Small businesses live or die by the sword of efficiency. Large competitors can afford to be less efficient but still leverage economies of scale to provide higher service levels or better pricing.
Smaller players can outrun their bigger competitors, as well as other smaller threats, by optimizing their operational costs through efficiency. Conversely, an inefficient small business is, by definition, less competitive, and less likely to thrive or even survive.
One way to make a small business more efficient is to use a business database to centralize information. Start by thinking about all the information your small business uses on a daily or even hourly basis. Now eliminate the information that is already centralized, such as data you’re entering into an accounting program.
What’s left is information you’re pumping into 22 different spreadsheets, jotting on notes, typing into a word processor, sticking on Post-Its, or scanning into files with obtuse names such as SCAN0734.JPG. Worse, everyone in your small organization has their own folder and file structure, resulting in shared server drives that resemble a true forest of information.
The solution is to identify all the data that is not being centrally managed. Then, using a small business database—one that is designed for businesspeople, not programmers, to use—you quickly create forms that define what data you want to capture, and how that data should be stored.
A good small business database makes it easy to look things up, print, e-mail, and analyze data, build reports and more. Best of all, once the bulk of your business information has been centralized, you and your employees will be more efficient, and have more time to focus on the core business rather than running a paper chase.
Want to improve the way you run your business? Entrepreneurs, academics, and consultants from diverse industries offer practical advice on a variety of topics each business day.
To submit a tip for consideration, first check our archive of previous tips to make sure you're not repeating a tip someone has already contributed. Then send the tip to Small Business channel contributor Michelle Dammon Loyalka. Because of the volume of material she receives, she may not respond to each individual.