By Lucy Fox, General Manager, Cloud Solutions, Exact UK

The internet is full of stories about entrepreneurs that have grown their business at break neck speed. After coming up with an idea, they’ve focused on turning that idea into a success with dogged determination. But what do these companies do that separates them from businesses experiencing slower, or even static growth?

While hard work is going to play a vital part of helping a business to get off the ground and grow, it’s how that hard work is spent that can often separate the wheat from the chaff. A recent report by the Centre for Enterprise and Economic Development Research looked at efficiency within small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Among the 750 SMEs that took part in the survey, researchers identified a group of trailblazers; a top 3% of SMEs who had managed to increase their annual sales turnover by more than 100%. Interestingly, the majority of these SMEs (56%) reported above average levels of operational efficiency and none had poor operational efficiency levels. So what steps can SMEs take to increase their efficiency and become trailblazers?

Cloud software

Cloud software has gone a long way to helping companies excel in their sector. With the cloud, businesses can see real time information from any place and at any time. This constant accessibility means that they know exactly what is happening at that moment and act accordingly.

It allows employees to work flexibly, from anywhere. They are free to work from home, on their commute or even pitch in while on holiday – all without worrying about logging time or submitting expenses when they’re back at the office. It can all be done on the move with the cloud.

Cloud technology is essential for SMEs that conduct business on an international scale. Rather than documents being sent back and forth between people in different time zones for editing and approval, there is one document in one location, enabling the team to work from a central copy. The most up to date draft +will be accessible to everyone from anywhere, saving time and keeping everyone in the loop.

Effective time management

Malcolm X once said: “In all our deeds, the proper value and respect for time determines success or failure.” I think we all can agree that time is money. So why are we not more frugal with it?

To manage time effectively it’s important to plan ahead. Take some time to consider your aims – whether daily, monthly or annual – and thoroughly plan how you will reach them. At some point during your day, stop and ask yourself: “am I just ‘being busy’ or am I genuinely driving results?” Planning is the firm foundation on which successful businesses are not only made, but also maintained in the long term.

To help plan their time, they draw a solid line between what is urgent, what can be delegated, and what can wait, and do not deviate from that decision. The majority of SMEs are focused on growth and many work at full or near capacity to achieve that, but are not always focusing those efforts in the most productive way.

Project management

For trailblazing SMEs, project management isn’t just about organisation of the project, but effectively managing all the people involved. They have an incredibly high level of transparency and accountability, so that all members of the team not only know status of the project but their exact role in it.

Undoubtedly they possess solid leadership skills and are able to delegate tasks in the best way possible so that teams feel valued, encouraged and motivated to bring a project to successful completion.

Becoming a trailblazer is not like trying to join an exclusive club – it’s open to any and all businesses that take the necessary steps to not just improve their operational efficiency, but also excel in their sector. The potential benefits that cloud software offer are exponential. By using technology to support operational efficiency and project management, coupled with smart financial controls, the possibilities are endless.