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Ways to Improve Productivity in the Workplace

The article was written by Sara Pantaleo.

Boosting productivity in your organisation means you will be able to increase profits.  Small businesses have twenty employees or fewer.  Therefore, it is essential to have strategies to make your business more productive and efficient.

Some of the ways to increase productivity in your small business include tools, systems and processes, and some are about how you build and nurture your employee relationships.  If one team member is not performing in a small business, the whole organisation feels the consequences; therefore, it is crucial for small business leaders to also focus on people.

Here are some of the ways to improve productivity in the workplace.

1.    Have a purpose, plan and clear goals for the business

Without direction in an organisation and a clear plan, your employees may not be working on tasks that improve or benefit the business.  Having clear strategic goals means that each department and employee has a compass on what needs to be achieved and prioritise their tasks to align with the business goals.  It is also essential to set and commit to deadlines.  Regularly meeting deadlines demonstrates reliability and the ability to stay focused.  Customers can be lost if an organisation does not ensure goals are completed on schedule.

2.    People Culture and excellent workplace conditions

Develop your employees, offer them support and practice positive reinforcement.  Create a culture where employees feel included and that they belong.  Employees that believe in the business purpose and vision are more likely to be happy working for you and performing at their peak.

It is also vital to create a well-organised and decorated office, a pleasant workplace to see every day and physically and visually enjoyable.  The more comfortable employees feel at the office, the less stressed they will be.  One way to maintain a healthy work environment is to create an upbeat atmosphere that makes everyone feel appreciated and motivated.

Every employee doesn’t need to be busy every minute of the entire workday.  Keeping your staff too busy can create fatigue and cause burnout.  That’s why one of the steps to improve productivity is to take occasional breaks.  Taking 10 to 15-minute breaks allows your team to recharge and feel refreshed when they approach the work again.

Try using 90-minute cycles divided by breaks.  It’s a practical tip that can lead to higher output.  During the 90 minutes, each employee should put as much effort as possible into achieving a task.  This is followed by a break to recharge.  Creating a flow of 90-minute sessions followed by short breaks is enough time to establish a rhythm and complete tasks without getting burned out.

3.    Reduce Distractions

It’s essential to stay focused while working; therefore, remove as many distractions as possible.  Remote employees have this advantage, whereas office employees must deal with background noises made by devices and co-workers.  Your team in the office should try using soundproof headphones and turning off their personal mobiles unless they are a necessary part of the job.

Avoid booking unproductive meetings that do not have a purpose and do not accomplish much.  Like staff meetings.  Some topics can be communicated via phone or a quick email.

4.    Be Efficient – Track and measure

Most businesses track their financial performance but forget to track and analyse how their team uses their time.  Studying the data reveals which employees are productive and which employees need more training.  The technology can assist you with communication and performance.

5.    Have the right tools, equipment and technology

Technology is an integral part of the modern workplace, and any business without some level of technical savvy will likely fail.  Assess that you have the right technology, system, and tools fit for your purpose.  There are many cloud-based solutions to achieve different outcomes you may consider.  Some of the technology to consider (This list is an indication only):

  • An accounting package such as Xero allows you to track your business metrics and performance accurately, keep inventory, make and record sales, manage and pay bills and handle payroll.
  • A Client Relationship Manager (CRM) such as Hubspot or Zoho allow you to keep accurate customer data and track your customer’s journey. A CRM will keep you efficient and give you the ability to nurture customers efficiently and without leaving it to chance.
  • Software packages that can assist in meeting your employer compliance and facilitate all the templates to help recruit, onboard and train employees, such as Employment Hero.
  • Industry-relevant – regardless of your industry, technology makes what you do easier. For example, if you work in health care, countless technologies save lives, protect patient privacy rights, and make sure providers get paid through insurance.  On the other hand, if you are a farmer, engineering and robotics will help you maintain crops and improve yield.
  • Communications tools such as Slack will allow instant message co-worker communication.
  • Social Media – Use Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to communicate directly with your customers. Create and promote your brand and get your message directly to the customer.
  • Stay informed with the latest technology and adapt. New and upcoming technologies such as Blockchain[1], AI[2], and IoT[3] are revolutionising business.   Stay informed and aware

Being proactive and going beyond what is needed to limit, reduce or eliminate future vulnerabilities is a great strategy.  Businesses that don’t take time to proactively prevent future disasters may find themselves in a difficult situation when the disaster occurs.  For example, computer networking businesses would take a proactive approach by building a solid defence against cybercriminals.

