• Alison Folwell

How much is habit costing your business?


Every person, every team and every business has habits. Some are good, some are bad, but the point is – we all have them. Ingrained ways of doing things that we keep on doing – just because “we’ve always done it like that,” or, “I’ve never really thought about changing it,"I haven't got time today," or the often counter-productive, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”


While habits are comfortable, easy and often still get the job done, they can also be barriers to better ways of working, new processes and greater efficiencies. In short, they can cost you serious amounts of time, resource and actual bottom-line cash.


So how do you identify what habits your business has slipped into?


One step back, two steps forward


Sometimes, in order to make a big step forward, we first have to take a big step back.


Our MD has taken a proactive approach for Ten-25 by working with a business coach, James Akin-Smith, to learn how to take that all-important step back in order to see the business more clearly. Often it takes a fresh perspective to see what habit has made us blind to – the inefficiencies, less than direct routes and unnecessarily complex processes that simply don’t need to be there, and which can be improved.


We have learned to question everything we do, asking ourselves why we do it that way, and considering new ways to tackle the issue at hand. Habit is the enemy of efficiency, and when we catch ourselves being complacent about the ways we do things, we have to really make an effort to be honest and ask whether there is a better alternative. (Sometimes there isn’t – and that’s great – but at least we know!)


Too busy being busy


One of the most common issues we hear about is that people in business are just too busy to do anything about it. We get it – we’ve been there. The day-to-day pressures can get in the way of longer term thinking, but unless you can take that step back and focus on what’s happening behind the day-to-day busyness, you’ll never be able to take control of it and reduce the pressure.


“I haven’t got time at the moment” is one of the most commonly used phrases we hear, and we totally understand. But we would also challenge you to find the time to invest in systems and processes that will, in the longer-term, free up your time and that of your workforce and drive efficiency and productivity.


Time really is money


Every single member of your team is busy, and they all perform countless tasks every day as part of bigger business processes. So it’s important to realise how much little changes add up.


If it usually takes 10 minutes to raise a purchase order, imagine the annual time savings if it only took five.


If your credit controller usually spends four hours a week chasing unpaid invoices, imagine the time savings if those reminders went out automatically.


Maybe you regularly have to work late manually pricing up invoices that could be done automatically as the day’s trading goes on.


And if you currently employ four admin staff and four sales reps – imagine how much more profitable your business could be if you could redeploy two of those admin staff into sales because the admin takes half the time.


Small savings add up over time, and identifying the root cause of inefficiencies can save your business huge amounts of time. We have had several examples of customers being able to operate a more efficient team structure thanks to automated functions and improved processes.


Streamline processes to create efficiencies


It isn’t always easy to imagine a different way when you’ve done things the same way for a long time. That’s another reason it can be useful to bring in a third party, who can see things objectively and help you to identify where improvements could be made.


Stock management often has great potential for enhancement, from using better software to enable straightforward perpetual inventory to providing a data-driven strategy for adjusting your stock profile to make it more profitable and less wasteful. Delivery notes, certification and other traditionally manual documentation could be speeded up with automated, digital solutions, with less room for loss or human error.


Buyers could be comparing prices and supplier performance more simply and quickly, while your sales team could be driving productivity and performance with faster access to information, customer notes and paperwork. The list goes on - every department can always find ways to improve.


Take stock of where you want to go – not just where you’re heading


It’s easy to get bogged down in the busyness of business, and hard to keep control of where you need to be going. Evaluating the processes in your business is a great way to question the “why” of what you’re doing – what does it achieve, why are you doing it, and is it contributing to where you need your business to go? If you’re not sure, we recommend getting a second opinion – coaches, consultants, systems experts – there are plenty of experienced people on hand to lend you the benefit of their experience, and save you time and money in the process.


Every administrative and operational process in your business has the potential for streamlining or improvement, but few of us have the time to scrutinise it. But if you can make the time or invest in systems to help you, you will undoubtedly reap the benefits – not just in terms of reduced waste and increased profits, but also in the satisfaction of a productive and fulfilled workforce able to do their jobs more easily every day.


How do you go about assessing the way your business runs? Who helps you to get perspective and tell good habits from bad?


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