Your business is flourishing. Things are getting busier and every minute of your day counts. You’ve got the right technology in place and are working as hard as you can but you’re still not getting through everything, business flow is clunky and everything is just not quite working how it should.
You’ve become a victim of your own success. You’ve been concentrating on the big picture and your building blocks – the foundations of your business have got a little lost and forgotten inhibiting your ability to scale.
This is something we see frequently, and its easily fixed. Heres 5 key areas you need to have working seamlessly for a truly productive business.
Document Management (Stay with me!)
Ineffective document management can lead to extensive frustration and lost time. Its really not the most fun or interesting topic to talk about bit it is integral to your personal and business productivity
Think about how long you spend looking for documents, trying to figure out the latest version when there’s multiple copies with random file names. Worse still – you can’t find the document you’re looking for and end up re-creating. Just how long does this take you on a daily and weekly basis?
So what do we need to do to get it right?
- Ensure your filing structure is clear and logical – think about replicating your old paper filing system
- Where you have like sub folders, i.e. clients, structure these in the same way to allow everyone to seamlessly navigate and find what they’re looking for.
Set guidelines for your filing structure so that when anyone need to create a new folder (such as client folder), all the sub folders are defined, replicated and ready to use.
- Develop document branding guidelines so every internal document has the same look and feel and you don’t waste time re-formatting.
- Your guidelines should include preferred font name & size for different header levels and paragraphs, preferred structure for footers and information to be included, colour codes to match logo fonts and position of logo (and if you have multiple logos – which one) on the page.
- Ensure that you use the styles feature in your document platform to make formatting quick and easy – if you’re not sure how this works, jump onto You Tube and view a quick tutorial. Invest 15 minutes in learning how and you will gain that back for every document you create.
- Create naming guidelines & use version control when creating and updating your documents. This will allow you to easily locate the exact document and version you’re looking for as your have structure around the naming convention and not a bunch of random file names. Theres lots of naming conventions around but a simple one I use is:
- Doc name year month date v1 i.e. Proposal_ABCCo_20180831. When sending documents to a client I will edit the name to something simpler.
- Create templates for frequently used documents such as your proposal, client research, client meetings etc.
- Ensure you save the document file extension as a template (.dotx in Word) so that it opens as a new document each time. If you save as a normal document and file / save as each time you’re at risk of losing formatting and previous document versions.
- Share these templates across the business so that everyone has access.
Moving from a messy filing system to structured will save you many hours over a week – time that can be spend on selling, creating & delivering.
If your current system is a dogs breakfast, don’t waste time re-filing and re-sorting all your old documents – it will be a waste of time. Simply create a new and effective system, pull existing files into your new system when you need them and sustain your new filing habits.
Email Management (the bane of a business owners life)
In my opinion, email is one of the biggest time wasters there is in business. Its old and inefficient technology that’s become ingrained in our lives and given us bad habits.
For example: you receive and email while waiting for a coffee, you browse it on your phone. You look at it again via your PC when you’re back at your desk and perhaps on the 3rd view will action. When you’re repeating this 30 – 50 times per day, how much time are you losing?
How can you be more effective with email?
Stop browsing your messages and thinking I’ll do that later – develop a system that works for you
- Action immediately
- Process the email and ‘Do’ (complete the task immediately, pop it into a ‘read later’ folder if its information to consume, save information into your client folder, or schedule via your task / project management platform), ‘delegate’ (delegate or outsource the task) or ’delete’ (delete or archive the email)
Or, if that process doesn’t work for you:
- Create 3 folders
- Read, action and waiting then process your in box into these folders to work from.
Reduce the amount of email landing in your inbox:
- Use your business email for business – keep personal separate.
- Use the rules & filter features available through your email client and train your email to put certain emails direct into certain folders i.e. articles you want to read into a read later folder. These emails will by pass your in box, reduce the volume received and also your overwhelm.
- If you’ve signed up for many marketing messages, use an email plug in such as unroll.me. This will allow you to roll up the marketing emails received and bulk action.
Automate information flow:
- Research the plug ins and add ons which are available for your email platform (Tip – you’re really going to need Google Apps or Office 365) that will make your email more effective
- Install the plug ins for your CRM & Project Software. This will allow you to automate data entry of new contacts and leads and create tasks & projects from within email platform eliminating manual input and human error.
- Use a text expander platform or canned responses / templates to define frequent communications and eliminate the need to create time and time again.
