March 24, 2024

Ana Marinkovic: Why small ‘wins’ are key to finding more time in your business

Productivity gains can be a game changer for small businesses. But how best to go about it? Executive General Manager for NAB Small Business, Ana Marinkovic, explains.

Do you spend more time working on or in your business?

It’s a good question to ask yourself if you’re hoping to grow your business – or are simply overwhelmed by the long days (and nights) you spend staying on top of things.

In reality, those business owners who spend more time on their business, who dedicate blocks of time to actively working on their business strategy – on acting rather than reacting – are likely to do better overall. And spend less time doing it.

But how is that even possible if you’re perpetually caught up in tackling your business’s daily administrative tasks?

The fact is time is one of the most valuable assets a small business owner can have. By managing it well, by getting the most out of it and, therefore, your resources too, you can help your business thrive, not simply survive, while still looking after the person at the centre of it all – you .

Achieving more from less

Productivity is a national challenge that affects big and small businesses alike. In fact, a new report from the Productivity Commission shows Australia’s productivity growth in 2022-23 slumped, even as we dramatically increased our work hours.

The problem is small businesses don’t have the resources that big businesses do to address this issue. Options like offshoring work or investing in sophisticated digital tools are often beyond their reach.

It’s why you need to think carefully about where and how you invest in your business to gain productivity – and the time that comes from doing so. And keep in mind that not every solution comes with a hefty price tag.

A good start is sitting down and taking a good look at how you prioritise your work. While there may be an endless list of tasks to do, it’s important to distinguish between those that are critical or time-sensitive and those that are incidental – between those that require your personal sign-off and those that someone else could do if you gave them the lead.

That doesn’t mean you should overlook the smaller tasks. Some may not appear urgent but can quickly escalate if ignored.

A good approach? One of our business customers explained to me how he sticks to the two-minute rule. Essentially, if a task takes less than two minutes to complete – to make a phone call, to reconnect with a customer, to follow up on an order – he does it immediately. That way nothing gets too big.

However, planning is key. By setting achievable goals and organising what you’re to do – and when and for how long you’re to do it – you also have more chance of things not running away from you and stealing precious time.

Investing in skills

Delegation has its place too. For this to succeed, you need to ensure you’ve surrounded yourself with people who have the skillsets your business requires.

Staff development is critical here. But sometimes it can require making that difficult decision to let an employee go if they haven’t evolved with your business. It’s something we don’t talk about often enough, but it can’t be overlooked.

At the same time, you need to invest in yourself. Make sure you are taking up opportunities for professional development so you can fill in the gaps when it comes to marketing or bookkeeping, for instance.

This is all about embracing a growth mindset – giving yourself everything you need to be your best self.

It’s also about looking after your mental wellbeing. Often when it’s you leading the show, positive reinforcement can be in short supply. It’s important to remind yourself of your capabilities and to focus on the progress you’ve made – to celebrate the small wins that come your way. We know that this can boost confidence and motivation, which in turn can boost efficiency and productivity.

Automatically better

There are multiple tools that can help you gain time as well.

First, take a closer look at your workflow and decide how to best manage it. For your business to thrive, what work do you need to get through every single day? What are the key processes you need to fulfil?

Next, isolate any repetitive tasks and consider automating them. It might be that you need help with your bookkeeping, or your communications and marketing.

It’s a good idea to stay on top of emerging technologies to ensure you’re up to date with best practice. AI is advancing by leaps and bounds and is making solutions and support once reserved for large corporations available to small businesses.

NAB Bookkeeper, for instance, uses machine learning to automate accounting, invoices and tax calculations. With NAB Bookkeeper, small business owners can streamline their bookkeeping, save time at tax time and gain real-time financial insights on their business. One user Mandy, owner of Brunswick Foodstore, told us how much she appreciates not having to manually categorise each transaction while getting a snapshot of her business at any given time.

Getting support

There’s no doubt it takes discipline and direction to achieve more with less time – particularly when it comes to running your own business.

It’s all the more reason to have a business plan that includes realistic, actionable goals. And to surround yourself with like-minded people – mentors, business coaches and networks – that can inspire you and help keep you on track.

At the end of the day, it’s worth it – for you and your business.