Starting a business involves sweat, long days, rants, moments of elation, and days of despair. Yet through it all, you know you are doing the best you can for your business. Until one day what used to be the best for your business isn’t anymore.
You have just become your company’s own worst enemy, standing in the way of future growth.
What? Wait a minute. How could that be?
You’re still running your business like a start-up, managing all the tasks yourself. How could you trust someone else to interact with your clients? Or perform certain tasks? They might not do it exactly like you – the horror!
Sound familiar? Scaling up is one of the biggest challenges to entrepreneurs. While the manual DIY approach is fine when you just start out, you may no longer have the time as you continue to grow you. If you don’t find a way to automate or delegate your business will stagnate. On the other hand your clients expect and deserve your involvement in certain areas of the business. How do you make the transition?
3 Easy Steps to Building Business Processes for Growth
While start-ups and young companies will find this process the easiest to implement, even established companies who have reached a profit plateau would benefit from this assessment. The following 3 steps outline how to build business processes that allow your organization for further growth.
Step 1 of Building Business Processes to Prosper: Identifying Your Critical Activities
Brainstorm a list of all the activities you do in the business. Nothing is too small to write down. Even a 5 minute task adds up if you do it every day. (50 weeks * 5 days * 5 minutes = 1,250 minutes or nearly 21 hours in a year!). Keep the list next to you for a week while you work. Every hour or so revisit the list, verifying that your recent activities are included. If not, add them.
Now comes the hard part. You must decide which activities are critical for you to perform, and which can be automated or delegated in the future. While every business is different, if you’ve identified less than 35% of activities as candidates for delegation or automation you need to look harder.
Consider asking your top clients for their perspective. After all, aren’t they the ones who matter most? Ask trusted colleagues, mentors and your informal board. Remember if you can’t grow the list, you can’t grow your bottom line.
Step 2 of Building Business Processes to Prosper: Document the Process
Yes I said the “d” word. Document. Despite being a numbers geek and a lover of all things Excel I would rather clean the bathroom than carefully document a long, tedious process.
Feel the same way? Here’s how I motivate myself. Imagine how many times you would have to do this process or task over the next 12 months. Now project that over all the years you will be running your business. Imagine how much money you could be making instead of suffering through that same tedious chore again and again. Documentation doesn’t sound so bad anymore, does it?
Here are some tips to ensure your documentation is complete and accurate:
- Don’t assume anything or any knowledge. Just because it’s easy for you to set the SEO Keywords in a blog post doesn’t mean it will be easy for someone else. Every click, every input, every change needs to be documented.
- Hand over the documentation to someone unfamiliar with you and your business (even if it will be automated, this is a good test). Ask them to complete the task. Any questions they have – include answers in the documentation. Any mistakes they make – review and determine how to avoid in the future. You may want to do this with two times with different people.
Step 3 of Building Business Processes to Prosper: Delegating and Automating
Now that the process is documented it’s time to unload it! The first question to answer is if it’s a candidate for delegation or automation. With the email and CRM tools available today, you can find a surprising amount of automation that can be customized to a client or a contact. Consider multiple solutions, and solicit input and reviews from trusted sources before selecting one.
Not sure if a tool can perform the automation you want? Ask the company. Consider sharing your documentation with the service provider to find out if their product or service would meet your needs.
There will be some activities that still require the human touch. The documentation you created will serve as the training tool for the person to whom you delegate. Whether you outsource or hire an employee, be sure they are fully vetted. I also encourage you to also to privately solicit feedback from clients that interact with this person.
One final consideration in delegating and automating tasks – the cost. Let’s go back to my earlier example of an activity that takes 5 minutes every business day. Over the course of the year I would have spent nearly 21 hours on that task. How much profit can I generate with that additional 21 hours? The chosen solution should not cost more than the additional profit I expect to earn.
As part of this step, be sure to clearly communicate with your current client base about the changes that are coming and how the client will benefit from them.
What are some activities you have identified as candidates to delegate or automate? What steps will you take to make that change? How do you see that impacting the bottom line of your business?
Interested in learning how to make the most of your time? Watch our free on-demand webinar: Time Management for Small Business Professionals, hosted by expert Allyson Lewis.