Whether you’re crafting necklaces at home to sell online or overseeing the operations of a busy restaurant, logistics affect you. In fact, every business is affected by logistics to some extent.
What is logistics?
Logistics is the management and control of the flow of goods and services from the source of production to the customer. Even service businesses rely on logistics to receive their supplies.
How can small businesses manage logistics?
Small businesses that rely on foreign manufacture of their goods must determine the best, most efficient way of getting those goods home to North America. Investigate your options for shipping and handling. Talk to large, global logistics providers LIKE UPS Supply Chains Solutions, which uses its own aircraft to handle shipping of product.
No matter what size your small business is, make sure you understand your logistics – so much of your business can depend on its smooth operation. Get to know all the variables of getting your product from Point A to Point B. You don’t have to be an expert, but get a working understanding of things such as cost, suppliers, industry trends, market demand, even certain rules and regulations that might affect your logistics.
If your small business is like many others, you’re the sole employee. You’re the one responsible for every aspect of operations management – from answering phones, taking and returning messages, giving estimates, following-up with customers, selling the product or service, and managing customer satisfaction. And that’s only the operations of your small business. Don’t forget managing accounting, marketing, innovation, and competition!
Over half of Canada’s small businesses have fewer than five employees. Resources are tight, and time is precious. As the owner or manager of a small business, your own personal productivity is very important to the success and longevity of the business. Out of the small businesses that close every year, one-third of them do so because of the owner’s personal reasons for the closure. Being able to juggle several tasks for many hours a day requires a commitment by youto invest in products and systems that will enhance their own productivity.
Some tools to enhance your small business’ productivity
If you don’t have one already, consider an office-on-the-go phone such as a Blackberry™ so you can send and receive email, view websites, calendar schedule activities and keep track of customer information wherever you are.
Investigate collaborative technology that lets you work seamlessly with clients or other service providers in a virtual environment, sharing content and ideas in real-time, like Google Docs or Microsoft SharePoint.
For personal productivity, there are many products and services available that claim to make our lives easier and more efficient, such as Skype, FreshBooks and Microsoft OneNote. Do some research to decide what’s right for you and your business.
Also consider investing in the following:
Proper office furniture with file drawers to accommodate well-organized and labelled information
A separate business telephone line for your office if you work from home
A good everyday document scanner
A printer and fax machine (yes, people still use fax machines!)
A label maker printer and document shredder
If you’re the chief cook and bottle washer of your business (so to speak) make sure your work environment is set up in a way that maximizes your personal productivity. Your goal is to never, ever lose a customer’s name or contact information and to never miss an appointment. Never, ever. Promise? Good.
For more reading on managing productivity in a small business, check out these past blog posts:
When we talk about operations management in a small business, we’re talking about a lot of moving parts. So what is operations management? It refers to all the activities, processes and controls a small business uses to produce its products and services. The components of operations management include:
New product or service development
Tips for creating an operations management plan for your small business
Whether your small business is in retail sales, manufacturing or a service company – or anything in between – you need an operations management plan. Of course, the operations plan for a hair salon won’t be quite the same as that of a small manufacturing business, but a plan is vital. How will you source your suppliers? How will your inventory get to your location? Who will control purchasing? Is it the same person who will control distribution? The list goes on! The components of operations management are interlinked, so a well-crafted operations management plan will ensure you are prepared.
Sounds complicated, but there’s a silver lining – entrepreneurs and small start-ups can design and implement new and innovative operations processes without having to overcome outdated ways of doing things. Older, larger businesses are always looking for ways to cut costs and improve operations. Small firms are fast and flexible, and can quickly gain the upper hand over the competition if they can deliver more efficiently too.
Have more questions about operations management? See what questions have already been answered in our Ask an Expert – Operations Management section. If you don’t see your question there – ask! We love talking operations management with fellow entrepreneurs.