Smaller companies are often unaware of simple tools that can be used to improve business performance. They are relatively cheap and easy to use. So what are they and what exactly do they do?
Some smaller businesses believe that business tools are only for larger companies. This could not be further from the truth. Proper use of a number of simple business tools can seriously affect business performance by increasing both operational efficiency and profitability. I would recommend 4 different tools Find Business Tools, which collectively cost about $500. They are intuitive and easy to use. So what are they?
1. Mind Maps
2. Business Health Check
3. Business Planning Tools
4. Microsoft Visio
Mind maps are computer based programs that you can purchase and download over the internet. They are a terrific management tool in that they allow you to summarize an enormous amount of detail on a single page. Consider all of the tasks you need to undertake in a week or a month and you will find that there is no way to keep on top of everything if you list them in a traditional linear fashion in a notebook or on several sheets of paper. Mind maps allow you to keep track of all of the important issues including key assignments for staff, performance measurement, key account management, strategic development, milestone management, to mention just a few. They also allow you to record details of meetings in a coherent and ordered way which facilitates excellent follow up. You may also use them to brainstorm ideas with your team.
A business health check tool allows you to step back from your business and to analyze it in detail using several hundred well targeted questions. A good one will focus on every aspect of your business including leadership, management style and capability, operational competence, financial management, management and use of information, IT infrastructure, quality and effectiveness of staff, business planning and many more key measures. It is similar to getting a management consultant to come into your business and look underneath the hood, except you can do the diagnosis yourself and it is much more cost effective. The advantage is that it gives you a deep insight into the here and now so that you can then plan your business’s future more coherently.
Business planning is often overlooked in small businesses. This can be a costly mistake. It makes little sense to allow your business to drift on a day-to-day basis and for you to be simply reacting to situations rather than anticipating and actively managing them. Every business needs a road map to keep it on track. A business plan allows you to build a strong team culture with a shared vision of the future. If the whole team has clarity of purpose and is pulling well together, then the business is going to perform substantially better. There are many business planning tools available on the internet and some are even free. The ones you pay for tend to offer you more.
Microsoft Visio is a simple drawing tool that anyone can learn with as little as half an hour on the computer. There are a multitude of uses it can be put to in your business from building marketing brochures and flyers to designing standard forms and stationery. My personal favourite use of Visio is for drawing business process workflows. It is amazing to see with clarity how we go about doing things in our businesses when it is shown in a visual way on a piece of paper. All of a sudden you notice the redundancy in the way that even the most simple activities are carried out. This facilitates changing your business processes and streamlining them to be more efficient. It also allows you to coherently document your processes so that is no ambiguity about the way in which your staff executes them. This can save you a lot of wasted time and money.