Step 3 – Make Your Business More Efficient
‘Productivity’ is a word we hear a lot in the news. How do you make your employees more productive? How do you improve your business’s overall productivity? Well, it boils down to efficiency.
Manage Workflow & Data Effectively
Can you build a quoting or communication system can to save you time? Getting your head around a programme such as Microsoft Excel or Outlook may seem daunting, but once you get the basics nailed down, you’ll be surprised how much time you save by collating and automatically producing/calculating things such as quotes or emails.
Getting on top of your data is important will maintain sanity and, by extension, productivity. Once you have built your first computerised system for something as small as quoting, you’ll see how much time you can save to focus on more important things. Getting rid of paper and digitising tasks will also save on space, paper and time filing/binning scrappy bits of paper!
Ideas for Improving Efficiency
- Use Microsoft Excel for organising client data, job properties and quote production
- Manage ongoing jobs with things like computerised date reminders (if you prefer to see things on paper, invest in a large wall chart)
- Use an automatic invoice generators and date reminder system to chase up clients.
Manage & Check Up on Your Staff
Your staff are your biggest asset, the little machines that can either make you a lot or cost you a lot of money. Managing your staff is a crucial part of business. If your staff are unhappy, unmotivated or hindered with their work then this will ultimately affect your bottom line.
The work environment you provide for your employees must be positive, enjoyable and professional. Sit down and review how things are with existing staff members. Is there anything you can improve on to make things more enjoyable, efficient and beneficial to your employees.
Simple things can make a huge difference to staff moral. Letting them bring their dogs in, or treating them to a coffee and snack from a local coffee shop each week can help motivate staff to get more things done.
Equally as important is to make sure staff aren’t unhappy and if so work out why. Have regular discussions with your staff to see how things are and if there is anything they are unhappy about. Allow them to be honest and take the criticisms as a positive thing to fix and repair in your business.
Don’t Be Afraid to Delegate
You simply can’t do it all yourself. Imagine if someone like Jeff Bezos (CEO of Amazon) tried to start, run and develop Amazon all by himself. It just wouldn’t have taken off. The same applies to your architecture business!
Learning to delegate is often a simple task that is difficult to do. Sometimes you like to do things your own way and you know that you are the one that can always do them correctly. Delegation is often the key to business growth as it allows you to focus on more important things.
Trusting your staff to do a task such as communicating with a client or working on a drawing is sometimes difficult – but it is often the case that the staff member recognises this new responsibility and steps up to the task. Writing down processes and training staff is sometimes required for certain tasks however the time invested in arranging this is soon paid back.
- Writing down processes that you can delegate out to others.
- Record how these tasks are completed with precises steps. Consider using videos, manuals etc.
- Take a moment to train and supervise your staff with their new task.
- Monitor their progress with the task and correct them when they go wrong, expect them to get it wrong for the first couple of times.
Company Handbook – Write Down Processes & Guidelines
A company handbook is essential to clarify to new and existing staff members the culture, rules, roles, processes and what is expected of them in your company.
At the start a company handbook will be a constantly evolving document as you add more sections to it. The eventual aim of the handbook is for it to be a ‘bible’ document that will clarify all the important elements of your business.
Key benefits include:
- Demonstrate your company values to new and existing employees
- Explain what is expected of your employees
- Communicate to your employees what they can expect back from the management of the company
- Clarify company policies and guidelines in working practises
- Formalises and explains key health & safety policies to guard against future claims.
Databases & Automation Tasks to Make Life Easier.
Carrying out simple tasks like sending invoice reminders to clients can be a time consuming process. You have to go through your records, work out how far overdue they are, type out the email and send this to the client.
Automating tasks like this can save you a lot of time. At THS Concepts we use a database system built using Zoho Creator. With minimal learning you can build a database system from which you can run your business from and automate various elements.
A simple, example database we would start with is to record client contact details, including:
- Client Name
- Telephone Number
Then create a simple form that you record invoice details on, including:
- Client Name (looked up from the contacts above).
- Job Name
- Invoice Amount
- Date due
- Has Invoice Been Paid?
The beauty of a database is that the data is interlinked. This means you can easily create reports showing things like invoices per client, clients with overdue invoices, invoices over X pounds and the like.
Once you have created your database you can then think about automation with simple email chase ups. Using your database data such as “invoice due date” and “has invoice been paid” you can create rule-based emails that automatically go out clients who haven’t paid their invoice.
The key benefit here is the time saved which allows you to focus on more important things. With invoice chasing it can also help cash flow as your system will be consistently sending emails to chase up unpaid debts.
Outsourcing Work to Others
Often outsourcing elements of your life and business make perfect financial sense. When it comes to filling your car with petrol it makes sense to outsource the process of refining the oil, transferring the petrol and placing it in your car. If you were to do something like this yourself you would face massive costs that simply don’t translate to the price of petrol you get at a petrol station.
The same principles apply to business. The hourly rate you think you are worth is often much higher than you think. If you value your time at say £30 per hour then there is little or no point to work for less than that. Take for instance cleaning your office. Instead of cleaning yourself it makes financial sense to pay someone £12.50 per hour rather than do it yourself for £30 per hour.
As an architect you may spend a fair chunk of time undertaking simple tasks such as measured building surveys and topographical surveys. The time intensity to survey, record and draw up these fairly simple processes can take a fair amount of time, is this something that can be outsourced to a surveying company? (Yes, we do mean a surveying company like THS Concepts. We’re great.)
Key benefits of outsourcing:
- Free up time to concentrate on more profitable activities
- Reduce the risks of things going wrong, the outsourcing company is taking on the risk of errors
- Increase profitability: you cant be in two places at once, outsourcing can grow your business.
Stop Emailing So Much!
Emailing colleagues and clients can take up a lot of time. Often email is like instant messaging with conversations that take an age to get simple things sorted. Get up and talk to your staff if you’re both or all in the office: it’s quicker, removes the risk of miscommunication and helps build relationships.
Consider reading your emails at set intervals per day such as 10:00 in the morning at 15:00 in the afternoon. This gives you two intervals to send and receive messages without distracting you throughout the day. If an email is really important then the sender will call or get in touch via an alternative method.
WhatsApp or Slack groups can be more useful for group communication than email threads, as they’re easier to dip into and out of, but be clear that employees aren’t expected to answer messages at the evenings or weekends. At THS Concepts, we have a couple of WhatsApp groups that save a lot of hassle when surveyors are out on jobs!