Businesses of all sizes can find success and failure in the smallest of adjustments
From leadership, all the way down to the staff, change can cause ripples that affect the entire workforce, organization, and client relationships.
"What everyone wants to see is positive habits that create efficient and stable environments; however, that's usually not the case."
Here's a list of six common business mistakes, how to fix them and subsequently see the fruits of the change come back tenfold.
An oldie, but still a common problem. Procrastination is both prevalent and a fixable bottleneck in a business's operations. We all have that one (or three) assignments that we just don't feel like doing. There are the five stages of procrastination: denial, dread, angst, avoidance, and missed deadline or subpar work.
"According to a 2011 study, procrastination comprises over 25% of a person's workday. For an employee salaried at $50,000, that's about $12,500/year. Multiplied by 25 employees, and you've got yourself a $300,000+ problem on your hands."
There are several ways to counter procrastination, including time-chunking/blocking, incentives, and eliminating distractions. But there are a few willpower exercises that can maybe help prevent the delay in finishing that job.
Start by being more aware of what you're NOT doing when you find yourself on an easy task. Are you entering expenses when you should be submitting an RFP? Responding to social media messages while your accountant is waiting for your financials? We're all busy and need to slow it down, but just make sure you aren't driving in the slow lane because you're avoiding the destination.
Next, try changing how you think about work. Maybe you need to try a different prioritization system, or perhaps you need to start work 30 minutes early to get the tough stuff out of the way before the day truly begins. Consider a change of scenery if you find your office to be a source of distraction. Step outside with your laptop and a coffee and get working.
Finally, perfect accepting imperfection. If you're delaying tasks because you're waiting for perfection to be your muse, you are going to end up hurting your perfect record. Perfection is the enemy of "done". Just lay the groundwork and submit things on time.
Not only is micromanaging negative for those on the receiving end, but it's not a pretty color on the micromanager either. The act of nitpicking every move of someone is both degrading and a colossal waste of time. I know you didn't go hiring people just to have bodies in the office. You took your time, vetted them, and gave them a series of tests to make sure they could do the job. Then you equipped them with the right tools, training, and mentors to guide them. Now get out of their office and let them do the work you're paying them to do.
"Micromanaging is proven to disengage employees and lower productivity. People on the receiving end of micromanagement have more health issues, perform at a lower level than those not being watched, and tend to bring their work stress home, creating strain and unrest in their lives outside of work."
If you are micromanaging, you're probably someone who needs to be in control to feel secure about the result. Instead of practically doing the task yourself, come up with smaller milestones and deadlines for the project at which point you can receive updates and feel more satisfied with reaching that big deadline. It will save you time, money, and build confidence in your team. That will go a long way for them, you, and your bottom line.
Spending time instead of money
There's a time to be frugal with money, and there are other times where money can help you be thrifty with time. If a tree falls on your house, are you going to YouTube for a video on how to cut away a tree, rebuild your living room, and then fix your home yourself? Probably not. You're probably going to hire a professional to ensure it gets done quickly and correctly.
Throwing money at a problem sounds so elitist, but honestly, it can be the smartest thing to do. If you're finding that there is a slowdown in your office like continuously jamming printers, if HR is overwhelmed because there are too many employees and not enough hours in the day, it's time to pay the piper.
While it may sound fiscally responsible to fix it yourself, how valuable is your time?
Or that of the IT guy who is opening a door, removing a cartridge, and closing it back up because there was not a paper jam, the darn thing is just testy? Or the HR manager who is trying to hire a new employee but can't review resumes because there are too many ACA forms to file?
There are certainly times to get your hands dirty or learn a new trick, but one-offs or substantial investments are not usually where money savings trump time savings. Figure out where the time-suckers are in your office and see if there's a way to avoid them by investing in upgrades or hiring someone to help.
Responding to U and Neglecting I
When you stop and look at what you need to accomplish, you, of course, want to take care of the most important items. But then a fire happens, and now you're taking care of this urgent matter, and that important task gets put on the backburner. When you're responding to U (urgent), you can quickly forget about I (important).
Use the Matrix
In the I/NU box is a meeting with a broker. This meeting is important because you gain leads from maintaining this connection, but if you allow all the Us, even the non-important ones to get in the way because the sense of urgency is so commanding, you may miss out on a golden opportunity.
"Finding ways to delegate urgent fires to others can allow you to focus on the tasks that are vital to your role and your business."
Designate 'fire marshals' who will deal with urgent pop-ups, and give them full authority to handle those situations. You will find yourself more responsive and less stressed as things aren't falling through the cracks.
Think about your last three meetings. Was everyone in the room necessary? What was the end-goal of the conference? Did you get there? How long did it take? How long should it have taken? We tend to think that meetings are super productive and that we walk away having accomplished something great, but actually, it can be quite the opposite. Most meetings can be handled in an email or a group chat or over the phone, even.
"There are a few instances where an in-person gathering of minds is crucial to progress, but inundating people with meeting after meeting can hinder creativity, problem-solving and productivity."
Perhaps the conference call is necessary, but is its frequency appropriate? Are you finding that there is a lack of updates or that information is repeating from session to session? If this sounds like your office, look to eliminate one meeting per month, at least from your calendar, or change a weekly meeting to a bi-weekly meeting.
Depending on your role in the organization and the size of your company, you may need more sessions than others, but work to try to limit your internal meetings to 20% of your time, or one full work day per week. Doing so will leave much more time to tackle real work so you can report progress in the next lunch n' learn.
Lack of Hierarchy
Today's changing workforce has seen title changes like "Creative Guru" and "VP of Misc." and "Wizard of Lightbulb Moments." While fun and smile-inducing, with small or quirky offices, it can be challenging, at times, to tell who is in charge and of what. Without a clear hierarchy of personnel, job assignments, ownership and who people turn to for help can go missing.
Certain client issues may need leadership to get involved, but others may just require a staff-level response. In this instance, it would be much more costly for the receptionist to transfer the phone to the CEO rather than the CPA who prepared the return. From the initial interruption of the call, all the way to getting up to speed on the client and their issue, and finally determining how to resolve, the CEO has taken more time at a higher billable rate than if a CPA or Tax Manager would've handled the problem. Same goes for internal issues like employee conflict.
If your office is struggling with understanding who is who, it may be time for a level-set. Redefine and map out on paper how the hierarchy looks and include it in your employee handbook or the phone directory. It doesn't have to be all-inclusive, but do make sure your office can appropriately identify who to go to with each issue, and who would be the catchall.