Systems and procedures don’t get business owners excited – at first. But attitudes tend to change when they actually put them to work and see the results. Do you want a team that is productive and delivers consistent quality and service? Or a business that is efficient and profitable, with a lot less effort? Then it’s time to make systems and procedures a priority.
Are You Ignoring Business Systems?
Systems are nothing more than ‘routines’ that are applied to business tasks. Parents rely on morning and bedtime routines to create a structure that reduces stress and meet deadlines like getting to work on time. Business systems do the same thing. So why do so many small business owners ignore them?
Many assume that only big businesses or franchises need them. They’ll say things like, ‘We’re small, we talk to each other, and we all know what needs to be done’. And maybe this is true when you first get started and it’s just you or maybe your spouse.
But what happens when you grow and suddenly you are serving more customers, or bringing in new staff? What happens when people leave and take the knowledge they gained with them? What happens when you want to outsource or delegate work you currently do? What happens when you, as the owner, want to go away for two weeks with your family?
If you want a profitable business that works for you, whether you are there or not, then make business systems a priority.
Ready to Get Started?
As you get started, here is the best advice I can give you based on my work with clients. Think one procedure at a time. You will eventually end up with a how-to manual, but the thought of doing a manual is simply too overwhelming. Instead set a goal to document, communicate and implement one system or procedure every week (or another timeframe that works for you).
This approach keeps you focused on small steps, allows you to implement changes as you go, and will get you results faster! As clients often learn, each time you develop and implement a procedure, you experience improvements — in efficiency, productivity and profit.
10-Step Approach To Create Systems:
Get Organized. Before you jump in, create a folder in your computer documents to ‘hold’ your documented procedures. You want to be able to easily find them!
Identify Events. Most processes are triggered by events that occur in your business. Some examples include you get a lead or new customer, you receive a bill, you need to hire a new employee, you get a customer complaint, you need to schedule a service appointment, order supplies or prepare a quote. Start by making a list of the different events in your business.
Prioritize the List. When it comes to documenting your procedures, start with the ones that are most important to you. Choose those that make you money, free up your time, are currently causing poor customer service or duplication of effort among your team. In other words, focus on the things that need fixing or cost you money.
Determine Who Is Responsible. If you operate solo, you may be the one responsible for doing many of the tasks. But if you have others working with you, the responsibility rests on others. The best people to help document (and improve) your procedures are those who currently do them. So get them involved or doing!
Write Down How It Gets Done. Once you select the process you wish to document, pull together any supporting documents or information. This includes paper, digital (on your computer) or software programs. Then write down step-by-step what you actually do. Keep it simple and reference the supporting documents or programs as appropriate.
Refine Your Process. The goal with procedures is to create repeatability, regardless of who performs the task. Initial attempts often contain missing or unclear steps, so others cannot easily replicate the task. I recommend you give the written process to someone unfamiliar with the task – and ask him/her to attempt to perform it based only on what you wrote down. You will then find the gaps and can fix them. Now you have a procedure that others can easily follow.
Determine How You Will Measure Success. How will you know if your procedure is delivering the results you want? You won’t unless you measure it. For example, sales conversion rates are often used to evaluate a sales process. If you want to improve your business, don’t ignore this piece – because what we measure we can improve.
Put in Procedure Template. Once you have it finished, type it up. Give it a title (and maybe a code) and save it in the computer folder you created. Remember to include any supporting documents too! For the template I use with my clients, click here.
Communicate & Implement. Once you complete a procedure, you want to get it working for you. Print and review the procedure with those who will be using it. Remember to discuss how you will measure success. Also, encourage them to provide feedback and look for new and better ways to get things done.
Monitor & Modify. Technology and other factors, including innovation, will create opportunities for improvement – if you look for them. So use the feedback, metrics and other information to look for ways to improve. Then be willing to modify your procedures when you uncover improvement opportunities!
Systematizing takes time. But every procedure you document and implement will start to add efficiency, productivity, and profit into your business. And as you start to see the benefits and results, you too will love systems!
Leverage Your Business With Systems
If you are serious about leveraging your business with systems and would benefit from some practice, how-to instructions, check out my Ultimate Guide for Systems and Procedures. Designed specifically for small business owners, my step-by-step guide with templates and examples makes it easy to do it yourself.