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Why your small business needs systems and processes in place

Why do you need to  improve the systems you are using? You know the saying: You don’t want to be working in your business, you want to be working on your business.

To create or improve your systems and processes, you need to get your mind on what you need to do in your operations to keep your operations growing. That starts with evaluating the customer journey, and to get advice on all this we checked in with small business owners.

This process will be easier if you’ve been soliciting – and  listening to – feedback from your customers. If your team has fallen back in that area, that may be a good place to improve.

Start writing down that customer journey. How many steps does it take for your customers to buy what you are selling? Think like the customer, and break up that customer journey into steps that can be documented and measured.

In each step, what can be improved? Take it one step at a time, starting with the problem areas. For example, if it is taking longer than desired to get back to customers, look at that step more deeply.  Do you need additional employees? Do the employees you have need better training? Maybe you need to analyse and then design a better process for hiring and training? Look at the processes for incoming materials, production, what’s going out the door and the customer feedback. What can be automated or semi-automated? Do you have a high-value employee doing too much of the low-value work? The goal: to manage the inner workings of your business so it’s running as efficiently as possible.

“The processes you put in place for your business will allow you to get out of the box to think about and analyze your business,” says Fernando Aguilar of The Car Clinic of Miami.

Remember, consistency is more important than perfection, the business owners said. Business is a never ending process. Don’t worry about perfecting every aspect of the business, but aim to make all your operations function consistently.

Pay attention to handoffs between steps, as this is where problems can arise. Standardize your processes whereever possible and cross train your eimployees.

“When a key employee was going on vacation, it became glaringly apparent where there was no process in place. That led me to know where the holes were and where we need to document processes,” says Karen Vieira of The Med Writers.

The need for systems and processes to efficiently run your business is particularly heightened by this environment, with growing concerns over  inflation, supply chain issues and finding and retaining talent. Systems and processes are critical.

Documenting a process may be as simple as an employee making a video about how they do a certain task. It could be creating a checklist or it may be more detailed than that. The key is that the information is documented and accessible to the entire team digitally, perhaps as  part of your CRM, the business owners said.

Take it one step at a time. Once a quarter,take a look at one aspect of your operations process that will make a big impact if operating more efficiently, then fix it, the business owners suggested. Then the next quarter,  look at the next weakest link and fix that. At least once a year, take a comprehensive look at your processes again, with an eye on what can be done more efficiently, saving staff time and bringing in more money.

The reason to do it one step at a time, Aguilar says, is because change can be overwhelming for your employees. Your employees need to grow into the changes.

Aguilar suggests thiking of our entire business as your  product. “If i were to sell my business today, what would make it attractive?  That mindshift – seeing the business from beginning to end – changed everything.” He calls his process the 4 Ds: document, delegate, detach and direct.

Involve your team in the process of creating your systems. Pople need to be challenged, and given opportunities to grow. “This is a marathon. Pace yourselves, keep documenting and improving it. Keep an eye on it. Never stop,” says Vieira.

“You came into business for a reason, so gine yourself the time to think and listen to ideas. Get yourself out of the box of the day to day. You have to make the time,” Aguilar adds.

Just starting out? Write out everything you are doing now, and look for what you can  delegate out.

Don’t overthink it, don’t overcomplicate it. Build a network of people that can help you, both inside or outside the company, Orlando Espinosa of Emineo Media says.

For more on this topic, view the Florida SBDC at FIU webinar here. SBDC business consultants also provide consulting services at no cost to the small business.

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