Rob Kerr, director of British Gas Lite, shares his top time-saving tips and the time-wasting activities to avoid.

I’ve spent a lot of time looking at the best ways to help small businesses cut costs and work more efficiently. There are some simple options that can make all the difference to your bottom line - whether that’s being more efficient with your time or ruling out activities that waste your time. I’ve shared some of the most important tips I’ve picked up in my career below for you.

1. The Cloud

The first piece of time saving advice I’d suggest, is getting into Cloud Computing. It lets someone else worry about hardware, and you simply subscribe to a level of service based on your unique needs.

Cloud-based services mean you don’t have to worry about space and your staff can access their work environment and collaborate, anytime anywhere if they have an internet connection. 

This can also mean cost savings in other areas too, with remote working and the use of contract workers and freelancers. And if physical assets are ever damaged or destroyed, all your data is still safely stored remotely. All you have to do is log on again.

In fact, any “as a service” online model really will be an asset to your business as you scale up and down. 

Invest as soon as you can to make sure your business is always available for your customers, to avoid lost business and poor service.

2. Digital tools 

The natural next step to going digital and getting into the Cloud is selecting the tools you want to use in that environment. Collaboration, marketing, project management, payment, HR… there’s a digital tool for everything.

As we rely more on our smart phones and tablets, it’s important to make sure we’re all on the same page and have the right tools and services for the job, whether we’re out and about, working from home or in the office.

When choosing your digital tool or service, focus on reliability. There may be new players on the market but you need to be able to trust the tool you’re using and know that if something does go wrong the company providing it has the right level of expertise to get you back up and running in no time.

Apps like PayPal, Microsoft Office 365, Facebook Pages Manager and Google all offer excellent options for small businesses so I’d suggest starting with these. Make sure the tools or service reduce costs for you, offer online options and even webchat instead of call centres can prove to be a huge benefit if your business doesn’t run to traditional nine to five hours.

Automation can also drive efficiency. If you ensure menial and repetitive tasks are managed through technology like IoT and AI, your staff can be far more productive and use their valuable skills for the most important things.

As you start to grow your business, don’t forget to delegate and hand responsibility over to your employees. This will motivate them and can also encourage friendly competition and productivity.

Time wasting practices 

Often business leaders spend time at meetings that they don’t need to be at. Too many people accept meetings without understanding what they’re bringing to them or what they’re getting out of them. 

If you don’t know, chances are they’re not a good use of your time or that your attendance will be helpful to the outcomes of the meeting.

When arranging meetings, try booking them for 45 minutes rather than an hour, this helps you make better use of time and leaving the remaining 15 minutes free means you arrive on time for your next session.

Think about the medium you use to communicate. Pick up the phone and talk to solve issues and discuss ideas faster than several emails going back and forth, especially if your message is an urgent one. Instant messenger is also a great tool for gaining quick answers where the contact is straightforward.

Email is useful for non-urgent communication, but make sure you are clear on whether it is for information only or if you want the recipient to do something in response to your email. Sometimes email is the only option even where the contact is urgent, so in those circumstances make it clear in the subject line that action is needed, what the deadline is and what the topic is.

Think about the subject lines you use in your email. Even if you’re responding to an email, you can still change the subject line. Although it might make sense right now to put “follow up from our call” in the subject line, in a weeks’ time, that won’t be relevant and your communication will be lost in the inbox ether.

I hope that these tips can make a difference for small businesses and help you succeed much faster.

British Gas Lite is the smart new energy service for small businesses. It's entirely online, and gives you a smart meter provided and installed for free, to lower your costs. Find out more here.

This post is sponsored by British Gas Lite.

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