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Business Unplugged™
This blog features Carol Roth's tough love on business and entrepreneurship, as well as insights from Carol's community of contributors.

How to Increase Flexibility in Your Business

Written By: Carol Roth | 3 Comments

With the business landscape constantly changing, having flexibility in your business is a big key to success. So, with that in mind, I have reached out to the CarolRoth.com contributor network of business owners, experts, advisors and entrepreneurs to find out their best advice for increasing flexibility in business. Their answers are presented below in no particular order.

You may notice some similar ideas listed, but I kept them separate, as something in the way one is framed may resonate differently with you.

Regus Logo

This article is sponsored by my ultra-flexible client Regus. They have also provided their own advice for increasing flexibility in business:

“Don’t Over-Commit: If you’re starting or expanding a business, only purchase the amount of space you need. Skip signing the long-term lease on 10,000 square feet; in an uncertain economy, who knows where business will take you? Instead, if you are two people, sign a flexible agreement that provides enough space for you both and the ability to grow as needed. Why be locked into a long-term, expensive lease?”

1. Door #1, Door #2, or Door #3

Having worked with companies/clients, employees and employers who were inflexible, what I like to hear and what I offer to all is: Here's what we can offer you, A, B, or C. Which works best for you? Or if you prefer, Door #1, Door #1 or Door #3.

That allows the other person to not only be at choice, but to then take responsibility for their choosing.

And who doesn't like options in their life, both personal and professional?
Thanks to: Rosanne Dausilio, PhD of Human Technologies Global Inc.

2. Make Staff into Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs are willing to take on a venture or enterprise and accept full responsibility for the outcome. Ownership and responsibility create flexibility. If all of your staff thinks as entrepreneurs, they will be flexible enough to handle any situation, because they accept responsibility for the outcome.
Thanks to: Janet Christy of Leverage & Development, LLC.

3. Flex It at Home

As a business owner who works long busy hours, at least over 60 hours per week, I learn to be flexible with my employees. I use flex time with my employees to do some of their work at home. As long as they get the work in by the deadline and I have time to review it, it makes for a happy employee. If they need to stay at home for any reason and can still get the work done and log in those hours, it works for all concerned.
Thanks to: Eula M. Young of Griot's Roll Film Production.

4. Who is in the Office or Not?

A great tactic for increasing flexibility in your business and also increasing quality while reducing costs is to hire virtual assistants. VAs today can do everything from Quick Books to graphic artwork to social media, so look where you need specific help and hire a VA. In some cases, you might need several.

This idea creates flexibility and cost savings, while increasing the quality of the work product.
Thanks to: Doug Hecker of 2 Excel Now, LLC.

5. Build on Trust

In order to build flexibility into your business, you must first learn to trust your employees. If you want to provide flexible work hours or let them work from home, do you trust the fact that the work will get done on time? To build trust, get to know your employees on a personal level. Have you met their family? If not, have them over for dinner. Once you build a friendship with them, then you can move on to trusting them. A trial run of working flexibly is a good starting place.
Thanks to: Becky Boyd of MediaFirst.

6. Don't "Silo" Your Employees

Don't "silo" your employees; cross train them instead. They will learn new skills and be able to step in if a colleague leaves the company for another job, or becomes ill and is absent for an extended period of time.
Thanks to: Jane Blume of Desert Sky Communications.

7. Home Sweet Home

I have a virtual company, so my employees and contractors all get to work from home, which they love. There are a lot of businesses that are pro or against working from home and I am definitely pro. My employees and contractors love it and I find that they are very productive.
Thanks to: Peter Geisheker of The Geisheker Group, Inc.

8. Strategy Based Flexibility

The key to remaining flexible is committing to a marketing strategy that informs all of your tactical decisions. All too often in today’s online business environment, novice entrepreneurs fall victim to trendy tactics that do not add anything relevant to their strategic goals. Facebook, Twitter, etc. may be great for some companies, but are they great for you? Without a strategy, your decisions are arbitrary, but first, you have to know what strategy means.
Thanks to: Jerry Bader of MRPwebmedia.

