The SME guide to working smarter

The phrase “work smart, not hard” has become a common business-motto in recent decades, with admin and inefficient workflows increasingly eating up time. This is especially true for SME owners, who often do the work of several people, rather than focusing on high-value work. While a good principle, putting it into action is key – what does “working smart” entail?

1) Structure your work

Developing structure in your work allows you to spend more time where it matters. While this seems straightforward, there are some under-utilised habits that can dramatically improve efficiency and productivity.

    • Develop routines
      Routines, such as setting fixed times to sleep, eat and work will help you to focus – habits breed mindset, not the other way around. If you purposefully ignore social concerns (including social media!) while working, and vice-versa, you will quickly find you work with more focus. .


    • Set clear goals
      Setting fixed goals to be completed in a certain period – whether two hours or two weeks – ensures that tasks don’t drag out. While attention-to-detail is important, perfectionism can lead to productivity sliding. Goal-setting ensures timely output and maintains steady momentum.


  • Be organised
    This one should go without saying, but time is often wasted on tasks like searching through disorganised files. Getting your workplace organised, whether indexing folders or developing fixed protocols for collecting debt will save a lot of time – and money. .

2) Find purpose and passion in what you do

Research suggests that people who find purpose and passion in their work do not work longer hours but put more consistent effort into their work – accomplishing more in a shorter time. This does not mean having to follow your wildest dreams; passion can be found in many forms, including:

  • Achievement passion: e.g. in completing an important work-goal
  • Creative passion: e.g. in coming up with a novel solution to a complex problem
  • People passion: e.g. in team-work with employees
  • Competency passion: e.g. in using your skill to improve a process

Wherever you find passion and purpose, focusing on work that allows you to achieve that will not only improve your quality of life, but also productivity.

3) Practise self-care

Self-care, contrary to popular opinion, is not just the domain of wellness gurus. Maintaining both your physical and mental health is vital to work productively – you need to be firing on all cylinders to steer your business to success.

    • Do the basics
      Eat well, exercise, get enough sleep. Being over-worked can reduce these behaviours, but that in term damages your output, and quickly becomes a vicious cycle.


    • Cut out stress
      This is easier said than done – stress comes with the territory of owning an SME. Nonetheless, it is a huge cause of productivity loss, and is worth eliminating wherever possible. Delegate, simplify workflows and practise destressing activities such as meditation.


  • Seek help when necessary
    While being an SME owner often means being a jack-of-all-trades, seeking help from those with skills and expertise prevents you getting overwhelmed and allows you to allocate time to your own strengths.

4) Focus

Many SME owners are pulled in too many directions, and as a result, don’t perform enough of the high-value work that drives growth and success. The solution is to focus on a few important tasks, and obsessively work to improve and innovate them.

    • Reduce tasks systematically
      Go through the list of daily tasks, from unnecessary meetings to financial admin, that are not creating value. Cut these out, delegate them to employees or outsource them. Not only does this allow you to do more high-value work, but to get better and better at it.


  • Learn key new skills
    Learning is vital to growing your business and adapting to a changing economic climate. Identify a couple of skills that will be most beneficial and focus intensely on learning these.

5) Choose a financial solution that facilitates working smart

Many of the strategies above can be facilitated by employing intelligent business financing. Managing cashflow is a constant struggle for SMEs, with owners having to invest huge amounts of time that could otherwise be used productively.

Factoring offers a solution. Your business sells accounts receivable to the factoring company, who then collects these at their due-date. In addition, Merchant Factors takes care of all of the debtors book administration and credit control processes associated with managing accounts receivable – at no extra cost. Without the stress and time of endlessly tending your finances, you are free to focus on the value-creating core of your business.

For fast, flexible business finance – contact Merchant Factors today

Finance beyond the Numbers.