A faster computer might help you work faster, or it might help you get on Facebook faster. So if speedier laptops for everyone aren't the answer, what is?
Training is perhaps the easiest and smartest way to increase productivity. If you can get training that increases your skills and those of your employees, then everyone can be more productive. Remember, productivity means the ability to produce value; in this case, the value is the role each employee plays in the company.
Your sales team gets some training that helps them to make more sales. Your management team learns new techniques for handling employee conflicts and streamlining the systems. Your writers learn how to do better work in less time.
Good training, given to the right people, and applied effectively, will make you and your team sharper, better, and able to produce higher-quality work in less time.
Did you catch those three requirements?
- Good training
- Right people
- Applied effectively
The first two keys are obvious; the last is where we typically goof up.
Let's say you just sent your head of sales, Jen, through an intense, high-quality sales training weekend. She comes back blazing, full of ideas and energy, ready to go. Within hours of her first day back, she's pitching ideas your way... and you're getting overwhelmed.
"Hey, Jen," you say, "those are great ideas. Let's think about them. Right now we're in the middle of XYZ-excuse and we just can't handle anything else."
Stifle your employees when they're charged up after new training, and you're throwing that money and time into the trash. If you want the investment you made into training to be a smart investment, give them room to implement what they've learned.
2. Getting personal productivity help
Take a long, honest look at your work space, your filing system, your office organization, your supply closet, your accounting system, your policy and procedure manual (what? you don't have one of those?), your set-up for maintaining company property like fleet vehicles, equipment and expensive tools.
Are you grimacing yet? You must be one of those stereotypically and chronically disheveled, overbooked, unorganized entrepreneurs.
It's painful, I know. But help is out there.
If you do get yourself some of that help, and get yourself operating at a higher level of productivity, you will see what we like to call a trickle-down effect. Yes, it's real. How seriously are employees going to take company mandates to be organized and orderly, meet deadlines, quit wasting company time, and be more productive if the man or woman in charge isn't doing any of those things?
Start by getting professional help or training for the basics of productivity.
- Setting up systems
Then carry the concepts out to how you set up and run your entire business. Take the time out from "working" and invest it in setting work up to operate in a productive way. The moments you spend, and the money you might have been making in them, will end up boosting your productivity and that of your entire team.
If you do it right – setting up systems, training employees, finding organized ways to handle the material stuff of the business, and sticking to the routines and rules you put in place – you'll only need to maintain it to keep that productivity level up.
3. Hiring someone to do the things you shouldn't be doing
Pop quiz: if disorganization is fatal flaw No. 1 for entrepreneurs, what's fatal flaw No. 2? Micro-managing.
Actually, maybe micro-managing is fatal flaw No. 1 and disorganization is simply a symptom of it. At any rate, when you are trying to do another full-time job or two on top of what you're already doing, you're wasting time and losing money.
No matter how productive you are, there are limits to your productivity. You can do some things, but you cannot do everything. Neither can your employees. Expecting you or your employees to take on more than is realistic leads to frustration, stress, burnout, and, yes, lower productivity.
If you're spending hours a day keeping the books when you should be developing the products, hire an accountant.
If your best developer is answering customer complaint calls because no one else is there to do it, hire an assistant.
You'll spend money, yes; Salaries are hefty. But you need to have an adequate workforce if you're going to get the job done, and freeing yourself and your key employees up to do the work you're supposed to be doing means that you'll all be doing more of that work.
Result? Increased productivity.
Increased productivity? More money.
You can thank me later.
Annie Mueller is a freelance writer based in St. Louis. She covers small business topics with a focus on lean/zero budget start-ups, business blogging, and simple (sane) ways business can use social media without selling their souls to Facebook. Her work can be seen online at Investopedia's Financial Edge blog, Young Entrepreneur, Wise Bread, Organic Authority, Modern Mom, and her own site, AnnieMueller.com. Find her on Twitter: @AnnieMueller.