10 Areas of Operation Your Business Needs to Improve
Most businesses operate inefficiently in at least some ways, but how can you tell which areas need improvement, and how can you improve them? Identifying these problem areas and working to fix them is vital if you want your business to succeed.
In this guide, we’ll discuss how to improve the areas of your business that are struggling the most, and the areas that can most benefit from improvement.
How to Improve a Business
In the next section, we’ll discuss 10 of the operating areas most likely to need improvement. But how can you plan to improve something you didn’t even know was inefficient?
According to Chicago management consulting firm AArete, one of the most important concepts is quantification. You need to be able to quantify your goals, measure your current performance, apply changes, and measure how your performance changes; if you can objectively measure an improvement, you’ll know your strategies were successful. Quantification is easier in some contexts than others; for example, you may be able to increase sales from $2 million per year to $2.8 million per year, or you may be able to cut hours wasted from 100 per week to 40 per week. In any case, you’ll need to have some way to track your performance, before and after your strategic changes.
As for the specific tactics meant to “improve” a certain area of your business, those will vary depending on the area you’re working on and what you’re trying to achieve.
Key Areas to Improve
These are some of the most common areas of operation that businesses need to improve:
- Goals and strategic imperatives. First, you may need to address your high-level goals and strategic imperatives. Oftentimes, businesses struggle simply because they don’t have direction—or because their direction is poorly defined. For example, let’s say your business has been stagnant for a few years, seeing little to no growth; which goals are you trying to meet, and which strategies are you applying to achieve those goals? If you have a lack of specificity, or if your goals are somehow untenable, the stagnation is unsurprising.
- Expense management. Chances are, your business is spending more money than it needs to in at least one area. You may have hired too many people too quickly, you may be overpaying for your lease or your utilities, or your cost of raw materials may be exorbitant. Identifying and trimming down these expenses will help you operate in a lean (and profitable) way.
- Financial tracking and monitoring. Most businesses have an accounting department responsible for keeping track of their spending and revenue, but that’s not a guarantee that you’re tracking things correctly. If you’re not actively looking at the right trends, or if you’re not tracking every dollar precisely, it could come back to hurt you.
- Marketing and advertising. One of the most reliable ways to grow a business is through marketing and advertising, but there are a lot of ways your marketing strategy can go wrong. You can pursue the wrong target audience, invest in the wrong strategies, or simply overspend on your campaign, ruining your ROI. It’s important to take a critical look at your marketing and advertising strategies, analyzing them for effectiveness and bottom-line value to your business. Weed out the tactics that don’t work and keep experimenting with new ones.
- Data analytics. Data is becoming increasingly important for modern businesses, thanks to competitive pressure and more accessible technology. But to use data effectively, you have to gather the right data, use the right tools, and apply the right types of analyses. For inexperienced businesses, this can be overwhelming; inaccurate data, poor analytics, or incomplete tools can compromise an otherwise promising data analytics strategy.
- Competition analysis. Most businesses start out with a business plan that sketches out a competitive analysis, but your competition analysis shouldn’t end here. In fact, you should be analyzing your competition constantly. If you’re not actively watching what your competitors are doing and finding new ways to outcompete them, you’re quickly going to become outclassed by your rivals.
- Sales. Depending on the nature of your organization, you’ll also need to worry about sales. How are your salespeople spending the hours of their day? How many sales are they closing, compared to how many leads they’re getting? How can you help your team land more sales while simultaneously improving their time efficiency?
- Employee morale and motivation. Employee performance is important, but so is employee retention. Too many businesses neglect employee morale and motivation as critical factors for success. What are your employees thinking and feeling? Are they satisfied with their working conditions and with their potential for the future? How can you make them feel better about their positions?
- Communication efficiency. Few organizations are operating at peak communicative efficiency. In some cases, businesses are plagued by poor communication habits, from time-wasting meetings to emails without subject lines. In other cases, the root cause is a lack of access to the right tools and technologies to support good communication. No matter what, it’s your job to improve communicative efficiency, reduce miscommunications, and ensure nothing gets lost in the process.
- Inter-departmental collaboration. Too often, departments within large organizations turn into isolated silos; the people within those departments become self-contained, and each department develops its own micro-culture and communication styles. Accordingly, departments find it more difficult to collaborate and communicate with each other. Some departments, like sales and marketing, need each other to thrive, so it’s imperative to break these silo barriers down. You can do this with a mix of strategies, including cross-training, hybrid roles, and departmental blending.
Even after addressing these common areas, there will always be room for improving your business. There will be old inefficiencies to address, new techniques and technologies to experiment with, and inventive ways to transform your business. The most successful companies are the ones that remain perpetually adaptable, constantly evolving in response to new conditions and improving their overall functionality.
