10 Steps To Create Systems In Your Small Business
Feb 07, 2010     post this at del.icio.uspost this at Diggpost this at Technoratipost this at Furlpost this at Yahoo! my web.

By: Joan Nowak

Are you ready to start putting the power of systems to work in your business — to build consistency, efficiency, productivity and profits?  Congratulations, your commitment to do so is an important first step!

So as you get started, here is the best advice I can give you – and it has worked over the years with my clients – Start Small.  Do not set a goal to complete a ‘How To’ (or policies and procedures) Manual – even though you will eventually end up with one.  The reason, it’s too overwhelming!  Instead, set a goal to document, implement and monitor one process a week (or some other variation that works for you).  This approach is far more do-able for small business owners, keeps you focused on small steps, allows you to implement changes as you go, and will get you results faster!

Here’s the 10-step approach you can use to create systems that are effective for your small business:

Get Organized. Before you jump in, purchase some folders and a binder with 12-15 tabs to help you organize your work.  Also, create a folder on your computer documents to ‘hold’ your documented processes, so they are easy to find and update.

Most people find it easiest to organize their ‘how-to’ processes into functional groups, such as business management, finance & accounting, sales & marketing, operations (service delivery), customer care or service, personnel (staff) management, IT computer systems, safety and security.  There’s no right or wrong way – so choose whichever works best for you.

Identify Events. Most processes are triggered from events that occur in your business.  Some examples include you get a lead (or prospect), you get a new customer, you receive a bill, you need to hire a new employee, you receive inventory or stock, you need to invoice or bill a customer, you get a customer complaint or need to prepare a quote.  So make a list of all the different ‘events’ in your business.

Prioritize the List. When it comes to documenting your processes, start with the ones that are most important to you – those that make you money, free up your time, are currently causing poor customer service or duplication of effort among your team.  Often people believe they need to pick a group, like finance & accounting, and do all the processes in the section.  This is one approach, but you will benefit more by focusing on the processes that need fixing or that cost you money.   So make a list and prioritize it

Determine Who Is Responsible. If you operate solo, you may be the one responsible for doing many of the tasks; but if you have others working with you, the responsibility rests on others.  When you prepare to document a system, identify who is responsible and get them involved or doing.

Write Down How It Gets Done. Once you select the process you wish to document, pull together any forms, information or checklists you currently use to complete the tasks.  For example, you might use a customer contact sheet when prospects call or scripts when making collection calls.  For some, these may be scattered all over – but do the best you can to pull the information together.  With this in hand, simply write down step-by-step what you actually do.  Keep it simple and reference forms or checklists as appropriate.  Don’t try to make changes – that comes later.  For now, simply document what you do.

Refine Your Process. The goal with documented processes is to create consistency and repeatability, regardless of who performs the task.  Often initial attempts contain missing or unclear steps, so others cannot easily replicate the task.  I recommend you give the written process to someone unfamiliar with the task – and ask him/her to attempt to perform it based only on what you wrote down.  You will then find the gaps and can fix them.  Once you do, repeat this step until the task is completed with only the written instructions.  Now you have a process that others can easily follow.

Determine How You Will Measure Success. How will you know if your procedure is delivering the quality or performance results you want?  You won’t unless you measure it.  So each process should have some metric or key performance indicator associated with it.  Now don’t let this scare you — it shouldn’t be complicated and can be a simple feedback survey or something you measure in the business already.  For example, one of the metrics to evaluate your sales process might be your sales conversion rate, a customer satisfaction survey or client retention scores may be helpful in evaluating your customer service.  If you want to improve your business, don’t ignore this piece – because what we measure we can improve.

Type and Binder. Once you have it finished, type it up and save it in the computer folder for your processes.  Then print it off and place a copy in your master binder under the appropriate group tab.  Include any supporting forms or checklists. Don’t worry yet about codes, the order or the page numbers — this will get done later.

Communicate & Implement. No need to wait until all the processes are complete to start implementing.  In fact, it is often easier to implement one at a time instead of trying to make a lot of changes at once.  So make copies for all those responsible for doing the task, review the procedure and how you will measure success with your team, if applicable, and start doing.  Remember to encourage feedback and get others to look for new and better ways to get things done.

Monitor & Modify. This is where the opportunity for improvement will come from.  Most of us can do things better, but we rarely think about it.  So use the feedback, metrics and other information to look for ways to improve and be willing to modify your procedures when you uncover them.

Now it’s time to move to the next process!  Remember, take it one at a time and you will be amazed at what you can accomplish.

About the Author

Joan Nowak, Business Coach, Speaker and Trainer, helps small business owners and solo professionals, create a business that is Simple, Fun and Profitable – so they get the income and lifestyle they want. Getting results quickly and breaking down complex issues into simple, easy to implement strategies for small business owners, is a hallmark for my business and personal reputation. For more information, or to learn how we can work together to help you grow or transform your business, visit www.HybridBizAdvisors.com or call me at (856) 533-2344.

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