As a successful entrepreneur, your business will gradually expand to the point where you can no longer be involved in all the day-to-day business activities.
Moving to the next growth phase requires you to create systems that free you from the operational side, and allow you to focus on growing and improving the business instead.
The time has come to set up and document your business systems – how things should be done. Indeed, business systemization is vital if you want to be successful, expand and have a sustainable business.
However, there are a number of mistakes that the small business owner often makes when first introducing business systemization.
Avoid these five common pitfalls when systemizing business processes and you’ll get the results you want.
1. Not doing the research yourself
As a small business owner you may have some idea of what is meant by “systemisation”, but you may not have worked in the environment of a large company with multiple automated business processes, and importantly, you may not have the IT expertise to introduce appropriate software-based systems.
But don’t simply hand the process over to an IT person or management consultant; rather understand and own the process yourself.
The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E Gerber is a must-read for every new entrepreneur. As Gerber states:
“Most businesses are operated according to what the owner wants as opposed to what the business needs.”
Make sure you understand what your business needs to become more successful and generate more profits. Research best practice and get advice about effective software solutions for businesses in your industry. Be open to new developments in technology that will help with systemisation.
2. Not planning
In business, perhaps more than anywhere else the old adage holds true: fail to plan and you will plan to fail!
When embarking on business systemization, set aside a few days to formulate a plan.
This plan will involve:
- Identifying routine tasks and activities
- Describing the standards that you expect at the end of each activity
- Describing the philosophy behind each activity
- Identifying the right position (person responsible) in the business to carry out the activity
- Creating a template for the steps in each activity, and using these to compile an operations manual
- How you will review and continuously improve your processes
Included in your plan should be a communications strategy to keep your team informed about what you are doing, processes for monitoring compliance with the systems, and a training program for training current and new team members in the use of the systems.
3. Trying to do too much at once
Especially in the case of startups and micro businesses, don’t try to design too many systems all at once, or systems that are too sophisticated for the level at which the business functions.
This will only leave you as the overstretched business owner, even more frustrated.
First create systems for those operations that happen most frequently. If an activity happens only once a year, for example, do not spend time right away creating a system for it. Focus on an activity or business process that happens frequently and creates frustration and problems. When that has been systemised, move on to the next process. Start small and get confident in documenting and testing systems before tackling the more complex processes.
4. Not communicating your strategy and objectives with you team
Make sure that your team members are fully informed about the changes taking place around business processes. The more you share about the benefits to the business and to them personally for systemising, the more they will be supportive and get involved in the systemisation process.
Fundamentally, your team wants to perform their job to the best of their ability, working in an organised and productive environment will assist them to do that.
If you were initially a one or two person operation and you have experienced fast growth and new hires, it is essential that you communicate your business vision and how systemising the business is so crucial to sustainability of the business moving forward.
You will need to introduce more formal methods of team communication, such as regular systemisation plan progress meetings and team announcements via a company intranet.
5. Not having a systems training program
You may be excited about the progress you have made in systemising your business, but if you just rely on the fact that an operations manual exists and do not train people in its use, your systems may never be implemented properly.
Make sure your team know exactly what is expected of them, what the standards for performance are, and that adherence is being monitored on a regular basis.
Consider having a key member of your team whose responsibility it is to update and review the systems regularly.
It’s also important to make the process documentation/operations manual easily accessible to all team members. Online portals or company intranets are good options.