Whether it’s worrying about the state of the economy, keeping up with customer expectations, out-thinking competition or even regulatory pressures, the range of challenges UK small businesses face are complex and confusing. The impact of these pressures are being felt across the industry, with the Federation of Small Businesses reporting that small business confidence has taken a dip.
While there is no silver bullet for addressing such a diverse set of challenges, two critical areas to focus in on are helping workers be more productive and creative in the work they do.
What this boils down to is, how work gets done and how people work together. Get these right, and businesses will benefit from motivated, happy teams that produce great work. Collectively, this will make a business more competitive and help drive growth.
But where does a small business leader begin? Here are three tips to get this right.
Make working together simple and seamless
Small businesses, its customers, and its partners can be dotted all around a city, a country or even the world. Getting people – wherever they are – to work together effectively isn’t always easy.
Tools might be incompatible, slow or, frankly, just not very good.
It’s critical to help disparate teams operate as efficiently as possible; to cut out the frustration and keep them focused and positive about their work.
A great example of a company that achieved this is fashion brand, Les Lunes. The company is truly global, with two US brick-and-mortar shops and a robust online business, a New York-based marketing team, creatives in Paris and San Francisco, and a factory in Shanghai.
In the world of fashion, image is everything. Being able to quickly pick the right photograph for an ad, a store window or promotional material can be the difference between fashion hit and fashion faux pas.
Using Dropbox Paper, Les Lunes connects its photographer with its creatives, who are able to make comments in real-time on the shots and make any necessary adjustments. The process is fast and simple.
Hone in on your flow state
No one wants to be a slave to their technology – constantly checking emails, alerts and little red dots on apps. Instead, people should be freed from such restraints and their creative potential should be unleashed.
Why? People’s best always comes when they’re happy and motivated.
This means helping people find their flow – the state in which they are most productive. You probably know the feeling, when you can solve any problem, get through any challenge, all while everything around you seems to fade away.
For each person and team, the environment they need to achieve this is different. Encourage your team to experiment and explore what their optimum way of working is – and help them find this state on a more consistent basis.
Is it a certain playlist that helps? A particular room or café? Is it the time of day? Or an app they love using?
The more time spent in flow, the more productive and creative people will be.
A culture of constructive disagreement
Small businesses need to help their employees communicate clearly and to disagree constructively with one another.
Collaboration isn’t just about getting people to all pull in the same direction. As it was once put, ‘you don’t get harmony when everyone sings the same note’.
This of course is a delicate balance – particularly for small businesses who may have smaller teams of workers who already spend a lot of time with one another.
Les Lunes believes in this and worked hard to help its employees be open with one another – to share different opinions and views to forge the best solution.
Using Dropbox Paper, the company had a platform to help them achieve this – a digital whiteboard for sharing ideas and views.
It helped workers stop hiding behind workplace tools and messaging platforms, and the result has been teams that work more openly and honestly, across the board.
To create content for their marketing materials, for example, Les Lunes uses Dropbox Paper to seamlessly combine text, images, and rich media in one workspace. The team quickly drops content – links or uploads content from Dropbox Business – into Paper, and commenting has become a natural way for the team to reach consensus on Instagram and Facebook posts.
Unleash the potential of your people
There is so much potential that remains untapped in small businesses today. Potential that could make a huge difference to the fortunes of small businesses up and down the country.
If tools can be rethought, culture fostered, and teamwork nurtured, this potential can be unleashed.