The company I work for has been understaffed for a long time, in a lot of areas.

Many small businesses face the same problem. You have to manage multiple areas because someone has to complete the tasks and you aren’t hiring anyone else to do the work. The result is sufficiency rather than proficiency.

Sufficiency means being adequate.

It means meeting some basic level of acceptance. Our accounting department person was barely sufficient because we were understaffed. Bills were usually paid but not recorded properly. Clients were billed but allowed to pay months later. We were sufficient. But being sufficient can’t last. It’s a house of cards that will collapse.

A lot of the blame for our problems was placed on our accountant who left because of the pressure. We then hired four people to fill his role. With four people working for almost a full year, we have cleaned up the mistakes and become proficient. With proficiency, we now have specialized, skilled employees who manage just one area or have just one set of responsibilities. Clients pay on time. We know how much inventory we have. We can pull accurate financials.

Sufficient vs Proficient

You can get by being sufficient for a while. But at some point, you have to reach a state of proficiency. The transition, however, is difficult because you usually have to outlay cash for several months on the new resources before seeing the economics of return. I say economics of return because the return can come in various forms, such as additional revenue from sales, cost savings from reducing errors and better management of assets, time and people.

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And at some point, you surpass proficiency and arrive at efficiency – achieving maximum return or productivity with as little waste as possible.

(Cover photo courtesy of bark via Compfight)