Looking for more in 2017?

marginal gains

Things being as they are in business, we’re all looking to get more out of what we have. So how do you increase productivity?

There are only three ways in which you can get an edge in business: you are either faster, cheaper or deliver better quality than the competition. Whichever you are aiming for, asking yourself a few simple questions will help you to identify areas in your own company which you can work on over the coming year to improve your productivity and profitability.

Do you have the right processes?

Take a look at what happens with each new piece of business.  Perhaps there are areas of your processes that need to be streamlined?  Processes develop as a business grows and you may find that you are doing things just as they have always been done, without looking at whether you could do things more simply, quickly or cheaply.  Are your IT systems a constant source of irritation to you and your staff?  Is there is a bottleneck in your business, where your product or service gets held up, perhaps waiting on an essential member of staff to do their part of the process? By looking at the way your activities are scheduled, you may find ways that the process could be simplified or streamlined to give you that extra edge.

Do you have the right people?

A large number of SMEs have employees who have worked there for many years and know the business inside out.  If you have one of these gems in your team, are you making the best use of their knowledge?  Are they still doing parts of their job that could now be delegated to others so that you can really put their know-how to better use?  Do you have the right tools to ensure that their knowledge forms part of your systems and isn’t just in their heads?

Experts are both incredibly useful, and a risk to your business if they leave or retire.  Do you have a plan in place for if that happens? As your business has grown (and no doubt changed over time), do your people have all of the necessary skills to take your business forward, or have gaps started to appear that you need to address?

Do your team know exactly what is expected of them, and how this contributes to delivering the bigger picture (i.e. your business plan)? As the old saying goes, ‘what’s gets measured gets done’, so it makes sense to review whether your team are still being targeted to deliver the right things.  Think about what you can do to make sure that your staff are motivated to do their best to help your customers and really build your reputation as the go-to company in your sector.

What are the small changes you can make?

Even when it looks like your business is a smooth, well-oiled machine, there are always ways in which you can increase your competitive edge, as Sir Dave Brailsford found with the practice of “marginal gains” that he applied to the highly successful British cycling team.

The team employed small strategies such as taking their own pillows away to ensure a better night’s sleep and ensuring that they washed their hands to a medical standard to reduce infection and illness. The same principles can be applied to your business. Can you improve your demand forecasting to ensure you meet your customers’ needs as quickly as possible without overloading your inventory?  What about maintenance of your systems or staff holidays?  Can down-time be better fitted to the fluctuating demands of the business?  Would better quality-control at certain points in your process reduce waste and add to your bottom line, while improving the reliability of your product?

Even tiny changes make a significant difference when added together.

If you’d like to make 2017 a more productive and profitable year, contact The People and Project Consultancy to discuss how we can help you to achieve this: claire@peopleandproject.com / +44 (0) 7929 021850


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