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Conduct a Human Energy Audit To Boost Efficiency at Your Firm

It is not too late to conduct an energy audit of your business but I am not talking about electrons or your carbon footprint. I mean human and systems energy. Every day we read and hear about the benefits of becoming more energy efficient, from our car makers being asked / directed to build cars and trucks with higher fuel mileage to appliances and machinery that cost less each year to run and operate. All of that discussion is beneficial but I shall leave it to others to figure out how much wind power is best for our nation. My concern is the energy you invest or spend in setting up, building and growing your small business. If you are not certain you are using human and business systems energy efficiently and effectively, now is the time to conduct a business energy audit. Here is how to begin. First, look backward. In 2007 and 2008, count up how many hours (meaning money) were required to accomplish your most important tasks. Let’s begin with sales to your top customers, the ones that equaled 50% or more of your total sales for the year. Then count up how many hours were required to make the last 50% of your sales. Where were you most efficient? What systems have you put into place that allowed you to maximize your sales with each of your customers, large and small, with the minimum of energy by both your key sales people AND all of your other employees that processed and shipped the order and handled customer service, collections, etc. Once you add it all up and compare your energy efficiency for each of your key clients as well as your ‘little guys’ you can make the changes in your selling process (yes, selling is always a process, not an event) for 2009 to ensure you are not wasting valuable resources by having heat or activity go up your business chimney. Now audit your buying process for the products or services you use everyday in running your business. How long does it take to order your supplies, and how long does it take to receive it, store it, handle it and finally pay the bills when they are due. Can you save energy, human energy and time, by changing your system to buying with credit cards, placing regular orders, keeping inventory or parts or materials to a minimum, adjusting for seasonality or simply having a lower cost employee take on this task while you or your higher cost employees are deployed where their human energy can bring greater results. Once you have looked back, now is the time to look forward with your energy audit. Since 2007, the world has changed due to our current Great Recession. Your customers, if they are typical, may be changing their shopping and buying habits. Prices may have eroded due to fierce or desperate competition. Or maybe you are sitting pretty because you are well positioned to take advantage of the market forces swirling around us. If you find energy waste in the same way that a dripping faucet wastes water, repair it now. If you can determine a better process that does not use so much paper but rather uses electronic communications more, or if you can start or expand your use of electronic bill paying, or if you can upgrade your phone system or simply use all the features you are already paying for, now is the time. And maybe it is time to turn off some lights and computers overnight to stop wasting electricity and heat when no one is at the office or factory. Third, do an audit on your products and services. Are you providing the right mix to your current and future customers in light of today’s economic situation? Maybe it is time to test a few new ideas, new packages, new offerings or new prices to see what might work better. And if you have excess inventory lying around costing your money and space, dispose of it now. Turn that old, outdated stuff into cash, even if you have to sell it for a loss. Finally, look around at your employees. You invested valuable hours and energy hiring them and then training them. Are they still current with your wishes? Do you understand your goals for this year or season? Do they know why you have taken certain actions but not others? Are they content with you passing on their most recent idea? Ben Tenn of Tenn Consulting provides small business management consulting and coaching with an emphasis on marketing and sales. Tenn, after earning an MBA from UCLA, has had 35 years of business experience as a corporate executive and small business owner including 11 years at The Walt Disney Co., 13 years as a business consultant and as an instructor at UCLA Extension. For more information, call (818) 993-8222 or email btenn@yahoo.com .

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