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As the old saying goes, “Time is Money.” Big retailers such as Gap, Limited Brands, Office Depot, Toys R Us, and the Meijer grocery chain are all jumping on this bandwagon as they try to squeeze as much profit as possible out of the upcoming weak holiday shopping season. (Read more here from the WSJ, http://tiny.cc/P1nuS ) While small businesses might not have the same budgets as these large retailers when it comes to launching operations and performance systems, there are still many opportunities for you to improve your bottom line on your own. Instead of just relying on big changes that may be unrealistic or too expensive to enact, shoot for making several, small changes in your operations.
Step 1: Make a detailed list documenting your production, processing, or shipping procedures
Step 2: Brainstorm ideas to shorten or simplify each one of those steps – without comprising quality or control of your final product
Step 3: Test your new procedures to ensure that they will indeed save time without causing any other unforeseen repercussions
Step 4: If the new procedure improves your operational efficiency, congratulations! If not, keep brainstorming.
Here are a couple examples of time-saving strategies to get you started:
- Instead of shipping small items in boxes, use padded envelopes (save time by not having to set up the box and they’re cheaper to ship)
- Re-organize your inventory so that the top-sellers are on the first rack for easy access (don’t just keep everything sorted alphabetically for the sake of neatness-instead focus on efficiency)
- Don’t drive to the Post Office to ship packages, schedule a free pick-up
- Set up instant messaging for employees to improve communication times (using the group feature will also allow group collaboration within seconds)
- Eliminate “double-entry”, instead focus on creating systems that are fully integrated (re-entering data is a waste of time and increases the risk of errors)
- Save time on accounting by using online banking to schedule automatic bill pays and request e-bills (some banks will even let you deposit checks via email/fax)
- Limit interruptions, instead of always starting/stopping tasks because of calls, random emails, or an occasional door-to-door salesman, set a routine to keep you focused (for example, only check emails in the morning, return phone calls in the afternoon, and require all visitors to be scheduled)