How to run a productive business

- October 31, 2017 4 MIN READ

Now is a great time to take stock in your small business and plan ahead for the next 12 months. There’s never been a better time to take a good look at making some small adjustments that will save time and money while kicking your productivity up a notch.

Here are 8 tips on how you can improve your business and deliver products and services faster without damaging your bottom line.


Research shows that multi-tasking not only slows us down but also makes us worse at what we do! So my first tip is to prioritise ruthlessly, reduce the amount of work in progress throughout your organisation and watch your productivity soar!

Goals and ORKs

Set strategic goals and break them down into objectives and the key results (OKRs) you expect to see once you have met your objectives. Make sure your business activities and projects align with, and contribute to, meeting your OKRs and goals to make every minute you invest in your small business count!

Reduce waste

This sounds like a no-brainer but when I say “waste”, I refer to the 8 wastes we derive from the Toyota Production System (Liker, 2003): Transport, Inventory, Motion, Waiting, Over-processing, Over-production, Delays and Skills. These are applicable to any type of business – ask yourself:

  • Are you handling customer queries multiple times, when once would suffice?
  • Does the handover of work from one team or department to the next cause delays or waiting?
  • Do you have a high number of projects going on at the same time?

Embrace the power of the pen

While digitally composed reports may be pleasing to the eye, they also encourage your brain to just “skim over” the information rather than critically processing it. Research shows that to maximise our data processing abilities, we need to physically engage with the data in question (Duhigg, 2016). So to make sure you’re not only gathering data on your business performance but also maximise what you learn from it, embrace the power of the pen. Yes, you heard right – crack out the butcher’s paper, index cards, sticky notes and sharpies and draw your own charts.


While it may take some getting used to, working in teams can increase your productivity up to 62% (Manzoor, Ullah, Hussain, & Ahmad, 2011). When creating a high performing team, focus on diversity among team members, flat hierarchy and complimentary skillsets to maximise each team members’ brain power!


Many small business owners are concerned that they don’t have the financial means to incentivise their staff for higher performance. But while financial incentives may work in the very short term, there is no evidence that it improves performance in the long run, and in fact, we often see performance drop with increased incentives. So forego extrinsic motivation (such as bonuses, shares, etc) for the sake of tapping into your staff’s intrinsic motivation by giving them freedom in decision making within boundaries, allowing them to pursue mastery in their chosen field of expertise and showing them how they contribute to helping your customers, and maximise your staff’s motivation, not just their desk-time!

Foster and manage conflict

At first glance, conflict may not sound overly productive but when we dig deeper, we realise that without healthy conflict between engaged, informed and skilled team members, your teams are only too likely to succumb to groupthink and sub-optimal decision making. Well-managed and problem-specific conflict not only ensures you are getting the most out of your employees by making every voice heard, it also reduces tension among team members and resistance to new ideas or changes by increasing individual and team buy-in.


My final, and arguably most important, tip is to establish a culture of continuous improvement in your organisation. Just remember that today’s high performance is tomorrow’s new “status quo” and stagnating to rest on our laurels is quickly punished by a business landscape that’s changing faster every year. So truly exceptional companies focus on building a culture that empowers every team and individual to challenge the status quo, drive improvements and embrace change – for a more productive tomorrow every day!

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