In 2021 there are more than 30 million small businesses in the US, and we can only expect this number to continue growing in the following years. Meaning, the competition will only become tighter, and any size businesses need to stay ahead of their competitors.
How To Improve Your Small Business Workflow Like a Pro
One of the critical steps in beating your competition is to ensure your small business workflow is already as efficient as possible, and we all know it can be easier said than done.
However, what if we told you that you are already halfway there by mapping your small business workflows alone?
According to research performed on Polish businesses back in 2016, only 4% of businesses manage and measure the performance of their workflows. By monitoring your processes via workflow mapping, chances are, you are already better than the majority of your competition.
This guide will discuss how you can map, manage, and optimize your small business workflows, improve your business’s efficiency, and grow.
Workflow Optimization: Improving Your Small Business
First, we can define a workflow, or a business process, as a repeatable set of activities enabled by a systematic organization and usage of resources to achieve a specific business objective.
If your small business is a restaurant, for example, then the steps needed to cook your restaurant’s signature dish can be considered as a small business workflow.
So, how can we improve this workflow?
While there are various methods we can use to optimize a business workflow, typically, all methods will always involve three phases:
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1. Identifying the Workflow
Even a small business can have multiple workflows. So, the first step of workflow optimization is to pick a workflow to optimize. We should also collect basic information about the workflow, such as:
- What is a workflow?
- What’s the purpose of the workflow?
- What resources are involved?
- Who is involved?
We can collect information for the workflow by interviewing those involved in the workflow. Gather as much data as possible before we can move to the next phase.
2. Mapping and Analyzing Workflow
Once the workflow and its details are identified, the next step is to map the workflow in a visual format, typically a flowchart diagram. We can use pen and paper or business process management software to develop a workflow map.
Once a workflow map has been realized, we can then analyze it to identify where improvements can be made on the workflow by identifying bottlenecks, redundant steps, and whether the process can be simplified as a whole.
3. Implementing Optimization
Based on the business workflow map analysis, we can develop improvements plan to determine what changes should be made. After that, we can implement the optimization to the workflow.
It’s important to monitor whether the implemented changes produce positive results, or else further rounds of optimization may be required.
Do You Need To Optimize Your Small Business Workflow?
Still not sure whether your small business should optimize your workflow? Unsure whether you can improve a business process that at the moment is working fine?
Check whether your small business is experiencing the following issue to consider whether optimizing your workflow is necessary:
- There are business processes that take too long to complete, and you keep missing deadlines
- There are processes where employees still often make mistakes when executing this process
- There are clear bottlenecks and redundancies on your small business workflow
- There are clear wasteful steps that can be eliminated without affecting the process too much
- You are still not getting the desired results from your workflows
If your business experienced any one of the above issues, then there’s a legitimate reason for your business to optimize your processes, which can produce the following benefits:
1. Improved Efficiency
By mapping your small business workflow in a visual format (i.e., a flowchart), you can more clearly understand steps, sequences, and parallel relationships between tasks needed to achieve the objective of the workflow.
Mapping and optimizing your small business workflow can help employees understand how to execute the process efficiently. At the same time, managers can have more precise insights into redundancies and bottlenecks, which can be improved upon.
2. Reduced Human Error
Workflow mapping improves transparency and accountability of your workflow, allowing employees better to understand their roles and responsibilities in the workflow. In turn, this can help reduce mistakes and human errors.
3. Reduce Operational Expenses
Mapping your small business workflows can help you streamline the business processes and optimize them. When business workflows are truly optimized and streamlined, you’ll need fewer resources to achieve the objective. This can lower the required operational expenses for the said workflow.
4. Enabling Workflow Automation
One of the critical advantages of mapping small business workflows is that it enables us to automate these processes. Workflows should be automated only when they are already efficient since automation will only amplify the inefficiencies, so workflow optimization should be applied before automation.
Automation can free up key employees’ time so they can focus on their core competencies to perform work that can contribute more to achieving your business’s goals. Also, automation will further eliminate the risks of human errors.
An important fact to note is that optimizing your small business workflow is not a time-consuming and complex project. Instead, small business workflow optimization can be performed relatively quickly, so there’s simply no reason not to optimize your workflow right away.
It’s true, however, that workflow optimization is not a one-off process but rather a continuous one. It’s essential to monitor the changes you’ve implemented and whether they are positively impacting the workflow’s efficiency.
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