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4 Steps to Free Time and Space for What Matters

A critical and often overlooked step in transforming your business and work environment is elimination.

With finite time and resources, we can best focus on what adds value to our business by eliminating the items that no longer do.

In an operational business context, elimination refers to:

  • Removing duplicate or unnecessary steps in your operations practices. This includes tasks that are inefficient, ineffective or repetitive.
  • Eliminating waste through excess inventory, duplicate files or “green” business practices
  • Automation of the work through the use of technology and integrations
  • Streamlining your internal processes and workspace has immediate effects on productivity, morale and ultimately, profitability. Unburdened from time-sucking tasks, outdated software and clutter, staff have the energy to focus on what matters most – your clients.

    Step 1: Identifying Inefficiencies, Bottlenecks and Waste

    Changes in technology and business needs frequently render tasks and procedures unnecessary, yet employees fail to notice due to habit or “how it’s always been done.” Encourage your staff to get out their magnifying glasses once a year to uncover roadblocks and inefficiencies. Have them document each stage in your current processes, asking them to review and evaluate with the following critical questions:

  • Is each step in the process necessary?
  • Can some of the steps be automated to free up time?
  • Is this step a bottleneck?
  • Are we waiting too long for this step to complete and why?
  • Step 2: Turn Data into Action

    Your CRM is a great place to run reports that get to the heart of any challenges. For example, running a sales progress report on all of your active prospects will reveal bottlenecks like groups of prospects that stay within a particular process step and never move forward to become a client. Review data with a critical eye, asking the following questions:

  • What happens at this step?
  • Who are the players involved in this series of steps?
  • What is slowing things down?
  • Step 3: Think Green

    If you haven’t already, conduct a full assessment of your inventory, logistics and company policies (e.g. digital reports vs. paper reports) to eliminate excess and waste of not only precious resources, but precious time spent communicating the location of inventory, policies, and logistical information. Taking a green approach to business does more than save you money – it is a source of pride for employees and clients. And in today’s business environment, it is a must to stay competitive. A 2012 Office Depot tracking poll found 61 percent of small businesses were trying to go greener, while 70 percent anticipated going green over the next two years.

    Step 4: Automate to Eliminate

    Now that your detective work has pinpointed sources of inefficiency and waste, you are ready to eliminate more work through automation. Start by evaluating if tasks or steps within the task can be eliminated through automation or technology integration. Once integration and automation opportunities have been exhausted, ask yourself whether the work needs to be done at all. Remaining work should be assessed for reassignment, delegation or outsourcing.

    Look at a simple process like scheduling a meeting. A switch from manual scheduling to an automated system can eliminate up to four unnecessary steps and save up to two hours of time per client meeting and hundreds of hours per year.

    Example – Auto-Schedule Meetings in Fewer Steps

    Elimination and Continual Improvement

    Make these four steps a part of your annual review process for continual improvement in your business. Specifically, it is advised to review the following major processes once a year:

  • Prospect to client
  • New client on boarding
  • Annual client servicing
  • Marketing communications to clients, prospects, and referral sources
  • Billing and financial reporting
  • Investment reporting and management
  • Financial planning
  • By simplifying and automating your processes, you create time, space and energy to devote to tasks that really add value to your business. Involve your entire team in the elimination process and watch productivity, satisfaction and profitability rise.

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