Are there days in your business when it seems to be endless chaos? You can’t seem to keep up or feel like you’re on top of anything at all? Yep, I have those days too – and I’m an organisation freak. But it’s these kinds of days where having structured processes come into their own and keep things ticking along when you don’t have the time or mental load to contemplate everything that is happening.
And when I say structured processes I’m not talking about ridiculously expensive computer software that tags and colour codes and beeps and spits email reminders at you left right and centre. I’m talking about simply taking stock of the day-to-day tasks and items that you do within your business and having systems in place and documented so that things either a) are able to automatically happen with automation in place or b) you can down the track hand these tasks over to another human being (or few) that can take the load off your plate.
Whether you are a one person operation (like me) or have a number of people on your team, taking the time to stop and structure processes and document the procedures into your business is something that will help you get through the bedlam and come out the other side with some consistency in your output.
Even without a team, having a single folder on your computer / in the cloud that contains your policies and procedures gives you a central point to have as your business go-to or business bible. That would include things like your terms and conditions that you attach to your client agreements or terms and conditions that are on your website. Having these items saved in one central place makes it easy to find if you need to review or provide a copy to someone.
Even as a single person operation I have a Procedures Manual that I update as I add new services or processes into my business. Things such as my new client onboarding process (the steps from A to Z from when I receive a new enquiry through to receiving their signed contract and commencing work), my invoicing process to my clients, how to create and where to find images for my social media. Writing these steps down not only documents them for when your team grows but it also allows you to look at the process as a whole and allows you to take an audit of whether you are missing items that you should be doing or even highlighting steps that you should potentially drop from the process (whether that be you’re double handling or it is wasting your precious time and resources by doing them).
Additionally, this is not only a static document – I have used technologies such as Zoom and Jing to take video captures of my screen and software within my processes so that I didn’t have to sit down and write the processes step by step, they’re captured in real time so you can watch them back (if it’s something you don’t do very often) or you can share the video with other team members as a learning tool.
Finally, another advantage of documenting these processes is that there will be consistency in how things are delivered within your business. Not everyone will pull out the checklist each time they do something but by having it documented you then start to set the standard (for yourself mentally and for outsourced assistance or staff) for what is expected in the outcomes each time you do each task.
A huge part of implementing processes is ensuring you have the time put aside to be undertaking certain processes. There are things in your business that you absolutely must undertake even when you’re busy (eg. invoicing customers – no mon, no fun!). So, every fortnight have times blocked out in your diary (whether that be electronic/paper) to undertake certain tasks that are fundamentally needed for your business to continue to hum. I also have time blocked out once a month for reviewing/adding items to my process folder on my Google Drive as well as time once per month for planning (whether that be goals, social media, blogs).
Thirdly, automation is an absolute smoother of chaos – but in all honesty, you have to have laid the foundations (particularly in your procedures). As I first mentioned, automation doesn’t have to be a ridiculously expensive piece of software that costs so much any chance of profit goes out the window with the subscription fee. Yes, you can buy the one huge piece of software that automates everything for you, but even then that software will have its shortcomings. For small business, there are oodles of options out there now for single small standalone software that you can use to time your tasks (instead of manually remembering to record the time you take into an excel spreadsheet for your billing), or sending out an email to a new client you’ve just onboarded. Two packages that are front of mind for affordable automation is Zapier (www.zapier.com) and IFTTT (If This Then That) (https://ifttt.com/). By automating a handful of your processes then there will be some items taken off your to-do list that will give you some breathing room.
Getting Help With Structuring Your Processes
Implementing processes and procedures can be a timely undertaking within your business if you haven’t done it from the get go, or if you’ve partially completed it and it’s fallen to the side in the busyness that is running a business. If you require assistance in putting your documentation in place or updating or even wanting some guidance in setting up your processes and systems I am happy to help.