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25 Ways to Simplify Your Business

25 Ways to Simplify Your Business



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Published by Gary Henson
Fine-tune your business with our ideas for simplifying and streamlining your operations.
Fine-tune your business with our ideas for simplifying and streamlining your operations.

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Published by: Gary Henson on Jan 18, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Fine-tune your business with our ideas for simplifying andstreamlining your operations.It's your typical day at the office. Like every other day, itstarted at 7:00 a.m. When you sat down with that first cup of coffee, you were hoping to get to work on some meaty stuff-strategic planning, ideas for that big project, a thorough reviewof your staffing needs for next quarter--the kind of long-termthinking that helps your   business grow. But you'd barely gotten started when... it started. Urgent phone calls from clients.Personnel crises. Last-minute meetings. Stacks of documents, checks and other  paperwork that need your approval or signature. Suddenly, it's 7:00 p.m., and all you'vedone is put out fires. Want tomorrow to be different? Then read on for 25 easy ways tosimplify your business so you'll have time for what really matters. Put these ideas towork, and before you know it, you'll be finishing up that strategic plan... and maybe evenhave time left over for a life.
Streamlining your businesstechnologycan make life less of a headache for everyone.Entrepreneurs often "don't realize they can make things easier," says Kevin McElligott,founder of iTech Developers, a Nevada City, California, technology consulting firm andhosting provider. Here are a few ideas to get your technology in tip-top shape:
1. Serve it up.
A server can act as a digital filing cabinet for your growing piles of documentation. Compared to daisy chaining several PCs, "Servers give you a lot morereliability and improve your business," says Mike Beltrano, supervisor of  productmanagementfor servers at CDW Corp., a Vernon Hills, Illinois, server company.Another bonus: By keeping important documents on a central server, it's easier to back upall your important documents daily.
2. Phone it in.
Are you wasting time running between voice mail on your cell and office phones? VoIP systems offer a great deal of personalization and features for a rock-bottom price. In fact, VoIP can be up to 40 percent cheaper than a traditional small-office phonesystem, and itoffersuseful features for any small business. Voice mails, for example, can be handled just like attachments--clicked, dragged, dropped and passed along. "Voicemail is becoming e-mail that can be forwarded where you want it," says Henry Kaestner,CEO of Bandwidth.com, a Cary, North Carolina, firm that provides VoIP services tocompanies. These systems are fairly new, but they're getting more popular and morereliable every day.
3. Take it online.
If you've taken the leap of setting up an accounting package to handleyour bills, take the extra step of automating the process. See if your accounting softwarecan automatically generate invoices as well as e-mail reminders for late payments. "The
system will literally tell me when it's time to call," says McElligott, whose automated billing process alerts him after each late notice has been e-mailed to a customer, and itautomatically suspends the client's hosting services as of the third notice. Likewise, your accounting software (and your bank) can handle electronic transfers so you never have toworry about a late electric bill.
4. Hit the web.
Your website is a potential client's main access point to your business.Don't worry as much about fancy graphics as making sure visitors can get the informationthey need. An online FAQ list can cut down on the time clients spend calling with basicquestions and prevent a frustrated client from going elsewhere. You don't have to be atechno-whiz to set up a good website. Many web hosting companies can provide reliablewebsites for relatively little money, and many provide tools to help even technophobesset up online purchasing and billing.
Money might not be the root of all evil, but it is the cause of many headaches for businessowners. Here are five tips for managing your money better:
5. Bank on it.
"One of the assets business owners have is their cash," says MannyCalzon, vice president and finance manager for the central district of Merrill LynchinTampa, Florida. But many entrepreneurs don't understand how much they're paying inservice charges to their banks every month. Request a bank analysis statement that breaksdown the generic service charges found in your monthly statement. "You can make aneducated decision as to whether you need [all the services you're] beingcharged for,"Calzon says, "and if not, [ask the banker to] streamline and reduce costs associated withthis account." You can then reinvest the savings in ways that take the business to the nextlevel.
