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Doing More With Less

Doing More With Less

Attracting top talent is a hot topic these days. “The Great Resignation” is still in full swing. Businesses across the USA are struggling to find workers to fill jobs. From gig workers to laborers to professional services firms, one thing that most business owners have in common these days is that they cannot find enough skilled workers to fill the jobs available. This makes for uneasy business owners, stressed and overburdened staff, and avoidance of selling. Because what happens if we get the “big sale” and cannot fulfill the commitments?

It creates quite a conundrum. If we cannot find the talent that we need to fulfill the jobs that our small business has on hand, how can we continue to sell and deliver products and services? My own firm has experienced some pretty sizeable growth in 2021. We are currently hiring another person, which has not been an easy search. It makes me uneasy. I’ve been more worried about fulfilling our commitments to clients than I have been about filling the pipeline with potential sales.

Then, I got to thinking: maybe it does not have to be one or the other.  Maybe, in fact, some of the things that got us to where we are could be amplified to help us on the continuum of supporting our clients. I wanted to share some ideas from my own vault and my clients’ vaults to help you overcome the worker shortage in today’s job market. Keep reading for my top four strategies for doing more with less during The Great Resignation.

Build more efficiency and order into your process.

The less customized your process and products are, the quicker and more easily you can deliver against them. Isn’t it time to finally write down how you do that certain thing that keeps you from becoming the bottleneck for everyone else? Anytime there is only one person who is responsible for a task, you are setting your business up for bottlenecks.  As volume grows, you must simplify processes and document them, so the key to the castle is not in your head alone.

We all know that small business owners run lean, mean, operational machines. One person wears so many different hats. However, never let that hat be so custom-fitted that nobody else can cover the task.  When you build defined processes, you also build efficiency and reduce redundancy. Do you have the key to a process that is not shared with anyone else on your team, but you don’t “have time” to document it? I suggest you get out of your comfort zone and record yourself doing the actual task on video. That way, you won’t lose any efficiency in getting the task done, but you are opening up your process to an opportunity to be replicated.

Invest in that new, time-saving technology.

What technology advancements have been made in your biz that you previously haven’t been willing to invest in? The speed of development in technology and artificial intelligence means the number of opportunities to improve technology and improve efficiency can make our heads spin. Right now, many business owners have fatter bank accounts due to higher sales volume and government relief throughout the pandemic. Is there a technology that was out of your reach in the past and could be purchased now?

At the end of 2020, my firm moved our communication efforts into Microsoft Teams, and it has been such a positive change for the company.  We keep a channel for every ongoing client we have, and we link documents, videos, attachments, screenshots, all within the appropriate channel. We have shared calendars so everyone can see their team members’ objectives for the day/week/month. For the first time ever, our bookkeeping team can see when we have strategy meetings planned with clients. They can in turn plan time to ensure those financials are fully updated in advance of the strategy meeting.

Let me just say, we are spending a lot more on technology than we were at the beginning of 2020. As a result, our impact and efficiency have outpaced the growth of our technology spend.  There are so many fabulous widgets in the marketplace for small business owners today, and many are not expensive.  It is worth the time it takes to look around and see what might serve you. What may have been cost-prohibitive or lacking in features that were important to you is likely to have been improved since the last time you investigated. I encourage you to take a look-see at the technology available to help you improve your processes.

Change your pricing and product structure.

Here is a success story from one of our clients, fresh off the press in 2021. My team at Reconciled Solutions works hard to get client financials in order so that our clients have full and accurate visibility to real-time financials. We especially focus on making sure that our clients can understand and interpret their financial reports. For one of our clients, this could not have been a more timely exercise!

After years of disarray, we finished cleaning up the books for our client. We were ready to deliver some wonderful visibility into their product lines and the margins they earn per product line. With the labor shortage, it served them well to limit the availability of teams of laborers on jobs from 12 teams down to 3 teams.  Since job postings were not resulting in qualified workers, they knew they needed to make a shift.  Instead of fretting about the lack of workers they could find, they realized that they could make the same money on fewer jobs if they raised prices.

They moved forward with an across-the-board price increase of up to 40% on some product lines! As 2021 comes to a close, their volume is down significantly and they are still not finding an abundance of workers. But they have maintained their job profitability and kept the business fully operational.  When labor markets get tight and you don’t have enough workers to fulfill the jobs, it might be time to go back to your offerings list and ask yourself if all of those products make the cut. There may be low-margin, pain-in-the-a$$ clients or types of work that don’t serve your business anymore.  This is an opportunity to pivot and do more with less.

Make sure the people you do have are in the right seats on the bus.

We all know that when there is an abundance of work, we get overwhelmed, leading to potential mistakes and stress.  One of the ways of alleviating this stress is to focus on the employees you do have first. Make sure they know that you value their work and you want them to be in positions that bring them the most energy and enjoyment. Work is still going to be work, but someone in a role that doesn’t align with their core competencies is much more likely to feel overwhelmed and stressed. It could be that for now, this person needs to fulfill the job until you can get more support.

That said, make sure that your workers know how critical their jobs are to the business. Deliberately share a detailed plan for how you will eventually get them out of the work that does not fit. Share how they will be able to start growing toward a role that feeds into inspiration.

Whatever change you implement in order to do more with less, be sure that it won’t diminish your Sweet Spot. Your Sweet Spot is what makes you different. It is the place where your company and its products are the happiest. It is the place where your business’ uniqueness collides with top clients and efficient processes.  If any of these efforts jeopardize your sweet spot, then you must move away from the idea and keep looking.

Empower your team for the long-term

While it can be frustrating to want to grow your team and not be able to find the right people, the situation presents a true opportunity for your business. Doing more with less gives you a chance to get creative, consider some solutions you’ve previously set aside, and refresh the structure of both your offerings and your team. The improvements in efficiency, processes, and the happiness of your team will likely far outlast the labor shortage.

Angie Noll