The typical founder, in trying to run a lean startup, is often so focused on rapid growth that taking the time to write down and back up files can seem like a waste of time. But having the patience to document your systems and processes early on is not just beneficial to your company — it can be absolutely crucial to your success.
Here are five reasons why your company systems and processes should be maintained, just like the employees who implement them:
- Systems help you scale and prepare for growth. Documenting your processes helps you prepare for future growth. By seeing the progress of your current systems, you can better judge future situations and implement strategies that work more effectively and efficiently. Instead of wasting your time shooting in the dark, you can take a look at your records as you plan for expansion.
- Systems create a consistent customer experience. We at Big Fish Presentations are known for customer service. We want to continue this trend, so we documented our sales and account-managing processes to ensure each one of our clients or future clients receive the same high standard of customer experience as the last customer. We’ve developed a series of manuals that we refer to in order to maintain a cohesive sense of reliability with our clients. Going about business without referring to a solid account of your processes leaves room for error in the quality of the work produced. You’ve got to look back in order to look up.
- Systems help you train employees effectively. By having systems in place that are well documented, you can more efficiently train employees not only in what has succeeded in the past, but also in which failures to avoid. Documented systems and processes can be used by new hires as resources to better perform their job, in case they have any questions and no one is available to answer them immediately. By writing down the models and processes that employees follow step-by-step, a new employee is on the same level and consistency as your star players.
- Systems can be monitored, managed and improved. Processes can evolve as the company does. Documentation can be used when the system fails, but it can also be useful when your company needs to improve. Using correct and consistent documentation, you can observe and evaluate your current processes, analyze their effectiveness, and then make changes or improvements, depending on how well the current system operates. Always keep in mind that you can be better in every sector of your business. Whenever you look to improve, the shift or upgrade will be exponentially easier if you have a clear set of records to examine. Whether you decide to dive deeper into your current process or try an entirely different approach, a reference point makes the whole process cleaner and more efficient.
- Systems prevent the loss of key information. This is the most obvious one. You always hear those horror stories about people losing all of their files because they didn’t back them up in multiple locations. Having a copy of everything may seem overly conservative, but it greatly decreases the possibility of losing valuable information. Also, documenting everything lessens the impact of key employees leaving the organization. The most important thing to remember is that proper documentation is a security blanket for your business. If anything goes awry, you have the comfort of knowing that your information is secure and organized for easy recovery.
Organized, consistent documentation not only keeps everyone on the same page, but it keeps you sane and your business growing. Although it may sound like a daunting task, you shouldn’t hesitate to get started immediately with some kind of plan for documentation. It’s wise, safe and worth it — so get to work!
At 21 years old, Kenny Nguyen is the CEO/Founder of Big Fish Presentations, a presentation company that does presentation design, presentation consulting and commercial video production. The company has recently been featured in Inc. Magazine as one of 2012′s Coolest College Startups, and hosts the blog Hook-Line-N-Sinker for presenters.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.