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‘Ms Productivity’ Debbie Mayo-Smith will deliver a keynote presentation on people and profit at this year’s HIANZ conference, to be held at Claudelands in Hamilton on 3–4 July and open to non-HIANZ members

The pursuit of productivity

Productivity is a trending discourse in the global media. On home soil, the commentary casts a long shadow over the business landscape as the media’s preoccupation with ‘poor productivity’ in Aotearoa paints a bleak picture.


Sure, the media’s negativity bias sees the facts grossly exaggerated at times, but there is clearly a case to answer to. Treasury itself talks about the prolonged issues associated with low productivity growth, and the implications for gross domestic product are self-evident truths.

So what is the remedy? Helping the commercial landscape to fulfil its potential is by no means a quick fix, but there are some practical steps that can be taken, and international business expert and bestselling author Debbie Mayo-Smith has some of the answers. Her experience and expertise places technology firmly as one of the key solutions.

Dubbed ‘Ms Productivity’ by the media, Debbie has worked with most industries and government departments, including the construction sector. With more than 20 years’ experience, she hails from Wall Street and is one of the world’s top productivity experts, helping businesses to get more done in less time, growing business turnover, and improving communication.

Working smarter

For Debbie, capitalising on technology that works to enhance a business’ efficiency is a simple but significant solution to many unresolved issues, as is doing away with any tech superfluous to requirement.

“One of my own key differentiators is my use of technology. By learning the features of the software I use and combining it with clever thinking, it’s enabled me to work smarter, economically and swiftly on several key business processes – for example, administration completed in 30 minutes that would take three staff members three days to do; marketing – the ability to communicate swifty, cheaply and cleverly to thousands of people in a targeted fashion with a push of a button; and flexibility – working anywhere, anytime, and successfully finding new business via internet searches.”

Some of the top technology tips Debbie has for construction businesses are about education as much as adoption. “Most businesses incorrectly assume staff know the programmes in place. In fact, a little training can go a long way to improve productivity and profits significantly.

“For individuals – especially in the trades – they are often not fully acquainted with technology in hand. For example, most use less than 2% of their smartphone/tablet capabilities. Even simple things, such as their smartphone camera to take before and after photos of work to avoid future problems, dictating emails, texts and notes while on the go, or using construction-centric apps would save significant time, improve communication and profits.”

Technology for productivity

Debbie suggests four ubiquitous tools that businesses can leverage to their advantage:

  • • Cloud storage – information that is accessible to anyone, anytime, anywhere
  • • Voice over internet protocol (VoIP) – internet calling to speak with staff and clients anywhere in the world
  • • Xero – an integrated accounting system that goes way beyond credits and debits by integrating inventory, payroll, quoting, invoicing, debtor follow-up and banking functions, to name a few
  • • Microsoft Office – using personalised email merging to enable communication with many clients at the push of a button, instead of sending individual emails.

The philosophy behind each of these technologies is to simplify otherwise convoluted and time-intensive processes, saving time and money.

Email efficiency is also an area that Debbie says cannot be overstated in terms of its ability to improve the bottom line of business, particularly given that people are receiving hundreds of emails a day in some cases.

“I gave an example to the engineering consulting industry that if their staff learnt a few time-saving techniques managing email, they could free up 20 minutes of their time a day. Using this time for billable hours, when you quantify it for a firm like Fulton Hogan, for example, with a thousand staff, it equates to a profit increase of $10,958,444 per year. You can calculate the savings for any business, any industry. You multiply the hours saved by their billing or salary rate or what an average sale is worth.

“A great example of smarter email management includes adding rules and filters so that your inbox can behave like your PA, triaging all incoming correspondence. This saves significant time by sorting your email by your priority. Another example is never having to retype the same thing over and over again by creating reusable templates. These can be for simple job codes, and frequently used paragraphs through to entire documents,” she adds.

Getting more done

Debbie asserts that every business and every staff member has the ability to get more done, in less time, improve communication, and delight clients by simply learning how to better use their smartphones, tablets, and computers at hand. This translates to reduced stress as well as much higher profits. “You can’t complain about that,” she concludes.

Debbie will deliver a keynote presentation on people and profit at this year’s Hire Industry Association of New Zealand (HIANZ) ‘People and Profit’ Conference, which will be held at Claudelands in Hamilton on 3–4 July. In a first for the conference, the doors will be open to non-members, including the construction industry, who can purchase tickets to attend New Zealand’s largest equipment trade show.


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