A long time ago — as in, before 2000 — we used a device called a fax machine. The fax machine was what you turned to when you needed to send or receive a signature from someone outside of walking proximity. And while it’s true that using a fax is easier than hand-delivering the document, that doesn’t mean it’s especially efficient, especially not by modern standards: You have to print the document, feed it into the machine, find the number of the recipient fax machine, and send your precious document off into the abyss.
Fax machines have always scared me. They’re confusing to use, and you’re never really sure whether the document reached its destination or not. That’s why e-signature products like DocuSign, DocHub, and — most exciting to me — Jotform Sign, are so important to a smooth-running business. We created Jotform Sign to be used both on its own or as part of Jotform’s suite of products, because we want both our employees and customers to enjoy the most streamlined experience possible.
E-signatures may seem simple, but it’s amazing what a difference they make. And the good news is, there are tons of easy ways you can make your business more efficient, just by using tools that already exist.
Use collaborative tools
Collaborating and communicating was easier when everyone was in an office together. But remote work has become the norm, making it far more difficult to gather teams in-person for something as simple as a status update. Moreover, emails often get lost, calls are missed, voicemails are ignored.
Fortunately, platforms like Slack or Asana help ensure everyone is on the same page. Whether you’re working with a small team or a large one, these services allow you to share files, organize groups by project and communicate easily, meaning no more lost emails. Many of them also let you track progress on assignments, facilitate scheduling, and integrate with other tools like Gmail.
Invest in a strong finance team
If there’s one area of your business that’s ripe for streamlining, it’s your finances. “Depending on the size of your business, just one financial executive can make a world of difference,” Shauna A. Wekherlien, CPA, MTax, CTC, CTS of Tax Goddess, tells Entrepreneur. Building a team of experts who can help you maximize tax savings, cash flow, financing and other strategies will not only benefit your company financially, it will also save you the agony of navigating this often complicated terrain on your own.
Once you’ve gotten the right people on board, the rest is easy, says Wekherlien. “Build structural financial systems together on which the rest of your business can grow, thrive, expand, and profit.”
Ask for feedback
There’s a good chance you’re forgetting to use one of your most valuable resources when it comes to figuring out what processes to streamline: Your own team.
After all, no one knows your company’s pain points better than the people who make it run every day. There are plenty of ways to collect input from teams, one great option being Jotform’s feedback forms. But regardless of your method, it’s important to ask these three questions.
What processes do you find the least efficient?
How could those processes be improved?
Do you have any suggestions?
Once you’ve asked for feedback, don’t ignore it! Not only can employee feedback significantly streamline your business; it will also make it easier for everyone to do their jobs. What’s more, actually listening to what your direct reports are saying shows them that you value their opinions, and take what they say seriously.
I’m a huge fan of delegating. When you’re first launching a start-up, you have to do everything on your own — even tasks you’re not especially suited for. At a certain point, though, you realize that you shouldn’t be doing everything yourself: Handling PR and customer service as a founder is probably not the best use of your time, and a specialist can do it better than you, anyway.
The same goes for outsourcing. Sure, you can try to do everything in-house, but…why? As Teddy Wold, CEO of Klingit, tells Forbes: “Turning the work over to an outside specialist gives you time to focus on what matters most, while also ensuring that you get an expert to take care of the tasks that are outside your wheelhouse. You’ll get better results on the project and save money in the long run by keeping your operations lean.”
The rise of collaborative tools also makes it way easier to manage contractors and freelancers from afar. Take advantage of products like Asana and Google Sheets to keep everyone organized and on the same page, even when working remotely.
Identify your goals
When you’re running a business, it’s sometimes difficult to see the forest through the trees. One way to clear out the noise is to identify your priorities. Start by listing out what’s going well at your company, and be specific. If it’s helpful, you can break the list up into categories, like strategy, operations and work environment.
Next, make a “Room for Improvement” category, still being as specific as possible. Move on to “Passions,” and write out the top two or three areas of your business that bring you the most joy. These are where your focus should be. Lastly, list out your obstacles. Are you lacking time? Direction? Do you have too many other obligations?
Seeing each of these pieces mapped out will give you a much better sense of what’s going well, your pain points, and where your own passions lie.
Streamlining your business can be make or break. That’s why it’s so important to figure out where you can save time and resources, and where you should be focusing your efforts. It’s not just a quick productivity hack, either. It’s about figuring out how you want to spend your time, and clearing the obstacles standing in the way of your goals.