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5 Tips To Better Communication In Your Small Business

By Scott Schreiman, CEO of Samepage

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You’ve got a small crew that wears many hats. That makes each minute precious. Yet every minute, tons of data is generated. It’s a constant battle to maintain focus. You’re constantly absorbing information. Making sense of it. Then communicating the right data to the right people in a timely way.

SIS International Research surveyed small businesses to uncover what’s mucking up the works. And how much poor communication costs an SMB. SIS quantified the annual cost per knowledge worker for these communication challenges:

Waiting for information                    $9,970

Unwanted communications            $7,254

Inefficient coordination                   $6,609

Barriers to collaboration                 $6,009

Think about a situation in your business where any one of the challenges above has caused you to either lose business, or not acquire new business. You can’t fix what you don’t know is broken.

1. Engage your entire team in your company’s mission and goals.

We all want our work to have meaning. Harvard’s Teresa Amabile points out that employees are happier and more productive when they understand their role in achieving their company’s mission.

Action steps:

  • Lead by example. What’s your company’s mission? How compelling is it? Don’t know? Figure it out. Now. Not when it’s convenient.
  • Display your mission prominently —in the office and online.
  • If your current mission doesn’t energize folks, bring your team together to create one that does.

The right mission can help transform your company into a rockstar.

2. Nurture a culture of sharing and transparency.

According to a survey conducted by 15Five, 81% of employees value open communication above all other workplace perks.

Action steps:

  • Be responsive when an employee shares. As the business owner, you set the bar. New tools  make it easy for employees to share and respond quickly among themselves.
  • Let each employee figure out when she must deliver important information. This way, other people know when to expect relevant updates and can best plan their own activities.
  • Set up a notice board sharing key achievements and updates. Encourage everyone to post contributions.

The latest generation social collaboration tools can help foster this behavior.

3. Centralize information and make it easy to access.

Waiting for information costs a company almost $10,000 per employee every year! Don’t make employees hunt for information they need.  Remove the bottlenecks, improve response times, and reduce costs.

Action steps:

  • Create a central location for all relevant files, information, and discussions.
  • Use a business collaboration tool such as Samepage, which integrates with cloud file storage solutions (e.g. GoogleDrive, DropBox) and popular file types.

Whatever tool you choose should attach the conversation to the content so the context is clear. Now employees can understand what’s going on at any moment.

4. Take control of email.

Email was the killer app of modern communications. Today inboxes are overflowing. Take back control. Reduce email use.

Look to new tools for conversations. Real-time messaging  tools such as Slack, Bitrix, HipChat, and Pie let you follow, organize, and search discussions. Collaboration tools such as Samepage embed links back to relevant pages and centralize all comments in a newsfeed (who needs email?).

Action steps:

  • Keep your email app closed. Instead, only work in email at scheduled times..
  • If you must leave it open all day, turn off push notifications and sound effects.
  • Write short, concise emails. When you set the example, people respond in kind. 

  5. Make meetings count.

Meetings are a notorious time suck when used poorly. Cut down meetings (see the first four tips). Next, make meetings valuable. 

Action steps:

  • Hold meetings primarily to make decisions.
  • Share a detailed agenda ahead of time so participants are prepared to make smart decisions. Provide links to source materials. (aka “homework”)
  • Stand, don’t sit. You’ll be amazed at how fast and efficient meetings will suddenly become.
  • Publish meeting notes confirming decisions and list who owns which tasks with due dates in a central location.

Keep an easily accessible page with meeting notes, which also has links to pages or files with relevant information. People can add notes, make comments, and keep the conversation going after the meeting. You’ll be surprised at how much faster work gets done.

Contextual Collaboration Speeds Desired Business Outcomes

Email took off because it was easy to learn and quick to implement. It successfully mimicked existing behavior — memos typed on typewriters, photocopies placed in people’s office mailboxes, or snail mailed.

But email’s sophistication hasn’t grown much — attachments, threaded conversations, archiving, search — they’re all good, but they’re not good enough to handle the complexity, volume, and velocity of what we deal with today.

Centralized file storage apps are great. Yet their limitations when it comes to the conversation (making, sharing, and viewing comments) are somewhat primitive. There’s no simple way to quickly scan or search all the comments made across different files (content) that you need to see.

The conversation (comments / emails) and the content (files) together provide the context — the whole picture of what’s going on.  Such contextual collaboration is what you need to make communication more effective — yielding better, and faster results. Whatever communication process and tools you use, be sure your team can access the entire context easily  – the conversation and the content — or you’ll stay stuck where you are.

 

Scott Schreiman1

Scott Schreiman is the founder and chief executive officer of Samepage, a division of Kerio Technologies, Inc. Scott joined Kerio in 2005 and has over 18 years of senior management experience in sales, business development, marketing, operations and finance. A few key positions that have helped to elevate Scott’s career include VP and GM of Aladdin Knowledge Systems, VP and and Co-Founder of MovieWeb.com and VP of Knowledge Management and Financial Planning for Wells Fargo Bank.

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