Waste not, want not, right? As a small business owner, you know that wasting time, wasting space and wasting energy are all a waste of money—and that’s something that’s always in short supply. This Small Business Week, commit to cutting the waste, increasing efficiency and saving money. We’ll show you how.
How you spend your time
The adage “time is money” probably never made more sense than it does to you as a small business owner—your to-do list is likely a mile long, and you have never-ending demands on a finite amount of time. Here are our top three tips to make sure you never waste another minute.
1. Make a schedule, rather than a to-do list.
We are big fans of the to-do list (especially the crossing-off part) but here’s a game changer: An actual schedule can show you exactly where each item on the to-do list fits. So take a look at your day and block out the meetings you have (or cancel them…see below) then fill the remaining time with a specific task you have to do.
You’ve probably heard that work expands to fill the time allotted—in fact, this principle even has a cool name, “Parkinson’s Law.” So the real magic here is to allot each of your items less time. For example, if you typically spend one hour researching each new client, see if you can do it just as thoroughly in 30 minutes. You’ll probably find you still get the majority of the intel you need, but you’ll move on before you “over” research.
There are some things that only you as the small business owner can do, but there are also lots of things that others could do, except you still insist on taking care of them yourself. We get it; it’s part of wearing all those hats, but it can also be a waste of time.
A better strategy is to view each task through the prism of whether someone else could do it just as well as you—or, sorry to say, even better. You may find there are some things like writing your blog or handling your social media that a specialist can do in less time and with less hassle. Letting secondary duties go allows you to preserve your time for the things that are truly mission critical. And that goes for repetitive functions like billing…see where you can use automation to make all your processes a little quicker, easier and ultimately more effective.
3. Focus on meetings that matter
Is a weekly staff meeting a helpful base touch that includes important camaraderie—or is it a time suck that doesn’t contribute to your collaboration? Many meetings can be better handled with an email, saving everyone time and frustration.
The same is true with client meetings—only you can decide if they are an important relationship-building tool or if some of them could be handled via a video chat to save yourself the driving time.
But no matter what meeting schedule you settle on, make a point to keep at least one day a week meeting-free to allow you to do the heads-down, uninterrupted strategy work that will ultimately move the needle on your success.
Evaluate your space
Did you rent office space because it was the thing to do? It might be time to take a good, hard look at your space needs…and see if it’s more cost-effective to find an alternate arrangement.
Two important factors to take into account are whether your clients visit you frequently, which can make commercial space more of a must, or if your team can accomplish more if they are physically together. If those aren’t deal breakers, consider these three alternatives.
1. Find a co-working space
Why pay for your own receptionist, WiFi, conference space and furniture when you can use the amenities provided by a co-working space?
If it’s time to give up your own dedicated office, but you still want to get out of the house yourself or need to have a professional place to host clients, a co-working space can be the ideal hybrid. Look for one that offers the perks you prefer—whether it’s ample conference space, networking and educational events or just really good coffee.
2. Work virtually
If there’s one perk that employees crave, it’s the ability to skip the commute and work from home. Of course, not every business can allow this type of flexibility, but if your team can do the job just as well from their own environs, you can save a fortune on rent—and likely boost morale while you’re at it.
Just don’t let out of sight become out of mind. Maintain a ritual of Friday morning breakfasts or happy hours so the team can get together and catch up, and/or make sure that you continue to have video calls so that you can feel as though you’re together.
3. Combine operations with a complementary business
If you do need a professional space—say, you’re a storefront or other business where customers come to you—see if you can co-locate with another business to share the bills.
For example, if you’re a coffee place, consider the synergy of partnering with a wine bar; after all, the two best beverages in the world can happily co-exist in different day parts. Or if you own an accessories store, see if a local shoe shop might want to find boutique space you can both share. Not only will it cut your rent, but it’s likely to also help boost sales through increased traffic and cross promotions.
Look for wasted energy
1. Turn out the lights (or don’t!)
Sorry, we know your mom has been saying that since you were old enough to reach the light switch, and we were going to say it again…until we realised that there are some times you don’t want to turn off the lights!
Turns out that the operating life of CFL light bulbs is affected by the number of times you turn them off and on. So to extend the life of these relatively pricey bulbs, you don’t need or even want to turn them off for short periods of time. But go ahead and flip the switch on halogens, LEDs and fluorescent lights every time you walk past them.
2. Beware vampire energy
You can take a bite out of your energy bill by being aware of appliances that are sucking energy because they’re plugged in even when they’re not in use. The top culprit? We’re going to guess it’s your phone charger, which is probably plugged in all the time whether your phone is charging or not.
Naturally, the easiest solution is to unplug items when they’re not in use, but if that takes too much of your own energy to run around plugging and unplugging various appliances, may we suggest a power strip? One flick as you walk out the door, and boom…you’ve slayed those vampire energy wasters.
3. Use the dishwasher
So we saved our favourite tip for last. You’ll love this factoid that hand washing dishes doesn’t just waste your own personal energy—it actually wastes water—up to 5,000 gallons a year when compared to an ENERGY STAR dishwasher—and uses twice as much energy as your own manpower. So, if you do have your own office space, go ahead and celebrate Small Business Week by buying a dishwasher for the office (an energy-efficient one, of course). You can enjoy the knowledge that you’re saving money, time and energy…what we consider a triple win.
Efficiency is an ongoing project for most small business owners—after all, the priorities and demands on your time are virtually infinite. That’s why efficiency in running your business is an imperative. And yet, sometimes the options can seem almost overwhelming since there are probably so many places to start.
Therefore, focusing on the areas that offer the most impact is crucial. And for any small business owner, those include time, space and energy. Any advance you can make in these three areas will naturally help you conserve that other limited resource—money.
Aiming to tackle one or more of these areas will make a big difference in the larger picture.
As we wrap up the first half of the year and celebrate Small Business Week, see what small steps you can take today—whether it’s eliminating unnecessary meetings or streamlining your billing—that that will increase your efficiency—and thus, your success.