9. Move It and Shake It

There are no break times at Write Ahead. Instead, we are learning to recognize when we're having trouble staying focused and when that happens, it's time to get up and move around! I personally like to put a catchy tune on and dance, or drop 20 pushups. Others grab a coffee or go for a quick stroll around the block.

It's a great way to get a few minutes of exercise in and refocus on work. Whether they need 5 or 15 minutes, flexible break times are one of our keys to productivity.
Thanks to: Jessica Oman of Write Ahead.

10. Create Leverage in Your Biz

To increase flexibility in your business, consider creating and launching a group program online. Working with a group can be more efficient than taking on additional private 1:1 clients. The successful launch of a group program will increase your revenue, leverage your time, grow your business and provide greater flexibility.
Thanks to: Emily Kristofferson of Emily Kristofferson.

11. Flexibility with Planning

The best way to add flexibility to your work environment is to work with a schedule and by your calendar. This might seem counter intuitive at first, but the more structured you are in your day, the more flexible it allows you to be with all of your time because you know exactly what you're doing with your productive work time. Having a plan and working your plan allows you to be more flexible and more productive - all at the same time.
Thanks to: Diane Conklin of Complete Marketing Systems.

12. Let Tools do the Work for You!

There are a variety of tools you can use that will keep working when you're away, which can help you keep a flexible schedule. With Hootsuite, you can schedule social media updates in advance, which makes it look like you're Tweeting (even if you're on a beach sipping on a margarita, far away from any wireless signal).

Boomerang for Gmail is equally awesome, and allows you to schedule emails and follow ups in advance. It'll also help you clear out your inbox.
Thanks to: Kari DePhillips of The Content Factory.

13. Let Your Talent Have Control

From the classroom to the boardroom, the biggest mistake being made is to try to force everyone to fit the same mould. We lose creativity and innovation by doing so, and if you really want the best talent, you put them in control. Let them give you what they're able in terms of how much they work and when, rather than forcing everyone to punch a clock to be at your disposal. Encourage collaboration, team effort, and creative approaches. Reward efficiency and solution-driven effort. Be different.
Thanks to: Shadra Bruce of DaSh factor.

14. Collaborate and Connect

Real flexibility heightens personal empowerment, innovation and productivity. But the challenge is to make sure that employees stay part of the larger team and mission. So, to be the truly flexible business with the great ideas, have Collaboration Days weekly where your employees get to meet with their colleagues, plug back in, and move great ideas and projects forward. Collaborate and Connect - this is what makes flexibility work and what will keep your business evolving as market needs shift!
Thanks to: Cathleen O'Connor of The Balance Whisperer.

15. CC, BCC, and Reply All!

We've often found that 95% of issues that arise within our business come from a lack of knowledge between employees. The best way to solve this issue has been to increase intra-office communications. We're not large enough, yet, for a full-scale intranet deployment, so right now, we simply make sure that every email, which even just may concern someone down the line, is sent with CC'ing, BCC'ing, and Reply All'ing as often as possible.
Thanks to: Flynn Zaiger of Online Optimism Site Design.

16. Bend Your Ears

Flexibility demands active listening to what is actually being said all of the time. Unfortunately, too many people hear only a little, because they are mentally preparing their responses and fail to accurately hear the entire communication. Also, being inflexible as to one's beliefs (a.k.a. closed mind) prohibits flexibility as well. Remember, we have two ears and one mouth for a very good reason.
Thanks to: Leanne Hoagland-Smith of ADVANCED SYSTEMS.

17. Bending the Rules

What used to be considered the business norm or standard really has changed. Why do Google and several other prominent brands revolve their models around flexibility? They know that in order to be competitive and relevant, you have to change. My suggestion: continue to build relationships while incorporating the technology.
Thanks to: Jerry Pollio of Franchise Futures.

