Small companies can't afford not to run a tight ship. Even small costs or time drains can make the difference between staying afloat and sinking. So Ron Wince, CEO of Guidon Performance Solutions, tells small-business owners to take some advice from Caddyshack and "Be the ball." In this case, he's talking about how small-business owners need to put themselves in the place of their customers to figure out where they are wasting time and money.
At Guidon, Wince often counsels companies on how to become leaner. But small companies don't usually have the resources to hire outside consultants and may not have the business background to undertake a major overhaul. That doesn't mean they still can't take a few simple steps that could add up to dramatic savings.
Small-business owners should examine every aspect of their operations to see where they aren't being as efficient as possible. Taking notes from well-run Toyota, Wince points to seven areas where companies often misuse their resources:
Errors. Making mistakes or having a defective product just means you have to repeat a process.
Overprocessing. This means doing something of no importance to the customer, such as having a half-dozen people review an application. If you are a small insurance agency, say, your customer probably just wants his paperwork processed as quickly as possible.
Overproducing. This is doing something before a customer wants it done. A small clinic doesn't need to prepare extra surgical trays that never get used.
Extra inventory. One company Wince looked at ordered photocopier paper in bulk, thinking it was getting a good deal. Then the business had to rent storage space because there wasn't room for it all on site.
Transportation. Shuffling files around the office from one desk to another may not add much for customers except wasted time.
Motion. Walking a long distance just to get to a photocopier can rack up minutes that employees could better use doing something else.
Waiting. Customers often don't care how nice a waiting room is. They would rather not have to wait at all.
Wince says that it might be tough for a small-business owner to get out of his mind-set and into that of the customer. So he advises owners to put together small teams of employees and have them meet for just a couple of hours to tackle one aspect of the customer process. For instance, employees in a dental office might review what patients experience when they are checked in for the first time. Employee teams will often come up with suggestions just as good, Wince says, as those of any pricey consultant.