By Cindy Bates
The start of a New Year is likely to have many SMB owners recounting the ups and downs of the past year and looking for things they can do better in 2015. For some, that means streamlining budgets. For others, that means getting a better grasp on the elusive work/life balance. In my role, it means looking for ways to increase productivity and helping SMB owners get back a bit more of one of the world’s most precious resources – time.
As I look for ways to improve productivity this year, I’ve shared a few tried and true methods below that will help you start your year off strong.
• Start with you – Taking better care of yourself can go a long way towards helping your business thrive. It can be as simple as getting more rest. Sleep can have a major impact on your performance, with one study finding sleep to be more important than food. The latest wearable devices make it easier than ever to track your habits – when asleep or awake to keep your efforts on track. Best of all, you can share healthy habits with your employees. Scheduling daily walks or offering yoga courses onsite can reduce stress and encourage teambuilding.
• Get out of the office – The great thing about the shift towards cloud mobility is we’re no longer tied to our desks. Even when we’re on the go, we still have access to important documents through our phones and devices in case of emergency or last minute edits. A change of scenery is also a great way to boost creativity and recharge. Commit to working from home more often or even working from a local coffee shop with your favorite cup of joe once a week. Networking is key and you never know who you might meet when working outside of your office.
• Upgrade your technology – There are plenty of great tools you can use to increase productivity and ultimately save time during the workday. The right technology can increase efficiency, save money and reduce waste while outdated tools could be holding your business back. Research from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) found SMBs leveraging technology grow revenue and profitability at a much faster rate. On July 14, 2015, Microsoft will completely end support for Windows Server 2003, making the New Year a great time to transition to modern technology solutions such as Office 365 and Azure that work the way you do both at work and at home.
• Join a local business association – Whether you’re just starting out or you’re an industry veteran, business associations offer a huge return on time invested. As a business owner, the thought of adding one more activity to your busy calendar may seem unbearable, still memberships offer numerous benefits including keeping you on top of important, ever-changing marketplace issues, trends and legislation. Not to mention the great networking opportunities and access to expert advice. Your local Small Business Development Center is a great place to start.
• Set achievable, time bound goals – I’ve most often found it easier to reach a large goal by setting smaller goals along the way. If you resolve to increase sales by 20 percent, take time to celebrate small wins along the way to help your staff stay motivated and productive.
I want to hear from you. Share your 2015 business resolutions on Twitter @Cindy_Bates.
Vice President, Microsoft U.S. SMB group
Cindy Bates leads the company’s efforts to help SMBs realize their full potential through the use of technology. This blog is where she shares SMB stories, technology insights, and business strategies for SMBs.