I could tell when she called that something wasn’t right. She was my most upbeat friend. Always saying how great life is and how much she loved having her own business. We talk business some, but usually when we get together it is more to unwind, laugh, and forget about work.
This time I knew it was different…I could hear the frustration in her voice. I asked if everything was okay with her and the family…oh yes…all was good there.
“I need to talk to you about a business issue,” she said.
Sitting in the coffee shop that morning, I listened to my friend tell me that everything she had worked so hard to build was falling apart around her. As I held back my gasp and tried to regain my surprise, I leaned forward and grabbed her hand and said, ” Tell me what’s going on.”
You see…I’m the fixer. Everyone knows me as the fixer. If something is wrong, my friends, family and even work colleagues will call me for help, because they know that I will come up with a solution, a fix, a system, a process…something to make the problem disappear or at least feel less painful.
“If anyone can help me fix this mess…it’s you,” she said.
Like most small business owners, she started out with a few clients. It paid the bills, and she could manage them pretty easily. When she decided she wanted to expand, I remember asking her if she was ready to take on multiple clients…if she had prepared her business for growth by documenting her processes.
I vaguely remember her cocking her head and saying, “Well yea…I mean they aren’t written down formally, but I know the process like the back of my hand. That’s what they pay me for, right?”
I tell you this story, because it’s a story I hear a lot. As hard as I try to make business owners understand how important it is to prepare their business for growth…it’s a story that goes in one ear and out the other.
You may have already stopped reading this, because you think this doesn’t apply to you. You probably work alone and manage just fine. However, if you want to prepare your business for growth, you need to pay attention!
Formally writing down your processes of handling clients is NOT a waste of time. My friend was in a real pickle. She had taken on so many new clients that she could no longer manage the work load on her own. Hiring someone to help stressed her out even more, because she knew that she would have to train. And with no written procedures, the thought of training was more overwhelming than the thought of being behind.
If you have plans to grow your business, here are three important tips you need to know:
1. Do you have a process that you do manually, and do you do it consistently? If so, write it down! Step by step, write it down. If I came into your office, and you told me that you needed me to do XYZ and handed me the procedure to do it, step by step, how easy do you think it would be for me to come in and pick up that duty from you?
Once you explain the why and the what (policy)…the how (procedure) is ready to go. Wouldn’t that make training much easier? The whole point is to make transitions for both you and your new employee much easier.
2. Start with the most basic processes first. When you work alone and it comes time to hire, normally the first person we need is an admin, secretary, or Virtual Assistant. Think about the duties you would give this person to perform. These are the procedures you need to start with first.
Yes, it can be as simple as taking calls and scheduling appointments. If you’re anything like me…you want your customers handled in a specific way. There are probably specific tasks that are performed when your customer makes an appointment. Maybe they get a welcome email or a special questionnaire to complete before you meet. These are steps that you need to document so they aren’t missed or are not handled the way you prefer.
3. Keep the processes up to date. If something changes in the procedure, make the change and document it. But don’t get rid of the old procedure. Knowing what past procedures were, helps make sure that your business is being handled consistently.
Add dates to your procedures so you know when they became effective. This helps you maintain quality control to ensure that current or past employees processed an item properly. This is more important for businesses who have larger teams.
You will never regret writing down your processes. If we’re being honest here…there are times when I pull my own out to confirm specific steps. If it wasn’t for my procedures, I wouldn’t be able to handle the large volume of work that I do. (My business consists of just me and my assistant, Marianne.) Procedures are our friends, and they help us maintain a consistent business that is focused on customer care.
If you find yourself in a position like my friend…it’s not the end of the world.
In fact, we were able to segregate the job functions she didn’t need to be worrying about and delegate that to a new assistant. We created procedures for all the job functions her new assistant would be handling which made hiring and training much smoother.
Know how important your day to day operational systems are. Prepare and plan for that day when your business is growing, and you’re ready to hire your first person. If you’re like me and you work alone, know that even you can forget how things are supposed to work sometimes, and your procedures just might save your butt more than once. (Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything.)
If you’re in need of some guidance about getting started, take advantage of my 30-minute strategy call, and let’s talk through where you need to get started!