What Does Efficiency Mean in the Modern SMB? 

Here are a few ways modern SMBs have dispelled with outdated ideas and embraced new ones to hone their edge.

Like all companies, small and medium businesses (SMBs) are continually looking to improve efficiency so they can stay competitive and build up the bottom line. But thanks to their smaller size, they’re often able to adapt more quickly to changing times, emerging technology, and progressive ideas than their more bloated counterparts, the enterprises. This agility has allowed for some significant paradigm shifts in the way they conduct business. Here are a few ways modern SMBs have dispelled with outdated ideas and embraced new ones to hone their edge.

The old way: Focus on clock time

The new way: Focus on results

Once upon a time, when the majority of paid work was performed in factories, productivity was judged by time and effort. This made sense: More hours worked meant more work done.

Unfortunately, this industrial-age mentality was carried over into the information age. Managers and employees were simply accustomed to keeping one eye on the clock, measuring productivity in hours logged. But agile SMBs realize that taking this approach with professional knowledge workers is inappropriate and perhaps even harmful.

In an information economy, an employee’s knowledge and creativity, not merely the time they spend on tasks, is the value they provide. The creative process unfolds in fits and starts, so a person’s productivity will naturally vary day to day. Imposing a manufacturing productivity model only results in burnt out brains and low morale.

Recognizing this, many modern SMBs are putting a greater emphasis on results. They’ve found that when people are trusted to work autonomously and empowered to do their best work, both morale and productivity improve. There are tangible benefits for the business as well. Focusing on end results forces companies to clarify their goals, ensures resources are distributed to the most critical tasks, and ultimately increases profitability.

The old way: Rent office space

The new way: Employ a remote workforce

Not that long ago, it was unthinkable to run a business without having all your employees under one roof. Of course, that necessitated the cost of procuring and maintaining office space, ideally in a location with an abundance of hirable talent within commuting distance.

That’s no longer the case. Technology has mediated a shift toward employing more remote workers. With productivity suites like Microsoft’s Office 365 and Google Docs, video-chat tools like Skype, project management apps such as Basecamp, and, of course, ubiquitous cloud storage options, companies can create virtual offices accessible from anywhere.

The number of employees who regularly work from home has grown by 103% since 2005, according to Global Workplace Analytics. Some popular companies—including Buffer and Automatic, the folks behind WordPress—even employ a 100 percent distributed workforce.

Small businesses in particular have embraced remote workforces. One of the most obvious reasons is cost savings; it drastically reduces overhead spending on everything from office space to IT infrastructure. But it reduces other hidden costs as well. Global Workplace Analytics found that businesses lose $600 billion a year in workplace distractions. It also says companies have found their employees to be up to 45 percent more productive when they work from home.

A virtual workplace also expands the size of the available-talent pool. In their book “Remote: Office Not Required,” authors Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson note that the current trend is to "move work to the workers, rather than workers to the workplace.” No longer are small businesses limited to a small geographic radius around their headquarters. They potentially have the entire world to scout for talent, a luxury previously enjoyed by only the biggest enterprises.

Remote workers also reclaim time spent commuting to and from an office. Eliminating a wearying two-hour return trip allows that employee more time to establish a better work-life balance and engage in non-work activities that will make them happier and more productive. If that’s not convincing enough, consider that traffic jams rob the U.S. economy of $78 billion a year in productivity.

The old way: Hire “qualified” applicants

The new way: Hire creative thinkers

We live in an age of innovation. Each day seemingly brings a new technology or disruptive business model that shakes up the status quo.

Savvy businesses know that technical skills and job experience aren’t enough to help them succeed in this climate. They take to heart Steve Jobs’ message at the unveiling of the first iPad: “It's in Apple's DNA that technology alone is not enough. It's technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields the results that make our hearts sing."

Small businesses are particularly well positioned to take advantage of hiring creative, multidisciplinary thinkers. Creative employees think unconventionally —the very grist for innovation—and SMBs can take advantage of their small size to act on and discard big ideas quickly without disrupting their business.

Because creative people think from different perspectives, they also tend to identify problems sooner than analytical thinkers. This can help with everything from uncovering and solving customer pain points to seeing opportunities to grow the business—all of which small businesses are nimble enough respond to promptly.

On a more practical level, creative workers also tend to be early technology adopters. This can help small businesses stay apprised of latest mobile, cloud, and social tools and strategies it needs to stay competitive.

Innovative ideas are essential to the success of small businesses. To ensure that an office embracing the latest trends and the most progressive perspectives can run smoothly and best serve its workforce, it needs the proper tools. That’s why HP PageWide — an entirely new category in business printing – is making waves. For businesses seeking advanced printing solutions, only HP PageWide printers can deliver the fastest speeds, affordable color printing, and at a surprisingly lower cost than expected. It all adds up to best-in-class total cost of ownership.

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