Band Aid Problem Solving

How To Turn a Quick Fix Into a Permanent Solution

No matter how difficult the problem, there is always a quick fix.  And with so many fires to put out, the quick solution is often welcome by business owners because it allows you to move on to the next crisis or opportunity.

By definition, a quick fix is a problem-solving technique which involves using the fastest solution to keep the problem from escalating or recurring in the near future.

Solving the immediate problem quickly is a good thing, especially when it impacts customers, team or money. But the quick fix is often nothing more than a band-aid. It doesn’t address the root cause; it’s not the long-term solution. The problem will likely return again.

Is It a System Or People Issue?

Here’s an example to demonstrate this point.  Your technician performed a service.  The customer was unhappy and called to complain.  You apologize and send someone out to re-do the work and smooth over the customer.  Problem solved. The customer is now satisfied and you move on.

But what have you done to fix the problem moving forward? This is the missing piece in many small businesses. After you employ a temporary solution, you should evaluate the source of the problem in a more in-depth manner – to create the best solution for the future.

In the above example, it’s easy to assume the employee did a poor job or needed more training. In this case, the office staff scheduled two additional service calls and he was running behind. Concerned about being late to his remaining customers, he took shortcuts to make up the time.  So is it a people issue or a system issue – or maybe a combination of both?

Fix Then Solve

This principle applies to all areas of your business. While customers may create obvious fire drills, here’s a few others to consider:

  • Key employee resigns unexpectedly – and you have no one cross-trained.
  • Primary supplier goes out of business or increases prices dramatically and you have all your eggs in one basket!
  • Your biggest (or best) customer merged with another company and they have their own preferred vendor (and it’s not you).
  • Sales plunge and you have no ongoing, consistent method to generate more sales from new leads or existing customers – cash flow is getting tight.

All of these issues require immediate action, so go for the quick fix.  But afterward, work on the best solution for the future. From the above examples, that may include documenting or improving procedures, cross training employees, creating multiple supplier arrangements, expanding or diversifying customer base, and ongoing marketing and sales efforts.

While the best solution will take more time, it is often worth it in the long-run. Think about the impact these problems have on costs, profit, customer satisfaction, team satisfaction – and you personally.  Do you really want to spend your days putting out fires?

Determine The Source of Problems

How do you determine the source of problems?  Ask more questions.  How do we make sure this doesn’t happen again?  How can we do this better in the future? Think systems and people!

  • What systems and procedures do you need to run all areas of your business? Are they documented so others can use them consistently? Are they effective – work the way they should?
  • What people (employees, vendors, contractors, power partners) do you need to run your systems? Are they trained properly? Are the expectations clear?

Get others involved and encourage people to speak up without fear. It’s difficult to get to the root cause and solve problems without honest communication from everyone.  Make the commitment to really improve your business.  Get rid of the band-aids and fix the problems for the long-term.

Systems Made Easy

For help creating systems and procedures for your small business, check out my Ultimate Systems and Procedures Guide. My step-by-step guide with templates and examples, make it easy to do it yourself.

Ready to Put Your Business on the Path to Success?

Would working with a business coach help you take your business to a whole new level? Then let’s explore the possibilities with a complimentary consultation. It’s a chance to get to know each other, discuss your goals and the obstacles that hold you back. Together we can determine if there is a good fit between your needs and my services.

To learn more or schedule an appointment, call me at (856) 533-2344 or drop me an email Joan@HybridBizAdvisors.com

Quick Fix or Best Solution

Is the Quick Fix The Best Solution?

I recently ran across an article, 9 Deadly Leadership Mistakes.  The author, Peter Economy, made some great points.  But one, Looking for Quick Fixes, stood out because you rarely see this associated with leadership.  But it is.

Peter went on the say “No matter how difficult the problem, there is always a quick solution”.  And with so many fires to put out or hats to wear, the quick fix is often welcome.  It allows you to move on to the next crisis, issue or opportunity.

Solving the immediate problem quickly is a good thing, especially when it impacts customers, team or money. But the quick fix is often nothing more than a band-aid.  It doesn’t address the root cause; it’s not the long-term solution.  The problem will return again and again.