6. File taxes electronically.
Companies with $10 million or more in total assets that file250 or more returns a year are now required to file their 2006 taxes electronically. "Small businesses are going to be scrambling," says Bradford Hall, managing director of Hall & Company CPAsin Irvine, California. "They're going to [need] an automated payrollservice that files electronically for them." So get a head start now to make life easier later on.
7. Pay now, not later.
Can you pay smaller bills in advance? If you have a monthly billfor $15 but opt to pay $90 for six months of service, you'll save $1.95 in stamps and youwon't incur late fees. Best of all, you're not wasting time paying bills.
8. Upgrade your accounting systems.
"A business that's projecting $10 million-plus [insales] should be on a sophisticated system," Hall says. Software packages such asBusinessWorks, Enterprise, Great Plains (which was recently acquired by Microsoft) andMAS 90 offer increased sophistication for a growing company and will make life mucheasier come tax time or, heaven forbid, an audit.
9. Make your (bench) mark.
It's common for growing companies to do business withoutunderstanding how they stack up against similar companies in their industry. Most likely,your accountant has industry profit and overhead statistics at the ready--data you can
keep on file for future strategy sessions without having to do your own legwork. SaysHall, "Businesses aren't taking advantage of it."
10. Obey the urge to merge.
You might pay slightly more, but renewing all your insurance policies on the same date with the same agent lets you sit down once a year toreview insurance for the entire business instead of having different renewals pop up threeor four times a year. You'll save time, and your insurance agent "will do better with thefull picture," says Scott Simmonds, owner of Insurance Consultants of Maine, a Saco,Maine, company that helps small-business owners navigate their insurance plans. Check out Simmonds'site or  InsuranceBuzzer for tips on 40 types of insurance.
of employees and processes is probably the single toughest job for anyentrepreneur. Want to simplify? Here's how:
11. Hire strategically.
Create an online application form, and have elimination criteria related toscheduling, salary and educational level. "Select out vs. select in," says Suzanne Zuniga, COO of 
, a Colorado Springs, Colorado, HR consulting firm. Being more selective means you'll hiresooner and get back to work.
12. Stay on schedule.
Creating a schedule for employees is a time-consuming nightmare for everyemployer, especially in retail. But there are software packages--
,to name a few--that let you scan for schedulingerrors and track employee hours and earnings in real time. Some, like TimeCurve Scheduler, alsointegrate with QuickBooks to make payroll easier. Scheduling software packages range in price fromaround $125 to more than a thousand dollars with site licenses depending on the size of your staff andwhat you want, but it's an investment that will save you time in the long run. Many of these companies provide free demos on their websites for you to try, too.
13. Rent a CFO.
At some point, a bookkeeper won't be able to keep up with your burgeoning bottomline. "One of the biggest mistakes 
owners make is they don't realize they need thesophistication of a CFO," Hall says. Today, there are employment agencies that specialize in hiring outCFOs. You can "rent" a CFO who will come in one day each week or month, depending on what youneed. A temporary CFO's services can be expensive--$1,000 or more per day--but is worth the cost if he or she helps focus your business and make it more profitable.
14. Tighten your supply chain.
"Strong partnerships with suppliers and service providers [are]critical in the supply-chain excellence area," says John DuBiel, managing partner of Raleigh, NorthCarolina-based
, a firm that helps companies identify, develop and execute their supply-chain strategies. Keep relationships strong by leveraging your buying power with as fewservice providers as possible. Says DuBiel, "Simplify and leverage all the volume you can."
15. Outsource your HR function.
Entrepreneurs spend up to one-third of their time doing payroll and benefits administration. They're also risking penalties if tax payment deadlines aren't met or filings areincorrect. "When you pay a company that you outsource to, you're paying for the benefit of their mistakes on their dime, not yours," Zuniga says. So outsource HR, and make your time count.
16. Have fewer staff meetings.
Do you
need a staff meeting every week when an e-mail 
 might do? Fewer staff meetings mean less talk and more action. Workers will thank you

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