Founder and CEO of 787 Coffee. Passionate about connecting people to fresh cups of coffee.
Take a moment and think about what your typical day as an entrepreneur or small business owner looks like.
You might start the day by presenting at a company-wide meeting and then trek off to lunch. Next, you might huddle with your leadership team to determine whether or not you should increase production. After that meeting, you might look over some of the feedback your employees gave on an employee engagement survey, as well as some of the recent feedback your customers have given about your products or services.
It’s no secret that running a successful business where everyone is happy requires juggling many moving parts. However, as you juggle those various moving parts, it’s important that you simplify your company’s processes as much as possible. Why? Clunky, complicated processes can slow things down for you, your team and your customers.
For example, consider these findings reported in the Harvard Business Review — when 182 senior managers in different industries were surveyed, 65% said meetings hinder them from finishing their work, and 62% said meetings eat into chances for their teams to become closer.
And those results were just about meetings! They didn’t take into account the numerous other things that can bog down each day for you, your team and your customers. As an entrepreneur, I believe that simplifying processes at my “farm-to-cup” coffee business has enabled us to operate smoothly and provide our customers with the best service possible. Specifically, we’ve simplified three main elements of our company.
1. The Decision-Making Process
Simplifying the decision-making process is one of the best ways to free up you and your team’s time to focus on the more creative and strategic aspects of running your business.
You don’t need to spend hours in meeting after meeting to get input from key players before making a business decision. For example, at my company, we realized that if we charged just eight cents more per cup of coffee, we’d be able to cover our costs for milk alternatives (soy milk and almond milk). That way, customers who want milk alternatives won’t have to pay for extra line items on their receipts.
I didn’t even hold one meeting to get input from my team. Instead, I turned to the WhatsApp group we have for our company leaders. I sent them a paragraph explaining the thought-process and reasoning behind adding a universal eight-cent price increase to each cup of coffee across our stores and gave them the option of replying “yea” or “nay.” We had our answer in less than an hour and knew how to move forward as a company (95% responded “yea” to the slight price increase).
When you need to get your team’s thoughts on a business decision, think about how you can get their feedback in a streamlined way. You could do what I did on WhatsApp or another messaging service or send them a quick survey via different polling tools. If you must hold a meeting, try to make it as short as possible.
2. The Company Structure
The more complicated your company’s structure is, the more time and money you’ll be spending to keep everything running. By simplifying your company’s structure as much as possible, you can direct that time and money to your employees’ and customers’ experiences.
For example, I was fortunate enough to be in the position to fully self-fund my company and decided to go that route instead of working with investors. Another way I’ve simplified my company’s structure is by eliminating our need for a coffee bean distributor — we own and run our own coffee farm in Puerto Rico. Because I don’t have to navigate these relationships with third parties, I can focus more on ensuring that my team members and customers walk away happy each day.
Of course, how you go about simplifying your company’s structure will look different depending on the specifics of your situation. Simplifying your company’s structure doesn’t necessarily have to come down to eliminating “middlemen” (like realizing you’d rather work with three vendors maximum versus five). It also has to do with getting rid of rules that create hurdles for people. For example, you might decide that it doesn’t make sense to keep a policy that states no one can get promoted before their second year of tenure at the company.
3. Internal And External Communications
Whether you’re communicating with your employees, marketing your product or asking for customer feedback, find the clearest, most concise way to do so. When people can quickly grasp what you’re telling them or asking them, you’re more likely to get results.
One way we’ve simplified our internal communications is by creating different WhatsApp groups. We have the main group for everyone at the company, a group for company leaders and groups for individual stores and districts. Thanks to these tailored groups, my team and I can get the right messages in front of the right people at the right time. For example, we regularly invite our vendors to produce short videos about what they do. We then post those videos to the main WhatsApp group, so our employees can quickly get a snapshot of the vendors who support their work instead of having to comb through email after email.
As far as external communications go, one of the biggest ways we’ve simplified our marketing is by using the word “fresh.” We’ve found that in our marketing materials, “farm-to-cup” (yes, I know that’s how I described my business at the beginning of this article) tends to be too abstract of a concept. But, on the other hand, “fresh” gets the message we want across more effectively — and with fewer words, to boot.
We’ve brought simplicity to our customer feedback process as well. When our customers get their mobile receipts, they can indicate their experience with us by clicking on a happy face or a sad face. Then, if they feel inclined to do so, they can write some more thoughts. We’ve found that by keeping it simple (instead of asking multiple questions), our customers are more likely to give us valuable, actionable feedback.
Remember to keep it simple no matter what’s in front of you — be it a business decision, policy evaluation or customer feedback initiative. The fewer hoops you put yourself, your team and your customers through, the better you’ll be able to cultivate and lead a thriving business.