18. A Paradigm Shift

A paradigm shift in assigning titles will create a flexible work environment. An innovative way to excite my workforce and create flexibility is to give everyone the same title with an enhancement. Example: Director- Everyone is a Director, but one is a Director-Administrative Services (old title - Administrative Assistant), one is Director-Customer Service (old title- Customer Service Rep). The shift creates an air of competition, as well as the flexibility to apply one’s best effort!
Thanks to: Kathleen Anderson of Overnormal Creative Ideas.

19. Our Modern Media and Flextime

I enjoy flex time away from the office for food and thought. Our modern media age allows us to utilize our tablets, phones and at times, help from iPhone assistant, Siri (i.e. Siri, move this appointment to that date, or take a note). Life is much better when we get out and enjoy something while flexing our work day. Try it. You can accomplish so much more when you set time each week to get out of your normal style and move work into a new setting. This kind of change will inspire better business.
Thanks to: Roz Wolf of Roz Wolf PR.

20. Efficient Mobile Tech Time

Caught in a traffic jam, delayed at an airport or while waiting for an appointment, if you have your mobile devices always with you, your time can be spent effectively on business.
Thanks to: Haralee Weintraub of Haralee.Com Sleepwear.

21. Steal & Adapt to Grow

The "steal" may have gotten your attention, yet the truth be known, most "new" ideas are innovations/improvements of someone else's existing idea. Therefore, explore other industries and markets. What are they doing that is working? Can I use all/part/some of the idea and adapt it to my business? I'm told NASA scientists watched Star Trek in the 70s to see what the writers would invent, and then tried to make the idea work! Sci-fi writers have no rules!
Thanks to: Harlan Goerger of H. Goerger & Assoc. Inc dba AskHG.

22. Innovation Breeds Flexibility

The very best means of increasing business flexibility is by creating a culture that supports and encourages innovation, defined as change that creates a new dimension of performance.

Innovative cultures spark creative problem solving and new ways of capitalizing on opportunities. Organizations where innovation flourishes are flexible, adaptive and quick to respond to changes in their marketplaces. Innovation changes mindsets and opens the way to achieving long-term, sustainable profitability.
Thanks to: John Di Frances of DI FRANCES & ASSOCIATES, LLC.

23. A Three Hour Break

It might seem a little unusual, but consider giving employees one day a week that they can take a three hour break, rather than the traditional 1 hour or 15 minute version. Imagine what this might do for your workplace if everyone knew that once a week on a pre-determined and agreed to day, each person could take three hours for themselves. Maybe they could run a few errands, be able to have that doctor or dentist appointment, or attend the child's recital. Think of all the goodwill it would create!!!
Thanks to: Myles Miller of LeadUP.

24. Fire People!

As a single practitioner, I am very flexible. No asking permission, no accounting to anyone, so my tip is to work alone; start firing people.
Thanks to: Miriam Silverberg.

25. Core Flexibility

Values-driven systems are wired for flexibility. Just like a willow trunk’s extra thickness allows its branches to move freely with the wind, a business that’s well rooted in its values has fundamental flexibility, because there’s more freedom in day-to-day decision-making. Studies confirm that values-driven cultures have higher profits, stakeholder loyalty, and innovation. Flex your flexibility muscle by developing the culture around you – start by asking questions about values.
Thanks to: Joni Carley of Leaderful Edge.

26. Develop Well Rounded Employees

How many times have we heard the expression "sorry, it's not my department"...but what if it was? What if every employee was given an understanding of what it took to work in other departments & the authority to make rational decisions that were informed & helped the end user? What if people truly understood more than their part of the business; what if they understood THE BUSINESS- what the goals were, how it worked and how things got done? Think of the efficiencies, customer loyalty & ROI.
Thanks to: Ben Baker of CMYK Solutions Inc.