Consistently assessing how your team works and areas of improvement will help increase overall workplace productivity.  While there are various tools out there that aim to streamline workflow, ultimately, as a leader in your organisation, you must be there to support your team.

Forget perfection.  It is unrealistic to be perfect in every aspect of your business.  Your business can only be as good as your technology and resources.

[1] A blockchain is a distributed database that is shared among the nodes of a computer network. As a database, a blockchain stores information electronically in digital format. Blockchains are best known for their crucial role in cryptocurrency systems, such as Bitcoin, for maintaining a secure and decentralized record of transactions.

[2] Artificial intelligence (AI) is the capability of a computer system to mimic human cognitive functions such as learning and problem-solving.  New level of AI is machine learning, which is the process of using mathematical models of date to help a computer learn without direct instruction.  This enables a computer system to continue learning and improving on its own and can solve problems based on experience.

[3] The Internet of Things (IoT) describes the network of physical objects—“things”—that are embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies for the purpose of connecting and exchanging data with other devices and systems over the internet.

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The powerful, inspiring women leading family businesses

When I first joined the family business, I found it very difficult to break through the sexism and invisibility of being a woman in a male-dominated industry.   Even though I was developing and improving the business, I was seldom acknowledged in the early days and treated like a little sister.  Not just from my family members but also others who were working in the business.

It took many years to get recognition, and I had to work a lot harder, build trust and prove myself at every stage.  All this while creating my family and all that came with that.

How women are seen in the family business

So, I found it interesting when I read a KPMG article in 2020, following a survey of family businesses that talks about women in the family business as having hidden roles and being designated as the ‘chief emotional officer’ in some situations. However, women took more of a support role in keeping the family together instead of leading the family business.

I am happy to say that there are a growing number of women leading their family businesses and not in any way invisible.

I had the privilege to have a close look at some of these inspirational women leaders in the family business as part of a project I have been involved in this year.

These women are not in the background, but they have broken through the stereotype of the traditional male-dominated head of the family business.  They have founded the company, or they have taken over in the succession of their family business.

They have successfully broken down the barriers and are redefining leadership in the family business.

Challenges for women in the family business

Most of them cite their primary challenge as the male family members putting barriers and not trusting that they can do the role in male-dominated environments.

The consistent trend I read in their submissions is that they have transformed their family business into achieving high financial performance and innovation. In addition, they implemented a transformational leadership style to create an inclusive and diverse workplace.

They have in common that they succeeded despite the barriers while having families and building inclusive teams with a sense of belonging.

These women showed immense resilience and grit to succeed. Yet, they had to fight for their place.

Embracing and supporting women in the family business

In the future, we need to be aware and cautious that all women are given the same opportunities as their male counterparts and not miss out on women’s contributions because they do not think the fight is worth it.

I know in my own experience, I sometimes questioned if it was worth it.

The risk of not embracing women in family businesses may mean the end for the company.

Celebrating women leaders in the family business

So, I want to give tribute to all the female leaders in family businesses and encourage all organisations to embrace all they have to provide and support them to succeed and remove any barriers in their way.

I want to share some of the quotes from the inspirational women I had the privilege to review.

A woman as a business leader

My strength and courage to fight for change, to show those who came before me that there is nothing to fear from this new approach, have driven growth and secured the business for future generations

A woman overcoming challenges in the family business

I’ve fought constant resistance and been required to prove my worth time and time again.  Courage has been essential to my success both as a leader and a woman in the business

Supporting women in your family business

I have ensured that flexible working hours and days are core to the business. It doesn’t just make good moral sense, but it makes good business sense

I have coached and built the women in leadership in my business by providing a leadership pathway and funding the furthering of their learning and experiences

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Crisis Management Planning

It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to lose it..Warren Buffett


What is a crisis?

A time of intense difficulty or danger?

So, in business, a crisis is related more to a significant adverse event with possible reputational damage.

An out-of-the-ordinary event, disclosure or set of circumstances, real or perceived, which seriously threatens safety, disrupts the activity or negatively impacts the reputation of a business or customer patronage.

It will not matter whether it is real or perceived.

Types of crises

Most importantly, are you aware of all the different types of incidents that could threaten your business and reputation?

