I received one of the greatest compliments last week: "I enjoy spending time with you because I feel you are always learning. I benefit from it because you're always sharing it with me. So I am always learning something new too." It truly was the greatest compliment, as I believe every human's purpose on earth is to help another.
The compliment tells me I'm doing something right! Don't worry... I don't kid myself. I do plenty wrong as well. Every solution found is only the result of five mistakes before it.
I'm often asked by friends, family and students, how I manage to run a home as a wife and mother... and an office as a business owner. My secret: I keep learning, reading what's out there and how I can improve efficiency.
The last decade has brought in many major changes to how we view work, efficiency, and success. Recent scientific discoveries, new technologies and a change of priorities have us looking at our daily work routines and interactions in different ways.
If you have been running your business and managing your office in the same way for a long time, it’s time to learn about the latest practices and turning your already efficient office into a powerhouse of employee happiness and work efficiency.
The cloud is the way forward, and nobody knows it better than Google. Forget running around with USB drives, or not being able to deliver because the person who had access to the file was not available to send it to you.
Google Apps for work lets you keep all your files in the cloud, meaning you can access them wherever and whenever you have an internet connection. With the ability to collaborate on documents in real time, a single latest version of any given file, and a suite of tools, Google Apps takes any office into the Internet Era.
#2 - Time Management Software
Do you ask employees who work on more than one project to write and submit detailed timesheets at the end of every month? Do you spend a lot of time every month calculating worked hours for payroll? Start planning what to do with all those hours, because a good time management software will free them up instantly.
Time management software will effortlessly keep track of how many hours your team has worked, and give you reports on hours per project. This way your team won’t have to waste their valuable working time generating boring reports, and neither will you. There are many good options out there, including: TimeCamp, Harvest and TSheets.
PRO TIP: Aim for software that integrates with your accounting system and try multiple options before you make a selection. Most cloud based time management software comes with a free trial. Make the most of it!
#3 - A Good Atmosphere
Do not underestimate the value of a good office atmosphere. According to Jeffrey Fermin from business.com, “A disengaging atmosphere can lead to poor performance from good employees. In the U.S. alone, employee disengagement is costing companies over $500 billion dollars every year, as it affects productivity, wellness and revenue.”
Invest some time and thought in making sure your team is happy to come to the office. Is your office well lit? Is the decor welcoming and energizing, or just bored beige cubicles from 1990? Do you celebrate birthdays and holidays? Do employees feel valued and respected? Improving your office atmosphere will increase your employee retention, boost productivity and decrease sick days, among other positive effects. A happy office is a more efficient office.
#4 - Asana
A project management software will make handling your projects a breeze. Break projects down into tasks and assign them, while keeping a constant overview of who is doing what. Communicate changes, deadlines and successes easily, share files and other assets with a click, and cut down on unnecessary meetings.
Asana will increase accountability from all team members, keep everyone in the loop and help you easily manage more projects than you ever could before. Also it’s in the cloud, meaning you (and your team) can access it easily wherever they may be!
PRO TIP: If your team repeats the same process for certain clients or at certain times of the month, make "template" projects. This template is basically a pre-built list with each person's assignments. In this way you save time on delegating, as it is already done. All you have to do is copy the template and rename it!
#5 - Slack
Every office uses some sort of chat software, and it is my firm belief that every office should be using Slack. It is the future of office communication hubs. Easy and intuitive to use, friendly looking, and deceptively organized, Slack combines the best of social media and chat tools to give you a unified - yet organized - office communications tool. You just have to test it out to see what we mean.
PRO TIP: Create a separate channel for each team or each client. Don't forget to add a #watercooler or #random channel for the fun stuff. Our Bridges Slack boasts a fun #music channel to share what we're listening to.
#6 - Healthy Snacks & Refreshments
A little fruit goes a long way. Keeping healthy snacks and refreshments for your team will make them happy, keep them healthy, and increase their productivity by avoiding drowsiness, distraction or hunger pangs. You will have a more efficient office, with fewer food runs and more employees focusing on their work instead of wondering what to eat.
Making healthy food available will also help educate those team members who are not aware of the importance of nutrition, and - believe it or not - it will even decrease sick days.
#7 - Trello
Trello is hard to describe, so let’s say it is the ultimate post-it note board. Your team can share ideas and initiatives, vote for the best ones, and then turn them into projects with deadlines, tasks, etc, all in one place. This is a powerful tool that your team is bound to love, since it gives them a voice and empowers them in the decision making process. Don’t take our word for it, try it out!
PRO TIP: There is overlap between Trello and Asana. In our office, Asana manages the project while Trello manages content generation.
#8 - Smart Goals
Don’t just set goals for your team - set SMART goals. First developed in 1981, SMART is an acronym to remind you that all goals should be:
- Specific – “be the best” is not as clear as “be the top sellers of flugelhorns in OKC”
- Measurable – instead of “sell more”, try “sell 20% more”
- Achievable – be both realistic and ambitious. If “sell more than Target” is not achievable, maybe “increase market share by 15%” is.
- Results-based – aspire to “be the most popular”, but clarify the results you expect: “get positive social media mentions and feedback”
- Time-bound – don’t forget to set a deadline
#9 - CRM
If you’re selling something (and who isn’t), Customer Relations Management software will change your life. Forget the Rolodex - a good CRM software will keep track of all your contacts along with any notes you may have on their interests and selling points.
"Corporations invest in sophisticated CRM, or customer relationship management, programs to effectively oversee their relationship with their customers at every point during the buying process." - Marc Ostrofsky
Your CRM should also let you see at a glance the stage of the customer’s lifecycle, any interactions that have taken place so far, when is the last time you reached out to them, how they prefer to be contacted. The only thing it doesn't do is close the sale for you!
#10 - Cross-team Integration
This applies especially to Sales and Marketing teams, but every office can benefit from some team integration. Hold a weekly meeting and have every team briefly mention what they’re up to. Start a newsletter where teams showcase their projects and successes. Pair up team members from different sides of the business and have them collaborate on a project.
Everyone will have a clearer understanding of their role in the bigger picture, you may get interesting feedback coming from fresh eyes, and there may be some sparks of creativity and synergy when different teams interact. Mix things up a little and enjoy the rewards.