One of the most common ways small businesses and start-ups lose money is simply through the waste of time.

This wasted time can also have more serious or direct implications, such as failing on deliverables and letting your competitors beat your products or services to market.

So how do you fix the inefficiencies in your own operations? Where do you start?

Find the broken process

To be able to cut out lost time, you need to know where it’s all going wrong. Spend some time working with your employees to see where they’re struggling to work efficiently. It might be that the technology and IT infrastructure you’re using is slowing them down, or that two business sections that are both critical to a project don’t have a frictionless process for communication. Look for stark shifts in apparent productivity and listen for pain points – the symptoms that are easiest to see might not necessarily result from the problematic process, but it’s unlikely to be far removed from the root cause.

Know what suppliers to work with

Every place your business comes to rely on a vendor or manufacturer in its supply chain is a potential bottleneck to your processes. When going through procurement processes for many consistent or recurring contracts, consistency and reliability tend to be more important than the turnaround time for any given piece of the process. But when your business is bringing something new to the market and needs a prototype, or if your business model relies on limited production runs rather than high-volume, you need an appropriate supplier that can meet your urgent development or rapid prototyping needs.

Simplify communications

If you’re an SME or start-up, you might rely on a remote workforce. It’s undoubtedly the best way to go if you want the best talent without any location restrictions, but it can slow down your processes. Ensure that people can talk via an IM platform, like Slack, or voice or video call with a program like Skype. Then, put a rule in place that means all employees must alert each other when they’re unlikely to be online – it might just be sending a group message in the morning or something simple like that. This will make a huge difference, as people won’t be waiting on an answer that isn’t going to come.

Define what you’re trying to do

If you’re working towards delivering a campaign, service or product, make sure everyone in your team knows what the final goal is. They need to know the deadline, what’s expected of them, and who they’ll be working alongside. Once you put a solid definition in place, people will have more realistic expectations of what they can and need to do. Changes are likely to crop up, but try to put these to one side until the first goal is achieved.

Have an email-free hour

This might sound counter-productive, but in actual fact, checking emails takes up to four hours every day. Just think how much you could get done if you reclaimed that time back. So, instigate an email-free hour, afternoon, or day – and see how well it works.