Here’s an example to demonstrate this point.  Your technician performed a service.  The customer was unhappy and called to complain.  You apologize and send someone out to re-do the work.  Problem solved. The customer is now satisfied and you move on.  But what have you done to fix the problem moving forward?

Are You Fixing or Band-Aiding Problems?

While fixing a problem will take more time, it’s worth it in the long-run.  Just think about the impact these problems have on costs, profit, customer satisfaction, team satisfaction – and you personally.  Do you really want to spend your days putting out fires?

Going from band-aid to fix is not difficult.  You still want to solve most problems quickly – especially when customers are involved.  But when you do, go a little further.  Ask more questions:  How do we make sure this doesn’t happen again?  Is this a system or people issue – or maybe a combination of both?

Get others involved as necessary and dig a little deeper when you encounter problems.  Make the commitment to really improve your business.  Get rid of the band-aids and fix the problems for the long-term. Think systems and procedures. Need some help in this area? Check out my article, How to Create Business Systems

Related: How to Turn a Quick Fix Into Permanent Solution

Ready to Put Your Business on the Path to Success?

Would working with a business coach help you take your business to a whole new level? Then let’s explore the possibilities with a complimentary consultation. It’s a chance to get to know each other, discuss your goals and the obstacles that hold you back. Together we can determine if there is a good fit between your needs and my services.

To learn more or schedule an appointment, call me at (856) 533-2344 or drop me an email Joan@HybridBizAdvisors.com

Create Business Systems

How To Create Business Systems

Systems and procedures don’t get business owners excited – at first. But attitudes 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? If so, 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.

8-Step Approach To Create Systems

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.

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. The best people to document a procedure are those who actually use or implement them.

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 a computer folder.  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 practical, 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.

Ready to Put Your Business on the Path to Success?

Would working with a business coach help you take your business to a whole new level? Then let’s explore the possibilities with a complimentary consultation. It’s a chance to get to know each other, discuss your goals and the obstacles that hold you back. Together we can determine if there is a good fit between your needs and my services.

To learn more or schedule an appointment, call me at (856) 533-2344 or drop me an email Joan@HybridBizAdvisors.com

business-systems2

Empower People To Perform Like You

Does your team handle your customers in the same way you would? Do they sell your products better or at least as well? Do they look for ways to make the business better? As the owner, your passion and commitment are often unmatched by others in the company. But it doesn’t mean they can’t perform as well or even better than you.

But it starts with the belief that they can! Too often, owners assume employees simply don’t care as much as they do. Possible, but maybe they just don’t know what you want or how to do it.  So if you want your team to perform like you, be the leader and do these three things:

Set clear expectations.  You have a vision of what you want your business to be and hopefully goals to help you get there.  Don’t keep them to yourself.  Share them with everyone in your company – especially the frontline employees and those who make things happen behind the scenes. Help them understand how each one of them plays a role in making the business a success.

Invest in training.  Helping others develop new skills and knowledge is one of the best things you can do for your people and your business. It’s no surprise that great leaders are also great teachers.  Take the time to share your expertise. Whether it’s technical skills, business knowledge or customer understanding, be a mentor to your staff. In areas of personal weakness, look to others inside or outside your company to fill the gap. When learning and development are priorities, everyone wins.

Empower your people with systems.  Systems allow average people to do great work. They help people deliver consistent quality and service that customers expect. Documented systems make training and decision-making easier and more effective. And most important, they provide a method for others to look for and find ways to do things better. Think innovation!

7 Tips For Creating Systems

Keep them simple.  A documented system, for any task in your business, should be easy for someone else to replicate. If it’s too complex, then keep working! When is it truly simple?  When someone else unfamiliar with the task can complete it using only what you have documented in the system.

Write systems that make money or reduce risk. You are not in the business of creating manuals, so only create a system if it simplifies a task, improves quality, speeds up a service or improves profit. This will keep you focused. The trick is to start small and let it grow with time.

Make sure the systems are used. As you create systems, build a method to monitor to ensure the systems are used. Changing the culture of your company takes time and there will be failures. Even when the culture has changed, it needs maintenance. A monitoring system will do this for you.

Insure they are accessible to those who need them.  Not every team member needs to use every system. Your master manual (online or in a binder) should contain all your systems, but individual team members should have copies of those that involve them.  This makes it easy when someone is filling in or when training a new team member.

