The search for a better way / Efficiency is the end goal for every business

There’s a saying that necessity is the mother of all invention. For most businesses in the last several years, tough economic conditions created a lifetime supply of necessity, resulting in companies large and small seeking creative ways to do more with less.

For most CEOs, that meant taking a long, hard look at every position and every product, weeding through the “nice to have” and “need to have” in both categories. The next step was taking what remained and finding new ways to maximize efficiency.

The silver lining to the economic downturn is that companies looked at things in new ways and became focused on efficiency. Those lessons remain in place today. Existing positions and potential new ones are given greater scrutiny than before, and products are measured and remeasured for profitability.

To continue to not only survive but thrive in this new economy, it’s imperative that these lessons are not forgotten. Companies need to operate at the bare-minimum of staffing levels to avoid unnecessary costs. Employees need to be cross-trained to keep everyone at maximum capacity to eliminate downtime. Products have to be scrutinized to squeeze every penny out of production costs and pricing needs to be studied to increase profitability. Innovation and efficiency have to be paired to create new products that stand out from the competition.

Take Sonos, for example. The company created a wireless sound system that easily plugs into your existing wireless router, providing music in any room with a Sonos device, all controlled from your iPod. Installation is easy — no need for a technician, and because it’s wireless, you no longer have to figure out how to hide all the wires older systems required. Add in a simple interface on a ubiquitous device and you have a winning product.

But Sonos can’t rest, for competitors like Bose are offering similar systems, looking to improve on the idea. If Sonos is innovative and does so in an efficient way, it will most likely continue to succeed. We all have to continue our search for efficiencies within our organizations. We have to be willing to change processes, systems and people, even when those changes are difficult to make. Failing to do so will only put you at a disadvantage against competitors who did make the changes.

Never stop innovating ways to be more efficient in every aspect of your business. Innovation isn’t just about the next great product; it’s also about how you produce and manage that product and how you manage the people behind it. A great product with an inflated cost structure behind it won’t do you any good in today’s economy.

Fred Koury is the president and CEO of Smart Business. Reach him at [email protected]