The ever-changing technological trends, global competition and the immense opportunities have brought on board even the smallest businesses. This phase of the reinvention of the SMEs has now enabled them to operate in the same environment as the large-scale industries. However, the larger corporations have an edge on this as they have the luxury of tapping into abundant resources and get things done.
Typically, the challenges faced by an SME in a globalized ecosystem include limited resources, lack of financial benefits, poor administration and management access. When you run a small or a medium enterprise, managing higher expenses becomes difficult. Because of the limited skillset, you need to hire resources; And while doing so, the cost versus the productivity ratio needs to be taken care of specifically. This calls for SMEs to improve and elevate the levels of their operational efficiency.
Enhanced operational efficiency helps in reducing wastage of resources, increases profit and also gives a competitive edge to small businesses.
Here are some key factors you need to take into account while improving the operational efficiency –
1. Make technology your best friend
Technology offers countless opportunities to alter the way you work, saving time and maximizing the efficiency within your business operations. Besides reducing or eliminating delays in the workflow, technology also makes it easier and convenient to keep information up-to-date. At the same time, it helps by speeding up certain tasks which are otherwise time-consuming if done manually. So, which aspects should you consider to improve your business efficiency through technology? Here are three major ones that you should definitely take into account:
- Go paperless – manage your internal efficiency
It’s time to abandon the cumbersome paper documents and embrace the era of virtual notes. Not only does it increase the physical space, but also storing documents virtually makes it easier to find them whenever you need to. Often, a huge amount of time is spent on admin and in sharing information between various teams. This time could be saved simply by using the cloud computing platforms like Google Docs, Dropbox or Microsoft OneDrive, thus increasing productivity. Plus, there is no pressure of running back to the office every time you need an access to these files.
- Make automation work for you – Believe it or not AI never gets tired of repetitive work.
Automation of low-skilled routine or repetitive tasks are more important than ever for SMEs, owing to the availability of limited resources. When all the major redundant tasks are automated, it becomes easier to focus on the immediate business goals and increase the bottom line of your company.
Tasks like generating newsletter, setting up purchase requests, data entering or even compliance and analytics can be executed through cognitive bots and RPA (Robotic Process Automation), freeing up time and resources to focus on the core activities.
With more and more social media platforms coming up, the automation tools for the same are also increasing. Hootsuite, Buffer, Zapier and IFTT are one of the most effective tools that help you manage accounts on multiple social media networks, bringing all of them under one roof. Right from scheduling a tweet to creating your social media marketing strategy, these platforms not only save the time spent on high-value tasks, but also help marketers better understand their target audiences.
- Make digital work for you – Marketing efficiency
With over 330 million twitter users and more than 1 million users on Facebook and Instagram, it is not surprising why social media is emerging as a powerful tool for business owners. More and more businesses these days are turning to social media to look for marketing and advertising solutions. It provides a cost-effective communication and also helps in build a brand image and increasing traffic to some extent.
Features like multi-country, multi-city targeting and dynamic language optimisation on platforms like Facebook can help SMEs to reach a wider audience, while simultaneously connecting them to potential customers from different regions, cities or countries.
Running a small business does not mean you have to do everything on your own. For many small businesses, growth is what matters the most. But growth requires times and resources; and while you may have enough time, there might not be adequate resources. Hence, outsourcing is one of the options to look for in order to keep the growth of your business intact even if you do not have abundant resources.
One of the ways to free up time and reduce the operational cost is to outsource some tasks, especially those where you need expertise and/or the ones which consume too much of your time.Besides offering you a better rate of productivity, outsourcing also gives you access to well-trained professionals, thus maintaining the quality of the service. Other than saving time & expenses, there are many benefits of outsourcing to SMEs. You are ensured that your back-office functions are looked after by people who are up to date with all the latest trends and practises in the industry.
So, which tasks should you consider outsourcing?
- Customer care or Technical support
If you are not very sure if you have enough time and resources to handle your customer and technical support, outsourcing could be the ideal choice for you. Outsourcing your customer support of IT functions to external team. Apart from reducing the cost of recruiting and the physical space, outsourcing allows you to handle place these responsibilities in the hands of experts who have a better understanding, thus allowing you to focus on the core tasks.
- Finance or Accounting
When it comes to managing finances and accounts, the task is often time-consuming and stressful. Even if you opt for a software solution to manage these tasks, at the end, you someone still has to manage the software. With outsourced accounting, you don’t have to struggle with updating your bookkeeping.
- The creative crew
Designing, blog management, content writing, translation, and data entry are some areas where you can find many professionals and freelancers to take over the job. Instead of hiring a full-time employee, companies can utilise freelance and contract-based workers to get talents which they couldn’t afford otherwise.
As the gigonomy continues to rise, much of the hiring now takes place through outsourcing websites. Online platforms like Obuhi allow businesses to hire freelancers seeking flexible and short-term work, thus saving time and cutting costs and at the same time, delivering productivity with greater efficiency. Businesses can also easily outsource their tasks to freelancers virtually anywhere across the world.
3. Collaborate, don’t just compete
For SMEs, collaboration can serve as a powerful tool regardless what type of business you have. It is one of the key methods to improve your business process, making it more efficient and profitable.
a small business need not always be a solo project. Instead of viewing other companies merely as competitors, an SME should look at some of them as potential collaborators to reap the benefits.
Finding the right partner –
- Small business owners can simply use the ‘neighbour’s principle’ and work together to attain mutual growth.
- Apart from working with the local business owners in your personal network, teaming up with businesses that are likely to attract your customers on the basis of their needs and interests is also a great choice.
- Businesses with inventory needs that are more or less related, can combine their orders to reap the benefits of discounted wholesale prices. SMEs can also join hands with freelancers and retain them for certain assignments that require their expertise.
- A home remodelling service can collaborate with other businesses falling into similar category like, home cleaning, landscape service or plumbing.
- An independent web development company can partner with a developer who is more into app development for certain application-based projects.
There are countless ways an SME can enhance its operational efficiency, but it is important to know which method best suits your business needs. At the end, what matters is, your business goal and performance is aligned. Sometimes, identifying the different opportunities to increase your business’ efficiency can be as simple as asking, “Is there a better approach to this?”