Get the team involved.  Who better to help document the systems than the people who are currently doing the tasks.  Of course, the team can also help you improve the current systems by identifying what’s not working and any redundancy that exists.

Define team roles and responsibilities. Unfortunately, it is normal for team members to disagree on what needs doing and how to best do it.  Team members need to know their role and how it affects the overall results.  Clear written and agreed upon roles (job descriptions) will go a long way to accomplish this.  So start here.

Take it one step at a time. Documenting the systems in your business may seem overwhelming.  Don’t try to do them all at once.  Document one or two systems, implement them and monitor the results.  Once you are satisfied, move on to the next one.

Get Serious About Systems

If you are serious about leveraging your business with systems but struggle with where to start and how to do it, then check out my Ultimate Systems and Procedures Guide. Designed specifically for small business owners, my step-by-step guide with templates and examples, makes it easy to do it yourself.

cost-cutting

When Cutting Costs Isn’t Enough

When sales and profit are down, most businesses, big and small,  look for ways to cut costs.  It’s a natural reaction.  And while managing costs, in any economic climate, is important – you can only cut your payroll, marketing, and operations so much and still have a business.

But what if you took a different path?  One that put more profit on the bottom line without cutting stuff that is essential to growth?

Get More With Less

Instead, of cutting expenses, focus on improving efficiency and productivity.  Get more with less resources — time and money.  Here are a few examples to demonstrate this.

First, take a look at your current sales process.  If it includes quotes or estimate, include this in the review.   Is it efficient and effective?  Does it convert a lot of prospects into paying customers or do you waste a lot of time and money chasing opportunities that never materialize?  Improvements in targeting and implementation can double (or even triple) your conversion rate. So you get more revenue while saving a lot of time and money!

Second, take a look at your billing and collection procedures.  Are they efficient and effective?   Are you billing customers in a timely fashion?   Are bills accurate?  Do you follow-up quickly when customers fail to pay or do you wait until the cash is low to start making contact? Again, improvements here will put more cash in your pocket and ultimately save you a lot of time and money.

These are just a few of the areas where profit is potentially slipping away.  Cut costs when they are out of line, that just makes good sense.  But don’t overlook the profit opportunities that come from system improvements in all areas of your business. Unlike cost-cutting that has limitations, improved systems and procedures offer unlimited profit potential for many small businesses.

Leverage Your Time and Money

Systems are key.  Most business owners know this. They take time.  But you don’t need to address every procedure to see improvements — that’s the real beauty of systems.  Each one makes a difference so start with the ones that can improve revenue or sales, free up your time or increase customer satisfaction.

Not sure where to start?  Then check out my Ultimate Guide to Systems and Procedures.  It’s the perfect solution for small business owners who prefer the ‘do it yourself’ approach.

Monthly Articles & Business Tips

Looking for additional ideas to improve your small business? Then subscribe to my monthly eNewsletter for articles, tips and great insights on business and entrepreneurship. Click here to subscribe.

systems-people

Systems: Sometimes the Benefits Are Obvious

As many of you probably know, I am a big advocate of building business systems and procedures to support your business. They are time-savers, quality drivers and, of course, profit builders.

Yet documenting systems is never on my clients’ lists of things they can’t wait to do. They do them because they understand the value. But trust me, getting them motivated to get started is always a challenge.

Business Systems: Save Time & Money

Of course, as they start developing and implementing them, the benefits become really obvious. They save time, things get done the right way, people are more efficient, customers get better service and profit margins improve! Needless to say, it propels them to continue.

But sometimes the long-term benefits are not so obvious early. It takes an event …

This week, I received a quick email from a client, an attorney who owns a boutique law practice. Her administrative assistant, who she really depends on, is leaving and gave her notice. Bet a lot of you can relate to that!

What was interesting was what followed. “I am so thankful I focused on an operations manual this year. I have seen how helpful it is so I am not as nervous about her leaving.”

Need help with putting the power of systems to work in your small business?  Then check out my Ultimate Systems & Procedures Guide for small business owners.

time wasters to avoid

Systems: 3 Small Business Myths

Systems - 3 Small Business MythsWhen we think about the glitzy and fun aspects of running a business, building business systems rarely comes to mind. But if you want to deliver consistently on your promise to customers and get more profit with less effort, you need to learn to love systems!

