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StrategyDriven Entrepreneurship Article

Why Your Business Should Become More Like Orwell’s Big Brother

Monitoring your business, whether you’re a sole trader, entrepreneur or small business owner is essential. It’s often the difference between turning a profit and failing to break even.

But what does “monitoring your business” mean in practice?

In general, when gurus talk about monitoring, they’re referring to the ability of your firm to optimize its workload and achieve greater productivity simply by analyzing and refining its processes. It means going over your processes with a fine tooth comb and trying to find whether there is anything that you can improve using the data available to you. Here’s how to make your business more like Orwell’s Big Brother.

Analyze How You Spend Your Time

The biggest problem most businesses face isn’t their toxic workplace “culture” or their lack of skilled staff: it’s how they’re spending their time. Most managers just assume that their employees are working for the entire 7 – 9 hours they’re in the office every day. But when you actually look at how they are spending their time, you’re lucky if you even get 6 hours out of them.

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The reasons for this are twofold. The first is that employees spend a lot of time doing unproductive things in the office, like walking from their desks to the water dispenser or yawning during in meetings. Most of this can’t be helped, so it’s not an obvious target for monitoring.

The second reason is that employees are wasting a lot of time performing tasks that could be done more quickly and efficiently by either another team member, software or a different department. Sometimes, the issue is training – for instance, employees not knowing how to save time filling out cells on spreadsheets. These are the types of activities for which it is worth collecting data because it can result in a substantial uplift in productivity.

Monitor Your Accounts

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Getting paid is another major headache for businesses. Clients often pay late or not at all. Monitoring and managing accounts receivable, therefore, is essential. The problem for most small businesses, however, is that they are still relying on old-fashioned methods which make it difficult to keep track of clients. With monitoring, however, you’re immediately able to view client payment histories and get alerts if a customer is late with a payment. By monitoring your accounts, you’re able to identify patterns in high-risk customers and alter your premiums accordingly.

Monitor Staff Performance

With more and more work being completed online, it’s getting easier for companies to monitor staff performance. Monitoring workers is key to ensuring that you get maximum performance out of them every day, not just when they know you’re watching.

But it’s not all about Orwellian monitoring of their daily activities: it’s also about finding strategies to boost their productivity and waiting to see whether they have any effect in the real world. Something as simple as having a policy of saying “please” and “thank you” to workers could have a measurable effect. Find ways to keep your team feeling valued and help new recruits slot into the organization. Track the effects of guidance and training and find out whether it has any positive effect on your bottom line.

StrategyDriven Entrepreneurship Article

Freedom And Business: How To Balance Both

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Everyone will have a different reason for why they go into business for themselves. For some, it has been a lifelong dream of making their own fortune, for others they just kind of fall into it. And for some people, it’s all about the freedom and flexibility that being your own boss brings. When you want to balance your life out equally with your work, running your own business is great. But, you can sometimes find that your business requires a lot of attention and dedication. So, how can you make sure that you’re able to balance your freedom out right?

Have A Strong Vision

Firstly, it’s important to have vision. Whether you have strong sustainability views, you want to make a difference in your customer’s lives, or you want to be able to have your own freedom in life, you have to keep that in mind. Business can suck you in and consume you, so it’s easy to lose sight of why you started out. But if you’re able to keep a strong vision, you should always be able to keep on track.

Set Strict Working Hours

When you run your own business, it is tempting to work flexible hours or whenever you feel like it. Whether you’re a freelance contractor or you have your own small office, it’s important that you set yourself office hours. Not only will it give off a level of professionalism to your customers and ensure that you’re more productive, but it will ensure that you’re able to keep your flexibility and leave your work at work too.

Blur Lines Finely

Next, you should feel comfortable by blurring the lines between your working world and home life. Some people say that you should keep them completely separate, but when you want flexibility, it’s often best to blur. Because your business can often boost your life. Take your work truck with BAK covers and head out of town with your family camping for a few days, just because you can. Take your other half on that corporate entertainment trip, just because you can. But just be sure that you blur the lines to benefit your life and enjoy your freedom, and not the other way around.

Always Be Productive

When it comes to balancing your freedom with work responsibilities, the best way to ensure that it always happens is to focus on your productivity. To do that, you may want to use something like a time tracking app to make sure you’re working to your full potential. It’s okay to be flexible and want to spend more time out of work than in, but you do need to make sure that you’re getting everything done in order to enjoy some freedom.

Know It’s Okay To Say No

And finally, you should also realize that it is okay to say no every once in awhile. If you started out on your own to enjoy more freedom and a flexible life, then you don’t have to feel obligated to tie yourself up with work commitments. You should have limits. That way, you can keep your freedom and enjoy the flexibility that comes with being a business owner.

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5 Tips on How to Better Your Time Management

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In a world where it is getting difficult to spare even one moment for personal salvation, time is of the utmost essence. The world is progressing at a pace that is becoming more and more rapid daily. The days seem to be getting shorter and there are somehow not enough hours to deal with the huge bulk of tasks that await us. We all know how it feels like to wake up regretting the procrastination we thought wouldn’t have that big of an impact.

