If you are an entrepreneur, I’ll bet you’re learning and doing all sorts of things you’ve never done before. Things like creating marketing campaigns, administering pay roll, writing job descriptions and the like.
And like most humans, after a month or two, you forgot how you did it and need to figure it out again. You search your email, Dropbox and memory to piece together what you did.
What’s the harm? After all, it’s just you working on everything right? It didn’t take too much time to figure out. So what’s the big deal?
It’s not SCALABLE!
Your goal as a small business owner is to create a little money making machine that can run without you. Too many business owners get stuck doing everything. They work in their businesses rather than on them.
Fall in this trap and you’ll never grow the business to generate the income and freedom you desire.
So how you fix this? Glad you asked!
Procedures: The Magic Bullet
Ah procedures…a written series of steps to achieve an outcome. They are simple steps that anyone can see and execute when necessary.
Procedures may sound dull and boring, but boy do they set you free! It’s like putting little rocket boosters on your business. They not only bring structure to your amorphous business, but they free up a ton of your “mental RAM”.
This whole procedure thing might sound silly. But stick with me. I’m going to show you how to organize, write, test and implement these bad boys.
A Place for Procedures
First you need a place to put your procedures and checklists. You’ll want to decide on a “wiki” type software where you can store your procedures and have them in a place where your staff can access them quickly.
In my first company, we used the Google Apps website building tool which worked great. Other choices are a simple Word doc in Dropbox, Evernote, Workflowy or Bear.
Depending on your business, I recommend both a cloud and physical copy of your procedures. This way they can be accessed if away from the computer and during urgent situations.
Getting Them Written
Everything starts with one procedure and you’ll be adding them fast and furious in the beginning.
Start by brainstorming all of the processes in your business. Here are a few to get you started:
- How to collect payments
- How to clean your equipment
- How to take a phone message
- How to make a deposit
- How write an email blast
After you have a list, start writing the first one. Either think through or perform each task. At the same time, write down exactly what you are thinking or doing.
When writing, it’s best to be simple and concise. Insert screen shots if it makes your steps more clear. Also, include today’s date and time to indicate when the procedure was last updated. If your software can automatically track versions, all the better.
Testing Your Procedures
Now that you have a procedure written, it’s time to test and see if it works (spoiler alert: it won’t the first time). Your litmus test for a good or bad procedure is giving it to someone totally unfamiliar with the work, like a friend, spouse or an employee in a different department.
Can they execute it? What questions do they ask? What credentials are they missing? Use their feedback and refine your procedure.
Keep in mind you are writing procedures that you can give to anyone off the street and they can complete the task with no problem.
Yes, they must be that simple!
Implementation: Developing the Habit
Writing procedures is all well and good, but if you and your staff are not following them, then what is the point of writing them?
As the leader, you need to drive behavior towards procedure. Do this by responding to staff questions by saying, “Have you checked the company wiki?” or “Do we have a procedure for that?”
After the first few times, your staff will develop the habit of checking procedure before coming to you. If they did check and none exists, then you have a new procedure to write.
To encourage this behavior, make it easy for staff to access your procedures. Put a hyperlink to your “wiki” in a conspicuous place. Print and distribute physical copies in binders for you and your staff.
Process of Ongoing Improvement
As your business grows, systems change. That’s a fact of life. Running a company of 10 is entirely different than running a company of 50. Your old systems break down. In fact, you can gauge how quickly your business is growing (or dying) by how often you update procedures.
Invite your staff to suggest and implement edits. Make it easy to revise and update the team. And YES, creating a procedure for writing, updating and distributing procedures is necessary!
Your business is a collection of processes. Most are repeated on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis. Nothing is more demotivating than figuring out how to do something, then having to re-learn how to do it two months later because you forgot!
Worst of all, if everything is in your head, you’ll never scale your business!
Soon you’ll agree, procedures set you free!
Have you used systems in your business? Let me know in the comments below!