A crisis, which can last from a few hours to several days or longer, needs decisions to be made quickly to limit damage to an organisation.

Types of crises can include natural disasters, accidental or intentional human-caused events, and technology issues such as cyberattacks.

Why have a crisis management plan

A crisis management plan will detail all the organisation’s risk areas and respond in a critical situation that negatively affects your organisation.

A crisis management plan allows an organisation to act quickly should an incident occur, with well-documented responses to potentially critical situations.

An effective crisis management plan will include:

  • criteria used to determine if a crisis has occurred
  • monitoring systems to detect early warning signals,
  • contingency actions
  • list of emergency contacts
  • specify who will be the spokesperson in the event of a crisis
  • strategies for everyone to know their role during and after a crisis

Having a plan will not avoid an incident but will minimise the impact of adverse reputation outcomes and guide how to manage and recover from incidents.

Right, now is a great time to prepare a crisis management plan and be ready for the recovery of COVID19 and have contingencies to deal with the employee well being and any matters arising from bringing the team back to the office.

Recovery is more clear with a crisis management plan.

As a result, after a significant adverse event, a crisis management plan could be the difference between your organisation being left vulnerable by highlighting the organisation’s and systems weaknesses or coming out more resilient.

Thus, leading to enhance the organisation’s capacity to retain its state and function despite external disruptions and adapt and transform from these events and be better equipped to undergo future changes.



Download – Steps to create a crisis management plan

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Franchising is like a marriage

Will the new changes to the Franchise Code ensure more franchisee success?

A new Franchising code was released on the 1st of July. The new fully updated Code Legislation can be downloaded!

More disclosure and a stronger contract will not guarantee franchisee success. Instead, a strong business model, passionate franchisees, and a strong relationship between the franchisor and franchisee benefiting both parties’ needs.

I have been working in franchising for over 20 years.  I was CEO at La Porchetta for fifteen of those years.  La Porchetta began with one restaurant in 1985 and worked hard to get the formula right before opening a second restaurant five years later.  At that stage, franchising was a relatively new business model, and the early pioneers were pretty much starting from scratch to put the suitable business models in place.  At every stage, however, there was a long-term vision in mind. There was a commitment for the long haul.

One of the most important things I’ve learned along the way is that a franchised business has to be sustainable.

In this time, I’ve seen many companies grow quickly for five years or so and then implode.  Having a great model is a start. However, the best way to ensure the longevity of your business is to have the right systems in place with strong recruitment processes and a culture that nurtures the relationship between franchisor and franchisee.   In most cases, franchise businesses that did not make it didn’t pay enough attention to support and the importance of sense checking the franchisee sentiment along the way.

Building a solid framework for sustainable growth means putting systems in place where both the franchisor and the franchisee have profitability and alignment.  Some of the procedures required are not just about financial metrics; nurturing the franchise relationship is equally important.  Otherwise, in the end, everybody loses.

An open and transparent relationship with franchisees is crucial.

A strong relationship is the only way to keep a business healthy and vibrant.  I think of it as a kind of “courtship and marriage” where we get to know each other in the early days and then work hard to create a great relationship where everyone puts in the very best they can.

Franchisees must understand the business they are entering, alongside getting professional business advice to understand the investment clearly. Still, more importantly, franchisees need to be clear on what the commitment will be and the alignment of their values and personal goals.

Some of the franchisee failures that I have seen are not because the franchisee did not understand the legal document but because they did not understand the commitment required to run the business.   Although there are many franchise models to choose from when investigating where to invest, franchisees need to understand what will suit them best and the passion they have for it.

Franchisors need to have robust franchisee recruitment and induction process, where franchisees are clear on what it means to be a franchisee with their brand and the commitment required to succeed.

It may mean that the franchisor says ‘no’, more often.

Saying ‘no’ to prospective franchisees early in the process may mean slower growth.  However, recruiting the franchisees more aligned and ready for the commitment will be more sustainable and lead to more successful businesses.

Along the journey, it is also vital that both franchisors and franchisees re-assess the relationship at least annually and check that it is still working.   I have seen many instances where a franchisee stayed in the brand too long even though they were no longer aligned or passionate about the business.

Succession planning should be discussed openly so that a plan that works for both parties can be devised.

Like in a marriage, if the franchisor and franchisee do not nurture the relationship, it will end badly.