This is the reason time management is fast becoming a necessity instead of a choice.

If you want to be able to breathe without feeling suffocated, then you need to start working towards managing your time. It is the only way to make your day more productive without cracking under the pressure. Due to the rising need, time management has now become a process that must be treated like any other value-generating function. It has become a proper discipline and more people are working towards refining it.

Here are a few tips that will revolutionise your entire schedule and assist you in dealing with the daily stress without losing your sanity.

  1. Make use of resource planning software

This first tip is especially important for busy businesses. Resource planning software is a blessing when it comes to efficient time management. These tools assist you in planning out your day and completing your tasks on time. Any business is founded on the belief that time is money for everyone and that making the most out of it is everyone’s aspiration.

These systems are designed to save your valuable time and improve project delivery. This will help you delegate projects to the right people, improve the quality and speed of work, and take productivity to a new level.

If you’re looking to make use of resource planning software, an example I found that’s worth looking into is timewax (https://www.timewax.co.uk/) which is a highly proficient and reliable resource planning application for businesses of all sizes and nature. It is a multi-platform solution that travels with you wherever you go, on your desktop or your mobile devices, offering the freedom to work without wasting time.  If you are looking to give your profits a significant turnover, then Timewax is your go to time management assistant.

  1. Prioritise Intelligently

One of the secrets behind the lives of those who seem to have it all together is that they have learned the art of prioritising. Instead of allowing the daily workload and endless chores bring you down, make a list of all your tasks and then break them down into several categories for your own ease. Prioritising will help you plan your time in a better and more productive manner than if you haphazardly attempt to check items off your to-do list.

Here are four priority categories you can jot down and fill in according to the urgency of the tasks at hand:

  • Important and critical– Tasks that are high priority and must be done no matter what. These are the tasks you should start with.
  • Important, but not critical– These jobs are ones that seem to be important at first glance, but after a closer look do not make it to the list of tasks to be completed urgently. Note down a slot for each of these responsibilities and complete them according to your decided schedule.
  • Critical, but not important: These chores are a nuisance as they are not of any real value, but gain importance because of the ‘noise’ they make. Make efforts to delegate such tasks to someone else and if not possible, attempt to give them average precedence.
  • Not important and not critical: These are the responsibilities you can do without as they only clutter your day and make you busier than you actually are. It is best to delegate these tasks so that the time saved can be utilised for priority tasks.
  1. Learn to Plan Ahead

One of the worst blunders you can make to ruin your entire day is to jump in without having a clear picture of what you are expected to accomplish. The time you spend planning the events of your day is trivial compared to the time you will waste jumping from one task to another, desolately trying to accomplish everything. There are two time-frames for you to plan out your schedule, depending on whether you are a night person or a day enthusiast:

  • The night before: Take fifteen minutes out before you start your bedtime routine to note down the tasks that are waiting for you when you wake up. Getting up the next day with everything already planned out will give you a sense of calm and kick-start your day on a good note.
  • First thing in the morning: After getting ready to face the day, sit down and plan your day before leaving for your first assignment.
  1. Set deadlines

Even when our days are filled with an endless list of tasks, we still somehow manage to waste time procrastinating or doing things that we can definitely do without. Setting specific deadlines for every task you need to finish will help you keep your schedule and avoid losing precious time.

Try to set a deadline that is a few hours earlier so that you can take care of any tasks that emerge suddenly. It is helpful to challenge yourself and setting a reward for yourself for completion of the chore will do wonders for you.

Keep your eyes on the clock and do not let anything divert your focus and attention. Set rewards for completing your task on time.

  1. Utilise Your Downtime Efficiently

This certainly does not mean that you spend all of your downtime planning and prioritising further, as it will just elevate your stress levels and make you incompetent. If you find yourself stuck in morning traffic or sitting in the waiting room before a meeting, then finalising your dinner plans or putting together a grocery list will help manage your time efficiently. However, make sure you spend some of this extra time relaxing and catching your breath as overworking your mind will lead to premature fatigue before the day is even half over.

Time management is a skill that everyone needs to master. Be it a student attending music lessons after school or a business person running from one meeting to another. Stressing out about having too much to do in an inadequate amount of time will only result in you almost getting a brain haemorrhage!

Make use of these tips, get help where you can, invest in the right technology and watch your life take a turn for the better. You will be able to spend some quality time with your loved ones without having to feel guilty about sacrificing the time you could have spent on completing your tasks.

StrategyDriven Entrepreneurship Article

6 Quick Tricks to Free Up More Time in Your Small Business

StrategyDriven Entrepreneurship ArticleSuccess in business is always favoured, but there is one unfortunate by-product that comes with it, you tend to be much busier than before. Suddenly, there’s much more work, more meetings, more projects, more deadlines and more decisions to be made. All of this takes a toll on your personal life as you suddenly have a lot on your to-do list, preventing you from taking time out on other important things.

