Do you feel like you manage your workflow in the best possible way? A lot of teams rely on sticky notes, stacks of emails or worse: their memory. Getting caught out by human errors creates disoriented, sluggish and confused teams out of groups that have the potential to be awesome.
These small business tips will help you get on track with using productivity tools and app integration to supercharge your workflow.
The first problem comes from the fact that every small business owner is an entrepreneur and a technician but most are not managers. Most people start a small business after being employed at a larger one in a job involving ‘making’. Programming, graphic design, SEO, you name it — small business owners usually get their idea when they realize that they could be doing the same thing as they’re doing now and getting rid of their boss.
Motivated by the mythical entrepreneurial drive and true technical experts in their field, founders don’t realize that they can’t just get rid of the boss — they have to be the boss.
Being the boss involves management of time, people and money. While this can be possible if it’s your only responsibility, on top of everything else I found there weren’t enough hours in the day.
This idea, from Michael E. Gerber’s “The E-Myth“ is key to understanding why small businesses face the problems they do, especially when growing fast. Unfortunately, when starting a small business, suddenly you have a boss again — your customers, revenue, and the clock. That’s where productivity tools come in.
Simple communication with your team is priceless, because you don’t want to have to tell everyone individually each time something gets done. Trello is great for things like this along with Slack, a chat app that can act as a base for notifications from other tools.
These have common elements — whole-team communication.
The same thing that’s important for all relationships, is the key to a successful business. It’s communication. Human beings are notoriously poor at communicating everything going on. How often have you accidentally thought something you meant to say aloud?
Keeping everyone up to date with a task’s progress is essential and so is collaboration. I believe small businesses that have a great idea and a focused market can make it big as long as they coordinate themselves. Even surgeons, those whose job it is to think on their feet and react to every new situation at light-speed, need checklists to cut the mistakes they make.
How is it possible to coordinate building a skyscraper with a large team of outsourced and in-house employees? A collaborative checklist and team communication are all it takes. After that, those who are the entrepreneurs, the technicians and the managers are all free to get on with their jobs and do what they do best — as long as they talk about it.
Small Business Tips for Team Efficiency
You can use collaborative processes for every aspect of your business-related effort.
Content promotion, hiring an intern and publishing visual content can all be tracked with the team, making it easy to break the task down into smaller chunks and distribute these among people with the right ability. That will get the task done faster and the progress will be right there for you to see.
For project management, Trello is amazing. It’s a virtual board of rich-content sticky notes you use to create big-picture tasks, adding cards to each one detailing the smaller processes.
One of the most useful aspects is its integration with Slack. When set up to do so, it will tell your team on Slack when you make a change in Trello, making it a powerful tool for tracking progress.
Zapier, a tool compatible with Slack and Trello, is an automation app that allows your Web apps to communicate with each other, sending notifications and automating processes so you don’t have to.
Maybe you can see a pattern emerging?
Within the past year or two, Web apps have gone from being browser-based versions of regular apps to being a cloud-based, one-stop solution. Everything in one place, all wired up together, talking and notifying, making things simple.
Unless we feel like we’d like to make our jobs harder for ourselves because it isn’t challenging enough, we should use these newfangled machines (modern term) to our advantage. Someone else has already done the hard work, and many of these tools are available for free.
According to Pratik Dholakiya, a Small Business Trends contributor, miscommunication is one of the big productivity killers. A lack of clear direction is caused by a team working in silence, and, according to Pratik ‘could mean more than one person doing the same work, unknowingly, which is one of the big productivity killers. Sometimes unnecessary tasks are done. At other times, too much time is allocated to insignificant tasks. Each of these scenarios are productivity killers and represent a huge drain on an organization’s resources’.
Sometimes it’s difficult to coordinate your own workflow. When you’re scheduling around the needs of others, it can be impossible without proper planning.
Learning From Lists
When I write a blog post, I run a checklist to make sure it is up to scratch. The same goes for promotion and countless other things I do throughout the day.
I don’t have to remember every step as I work through it, I just run it afterwards to catch any errors. In doing so, it also functions as a teaching tool. I learn the steps and find my brain automating it for me as I go through.
We could all stand to get better at our jobs, no matter what the method might be. Checklists, as famously used by some pilots, make anything possible.
They make you able to work like a machine while remaining human.
If you’ve got any killer small business tips to share, I’d love to hear about them.
Editor’s Note: This article has been revised to reflect the correct author’s name for The E-Myth.
Checklist Photo via Shutterstock