The end of a year is always a good time to take stock of your business, review the last 12 months and get some firm plans in place for the year to come.

Especially if Christmas is quieter for your business, spending a day in the office after the festivities can be time well spent.

If Christmas is your busiest time, then hopefully things will calm down enough in the New Year to give you a chance to reflect.

Planning for a new year can be a huge and daunting task, and sometimes it’s hard to focus on the things that are the most important, but a good place to start is evaluating your current position and considering how you can improve.

We have a really useful tool that will help you to do just that. It’s called ‘4 Ways to Make Your Business Work More Effectively and Efficiently’.

This framework is designed to focus your efforts on four key areas in a way that will achieve real change and make your business work more effectively and more efficiently, just as it says it will.

And who doesn’t want to save valuable time and money?

Let’s take a closer look at the 4 Ways.

People and Education

No matter how big or small your team, your people are your most important asset. You need your team to be working effectively in order for your business to succeed, and this means having happy workers with the right skills for the job.

4 Ways lists 20 different actions you can take under the heading of people and education to improve your business.

In terms of people, this includes measures to ensure your employees are working effectively as a team, such as team building programmes, regular team meetings, recognition and renumeration systems, using behavioural, personality and communication analysis in business, setting individual and team goals and ensuring there are business continuity and staff contingency plans in place.

It’s also about making sure your team members have the right skills they need for the job, which could involve training programmes, developing ‘how to’ manuals and including career development plans within your company structure.

Education also means staying ahead of the game, which could mean regular external training, or it could be as simple as subscribing to industry magazines.

Delivery and Distribution

Most businesses have some element of delivery and distribution and this is an obvious area where efficiencies and improvements can often be achieved quite easily.

When we’re stuck in the day to day of running our businesses, it’s easy to get complacent or get stuck into a certain way of doing things because it’s quicker and easier. That’s why it can be useful to take a step back and evaluate all aspects of a certain process to see if you could be doing it even better.

The 4 Ways system includes almost 20 measures you can consider or implement to make your business work more effectively in terms of delivery and distribution.

These include reorganising stock according to highest turnover, simplifying any pick and pack processes, forecasting stock movements, completing regular inventories, measuring and qualifying services from suppliers, using an order tracking system and maybe even outsourcing some of your logistics and warehousing support. Sometimes outsourcing can be the most cost-effective way of improving services or winning back valuable time.

Testing and Measuring

This is another area that can get overlooked when you are busy, but testing and measuring is key to ensuring that what you are doing is working. It’s important to keep track of things like profit margins, cash flow, conversion rates and other key performance indicators.

Also, do you know where your leads are coming from and how much your customers are spending with you? Are your marketing efforts being targeted in the right place? Do you carry out regular stock checks to make sure you’re only buying what you need? All these things can change on a regular basis, so it’s worth having the systems in place to accurately monitor this.

Systems and Technology

How well do you utilise the systems and technologies available to you in your business? While it can be challenging to find the time to implement new software, systems and programmes, you could be saving yourself lots of time and money by taking advantage of technology to streamline processes.

Time-saving measures you can take include using computer invoicing and credit monitoring, computerised stock control systems, charting work flow processes, networking computers for ease of access and using schedules.

Systems and technology is also about making sure your processes can withstand potentially costly breakdowns. For example, running regular maintenance and upgrades on software and equipment and having effective back up processes in place.

For more help on how to improve your business’s efficiency and effectiveness in 4 Ways, contact Juliette Ryley, your local ActionCOACH today.