I was recently working with a client and the conversation veered into an IT discussion, an area where I have a fairly deep background. We were talking about the integration of various systems when someone asked what my overall goal would be for the systems we were discussing. I said, in a word, I want “smooth”. I want a seamless system from the time a salesperson first meets a qualified prospect and we enter them into our CRM (Customer Relationship Management) database through their first order, shipment and delivery of the product, invoicing and ultimately collection of the payment.
I want an integrated system because it will be more efficient than re-keying data. It is less prone to error and therefore rework. There is less human intervention at each step therefore there is less “wait time” in the process. Smoother means more efficient and therefore faster and to me that means more profitable.
During the conversation I relayed a recent experience I had at the BMW Car Control School. There one learns how to better control a car in various conditions including maximizing speed on both wet and dry pavement. The way to get speed is to be smooth on the gas and brakes and smooth in and out of turns. Jerky movements end up being less efficient while driving and “scrub speed”. I lost a race because I applied a little too much gas and nearly spun the car on the water soaked course. I regained control but lost a second or two as well as the race.
I witnessed the same phenomenon watching my six year old on the NASTAR ski race course at the local ski slope recently. His first run was one of the smoothest and therefore one of his fastest of the day.
Business is the same. Anything that isn’t smooth takes more time, requires more human intervention and ultimately costs more money. I have seen businesses try to “save” money by refusing to invest in systems or even better defining and streamlining processes (something that can usually be done with internal resources and almost no incremental out-of-pocket cost).
As you think about your processes and systems, think about what would make them almost effortless. Take bottlenecks out of the system. Eliminate unnecessary steps and start to automate as many of the remaining steps as possible. Look for areas where spreadsheets are shipped back and forth and data is entered and reentered and checked against source documents multiple times. These are signs that there is inefficiency in the system. Just because it has “always been done that way” doesn’t mean it is the best way to do it today or in the future.
Challenge the status quo and make your systems as smooth as possible. In the long run, you’ll have more profits to show for your efforts.
If your business could benefit from fractional CFO services, I would welcome the chance to speak with you. Please give me a call at (314) 863-6637 or send an email to [email protected]
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