Article | 3 min read

Streamlining your workload: efficiency tips for small businesses

Last updated January 15, 2015

It’s not uncommon for businesses to outsource the management of their IT infrastructure to managed service providers (MSPs). Ollie Strickland is the CEO of Bitstream Consulting, one such MSP, and he knows how important it is to have operations running smoothly so he can deliver great service and availability to his clients. Bitstream supports numerous large-scale IT deployments, primarily major automotive companies, and Ollie has learned a great deal about providing real-time service to customers that gets the job done.

Here are Ollie’s top tips for streamlining your company:

1. Outsource as much as you can outside your core offering.
Ollie uses every third-party service he can to automate the tasks that he doesn’t absolutely have to do himself. “I save 2-4 hours a day just by using a few key software services. Those hours translate to more time directly servicing clients and more time finding new ones,” he said.

2. Invest time in building your own system for predictable performance.
Ollie has spent a great deal of time building a tailor-made IT infrastructure for Bitstream clients. Instead of using a client’s existing system, Ollie migrates them to Bitstream’s custom deployment. Doing so gives Ollie far greater control over the IT environment and a deep understanding of its inner workings for when problems inevitably arise. This approach not only saves ramp-up time for the Bitstream team, but it allows for quicker troubleshooting and issue resolution.

3. Expect emergencies.
Ollie structures his commitments with plenty of cushion, so that when big issues come up, Bitstream can deal with them immediately without getting derailed. “It’s all about moving forward,” he shared. “Avoid all the obstacles you can and find advantages in the ones you can’t.”

How to do it yourself
Want to make your own operation as smooth and efficient as Ollie’s? Here’s how to implement his efficiency tips in your own workday.

1. Seek out services that make your life easier.
Shop smartly. Consider the financial/labor investments you’d make in each product compared to the money and time you’d save. Set aside dedicated time for researching alternative options and figure out which options (if any) are right for your needs. For example, Panorama9 might make the most sense if you’re looking for an asset management tool.

2. Customize the tools you use every day to suit your company’s specific needs.
Personalize email templates and build onto existing APIs to achieve extra efficiencies particular to your business. Tailoring the settings of your Zendesk, for instance, can minimize the time you spend manually entering data.

3. Schedule everything.
Having time set aside for each project not only keeps you on task, but also gives you a better idea about how long things really take, so you can manage your time better in the future.

4. Rotate between projects.
If you can, spend 1-2 hours on one project, take a short break at a good stopping point, and then take up another. Changing it up will keep you stimulated and motivated to stay productive. Try to alternate between thought-intensive work and less demanding tasks to avoid getting bored or exhausted.

5. Read up on Stephen Covey’s four quadrants of time management.
It will help you learn to prioritize your decisions so you can make quick judgments about the best ways to keep on track.

6. Set up emergency procedures.
Sometimes being prepared means backing up files, and sometimes it means sourcing area contractors just in case you bite off more than you can chew. Either way, you’ll certainly never regret it.

Keeping your workload as seamless and manageable as possible means more productivity, more progress, and more time to focus on the rest of your business—and life. Whether you’re catering to high client demand, or just trying to get things on course, sometimes organizing your tasks is half the job. Find a system that works for you, and it will all get easier from there.

Learn more about Bitstream and Ollie’s efficiency tips

Allan Thorvaldsen is co-founder and CEO at Zendesk partner Panorama9