Thankfully, there are some ways you can free up more time in your business without impacting its success. Here are 6 quick trips to help you do just that.

1.     Automate As Many of Your Tasks as Possible

Most of the tasks that take up your time can probably be automated. Are you supposed to send out regular reports at the end of each month? Automate them. Do you have bills that need to be paid on a certain date? Automate them! These tasks may not seem very time consuming, but they all mount up and distract you from bigger projects. Automating things will free up valuable time that can be better spent elsewhere.

2.     Keep Track of Your Time

To better understand what activities are taking up most of your time, write down everything you do each day and the time you spend on each activity. Include everything such as breaks, social media, emails and calls. This way you will be able to figure out where are you wasting most of your time and can make decisions accordingly. Once you get a rough sketch of the time you spend on each activity, you can make a timetable and dedicate your time to all the important tasks by cutting out the time wasters.

3.     Prioritise by Urgency and Set Deadlines

It’s important to prioritise urgent projects and start working on them first, rather than worrying about the projects that are due next week. This will help you to keep your calm and avoid being haphazard. Also, you should set deadlines for each task and do your best to meet them each time. Deadlines motivate you to complete a project, preventing you from doing nothing when you should be doing work.

4.     Use Invoice Software

Invoicing is one of the most tedious tasks for any small business. It also takes a lot of your time that could have been better spent. Did you know that there’s invoice software out there that can actually take control of the entire process of invoicing from the beginning till the end? You can install online invoice software that not only manages things for you, but that also helps you to create better invoice designs that will increase customer satisfaction.

5.     Learn to Delegate Tasks

Although you may want to believe it, you’re not superhuman. You CANNOT do everything on your own. The idea is to find trustworthy people and delegate tasks to them. Not only will this help in freeing up time in your small business, but will also help you to complete projects within your set deadlines. Focus your energy on the more important tasks you have at hand and leave the rest to your team.

6.     Avoid Distractions

Checking on social media and looking at personal emails aren’t the only distractions we often fall victim to when trying to work. If you work in a busy office full of interruptions, try working from home a few days where you can get some peace and quiet. Avoid making any unnecessary phone calls and only take them if you know it’s urgent. Distractions take us away from the task at hand and can accumulate into hours of lost time.

With these quick and simple tricks, you’ll be able to free up a lot of time in your small business without affecting the profitability at all. It’s important to take time out for personal commitments so you can keep a balance between your work and personal life. If you follow the above advice, you should have some extra time to do just that!

How Project Management Apps Are Fostering Remote Working

The inclusion of remote workers into your team is as advantageous as it is challenging; perhaps what we can find particularly interesting is that this trend is not just restricted to successful conglomerates with international interests but early stage companies who are still trying to find their feet. The inter-connectivity of computers worldwide and the advent of project management apps and time-tracking software has made this possible.

It’s also pertinent to note that remote working not only solves the problem of access to highly skilled personnel but it has come to be seen as the perfect solution for employees who have to brave the long-hour drives to work, thereby reducing their stress levels. They are less exposed to the drama that comes with working in a “traditional” workspace, leading to greater productivity on the long run.

The benefits for telecommuters also include a significantly lower monthly gas bill, the opportunity to keep an eye on the kids, job satisfaction, peace of mind etc. To buttress this point, The New York Times, reports on an experiment carried out by a Stanford Economic Professor – Nicholas Bloom; with results that should not be ignored by the H.R department. The experiment showed that remote workers worked 9.5% longer than their office colleagues but that’s not all. There was also a 13% increase in productivity from the virtual team. As you can clearly see, it’s not just workers who get to enjoy the benefits, corporations have a lot to gain by instigating work-from-home policies.

The obvious benefit for companies would, of course, be the significantly reduced cost because they are no longer limited by distance in sourcing for skilled workers. The internet has made it possible for managers to recruit workers at an affordable rate. John Meyer, in a Forbes article, puts the total savings for companies at 30%.The job of the human resource manager becomes a lot easier as employee turnover rates are down and the constant battle with absentee employees becomes a non-issue.

As the years go by, the tradition of working from brick and mortar offices seems less and less attractive to millennials especially but like was stated in the opening paragraph, the remote-working trend also brings with it, its set of challenges.

Project managers want to be able to keep tabs on the progress of all team members, they want to know where everyone is at with respect to tasks assigned to them and if you are managing a team of 30-50 people, that’s no mean feat. They owe a depth of gratitude to apps that have made the process of managing virtual teams less complex. Project management software helps keep the entire process not just organized but ultimately promotes greater efficiency. What’s not to love about collaborative software that allows you send and receive documents from team members, or time tracking software that helps you stay on schedule?

Collaborative management tools have gone further to shorten the distance between virtual team members in addition to fostering productivity and efficiency.

Infographic courtesy of nutcache.com

7 Tips for Managing a Remote Team