I meet many business owners every day that are working a tremendous amount of hours per week. When I ask them “is this what you expected when you started your business?” . . . most say they thought in the beginning they would have to work hard but as time went on they had hoped to work a lot less. They had dreams of spending more time in other interests or with their family. But here they are, years late, still working incredibly hard. Why is that? I would contend the reason they are working so hard is because their business isn’t working. If their business worked they wouldn’t have to. So how do you get your business to work so you don’t have to?
One area is the development of systems. I’m not talking about computer systems here, although that is something you should look at as well. What I am referring to are systematic processes implemented in your business. The implementation of systems in your business can save you and your employees’ time as well as saving you money.
Where do you start? Well, first look at anything that is done on a routine basis. Something that is done every day, week or month no matter what. You should particularly take a look at those things that you, as the business owner, are doing that could be done by someone who is (or should be) paid a lot less. Look at those things that generally don’t take a tremendous amount of skill to perform. Next, flow chart the process in the order it is performed. You can use a white board for this or simply use post-it notes on a desk or table to identify each step. While doing this take a look for process improvement. There may be areas of duplication or if the steps can be rearranged the process can be done in less time.
Next, document the process. Get your employees to write down every step in performing the task. One way to ensure the documentation is sufficient is to ask someone to perform the task that normally is unfamiliar with it. If someone needs to step in and verbally explain what needs to be done the documentation isn’t thorough enough. Change it so someone can follow it step by step.
Once the documentation is complete you need to measure the success of the system by using Key Performance Indicators. These could be deadlines, checklists, sales volume, expense levels or a number of other areas. Pick what’s important to the business.
Finally, allow the system to change and evolve. As other things in the business change, your systems may have to adapt.
Here is a list of areas that you may want to consider in developing systems for:
• Daily office operations
• Manufacturing and inventory
• Order processing
• Product/Service delivery
• Accounts receivable
• Accounts payable
• Customer service
• Sales and Marketing
• Human resources and training
• General accounting
Remember when documenting and reviewing these systems you should always be looking for redundancy and duplication. Aim to streamline processes to save time and money. The faster the business cycle, in other words, the faster you can produce a sale, or the faster you can produce a product, or the faster you can deliver the service, or the faster you can send out invoices, or the faster you get your customer to pay you — the more profit you will generate.
As the business owner you need to lead your people, your people will use the systems to support your customers, your customers will support your business and of course your business supports you. Get your business to work for you instead of you for it.