There are various reasons why streamlining your business should be a priority at the moment. Consider the challenging economic circumstances, for instance, with countries around the world having tipped into recession owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. And then there’s the rise in entrepreneurialism stemming from all the job losses. Eager to chart their own destinies, myriad talented professionals spurned by conventional employment are rushing to start their own businesses — and that means a tremendous rise in competition.

With a new year looming over the horizon (and with it, the prospect of a widely-available vaccine that can further open things up), you need to be looking ahead and thinking about how you can best adapt your operation to suit these difficult times. If things get worse, you’ll need a lean operation to survive, and if things get better then being efficient will help you take advantage.

To that end, we’re going to spend this piece looking at five tips for streamlining your business in 2021. If you want to get the best possible results, you need to put the effort in. Let’s get started.

Review your processes

As far as everyday operation goes, a business is only as strong as its regular processes. The best companies in the world ensure that their processes are documented (here’s a guide to this) and finely honed. This means that every task likely to come up is set out clearly, reducing the likelihood of errors and making it easier for people to get up to speed on actions they haven’t carried out before.

Before you can streamline your business, then, you need to comprehensively review all your standard processes. Chart the progress of every action you take on an average day. How well do steps flow together? Are there notable delays resulting from miscommunication or a lack of certainty about where responsibilities lie? If you identify issues during this review, you can get to work addressing them, resulting in processes that are speedier and more productive.

Automate task management

Automation is a term that gets used very frequently without much care for what it practically signifies, and that serves to obfuscate its compelling real-world value. While you’re not going to be putting an artificial intelligence in charge, you should be breaking your workload down into actions that can be carried out without manual intervention. The more you automate, the more time your employees will have to work on more complex issues.

Pay close attention to the connective tissue holding your processes together: areas like task allocation and time management, for instance. You can’t automate these things fully, but you can make them so much easier through task management software. Software can take pressure off the complex task management process by issuing automated messages to ensure that tasks are handled by their deadlines (more on this). Additionally, you can rapidly determine how time is being spent on different concerns by using time tracking tools (of which there are many) to implement standardized tags. 

Forget about office space

After spending much of 2020 working remotely, there will be plenty of companies eager to get back into conventional offices when it’s viable once again, and there’s a decent chance we’ll reach that point during 2021 — but that doesn’t mean you should take that route. Office space is expensive, and that used to be justified through remote working being unfamiliar and companies seemingly needing offices to appear suitably professional.

Things have changed. We all know at this point that remote working can be very productive, and companies throughout the world have found that they can work remotely without missing out on much (aside from the social elements). What’s more, it’s likely — for the foreseeable future, at least — that having an office when it isn’t necessary will be held against companies instead of being considered evidence of their success and trustworthiness.

Outsource as appropriate

Something that often slows down businesses (particularly smaller businesses like startups) is the determination of founders and managers to do everything internally. Feeling absolute responsibility for how things progress, they figure that they can only achieve consistent results if they’re directly involved with shaping them. This isn’t the case, obviously.

It’s no help to anyone when an overly-controlling founder with no graphic design skills opts to take full ownership of creating a company logo. It doesn’t save money relative to hiring a graphic designer, because the founder’s time is very valuable to the company and should be going towards sales. So if you want to streamline your operation, don’t try to do things in-house if you don’t have the skills: outsource them to talented freelancers, or bring in new hires.

Fully embrace the cloud

Lastly, it bears noting that there are still plenty of companies out there reluctant to give up old-fashioned elements of digital operation. They stay away from cloud operations because they don’t understand them and perceive them as fundamentally insecure and unreliable — yet recent months have made it abundantly clear that the SaaS world is highly reliable.

If you’re still relying on old ways of doing things, it’s time to move on. For one example, you might be storing business files locally instead of in cloud storage, and that will inevitably slow things down when one person needs a file that another person must first manually share with them. All company files should be centralized, ensuring seamless team collaboration.

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