Most people start their own business as a way to get out of the office and free themselves from the daily grind. During the early days, running your own business is a liberating and satisfying experience, but after a while the excitement of being your own boss wears off and the reality of the workload sets in.
Running a small business is a lot of work, and it’s normal to find yourself pulling the occasional late night, or working on weekends. However if six day weeks are the norm, then you could be leaving yourself at risk of burnout. In addition, if your usual operating procedures require so much time investment, you could be losing out on profits, and will be at risk of having everything come crashing down around you if you are unable to work for even a short time. The more efficiently your business operates, the more profit you will make, and the more resilient you will be in times of difficulty.
Say No to Technology for Its Own Sake
Don’t fall into the trap of investing in software or hardware purely because it promises to make life easier. Remember that training people to use new technology will take time, and there is a chance you will encounter teething problems and bugs when you adopt a new system. Technology can make your life easier, but it is not a magical solution to every possible problem.
Cut Down on Email
Email may seem like a time saver, but it can easily take over your workday. If you are checking your email more than a couple of times each day, you may be wasting time. Instead of emailing clients, suppliers and colleagues, try picking up the phone or walking into their office. A conversation that may take several emails to complete could easily be resolved in a single phone call.
When money is tight, it’s natural to try to do as much as you can in-house, but outsourcing could actually save you time and money. If you find yourself working until 9PM processing orders, maybe you should outsource your internet fulfillment services? If your annual accounts take days to complete, hiring an accountant could save you time, and a good accountant could save you money too.
Work out how much time you’re spending on order fulfillment customer service, invoicing, and other admin tasks, and consider how much you could earn (or how much happier you would be) if you spent that time in other ways. You may find that it will be more cost effective to outsource than to do those jobs yourself.
Choose Your Customers Carefully
Turning down work can be a scary idea for a small business, but sometimes it is the right thing to do. If you have some customers that always pay late, are difficult to work with, or tend to be incredibly demanding, then you may want to get rid of them.
It’s always good if you can part ways with a customer on good terms – a bad customer is irritating, but a disgruntled former customer could be a PR nightmare. Instead of “firing” bad customers, consider increasing your prices, or being firmer about late payments. Give those customers fair warning of your plans, and see what happens. They may improve their behaviour, or be happy to pay the higher prices, or they may decide to find another supplier. Either way, you end up better off.