27. Cross Train for Flexibility

Most small businesses cannot afford a large staff. The best way to improve flexibility and lower staffing costs is to cross train employees on job functions and duties. This enables the owner/manager to redeploy human resources to handle peak work load periods, as well as vacations, illness and personal time off. Cross training also will keep your staffing costs low and improve your profitability and improve team work.
Thanks to: Robert Papes of Papes Consultig.

28. A High Performing Home Office

To increase flexibility in a business, we recommend setting up a high performing home office. You’ll need 2 things:

1) Technology that works well and is seamlessly integrated across all of your devices. Make sure to set up your internet and printer to work wirelessly for added flexibility!

2) A comfortable and aesthetically pleasing work space. Keep it clutter-free and inviting. Have all of the tools, files and supplies you use regularly within arm’s reach!
Thanks to: Angela Kantarellis of AKorganizing.

29. Create an Online Sales Force!

I've been able to increase my flexibility in business by creating an Affiliate Program. I pay other business website owners a generous commission on sales generated by their website or blog. My affiliates are like an extended sales force for me and my business. They offer a broader reach than I could accomplish on my own and they're at work when I'm not. Plus, they have the opportunity to earn when I do. It's a win-win!
Thanks to: Debra Cohen of Homeowner Referral Network (HRN).

30. Be More Awake, Aware, & Alive

Whether creating products, interacting with customers, or making decisions, the more conscious we are of our inner thoughts and feelings, as well as the more present and aware we can be in our interactions with others, the easier it is to be flexible in our business— to meet whatever’s arising in the moment with an open mind, creativity, and a quick response. The more clarity we can bring to our inner life, the more clearly we can see what our best choices are in any given business situation.
Thanks to: Jennifer Howard of Dr. Jennifer Howard.

31. Communicating for New Ideas

Active listening creates flexibility because it leads to new ways to achieve goals, solve challenges and develop new opportunities. Using open-ended questions such as: "What are your ideas about this?" encourage people to discover their own ideas about a goal or challenge. Creating an environment open to new ideas brings positive solutions that did not exist before.
Thanks to: Oshana Himot of Oshana Himot, MBA, CHT.

32. Join a Co-Op, Gain Flexibility

My one best tip to increase flexibility in a business is to join a co-op. With a co-op, you increase your business’s marketing and advertising budget because everyone shares the advertising and marketing costs. You won’t have to spend all of your time and money on marketing. Plus, a co-op opens you up to more strategic thinking people. You won’t have to brainstorm for effective and profitable ideas by yourself. A co-op will discover and implement them quicker than you could by yourself.
Thanks to: Amandah Blackwell of Savvy-Writer.

33. Time for Education

Workplace flexibility must work for both the employer and employee. Many times, an employee may want to pursue a higher education or learn something on the side.

Time should be granted to employees for educational opportunities. If the company expects to benefit from the education being pursued, then paying for the course, conference, or educational material should be included.
Thanks to: Elena Mikoleski of Grassi & Co.

34. Structured Flexibility Rules!

Time blocking with movable "chunks" is the only way I've found that my clients and I can keep focused on things that drive the business AND accommodate the realities of our 24X7 lifestyles. 1st, define the chunks - sales, marketing, admin, providing your good/service, etc. 2nd, schedule the blocks at times that maximize your energy and business realities. 3rd, move chunks when needed. The only rule is this: everything can move, but nothing can fall off of the page. It's a zero sum game!
Thanks to: Elene Cafasso of Enerpace Executive Coaching.

35. It's All in Your Hands!

One of the reasons to be self employed is so that you can call your own shots.

Monday mornings, people are starting their work week and ready for action. It's a perfect time to reach out to them to set up your appointments for Tues & Wed.

Keep Thursdays open for any Tues or Wed cancellations.

Fridays, people are already looking to get away, so it's a good time to spend in the office catching up on paperwork, as well as laying out and reviewing your plans for the next week.
Thanks to: Harris Glasser of Serving The people Press LLC.

