A new year is upon us and, if you’re like most people, you’re spending some time reflecting back on the year previous, embracing the positives, and setting a new path for those things that could have gone better–in hopes of adding those to the list of positives next go around. This annual period of reflection is why your wait for your favorite piece of equipment at the gym is likely to at least double for the next few weeks, and why the lines in the organic section of the grocery store will be reminiscent of Black Friday shopping. While thoughts of the holidays seem a distant memory, and we struggle to get back into our daily routine, the majority of us will return to the office and continue working in the same manner we’ve become accustom to.
While we tend to have a somewhat easy time critiquing ourselves as individuals, this same keen eye is seldom turned towards our day-to-day business practices. However, just as you do on an individual basis, your company will also set its sights on goals for the New Year, as it looks to improve upon its balance sheets from year’s prior. But, also like many of us, while the initial intent and effort is often there, the allure of simply reverting back to following the status quo often wins out.
1. Is your current workflow efficient, and does the process make sense?
Review your current workflows for processing of inbound sales orders and invoices and determine whether what you have in place is really as efficient as it could be, or whether it’s been bandaged together over the years, to compensate for changes your business has experienced (acquisition of another company, introduction of new back office systems/ applications, a new industry-specific regulation, etc.).
Ask yourself, are documents having to be handled multiple times, are they being routed to several different people/departments, or are they being entered into multiple applications? Is each step in your current process an absolute necessity, or have stopgaps been added along the way, to accommodate other changes in your business, or shortcomings in its other areas?
2. Are your employees being fully utilized?
Begin by really getting an understanding of what they’re doing day in and day out. Are they spending an exorbitant amount of their time acquiring necessary approvals, locating the whereabouts of a document internally, or simply waiting idly as someone else ahead of them completes their task? Has your company provided the tools necessary to allow your employees, your greatest asset and investment, to adequately and efficiently perform their duties? Likewise, are there other duties and responsibilities that you’d like to have your existing employees perform, rather than having to bring on and train new staff? Or, do you have employees from different departments, having to step in and get involved in a process that is outside of their core focus?
3. Are there other ‘costs’ associated with doing business as usual?
Aside from the processes themselves and the people involved, consider what the real-world impact to your business if you were to stay the course. Does staying the course mean opening the door for your competition to better accommodate customer’s needs (i.e. faster order turnaround), thus putting your company at risk of losing market share? What are the potential impacts to your business, or your customer’s business, if you ship an incorrect, incomplete, or late order? Consider how not paying an invoice, or paying an invoice late, may impact your relationships with your vendors, as well as whether there are any potential financial or legal penalties your company could face as a result of your current process (something quite relevant as tax/audit season is just around the corner).
Undoubtedly you’re going to find areas where your business can improve, but the choice to make a commitment to change rests squarely on you. Is this the year that you’ll address the challenges with your current inbound order and invoice processes, or will they remain that last 10 – 15 lbs that you’re just not willing/able to lose?