So why do so many small businesses ignore this area? The two most common reasons I hear are:

  • We’re small, we talk to each other and know what needs to be done.
  • I know I need them, but don’t have the time
Myth #1 – Only Big Businesses or Franchises Need Systems

Most franchises started as a small business. Documented procedures simply allowed the owner to replicate and grow. They help others provide customers with the same level of quality, service, and care – without you!  There’s a valuable lesson there, even if you have no desire to franchise your business.

Myth #2 – Talking Replaces the Need For Written Procedures

If your business has only a few employees working at the same physical location, communication is a lot easier. You can talk to each other, discuss what needs to be done and even how to do it. It’s not efficient, but it can work.

But what happens when you grow and suddenly you are serving more people or bringing in new staff? What happens when people leave and take the knowledge with them? What happens when you want to outsource work you currently do? What happens when you, as the owner, want to go away for a week with your family?

Documented procedures make it easy for others to step in and do it right – for your customers and your business!  It helps with training new hires and cross-training current staff. Plus, the process of documenting is often the catalyst to improvement. It forces us to look at what we do AND why we do it that way.

Myth #3 – Documenting Systems Takes Too Long

Creating a How-To manual takes time. But writing down how you do a critical task, like scheduling a job or closing a sale, does not.  In fact, some take less than 15 minutes.

But with each step you take, you begin to build efficiency, consistency, and profit. So take it one system at a time.  Focus on the most critical. What are some of the recurring problems that impact your sales, profit, customer satisfaction or time?  Set a goal to complete one or two a week – and you will get there!

Remember, the best person to document a system is the person who is currently doing that task. So feel free to delegate and collaborate!

The Ultimate Systems Guide

Ultimate Systems Procedures GuideIf you want consistent quality and performance, whether you are there or not, make systems and procedures a priority in your business.

Ready to start building systems to leverage your small business, but need a little help? Check out my Ultimate Guide to Systems and Procedures. The step-by-step instructions, templates, and samples make it easy for small businesses to get started.  Click here to learn more

time wasters to avoid

7 Reasons to Love Systems

7 Reasons to Love SystemsNeed Business Systems? Of course, you do. You already know this. And you probably have systems for business – methods to attract new customers, serve them, bill them and keep them coming back. But…

Are they written down so others consistently do things the same way?

Are they efficient or do they have a lot of duplication and unnecessary work that robs you and your people of precious time – while adding no real value?

Are they effective – do they get you the results or outcomes you want?

I will freely admit that I love systems. Why? Because they are the best way to build additional profit into your business.

Documenting procedures and monitoring results makes everything you do – from marketing and sales to daily operations and billing – more efficient, more effective and more consistent. And isn’t that one of the keys to profitability?

7 Reasons to Love Systems

  1. You’ll make more money! Yes, good systems put more profit on the bottom line and ultimately in your wallet.
  2. You’ll deliver what you promise to customers each and every time – so they keep coming back and tell others!
  3. Training new employees is easier – so they contribute sooner and are more productive!
  4. Taking time off won’t be so stressful – your team can handle it just fine, maybe even better!
  5. Looking to expand or start another location? No problem. Your systems are repeatable for others to use.
  6. Plan to retire and pass your business on to your children? Your systems make it easier to transition and keep the business running well.
  7. And if you ever want to sell your business – proven systems that are documented make your business more valuable and sellable! It is no longer totally dependent on YOU.

Ready to start building systems in your small business?  Check out my Ultimate Systems Guide — a step by step method that makes it easy for small business owners.  Click here to learn more.

Ready to Put Your Business on the Path to Success?

Would working with a business coach help you take your business to a whole new level? Then let’s explore the possibilities with a complimentary consultation. It’s a chance to get to know each other, discuss your goals and the obstacles that hold you back. Together we can determine if there is a good fit between your needs and my services.

To learn more or schedule an appointment, call me at (856) 533-2344 or drop me an email Joan@HybridBizAdvisors.com

time wasters to avoid

Can Document Management Save You Time and Money?

