Time management: Five quick wins for SMEs

In a busy, growing business, being efficient with your time is easier said than done. The best starting point is to know where to look for insights within the business, and ensure that you have the right tools in place to support you and your teams.

Lucy Fox, general manager for UK Cloud Solutions at Exact, a cloud computing provider and partner of CEEDR on last month’s report, has put together five quick wins that, she believes, every business leader should explore to develop their business and to help them to use time more efficiently.

Read more about the CEEDR report:

Know where you stand

“Understanding where you stand today in terms of operational efficiency is key to making improvements,” explained Fox. “If you’re in a serviced-based business, there is a strong likelihood that you already have insight into the efficiency of your greatest asset – your people. Take a look at where the most time is being spent, and make that the first discussion point in your operational efficiency discussion.”

If your business involves manufacturing or distribution, identify the most labour intensive processes and get as much data as you can about these, she advised. In both cases, the goal is to establish a benchmark for improvement. It is likely that given today’s cloud-based technology support, there will be easily identifiable quick wins to help you increase efficiency almost overnight.

Make time to consider improvements

With operational efficiency at the heart of the issue, it is little wonder that the lack of time to consider improvements is close to the top of the list of barriers among the SME owners surveyed (see Twitter link below). Specifically, it is concern over the time it will take not only to consider what’s required, but to research what’s on the market, and then to adopt new practices.

“But the changes could pay dividends,” added Fox. “Among the three per cent elite group of trailblazers identified by the research (those SMEs which managed to increase sales turnover by more than 100 per cent last year), 56 per cent had above-industry levels of operational efficiency, and none of them had poor operational efficiency levels.”

Identifying time for a manager, and his or her management team, to look at specific issues within the business, especially if attendance at the meeting non-negotiable, will help, as will having a clear agenda and specific goals.

Visit our Twitter page to have a look at the main barriers to improving business time management efficiency

“Don’t be afraid to use external experts you already work with,” said Fox. “Your accounting firm, for example, might have access to cloud-based systems that let them collaborate more efficiently with you, alerting you to potential financial issues long before they arise.”

Big data: Big wins

According to research last year by analyst house IDG, 56 pre cent of SMEs have already deployed, or will deploy, some sort of big data project in the coming year. As part of your benchmarking process, advised Fox, take a good look at any data you have within your business.

“This could be anything from average debtor days or product delivery times to customer service and sales conversion rates,” she went on to say. “Whatever data that is linked to the successful running of your business will be interesting to look at. Business dogma suggests if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. That might be true, but when it comes to operational efficiency, you only want to identify those things that are worth measuring. And then do so consistently and religiously. Simply by identifying these areas for attention, you will be able to see what systems you could put in place to make your business more efficient.”

Look for external support

Under investment, due to lack of resources, is holding back three in ten businesses. These are more likely to be poorer performing businesses. One in seven are unable to access suitable external assistance to help with time management efficiency improvements, while one in ten do not know where to find such assistance. SMEs owners can start by looking at the UK government grants that might be available to help with technology developments.

Use the right tools

The CEEDR research shows adoption of new software is “significantly” related to better growth performance, most notably through the use of cloud and mobile technologies. Almost one in five businesses surveyed used cloud solutions, 68 perc cent of whom are deemed to be operating at above-industry norms. Recent government statistics show the vast majority (68 per cent) of UK SMEs set out to grow their businesses last year, but only 13 per cent succeeded in doing so.

“It’s clear that one quick way for small businesses to make immediate operational efficiencies is to invest in cloud and mobile technologies,” commented Fox. “Almost 80 per cent of those businesses already doing so performing above their peers for operational efficiency. There’s considerable evidence that SMEs that are agile and early adopters of new technologies are able to compete with larger businesses, form powerful global business clusters and achieve substantial and sustained growth.”

She concluded: “Just because you’re small doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from operational efficiencies. In fact, quite the opposite. With the advent of cloud-based offerings SMEs have the opportunity to be more competitive than ever.”

Image: Shutterstock

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