HOW TO SYSTEMIZE YOUR SMALL BUSINESS

By VICKY BROWN

Let’s talk about systemizing your business.  First off, it’s just a fancy word or putting together standard ways of doing things. In fact, sometimes it’s called Business Standardization.

Now I know, everyone isn’t a process nerd like I am – and for a lot of people, they break out in a cold sweat when they think of processes.  But I promise, there are ways this can be , if not painless, at least not pain-ful.  And it’s all for a great cause.  Upping the value of your business.

After all, the way you do things is part of your intellectual property, your secret sauce.  So making sure your secret sauce is applied to every burger that goes out the door, well that’s only going to help build your brand.

Another great by-product of process is that you get consistent results – consistent quality and delivery.  And, it makes things more efficient, because no one is wasting time or effort trying to remember how we did it the last time – by the way, it also makes training a piece of cake.

So let’s take a look at what you should systemize.  And no, it’s not absolutely everything in your business.  I know there are some gurus out there that say you should have a written process for every task, but I believe there is such a thing of OVER systemizing.

For example, take lunch.  Suppose the task is to pick up lunch for the team.  Well, the first part of the process could be take everyone’s order.

Or, it could be – go to file room and pick up a note pad and pen; proceed to 1st team member and provide them the lunch menu, inquire what they would like for lunch, wait for reply, write their order down using note pad and pen….

Are you ready to scream yet?  I am!

That’s because this is over systemizing.  We’ve taken a common task, that one would assume is part of everyone’s basic knowledge, and broken it down into its various parts – when, in fact, that isn’t necessary.

In this case, it would be sufficient to just say, take lunch orders, place order online using Grub Hub, when order is delivered, divide according to each order, ensure napkins and utensils are included, and deliver each order to each individual.

In fact, when you start the systemization process, don’t bother trying to look at EVERYTHING.  Just look at the key areas of your business (and keep in mind, this isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon, so don’t expect to get everything done in a week – it will take time).

Start with these 4 areas:

  • Sales & Marketing, how you identify and get clients
  • Operations, how you deliver the service or product
  • Customer Service, how you manage and communicate with your customer and
  • Administration, how you run the company – this will include areas like human resources, accounting and office management.

“…the way you do things is part of your intellectual property, your secret sauce.  So making sure your secret sauce is applied to every burger that goes out the door, well that’s only going to help build your brand”

OK – on to the HOW.  Generally speaking your system will have 3 components, procedures (sometimes called standard operating procedures or SOPs), reference materials and templates.

The SOP is a rundown of the steps to be completed.  The reference materials are additional information that may be required and the templates are communication pieces that can be reused over and over.

Back to our lunch example.  The SOP lists the steps that need to be completed, one of which is place the order using Grub Hub.  Well the reference document might have the ID and password to access the company’s online account; and a template might be any special instructions to be cut and pasted into the Grub Hub order each time.

Once you’ve figured out what needs a system, now you have to figure out how the process will get memorialized.  Here’s a giant hint – it’s not by you!  Unless you are the only person in your company (in which case, we need to chat further), this is absolutely one of the things you should delegate to your team..

The most effective procedures are created by the people who are actually doing the thing – meaning, your team members.  Get them in on the fun early on.  Talk to them about the various areas of the business you’re going to look at.  Ask their opinion about what functions should get processes first, and how deeply you should go. Work with them to determine not only how the project is going to get up and on its feet, but how, when and who will have accountability for updates and compliance – because a great process that isn’t up to date, or that no one uses, isn’t a great process.

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To get you started, I suggest assigning 1 or 2 people to a business function.  Then have them follow a monthly cadence of creating 1 process each week for weeks 1 – 3; and in week 4 present and review the 3 new processes with the full team, making any required updates, and finalizing.

You can certainly go faster, but this timeline helps to protect your team from overwhelm – don’t’ forget, this is an extra project on top of their current workload, and it takes a bit of time and resources to get done right.  So be sure you give them the time they need.

The most important thing to think about when you systemize, is what tool will you use for delivery.

The days of the big binder on the shelf are long gone, so this is clearly a technology play.

You’ll need a tool that can be accessed by everyone who needs it, easily updated, and something where changes can be tracked (after all, you want to know who and when an update happened), and will easily hold reference materials and templates, or links to them.  Of course you can get uber fancy and embed instructional videos etc.  But again, that’s the top of the line in systemizing.  When you’re just getting started, a simple doc on Evernote or Box will do nicely – or there are a dozen other platforms that can get the job done.

To have a business that can scale and grow, you absolutely need to look at systemizing the main functions of your business.  It will increase your service and delivery quality, and smooth out the road to getting you out of the day to day of the business – so you can move on to more impactful pursuits – like being the visionary!

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