Improving Productivity and Efficiency in SMEs

Running a small and medium business is not always an easy ride especially in an unpredictable business environment. These businesses always seek ways to stay afloat and the only way to do this is to implement strategies that can increase productivity and efficiency.

Most Small and medium Enterprises (SMEs) are one-man types of business with few employees on ground to run the affairs of the business. Usually, SMEs’ business infrastructures are limited and they have to take one step at a time to grow their business.

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A number of reports shows that at least eighty percent( 80%) of SMEs always quit the business within the first year or after five years.

The early stage of running an SME is characterized with low customer base and little or zero profits. One would ask, should it always be the case? Does it mean SMEs don’t have what it takes to keep it running? Should quitting the business be the end goal? All these questions boil down to one answer which is; Lack of productivity and efficiency leading to negative results and a downturn in business operations.

What is productivity?

Productivity is the process of using active measures to checkmate the level of output through the amount of input. Efficiency is the rate of efforts taken into consideration for a positive change in the business.

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These two factors are the catalysts for most SMES growth.

How can SMES Improve Productivity and Efficiency?

1. Set Goals For Your Business

There is no business without specific goals. You have to define your goals. Choose wisely the type of goals you want to set for your small business.

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2. Growth Mindset

As a business owner, you should be ready to accept criticism. You should be able to identify your weaknesses and be able to pave a way to fix them. Growth mindset is the ability to develop the habit of learning new things for a positive outcome.

When you receive complaints from customers regarding updates or delivery issues, design measures to provide better quality service to customers that patronize you as well as new ideas for your business operations.

3. Use Schedule Apps For Meetings and Appointments

There are so many scheduled apps on Google and Apple Playstores. You can use Calendly, Zoom, Email Schedules, Phone Calendars and Alarm clocks to set time and dates for business and staff meetings. Instead of writing down appointment or meeting dates in your diary or a notebook, utilizing a calendar is efficient in setting up a reminder for goals or events.

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4. Always Handle Urgent Task First Before Any Other Task For The Day

The only way to achieve to-do-list task goals is through prioritisation, to always start with the urgent task for the day.

Some helpful tips are

i. Tag tasks based on their status for easy identification.

ii. Early morning errands – Urgent and Important

iii. Checking Emails – Important

iv. Responding to Customers -Important but not urgent

v. Reconciling Payments from customers – Urgent

5. Always use automation software to reduce too much tasks in the office

Automation system is an automatic digital system that provides prompts and aids an employee to solve complex tasks. Use automation response to FAQ, bill payments, email management and tracking of deliveries.

An automatic response when clients pop up questions on WhatsApp or Direct Messaging.

Examples are;

“Dear Customer, thank you for messaging us today. How may we serve you?”

You can also set prompts in resolving customers complaints by providing information that are relevant to the problem.

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Most financial institutions’ social media handles always have automated reply prompts.

An online form such as Google forms can be created for customers to provide their contact details and state out the kind of service they need and their budget.

6. Create Teams For Each Business Activity

If your employees are up to 20, you can create different teams that will be in charge of different activities. For a logistic business, you can create a team in charge of taking orders, packaging team, HR team, management team and customer service team.

There are so many other ways to improve your productivity and efficiency as a small and medium business and it is by keeping the focus on the relevant tasks that relate to your business.


Emmanuel Otori has over 10 years of experience working with 100 start-ups and SMEs across Nigeria. He has worked on the Growth and Employment (GEM) Project of the World Bank, GiZ, Consulted for businesses at the Abuja Enterprise Agency, Novustack, Splitspot and NITDA. He is the Chief Executive Officer at Abuja Data School.

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