Can Document Management Save You Time & Money?Will we ever see a paperless office? While we may be moving in that direction, most experts agree that we are a long way off. Technology has opened a lot of doors. We can now access anything from anywhere by going to the cloud. Smart phones and tablets make it possible to read, schedule appointments, maintain to-do lists and send communication without touching a piece of paper. But technology isn’t for everyone. So instead of thinking paper-less, it’s time to think less-paper.

Therefore businesses, large and small, have turned to document management to reduce costs and increase productivity. When a client was considering a less-paper system, I reached out to John Calu and Patti Kanner at Atlantic Tomorrows Office to learn more. Here’s what I found.

Benefits of Document Management:

  • Save Money. Storing paper documents off-site costs money. Keeping them on-site does too. With the cost of office space, do you really want to allocate 5-10% of it to filing and storing paper? You are probably better off using it for other purposes!
  • Save Time. According to Coopers and Lybrand, a typical office employee spends 15% of their time searching for documents. Finding documents is now quick and easy. No more running to file cabinets, climbing over boxes or going to storage to get what you need.
  • Customer Service. With documents easily accessible, your staff can quickly and accurately answer questions. In some cases, customers can access information themselves. For example, some accountants use customer portals to grant access to their tax information.
  • Security. Access can be configured in a variety of ways so staff can retrieve documents they need to perform their job while restricting access to other information. It’s difficult to do this in a paper environment.
  • Convenience. Because documents are stored electronically, you can access information from home, office or literally anywhere there is an internet connection.

There’s a lot of misconceptions when it comes to document management. No, it is not just for big companies. Technology has made it easy and affordable for small businesses too! No, you don’t have to scan and data enter all your current stuff to implement a document management system. Most businesses take a moving forward approach when getting started and build from there.

If you are considering a ‘Less Paper’ initiative, talk to a reputable provider. A good one will gladly come in, assess and understand YOUR business and develop a solution that meets your budget, business needs, and ROI objectives.

More Ways to Grow Your Business

For new business improvement articles, exclusive tools and insights on entrepreneurship, click here to subscribe to my monthly eNewsletter. When you do, I’ll also send you my free eBook, How to Build Profit Through Leverage.

 

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Better Systems, Better Results

I hear it often from business owners, ‘I tell them what we need (or what to do), but it never gets done or done right.’ Sound familiar?  Despite what many think, most employees want to do a good job and make a contribution to the business. So what’s the problem?

Here are a few things to consider:

  • Do they know what you actually want – not just hear what you say or ask?
  • Do they know how to do what you want or ask? Is it clear and concise or vague and left to interpretation?
  • Do they understand why the task or behavior is important to customers, the business or other team members?

So what’s the solution? Systematize. That’s right, your people and your business will benefit from taking the time to document critical processes and procedures in your daily operations. From answering the phone and handling problems to billing and collecting money from customers, simple how-to steps, with supporting forms, templates and documents, make it easy for people to deliver what you want and need – consistently and profitably.

How To Make Better Systems

Keep them simple. Effective processes are typically 1-2 pages long with 8-10 specific steps. If your procedures are too long, consider breaking them into smaller tasks. For example, instead of one process for all front desk/receptionist tasks such as answering the phone, handling the mail, scheduling appointments, etc – break them into individual processes.

Include basic scripting or supporting forms. If a process includes the use of a specific form(s), include a sample with the process and reference it. Add scripting where appropriate and don’t overlook frequently asked questions (with answers or actions).

Link processes to goals. Every process should have a purpose and be linked to goals such as creating a positive buying experience, growing sales, delivering consistent service, improving productivity, etc. It’s important that your people understand the purpose or goal and recognize how they contribute to making it happen.

Look for ways to improve. Systems will change over time as the business grows and technology changes. Encourage people to always look for better ways to do things. Get them engaged and create a continuous improvement attitude. You will be amazed at what you all can accomplish together!

It’s not enough to simply document procedures. The payoff comes when they are used effectively and consistently. So get others engaged. When it comes to getting the most from your people, consider the old Chinese proverb, “Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.”

Leverage Your Business With Systems

If you are serious about leveraging your business with systems but struggle with where to start and how to do it, the check out my Ultimate Systems and Procedures Guide. Designed specifically for small business owners, my step-by-step guide with templates and examples makes it easy to do it yourself.