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I hate getting sick because my type-A personality makes me feel that time resting is time wasted. However, time in bed with a cold forces me to slow down and rest. Likewise, downtime in the economy allows businesses to catch up on tasks that may be overlooked in the whirlwind of day-to-day operations.

These times can be a forced opportunity to slow down and evaluate the business to make sure it’s as efficient and effective as possible. As oil prices continue to fall and project budgets continue to get cut, you may be wondering how your company can improve with a limited budget. Consider the following:

1. Ask yourself, “Am I excellent?”

When business is booming, it’s easy to jump headfirst into new offerings or initiatives and drift away from core profit-making activities. A slower economy provides the opportunity to evaluate processes key to your bottom line. Make sure the processes actually accomplish the right thing (effective) with as little waste as possible (efficient).

To achieve operational excellence, evaluating front-line activities is key. Review safety and environmental programs, reliability and maintenance, project management, and operational procedures to ensure they are streamlined and producing the desired results.

In times of rapid growth, introspection around two of your most valuable assets—customers and employees—can be lost. Look at employee and customer feedback to make sure that you are addressing what is valued most.

2. Empower employees to share knowledge

Collaboration across departments is essential for companies. Unfortunately, employees may not understand how each department fits into the overall business. It’s important to communicate not only department-specific plans, but an overall strategy and master plan to employees. Encourage employees better understand the business as a whole by speaking with those outside their department and seasoned employees who once walked in their shoes.

It’s the informal communication process that allows information to flow freely between employees. Whether the kitchen or a lounge area, provide a space for these exchanges to happen and make sure management encourages the process. Knowledge sharing should be highly valued and rewarded, not punished.

Allow employees to lead internal trainings or lunch-and-learns to share knowledge. If the company relies on external parties for training, consider bringing training in house to reduce costs and encourage employees to share experiences and knowledge.

3. Evaluate current systems

In times of rapid growth, databases can become polluted and workflows unyielding. Make current systems more efficient by using downtime to review workflows and clean up old data. Review software and license counts to verify what’s being paid for is what’s being used. Take time to look at the portfolio to see if any unnecessary software can be eliminated to reduce costs. One client, a contract driller, saw a 35-40% cost reduction after reviewing and consolidating their systems.

Assess single user software to determine if it’s needed and see if there’s an available alternative. Single user licenses are typically more expensive and rely on outside support for troubleshooting issues. Maximize software capabilities by communicating with power users to ensure all available system features are fully utilized.

Don’t Let the Economy Get You Down

Don’t let low oil prices get the best of your company. Take advantage of the time to improve processes, engage employees, and rationalize existing systems. If you take the proper steps while resting, you will come back stronger and smarter than before.

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