Trying to run a business and stay ahead of your competitors can be a stressful pursuit. Between the headaches of looking after staff, customer care and maintaining consistency, while also ensuring you cut a profit is a constant drain on many company bosses. So much so, that it’s often almost inevitable you cut corners or fail to see areas where your firm could improve efficiency.
If you frequently find yourself asking where the day has gone or are trying to work out where your firm’s income goes, below are a few tips you could try that will help identify and isolate where to trim the fat and turn expenditure into efficiency.
Look at your fixed costs to isolate unnecessary financial drains
All businesses have fixed costs – whether they be rent, rates or just the cost of supplies. However, if you try to take an overview, you may be surprised just how much your firm spends on supposed ‘essentials’ that you could easily do without.
It is estimated that companies in the US waste $247 on software per desktop computer. Taken as a whole, that figure amounts to around $30 billion per year across the US all for applications that aren’t (or are very rarely) used.
Of course, some business outlays are unavoidable. For example, the cost of premises or paying suppliers, delivery fees and so on. However, even then, it’s often possible to find ways to cut your spending. As a first step to reducing your outlay, try taking an impartial view of your fixed costs to see if you could cut back in some areas. Perhaps you rent more office space than you actually need; maybe you could cut back on your IT and broadband fees by changing suppliers; or maybe you could reduce your energy consumption by installing more efficient electrical devices (or, also, by changing providers).
Often, the fixed costs in a company (the ones we just take as a given) are the biggest unnecessary financial drains and offer the best opportunity for streamlining to get a better return on investment.
Embrace cloud technology
If there’s one thing the coronavirus pandemic taught us all, it’s that the antiquated notion of having staff working together under the same roof, to the same schedule, is utterly redundant. With today’s vastly quicker connection speeds, cloud networks and massively powerful hardware and software, there’s no need for firms to stick to the dated and inefficient Monday to Friday, 9-5 mentality.
Psychologists have known for years that some of us work better in the mornings, others in the afternoon, while some are just night owls and perform at their best at night. Today’s IT can accommodate one and all.
If you want a sure-fire way to cut costs, look at integrating IT and cloud tech more into your working practices. By allowing your staff to work more outside your premises, you’ll cut your utility bills and likely also be able to downscale your rent and rates by moving to smaller premises. Your staff will enjoy a better work/life balance while you’ll also reduce your costs.
Eliminate data duplication and storing redundant records
Data is the lifeblood of most firms these days. From the smallest one-man-band firm right up to global conglomerates, data powers pretty much every aspect of corporate operations in everything from accounting spreadsheets to client contact lists and even simple emails.
However, while storing and using data is an integral part of modern business, the quality and integrity of that data is just as important. Not long ago, many firms followed the ethos that more data meant more knowledge, regardless of its quality. The reality is quite different. With the considerable advances made in artificial intelligence and machine learning in recent years, computers can work autonomously, performing many of the labor-intensive, time-consuming tasks that were previously performed by humans.
As a simple rule, the quality of a system’s output is directly correlated to the quality of the material you supply it. If you give software bad data, it will only produce bad results, no matter how much you’d like to think differently.
To get your firm’s data working more efficiently for you and producing better results, look at eliminating duplicate or redundant records. Partnering with a Microsoft BI specialist will allow you to take an overview of how you store your data and allow you to funnel your firm’s data into one cohesive block that will help you start making intelligent, data-driven decisions rather than acting on guesswork.
Automate, automate, automate
AI and machine learning have made huge advances in recent years, so much so that we’re seeing an increasing amount of automation in business processes. Many firms could benefit from integrating automation into their processes, regardless of size, sector or income.
As a starting point, try taking a step back from how you currently work and look for areas that drain time and resources. Unfortunately, a huge part of running a business makes no direct impact on your profit margins. Tasks like accounting, HR, client contact and after-sales support often place a huge drain on resources both from a financial and time perspective, but they can be mitigated with just a little analysis and forward-thinking.
Today’s AI is particularly adept at performing repetitive, time-consuming, laborious tasks, exactly the kind of work that so frequently ends up a sinkhole for company resources.
Again, this is very much a case of stepping back from your embedded work practices and trying to take a wider view of how your employees spend their time. Modern AI is capable of performing a huge range of duties you likely do manually today, everything from customer relationship management (CRM) software that oversees every stage of the client process (from first contact to after-care) through to general accounts and payroll.
The digitalisation of business is already well underway so, rather than being fearful of integrating more tech into your company, roll with the changes and start taking advantage of the considerable benefits today’s computers, hardware, software and AI can bring.