One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a business owner is to create a company that is dependent on your daily involvement for its success.
This is what I call working “in” your business. You’re writing basic sales letters, attaching stamps, and guiding staff step-by-step through each task.
There are a number of problems with this approach. One is redundancy. You’re paying your staff to carry out tasks that you eventually complete. The second is poor time management. You’re spending your day – at your high hourly rate – on tasks as they arise, leaving little room for the tasks you need to be focused on, such as building your business.
The solution here lies in effective systemisation of your business. Clearly established policies and procedures that empower your staff to take on the responsibility of running daily operations.
Systemisation contributes to cost management and your profit margins. Assuming that you take home a greater salary than your staff members, it costs your business more for you to complete tasks in comparison to the other capable individuals who work for you. Besides, do you really want to be attaching stamps every day?
A system is any process, policy, or procedure that consistently achieves the same result, regardless of who is completing the task. Having clear systems will free you from the day-to-day operations of your business- your business will run smoother, make a higher profit, and provide a greater level of service – regardless of your involvement.
Any task that is performed in your business more than once can be systemised. Ideally, tasks that are completed on a repetitive basis – daily, weekly, monthly – should be systemised so that anyone can perform them. Systems can take many forms – from manuals and instruction sheets, to signs, posters, and online audio or video recordings. They don’t have to be elaborate or extensive, just provide enough information in step-by-step form to guide the person performing the task.
Systemising your business is also a healthy way to plan for the future. You’re not going to be working forever – what happens when you retire? How will you transition your business to new ownership or management? How will you take that holiday you’ve been dreaming of? In addition it makes your business a saleable asset.
There are seven common areas of your business you can systemise.
1. Administration Administrative roles tend to see a high turnover therefore this is an important area of your business to systemise. A series of systems will reduce training time, and keep you from explaining how the phones are to be answered each time a new receptionist joins your team.
Administrative Systems examples Opening and closing procedures, Phone scripts, Mail / Email processing, Office maintenance, Filing and paper management, Workflow, Document production, Inventory management, Order processing, Making orders etc.
2. Accounting This is one area of systems that you will need to keep a close eye on – but that doesn’t mean you have to do the work yourself. Financial management systems are everything from tracking credit card purchases to invoicing clients and following up on overdue accounts. These systems will help to prevent employee theft, and allow you to always have a clear picture of your numbers.
Accounting Systems examples Purchasing, Credit card purchase tracking, Accounts payable, Accounts receivable, Bank deposits, Tax payments, Profit / loss statements, Invoicing, Daily cash out, Petty cash, Employee expenses, Payroll, Commission payments etc.
3. Communication Communication is essential and time consuming for any business. Different people create letters, emails, reports and newsletters regularly in your business. On most occasions, these communications aren’t much different from one to the next, however a different person creates each from scratch. There is a big opportunity to systemise in this area of your business. Systemised communication ensures consistency and company differentiation.
Communication Systems examples Internal memo template, Letterhead template, Team meeting agenda, Internal/ External emails, Newsletter template, Sales letter template(s), Meeting minutes template, Report template, Internal meetings, Scheduling etc.
4. Customer Relations Customer relations includes everything the customer sees or touches in your business, as well as any interaction they might have with you or your staff members. Establishing a customer relations system will also ensure that new staff members understand how customers are handled in your business. It will allow you to maintain a high level of customer service, without constantly reminding staff of your policies. It will also ensure that the success of your customer relations and retention does not hinge on you or any other individual salesperson.
Customer Relations Systems examples Incoming/ outgoing phone call scripts, Customer service standards, Customer retention strategy, Customer communications templates, Sales process, Sales script, Newsletter templates, Ongoing customer communication strategy, Customer liaison policies etc.
5. Employees Your need to create systems in your business for hiring, training, managing and developing your employees. This will establish clear expectations for the employee, and streamline time consuming activities like recruitment. Employees with clear expectations who work within clear structures are happier and more productive. Establishing a clear training manual will also save you and your staff the time and hassle of training each new staff member on the fly.
Employee Systems examples Employee recruitment, Employee retention, Incentive and rewards program, Employee reviews, Employee feedback structure, Staff uniforms or dress code, Employee training, Ongoing training and professional development, Job descriptions and role profiles and of course Payroll Management processes.
6. Marketing This is likely an area in which you spend a large part of your time unless the function is outsourced. You focus on generating new leads and getting more people to call you or walk through your doors. These efforts can be systemised and delegated to other staff members.
Marketing Systems examples Referral programs, Customer retention programs, Regular promotions, Marketing calendar, Enquiries management, Regular advertisements, Advertisement creation systems and templates, Direct mail, Sales procedures, Lead management, CRM etc.
7. Data While we like to think we operate a paperless office, often the opposite is true. Your business needs to have clear systems for managing paper and electronic information to ensure that information is protected, easily accessed, and only kept when necessary in addition to keeping your office organised.
Data Management Systems examples IT Management, Data backup, Computer repairs, Electronic information storage, Client file system, Project file system, Point of sale system, Financial data management etc.
How to Systemise
Some systems will be short and simple – i.e., a laminated sign in the kitchen that outlines step by step how to make the coffee – while others will be more complex – i.e., your sales process and scripts. One thing they have in common is basic steps. There is a linear process involved from start to finish.
Start by writing out each of the steps involved in completing the task, providing as much detail as possible. Then, review your step-by-step guide with the employee(s) who regularly complete the task and get their feedback. Once you have incorporated their input, decide what format the system needs to be in: i.e. a manual, laminated instruction sheet, sign, memo, etc.
Now that you have created a system, you will need to make sure that it works. More specifically, you need to make sure that it works without your involvement. Implement the new system for an appropriate period of time to further test- i.e. a week or month – then ask for input from staff, suppliers and vendors, and customers.
Evaluate if the systems is informative enough for your staff, seamless enough for your suppliers, and whether or not it meets or exceeds your customer’s needs. Take that feedback and revise the system accordingly.
You will rarely get the system right the first time – so be patient and continue to tweak it. Systems will also need to be evaluated and revised on a regular basis to ensure your business processes are kept up to date.
Structure an annual or bi-annual review of systems, and stick to it. Due to this aspect of constant change it is suggested that your systems are kept in an online format to allow for easy editing and reducing the needs for re-printing of manuals etc. Google Sites offers a good option for an internal and secure system management option.
Once you have your systems in place, the final step is to delegate tasks to others.
Don’t panic though, this doesn’t have to mean fully removing you from the process, but it does mean giving your employees enough freedom to complete the tasks within the structure of the systems you have spent time and energy creating. Allow yourself the freedom of focusing on the tasks that you most enjoy, and most deserve your time – like creating big picture strategies to grow your business and increase your profits!
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About Tony Ozanne Tony has 23 years experience in the franchise sector globally with Yum Restaurants International, and for the last 4 years has been a Business Coach. He has Authored “Business Tips From a Business Coach” and is the founder of the Small Business M.B.A program. The Small Business MBA program is a 7-week live webinar program with a difference. Not only do you gain the theory behind the weekly subject matters, but you will be given tasks to start building your process and systems around them, and begin the journey of regular working ‘on; your business. Each week builds on the previous and focuses on the common areas Tony has found to be lacking in small business today- Goals, Develop a Plan, People Processes, Job Roles, Sales Process, Marketing and target market, overall systems and processes are just some of the areas covered in this program. In addition to this, you get access to Tony as your own Business Coach for the period of the series.
We have negotiated with Tony to offer the Small Business MBA to our readership at a reduced rate. Normally $597 the offer will give you $100 off… so go along and soak up valuable knowledge and skills for only $497!
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