Sara Pantaleo, Affari SP Founder

Download Franchise Recruitment  Roadmap

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Cash is KIng

Cash is King

So it’s the end of the financial year, and your accountant reports your business has a nice profit.  You are surprised and tell them you cant understand as you have no money in the bank and don’t know how you will pay the taxes on the profit.

According to a report released by ScotPac in its latest, SME Growth Index 72.5 per cent of small business reported having cash flow problems.  Small businesses with limited financing must focus on earnings and pay attention to cash flow, the actual money resources used to support operations.  What does this mean, and how can business owners track?

Cash Flow and Profitability are Not the Same

Although closely related, cash flow and profitability are different. Cash flow represents the cash inflows and outflows from the business. Profitability represents the income and expenses of the business.

Think of cash flow as transactions that affect your business “Bank account” and profitability as items that impact your “income tax return”.

Cash inflows and outflows show liquidity, while income and expenses show profitability.

Liquidity = Can I pay my bills?

Profitability = Am I making money?

Cash Flow-Positive vs. Profitability

When your business is cash flow-positive, it means your cash inflows exceed your cash outflows. Profit is similar: For a company to be profitable, it needs to have more money coming in than going out.  So, when you see that you have more receivables than you do payables, it can be easy to assume that your business is making a profit. But that’s not always the case.

Your business can be profitable without being cash flow-positive

You can have a positive cash flow without actually making a profit.

Here’s how to see if you’re cash-flow positive:

Many businesses use accrual accounting, which means your revenue and expenses are recorded, regardless of whether or not cash has been exchanged.

For example, let’s say you send out an invoice for $1,000. This $1,000 will be recorded on your profit and loss statement as a profit—even if you don’t receive payment for said invoice right away.

This difference is critical when your bills come up as due. If you’re still waiting for payment on that invoice, you may not have enough cash on hand to cover the costs.

  • Not having the cash makes you cash flow-negative.

Since profit doesn’t tell you exactly when money is coming in and going out of your business, you will still appear profitable on paper, even if that isn’t in the bank for you to use.

How to Calculate Your Cash Flow

To calculate your cash flow, you have to know how much money your business starts with on the first of the month.

Your “cash on hand” should include precisely that—the cash you have on hand that is readily available to use.

Once you know how much you’re starting with, you’ll subtract all your operating expenses, investment activities, and financing activities.

  • Cash flow will not include any unpaid debt or outstanding invoices.

Let’s say you have five customers and you send five invoices every month.

Let’s also assume your average invoice value is $2000, and your payment terms are NET21 days.

We’ll assume your Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) is 50% of your billed amount and that your operational costs are flat at $3000 per month (including rent, employees/contractors, insurance, etc.). In this case, your cash flow chart may look something like this (not taking into account prior balance or actual cash on hand, for simplicity):

Example: Cashflow Calculator

Cash Flow Chart Month1 Month2
Issued Invoices 5 5
Value Per Invoice $2000 $2000
Paid Invoices 0 5
Booked Revenue $10000 $10000
Actual Income $0 $10000
COGS -$5000 -$5000
Operational Costs -$3000 -$3000
Monthly Net Profit $2000 $2000
Monthly Cash Flow -$8000 $2000
Running Cash Flow -$8000 -$6000

If you sent that $1,000 invoice out, but it is yet to be paid, you will not count it as a cash inflow. Instead, you’ll mark it as “collections or accounts receivables” until the invoice is paid.

Or, let’s say you purchase something with a business credit card but don’t pay it off right away. The balance you owe on your card will not count as a “cash outflow” until the debt is paid.

After your calculations, your cash flow is positive if your closing balance adds up to be greater than your starting balance. If it adds up to be lower, your cash flow is negative.

Which One Is More Important to a Business Cash or Profit?

When determining which one is more important, it depends on the business and the circumstances.

For example, a business may see a profit every month, but its money is tied up in hard assets or accounts receivable, and there is no cash to pay employees.

A business may see increased revenue and cash flow, but there is a substantial amount of debt, so the business does not make a profit.

The absence of a profit eventually has a declining effect on the cash flow.

An unprofitable business that is cash flow positive will have a hard time remaining positive for long.

Cash flow is what keeps the lights on

In short, profit can show you how successful your business is, but it can’t tell you if your business has the money to survive long-term.


Sara Pantaleo, Affari SP Founder

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