trustworthy and know how to trust others. They are happy to admit when they are wrong or if they have made a mistake. They understand that vigorous debate trumps false agreement every time. Multipliers get people to perform far beyond their wildest imagination, attain new heights, and accomplish things they have never accomplished before. Success breeds success and belief breeds belief. They understand how to create and maintain momentum, helping everyone perform better.

Culture: Great teams possess a culture of abundance, leadership development, discipline and accountability. The leader and all of the teammates of a world class team seek to grow their slice of the pie by growing the entire pie. The leader of world class team members has no tolerance for any form of zero-sum mentality, politicking, spin, or CYA. Great cultures understand that the goals, mission and values of the team are always more important than those of any one of its players. In no way does this philosophy imply a lack of loyalty. Great teammates are extremely loyal, but will not allow any member to give anything less than their best, because poor effort by any player can do harm to the overall team mission. If a fellow teammate is dogging it, they will call them out respectfully, but directly. Players in world class culture possess optimism, but they never sugarcoat. They always face the brutal facts and deal with them head on, even if the facts don’t support their pre-determined hopes and conclusions.

Focus: Focus is a hallmark of performance, on both an individual and a team basis. Great teams work hard to keep their goals, objectives and KPIs to a minimum, permitting intense focus on only those most critical items that will produce the highest return on time and energy and the greatest overall results. They create strategies and success recipes based upon this small set of objectives, then focus intensely upon execution. Everyone understands effectiveness and efficiency. All members are constantly asking themselves the question “What ONE THING should I focus on now to provide the greatest value to the mission and produce the greatest result?” There is absolutely no tolerance for time-wasters or distractions.

Commitment to Continuous Improvement: World class team leaders and players never rest on their laurels. They are happy to celebrate their great achievements, but are never satisfied and are constantly looking to improve. They are masterful at overcoming adversity and obstacles. They recover quickly and know how to quickly get back on the horse whenever they fall off.

Even the best teams in the world don’t win all the time. Perfection is unattainable; however, the pursuit of perfection is golden. You will rarely, if ever, see a professional or college sports team go undefeated in a season. However, there are programs and leaders that seem to consistently make it to the championship or finish in the top 10% year after year. World class, consistent performers and teams understand that in most cases success is a marathon, not a sprint—a journey, not a destination. As such, players and leaders on great teams are highly committed to continuous training, coaching and development.

How does your team measure up?


Attitude Adjustment

When a part of your journey does not go as you had hoped, don’t allow it to get you down. Sure—it is disappointing, but if you allow yourself to enjoy the journey and not focus on the negatives, you will be less stressed. You will have a positive impact on your people and the outcomes you all experience.

As an example, if this disappointment is the worst thing in the world that could happen right now, force yourself to make a list of why this might be the best thing in the world for you. Adversity can often be the catalyst to bring about the very change you needed at that moment.


Successors for Success

When you begin to plan your exit from your business, you might consider separating the ownership decision from the delegation decision. Some business owners put the proverbial cart before the horse and try to sell before they have a potential successor in place.

If you hire or develop a skilled successor, you will do more than ensure the viability of your business for a successful sale. By spending the energy to leave the company in good hands through the creation of a valuable business asset, you’ll increase the options created for your exit. In the long run, you will have time, and likely the money, to enjoy life more fully. You can entertain higher offers on your business due to the additional options you have created, and your staff will appreciate that you took care of the big picture before riding into the sunset.