Staffing and Efficiency

February 5, 2014

Balancing client service, staffing, efficiency and profitability requires discipline and planning, and sticking to the plan.

Today I have been thinking about staffing, efficiency, and automation. As the leader of a new business, trying to build a client and revenue stream, I need to be keenly aware of the balance between expenses and revenue; having staff idle and meeting deliverables. This is a balance that I have been able to strike throughout my career, but there is a little more angst involved when one is running their own business, as opposed to managing a group or division within a larger company. The risk of "hiring early" is mitigated by the breadth (and deeper pockets) of a large corporation, but a small business doesn't enjoy this ability to spread cost across a massive organization. In a small company, cash flow becomes king and ensuring that payroll is being met is a new kind of pressure; not overwhelming, but new.

I have always looked to improve efficiency and increase automation to the extent possible. I find that this part of management is increasingly important given the stretching of resources during times a tight cash flow. However, I think these types of restrictions make us smarter. By necessity we need to do more with less, and that brings out a creative energy that helps propel new thoughts and new approaches to solving common (and not so common) problems. I think it makes us smarter, and stronger, as an organization. And the true beneficiaries of this drive to think better, execute more efficiently, and deliver more within our budget are our clients. They receive the long term benefits of a more nimble and efficient organization.

Hiring is still key. But finding, and sometimes waiting, for the right person, the best person for an open position is critical to our success. In the crucible of efficiency, the margin of error in a hiring decision is much smaller. In a service business, staff is everything. There is no way to overestimate the importance of finding, hiring, and retaining the very best staff. But even more critical is ensuring that one is hiring the right person at the right time. Again, in a large company one may have the flexibility to hire a great person, even if the immediate need is not present. In a smaller business, it's critical to show the utmost discipline in waiting and hiring the best person for the top priority need at the time, while ensuring that the new hire is fulfilling a role as a building block for long term success.

Having a plan and a vision of the future is important. More important however is the discipline required to stay on plan, retain that vision, and focus on delivering the very best solutions possible with the most efficient execution available.