The Ultimate Guide to the Essential Social Skills in Business
Effective communication and strong relationships are essential for success in the workplace. One factor that can greatly influence these qualities is emotional intelligence, often abbreviated as EQ. EQ refers to the ability to identify, understand, and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. Research has shown that individuals with high levels of EQ are better equipped to handle stress, communicate effectively, and work collaboratively with others (Chamorro-Premuzic & Sanger, 2016).
Research has consistently shown that emotional intelligence (EQ) is an important predictor of job performance and success in the workplace. EQ is comprised of a set of skills that allow individuals to recognize, understand, and regulate their own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. In addition, individuals with high EQ are better able to communicate effectively, build relationships, and navigate complex social situations. As a result, they are often viewed as effective leaders and collaborators, and are more likely to achieve their personal and professional goals.
In fact, a number of studies have demonstrated the significant impact that EQ has on job performance and success. For example, one study of 85 upper-level managers found that those with higher EQ scores were rated as more effective leaders by their subordinates (Law, Wong, & Song, 2004). Another study of 151 employees found that those with higher EQ were more likely to be promoted within their organization over a five-year period (Carmeli, Brueller, & Dutton, 2009). These findings highlight the importance of EQ in the workplace and suggest that developing these skills can lead to significant benefits for both individuals and organizations.
According to a study conducted by TalentSmart, a leading provider of EQ assessments, EQ is responsible for 58% of success in all job types (Bradberry & Greaves, 2009). In contrast, IQ only accounts for about 4% of success in the workplace. This suggests that EQ is a crucial skill set for individuals in any professional field. Fortunately, EQ is a skill that can be developed and honed over time with practice and awareness.
There are several key components of EQ that are particularly important for success in the workplace. These include:
Self-Regulation: This refers to your capacity to recognize and control your emotions. Sometimes treating them when they arise may be necessary. Understanding how to manage your anger is essential. However, it can also cover how to control the feelings you’ll experience.
Self-Awareness: This implies recognizing and understanding your own feelings. Do noisy places make you nervous? Do other people talking over you make you angry? Knowing these truths about yourself shows that you are working on your self-awareness. Being conscious of yourself is necessary for this phase, which can be more complex than it sounds.
Socialization: This category focuses on your capacity to manage social interactions and direct relationships. It doesn’t entail dominating others but knowing how to work with others to achieve your goals. This could entail presenting your ideas to coworkers, leading a team, or resolving a personal disagreement.
Motivation: Strong motivators include external forces like money, status, or suffering. Internal motivation, however, plays a significant role in Goleman’s concept. By doing so, you demonstrate your ability to control your cause and initiate or continue initiatives of your own volition rather than in response to external demands.
Empathy: It’s equally critical to be sensitive to others’ feelings. This may entail learning to identify different emotional states in individuals — for example, can you tell the difference between someone at ease and someone anxious? — but it also requires comprehension of how other people may react to their current situation. Empathy is one of the essential traits in business and business leadership.
A thought leader in this space, Michael Ventura has built a career advising organizations on the importance of emotional intelligence in the workplace. In his book, Applied Empathy, Ventura highlights the value of empathy in business and provides strategies for developing and applying this skill set. With two decades of experience as a leader, facilitator, and educator, Ventura’s work has made impact in with prestigious institutions such as Princeton University and the United Nations as well as corporate clients such as Google and Nike.
Through his work, Ventura advises leaders to focus on the development of EQ in order to help individuals improve their communication, collaboration, and leadership skills, ultimately leading to greater success in the workplace. Experts like Ventura continue to support the growing body of research on the value of EQ in business, and the evidence that organizations who invest in the EQ of their teams help to create a more empathetic and successful professional environment.
And it’s worth noting that EQ isn’t just important for individual success in the workplace, but also for overall organizational success. A study by the Center for Creative Leadership found that EQ was a better predictor of success than IQ or technical skills in the workplace, and that teams with higher levels of EQ tend to be more effective and productive (Boyatzis, Goleman, & Rhee, 1999). By cultivating a culture of empathy and emotional intelligence, organizations can improve their overall performance and create a more positive work environment for their employees.
In conclusion, emotional intelligence is a crucial component of success in the workplace, and individuals and organizations alike should prioritize the development of these skills. The ones that do not only develop a leading edge in their category, but also become a meaningful place to work for their teams. And in today’s rapidly changing talent landscape, the retention of highly capable, emotionally intelligent leaders is one of the greatest keys to unlocking success.
Boyatzis, R. E., Goleman, D., & Rhee, K. S. (1999). Clustering competence in emotional intelligence: Insights from the emotional competence inventory (ECI). In R. Bar-On & J. D. A. Parker (Eds.), Handbook of emotional intelligence (pp. 343-362). Jossey-Bass.
Bradberry, T., & Greaves, J. (2009). Emotional intelligence 2.0. TalentSmart.
Chamorro-Premuzic, T., & Sanger, M. N. (2016). Does employee happiness matter? Journal of Organizational Effectiveness: People and Performance, 3(2), 168-191.
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