Technology Management (its not as scary as it seems)
When it comes to technology alot of business owners shudder – they don’t want to know about it they just want it to work. The good news is, pretty much all technology nowadays is plug & play (or pay and play)
If you use one of the main email & calendar platforms the other platforms you use are simple to integrate and many of the cloud based platforms are designed to connect with each other with just a few clicks. Generally anyone can do it.
Our top tips to help you manage your technology.
- Ensure your devices are set up correctly, make sure your email, calendar and cloud file storage seamlessly update across your mobile and other devices. Once you have this in place, you’ll be able to work from anywhere and life really will become easier.
- Make sure your data is backed up. I cannot stress this enough. Ensure that your website and file data is backed up daily (even if its in the cloud). You can automate the daily back up: set it up once and check periodically its working. There is nothing worse than losing your data. It could potentially cost you your business.
- Consider using a password manager like Last Pass or One Pass. This will save you a huge amount of time finding and re-setting passwords and means that your data is pre-filled. Another benefit is that you can securely share passwords: I share logs ins with my offshore staff without them ever viewing the actual password. If the relationship ends for any reason, I can revoke access with one click and not have the task of updating passwords for each and every platform we use.
- Install your computer updates – you know those annoying updates that pop up and you quickly close? These updates are not only security updates but they also help with speed and efficiency of your operating system and software.
Knowledge Share & Communication
Whether you’re working with a team of 20 or a team of 2, (or if you’re planning on developing a team around you), streamline knowledge share is essential.
You need your people to be able to find exactly what they need to know quickly and easily and it needs to have context so its not mis interpreted.
Are you equipping your team for success?
- Have you developed business guidelines for employees and contractors? Your guidelines will share information around what your expectations of them are, what they can expect from you, how you work with clients etc. Sharing this information allows everyone to be fully informed of the business values and principles and will contribute to the flow of your business and overall productivity.
- Do you have a resource centre (maybe an intranet) that houses your internal policies and guidelines? Is there a location where staff can find information about internal business policies, resource documents and internal guidelines?
- How do you share updates about the business goals, wins and losses? Having your team on the same page, working towards common goals massively increases overall business productivity.
What tools are you using in your business to communicate internally? Many businesses are still reliant on email (which only contributes to the avalanche of daily messages), so what else could you be using?
- Chat & messenger platforms facilitate quick conversations, you may choose to use something you’ve already got in place like Skype, Google Chat or similar.
- If you have a larger team working on different projects you may want to look at Slack or similar platforms which allow for conversation channels specific to topics or projects and have search capability for easy information retrieval.
- Your project platform may also have message or conversation capability – this can be great for specific conversations around particular tasks or projects as there is immediate context to the conversation and application of information.
Personal Productivity (the holy grail of effective working)
There are hundreds of books and thousands of articles on this subject. Its important to remember that not everything works for every body, you need to find the tips and hacks that fit with your style of working. Here’s a few (that although are well known), work for many.
- Match your energy to task
- An exercise I’ve found helpful is mapping your energy levels throughout the day and identifying when is best for you to complete certain tasks.
- When energy is high focus on tasks that require creative and strategic thinking
- When energy levels decrease, focus on tasks that create momentum and when energy is low complete tasks that require less brain power
- By understanding how your circadian rhythms work you can leverage your time in a more productive manner: you’ll elevate the quality and quantity of your work and will achieve more with less effort.
- Plan your day night before, you’ll be able to start the day with purpose and focus instead of wasting the first 30 minutes (which are usually prime working time) on mapping out your day.
- Schedule time to implement. Don’t stack your day with back to back meetings, you need to plan time to actually do the work. Schedule time to delegate & plan after meetings so that stay on top of what needs to be done.
- Identify your ‘non negotiable’, ‘must do’ tasks for the day ( 1 – 3 usually works). If possible, complete first thing in the morning to give you a sense of accomplishment and help get your day into flow. Whatever happens, commit to yourself that these tasks will get done before you leave for the day.
- Carve out focus time during your day. Turn off everything, tell your colleagues you are unavailable and give yourself time to focus on the one thing that needs your attention. If you are able to enjoy focus time each day – you’ll be amazed at your increased productivity levels.
The tips we’ve shared are just a taste of how you can help build your business foundations, improve productivity and get ready to scale.
Work through those that are relevant to your business & let us know your progress.