What do you mean its 4 o’clock already?
A couple of years ago I was working with a furniture manufacturer who shipped their customer orders daily. Every day at 4pm TNT would turn up to collect that days’ orders.
Every day this was a total surprise to everyone in the business!
It was all hands on deck. Several staff, including the managing director, stopped what they were doing and rushed around boxing up orders, printing labels and shipping documents. And not many people knew how to do the paperwork, hence the MD getting involved every day.
It was chaos every single day. No one had specific responsibility to get the orders ready, so of course, no one did it.
It hadn’t occurred to them to decide what was being shipped that day and cut off at say 2pm, get everything boxed, labelled and ready for the courier to collect at 4pm.
It had worked for them as a tiny business, but as they’d grown the packing and shipping was a bottleneck they couldn’t see.
Chasing bottlenecks as a strategy
Recently I was reminded about the power of constantly chasing down the bottlenecks in your business. Living with daily annoyances and niggles can build into bigger issues so you need to actively seek out your bottlenecks and find ways to fix them, quickly.
Bottlenecks always change. You’ll fix one and another will pop up somewhere else, especially if you’re a growing your business. And if you’re the owner of the business, there’s a good chance you’re the bottleneck.
The most common bottlenecks I see in my clients are:
- All decisions going through the owner, but they’re not around enough and no one else is empowered to take a quick decision
- The business owner holding onto too many responsibilities
- People not being properly trained to do their jobs
- Confusing or over-engineered processes
- Not enough processes – things stop because no one knows what to do next
- Inadequate IT slowing things down
- Under staffing – not enough people to keep things flowing
- Not enough resource to carry out regular marketing
- Not enough people to handle incoming sales enquiries
- Production flow – whether in a manufacturing or service business
- People not knowing their role and responsibilities
- FAR too many emails
Bottlenecks heavily impact efficiency and therefore profit and value of your business. If things take longer than they should, if daily tasks are frustrating or annoying, if the same old issues keep coming up and don’t get fixed, then you’re going to sell less, not look after your customers as well, and have an exasperated workforce.
Deep Work to chase the bottlenecks
This week one of my clients used one of his Deep Work days to sit and think about the bottlenecks in his business. There were things that had been happening for a while and without doubt were dragging revenue and profit down. When he saw them as annoyances they just added to his stress and didn’t get fixed. When he specifically addressed his bottlenecks he could clearly see solutions and was able to sort many of them quite quickly, whilst putting plans in place for more complex areas.
The bottlenecks might not be obvious to you
When you’re close to the operations you just might not see your bottlenecks, especially if you’re causing them.
I’d suggest getting your team involved; ask them what doesn’t work, what’s annoying, what keeps falling over and what needs fixing. I bet they’ll know the answers. And ask them what solutions they can think of.
Create a culture of addressing what isn’t working, and being open to ideas and suggestions and you’ll make your business much better at what it does, everyone will be happier, and by default you’re likely to make more money.
So I challenge you to think of your top 5 bottlenecks, and to consider where you’re getting in the way. I’m off to go and ask my team what they think about ours!