7 ways to improve the output of your small business

Great businesses are always looking for new opportunities, not just to make sales but also to deliver better products and services faster. Through a combination of expert opinion and case studies, we deliver top tips to do business better


Half a century ago workplaces were static uninspiring floors with bosses metering out hard and fast rules. We’ve come a long way since, but some businesses are evolving faster than others. Allowing people to work in their own way will drive up loyalty, productivity and retention rates.

James Lintern, Co-Founder at RotaCloud:

“At RotaCloud, we recently formalised and extended our flexible working policy, with our core hours now set to 10-3:30pm.

“In other words, most staff can start their eight hours of work at any time from 7:30am to 10am, whatever works for them. Early birds and night owls both benefit, with an extra productivity boost first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening when the office is a little quieter.

“We’ve also been able to extend our support hours as a result of this policy, offering an improved service to our customers. A member of our marketing team has even written an article on the benefits of this policy.”


Agile has been a buzzword for some time, but a business’ capacity to adapt in the face of change – whether threat or opportunity – is a key ingredient in its ability improve revenues and growth. Agility means being able to serve changing needs and pivot to take advantage of emerging trends.

Nigel Davies, founder of digital workplace Claromentis:

“We’re an agile business which means we have a flexible and thought-through approach to getting things done. The main principle is empowering self-organised teams so there is no need for a ‘supervisor-type’ person standing over people telling them what to do. Our teams run themselves and can react quickly to change if required. We’re highly organised but not rigid.

“Being agile is energising as it keeps the focus on achievable sprints of focused activity rather than repetitive boring tasks or targets that always seem unreachable. Crucially, everyone in our business has visibility of tasks and progress that’s being made, using a kanban board.

“We also have an annual ‘innovation week’: a hackathon that gets the whole team away from client work and building something fun, interesting and challenging.”

Office work


Rigid, hierarchical management structures can demotivate workforces and act as a suppressant on ideas and innovation. By trusting people to get the job done, you offer them the chance to use their imagination, create new things and become inspired.

Andy Mitchell, founder of The Inbox Foundry:

“At the Inbox Foundry [which develops productivity apps for business] we keep our productivity levels high by having clearly defined goals and ensuring our team members have complete autonomy over their area of responsibility.

“Autonomy in the modern workplace is the ultimate motivator and it removes many of the bottlenecks that unnecessary hierarchical structures bring.

“Fostering an autonomy culture within a business can be a challenging transition, it takes trust and a change of mindset from the nine to five, but the productivity is evidenced by things getting done on time and a low employee turnover, which brings real, measurable value to a business.”


Never be afraid to innovate, otherwise the competition will do it for you. Testing, working on small projects and investing in hunches all keep a business fresh and ready for change. It also develops new competences, adding dimensions to your business. If an experiment fails, you have learned a valuable lesson, pack it up and try something new.

Andrew Moyser, partner at MHA MacIntyre Hudson:

“We have developed an innovation strategy to ensure we’re looking into technology improvements which will increase in productivity. For example, we’re currently looking at the adoption of robotic process automation (RPA) and data analytics software. These technologies will help improve productivity.

“We’ve set-up a team to work with staff on improving the user experience of software and making sure we use the full capabilities.”


Workplaces are defined by their culture, so make sure your business is set-up to motivate the team. If your employees dread Mondays then you’re doing something wrong. Conversely, if people are excited about the prospect of coming to work then it’s likely they’ll do a good job when they get there.

Mathias Mikkelsen, the founder and CEO of Memory

“I think it’s imperative that companies actively work towards creating a healthy and positive work culture that detaches itself from the traditional culture of hierarchical bureaucracy. This is essential as it improves the communication between employer and employee, and enables the creation of a clear and shared company mission.

“Another important factor companies should focus on is to ensure that their employees remain motivated. This requires companies to reassess their leadership and management skills and ensure that they are not micromanaging their employees.”

Young office workers agile working


It’s important to accept that you’re not always the expert. If you’re unsure about something, speak to a specialist. In small doses, consultants can problem-solve, inject new ideas and steer your business on a path to growth.

Few CEOs are IT experts, for example, so if you’re looking to make a big investment in your IT platform, talk to people with experience of doing so before you spend the big bucks.

Gavin Davis, partner at MHA MacIntyre Hudson:

“Organisations often fail to fully understand how technology can help them grow and become more efficient. It’s not uncommon to find that a business has sought out their local computer superstore or dealer, only to find that their systems don’t work as expected, or fail to save costs.

“Businesses should engage with experts who will understand their business and find solutions that work for them now and in the future. We often find that IT systems were installed when a business was much smaller, but as it grows, IT systems can become unwieldy and difficult to manage. Typically we see systems and applications that were added when the business strategy was different or absent.

“A detailed understanding of what the business needs now and in the future is vital for success. IT underpins the operations of most businesses so it needs to be seriously considered as part of the growth strategy and not left to chance that it can be put right later.”


Learning is a critical ingredient of growing a business. That means assessing why mistakes happen and developing your knowledge of the market, competition, clients, strategies and technology. By engaging with your customers, for example, you can deliver better products while creating a bond that will benefit your business for years to come.

Andy Mitchell, founder of The Inbox Foundry:

“Like most software companies we deliver product features to our customers incrementally in versions. As the customer uses our products we use both analytics, customer feedback and competitor analysis to further develop the product to meet our customers’ needs.

“I’ve always liked the maxim ‘listen to your customers, not your competitors’. In other words, don’t try to out think others, let yourself be pulled towards what your customers need. Communicate consistently with them. Involve them in the decisions you make about your business and they will become your biggest evangelists.”

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Further reading

Five easy tech wins to improve SME productivity

Related Topics

Agile working