Efficiency is crucial to all businesses, but none more so than the startup. With razor thin margins and a quarter to quarter perspective, there’s just no fat to absorb activities that don’t produce some kind of clear benefit. That said, having an efficient infrastructure is also essential to maintaining a startup’s agility and innovative ability, carving out more time and space to pivot a service and product rather than staying bogged down in a host of worthless procedures.
So how can a startup stay as efficient as possible? Here are our top 4 tips for doing just that.
1. Embrace the Cloud
How is the cloud essential to developing an efficient startup infrastructure? Oh, let me count the ways.
Cost-effective scaling. When your startup really takes off, you’re going to need the resources to accommodate a mass audience. But buying server space before you have that customer base can cripple your company with unnecessary cost, not to mention all of those upgrading and upkeep costs should you splurge your own hardware. With the cloud, you can pay as you go, knowing that more server space will be there for you the moment you need it.
Remote and flexible working. With cloud technology, your workers can operate from anywhere with an internet connection. That makes life a lot easier for the worker who has to wear a million hats, as well as that freelancer or contractor located across the country or world. For startups looking to keep their overhead low with remote working, the cloud provides access to all company project management tools, files, workflow and stored materials, accessible with the simple sending of a link.
Easy communication. In startups, everyone has to know what everyone else has on their plate, how they’re getting along, and what they can do to help. With communication tools like Skype and Google Hangout, and with social media tools like Google Plus and project management tools like Basecamp, there’s no need for redundant management structures — only collaboration.
There’s so much the cloud can do for a startup. For more great ideas, we highly recommend this cloud computing guide, which covers the gamut.
2. Make Daily Tasks as Efficient as Possible
No matter how fast-paced and creative your startup is, there are certain tasks that just have to happen on a day to day basis, no matter how mundane. Startups that truly excel will embrace rather than run from this fact, by doing the following:
Daily scrums. These are short, intense meetings — no longer than 15 minutes — in which each team members are asked questions like, “What did you do yesterday?”, “What will you do today?”, and “Are there any impediments in your way?” This is a great way to check-in, make sure everyone is on track and offer help when needed without getting caught in endless meetings.
Standardized documents and procedures. While the sooner you can do this the better, you can also put these together as you go, keeping a document full of employee suggestions for improving efficiency. The goal here is to take all routinized tasks and give them a standard procedure so that they can be quickly and easily completed, whether by a local employee or by a temporary contractor. This should also help you.
Outsource and automate. Do you really need two office administrators, or can one of them be a virtual assistant? Do you need to have your best programmers on every task, or can you give the surface level stuff to someone else? Outsource or automate wherever you can, and save the important stuff for your few employees.
3. Continually Train Employees
As a startup, you have to be able to pivot at a moment’s notice. In fact, most startups find their true product or service isn’t the one they first set out to sell. Have resources, budget and time set aside to continually train your employees in new skills, so that they’re ready to go where the market or your customers take you. In fact, exposing employees to new subject areas might just make that all important innovation light bulb click, giving them new insight they can then apply to your business to do something totally new. You should also continually train in standard procedures to keep efficiency high.
4. Fire Customers
More customers are a good thing, right? Not if they waste your time with endless questions, hassle you constantly for far more of your time than is profitable, take their sweet time paying invoices, or are only marginally related to your core business focus. As a new business, it’s easy to get stuck in that initial mentality of taking whatever business comes through the door, but don’t be afraid to do a customer cull when it’s no longer worth it. This is even true for good customers when the focus of your startup changes. Few startups that try to cover the gamut make it, as their resources are too thinly distributed and result in a lackluster product. Concentrate on what you’ve learned you do best, cut out the customers who are a downright pain, and focus on making the most of your time.
Having an efficient infrastructure is an essential part of growing a successful startup. In fact, it’s pretty difficult to be a fairy tale startup story without efficiencies in place. Think strategically about your infrastructure and you’ll stay agile, creative, and top of your game.
Featured Image Credits: NewRelic