Month: December 2018

Across the world, minimising waste is a hot topic. The decluttering movement is gaining ground, and the world is waking up to the environmental implications of our waste.

In business, there are many examples of waste– and all of them can impact on our bottom line and our psyche.

While many businesses are good at minimising physical waste, business and staff inefficiencies can have an even greater impact on your bottom line.

Here are six ways to minimise waste at work with the potential to whip your business into shape in no time flat (with a little hard work, that is).

Clear communication
Despite more methods of communication than ever before, this doesn’t prevent some messages from getting lost in translation. When communication breaks down, this can have a serious impact on your business, impacting staff morale, your team’s output, and ultimately your customers. There are many ways to improve your team’s communication. Choosing select mediums for communication is one important way. For example, consider platforms such as Slack to streamline your workflows, and minimise the number of emails you send and receive.

Avoid over-servicing
Under-servicing can lead to dissatisfied customers, but over-servicing can be just as costly. While it’s great to be accessible to your clients, remember that this comes at a cost to your business. TopLine Comms CEO Heather Baker says over-servicing is the number one profitability killer for service businesses. “We created a level of expectation that simply wasn’t feasible,” she says of her own experience. Utilise a time tracking system, such as Toggl or Clockify, to identify areas where you are over-servicing, and pass this information on to your clients to take back control.

Flexible roles
Having defined roles, especially as your business grows, is essential to avoid the duplication of services. But Professor of Organisational Behaviour at London Business School, Dan Cable, says job titles must be flexible and play to each employee’s strengths. “Nowadays organisations need innovation and agility from employees,” he says. “This opens the door for employees to use their personal skills to adapt the job, and the job title, around their strengths.” Strike a balance by continuing to set KPIs, but taking a less rigid approach to the job descriptions of old.

A matter of priorities
Time management expert Peter Turla says, “Managing your time without setting priorities is like shooting randomly and calling whatever you hit the target.” It can be the difference between success and mediocrity. Your business needs to clearly define what high value work is for your brand, and ensure your leaders are setting clearly parameters and direction around this. Consider how you’re using your time and talents, and be strategic when prioritising your tasks to minimise waste.

Act on ideas
A company culture that promotes not only idea generation, but also idea execution, is crucial. Without the latter, your team’s talents and ideas are wasted. While experimentation is not without risks of its own, chief innovation officer of Rightpoint Greg Raiz says embracing risk must become part of a company’s “long-term culture” if it is to remain innovative. “The overnight disruptive success of the iPhone, Google, Amazon and Netflix all took more than a decade,” he says. Failure to leverage new ideas and networks in real time can create a culture of living in the past and doing what is safe, to the detriment of your brand.

Plan your events
While there is a strong push for more investment in professional development and marketing opportunities within many companies, it is important that these opportunities do not result in financial waste. When considering expos, tradeshows, workshops and other profile-raising and professional development options, consider what you or your employees will take out of this. Ensure that you clearly define and plan out how you will leverage your attendance in the real world. Where you can’t define these benefits, such opportunities are best avoided.

Minimising any business’ waste in a meaningful and holistic way requires work, but consider the far greater cost of not doing this work. This work should begin with a review of your business in order to identify the greatest areas of waste. Nevertheless, small changes count. Ask yourself: What is one small change I can make to my company’s operations to minimise our waste? Then, make the switch. Take the small wins, and plan for a bigger overhaul that incorporates all of these steps.

Earlier this year, you may remember that I wrote a post highlighting the potential pitfalls of collaborations, entitled ‘Don’t mention the ‘c’ word’.

In it, I covered six essential steps that businesses should take before committing to a partnership.

But what happens once you have made that commitment? Today I want to cover the next phase: how to achieve a best practice partnership or collaboration.

Who’s in charge?
Whether you’re establishing a partnership of two individuals or two larger companies, roles must be clearly defined. It is vital that program partners are equally involved, and that each brings something of value to the table. It is not enough for a partner to pay lip service as part of a PR exercise and add little or no value to the other party. For a partnership to work, all agencies must be true to their word, and act on their promises.

While there’s no legal requirement to have one, a written partnership agreement is essential. It should cover everything from how the business will be controlled, to how income or losses will be distributed to the partners. The ATO has useful resources on structuring a partnership.

Define your values
While shared skills are a non-essential – in fact, complementary but divergent skills can actually prove most advantageous – shared values are a different story. For partnerships to flourish, it is essential there is a clear, well defined code of values and standards that all partners hold themselves to. The Co-Founder of fast-growing online platform Food52, Merrill Stubbs, agrees. “It’s so important when curating a brand with such a strong point of view that we share a similar take on the world, strategically and aesthetically,” she says.

Values alignment is key, since values shape not only our professional identity, but also determine what conduct we deem to be good and bad as a business. Workplace mediator Elinor Robin says these values guide our actions in business. “When partners’ values align … they are more likely to make congruent decisions and remain united,” she reasons.

Know thy neighbour
Getting to know each other, and open communication, is essential to the success of any partnership. For partnerships to grow between groups of businesses or individuals, it is key that you understand each other’s value, so you are best placed to create benefits and opportunities together. This requires open communication and the resources on hand to share the uniqueness of each business within a group.

Ensuring you have the right conversations is part of this work. FutureSense President Jim Finkelstein advises that candid, quality conversations are key. “A true valued partner … will tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear,” he says. “A true value-add partnership ids marked by freedom to share, discuss, opine, and have the tough discussions that lead to innovative growth.”

Review your performance
For any partnership – or any business, for that matter – to succeed, a consistent process of review is a non-negotiable. Whatever the structure of your review process, it’s important to ensure that regular time is set aside for this work, and that this work is undertaken within a framework, and is time limited. There should also be clearly defined goals and objectives that are assessed as part of this work.

Your review should identify what is and isn’t currently working and why, and should also examine how your businesses can work together more effectively, and set timeframes for making these changes. Many businesses with a partnership model call upon the services of an external coach, to ensure this work is impartial and outcome-focused.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T
In all dealings, respect is the name of the game. From the get go, ensure you collaborate with partners who share your values so you can easily establish a culture of mutual benefit and respect. Parties must be respectful to one another even when expressing differences of opinion, so opt for a partner with the same goals; someone who wants to grow and will support your growth.

Finally it’s worth noting that those looking to enter into more formal partnership relationships should definitely check out the ATO site for further advice.

Take these steps, and your business will be well placed to create collaborations that prove fruitful for all parties. Enjoy the ride!