36. Listen. Really Listen.

The key to a flexible business it to listen to employees, vendors, customers and partners. Everyone should be comfortable sharing their ideas and comments. While creating a cohesive environment, listening to others will spur ideas of innovation, improvements, and corrections where needed. This can be taken a step further by having company focus groups and mastermind sessions. This creates a stronger and more flexible company that will be ready for any unexpected change.
Thanks to: Jocelyn Ray of Positive Promotions.

37. Flexible by Example

Many companies have flexible work arrangements for their employees. However, not everyone feels comfortable taking advantage of those arrangements. Company managers should, therefore, lead by example and access flexible work arrangements themselves. This will show employees that everyone needs some flexible time off for different arrangements. The manager should also evaluate the outcomes of flexible arrangements and look for improvements for the sake of the company and the employees.
Thanks to: Sergio Leymarie of Waterlogic USA.

38. Bring Your Own Device

Permitting employees to bring their personal mobile devices or laptops to work can help boost productivity and morale. It is also convenient for many employees that want to continue working from home or on the road. Many companies are implementing BYOD and employees are finding those companies more attractive to work for. Though connecting to company files and applications via personal devices poses some security risks, there are security measures that companies can take to make BYOD worthwhile.
Thanks to: Dorothy Jay of Hartstrings.

39. Single Sign-on Saves Time

Efficient and savvy organizations save their employees time, and hassle, by allowing them to reset their network passwords via challenge questions, without asking them to contact the help desk each time there's an issue. Additionally, employing a simple to use single-sign on solution goes a long way toward helping your employees increase personal productivity, and it saves everyone time in the process. Less time spent managing passwords and password resets means more time succeeding in business.
Thanks to: Dean Wiech of Tools4ever.

Do you know a way to increase flexibility in business that wasn’t included? If you do, please share it below. And as always, many thanks to everyone that contributed to this article!

And if you would like to become a part of the CarolRoth.com contributor network and find out about opportunities to contribute to future articles, sign up here: http://www.carolroth.com/carolroth-com-blog-contributor-sign-up/

Article written by
Carol Roth is a national media personality, ‘recovering’ investment banker, investor, speaker and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She is a judge on the Mark Burnett (Shark Tank, The Voice, Survivor, The Apprentice) produced technology competition series, America's Greatest Makers, airing on TBS and Host of Microsoft's Office Small Business Academy show. Previously, Carol was the host and co-producer of The Noon Show, a current events talk show on WGN Radio, one of the top stations in the country, and a contributor to CNBC, as well as a frequent guest on Fox News, CNN, Fox Business and other stations. Carol's multimedia commentary covers business and the economy, current events, politics and pop culture topics. Carol has helped her clients complete more than $2 billion in capital raising and M&A transactions. She is a Top 100 Small Business Influencer (2011-2015) and has her own action figure. Twitter: @CarolJSRoth
  • One belief to keep in mind in terms of flexibility is that you haven’t even found, nor developed the greatest opportunities for your online products, marketing and distribution YET.
     
    If you hold this belief close to heart, you’ll keep yourself from rigidly clinging only to what worked in the past, like the music industry did for so long with Compact Discs, instead of doing what will work now and in the future.
     
    So this means you want to be consistently learning the new ways that products and services can be delivered, created and marketed.
     
    When a new way to market, create or distribute comes available, you’ll see all kinds of new businesses emerge. The assembly line changed the world by changing the way products were made. The radio changed the way you could market. The internet changed the way products and services could be created, delivered AND marketed.
     
    The internet has allowed people to become millionaires and billionaires faster than any other channel has that has come before it.
     
    So keep your mind open and relaxed to the idea that your biggest opportunities for creating products, distributing them and marketing them online haven’t even been created and discovered yet. STAY LOOSE AND FLEXIBLE. 🙂

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