Business owners hear it all of the time: document your processes and procedures. Yet, time and again, it does not happen. It might start out innocently enough. The business is small – maybe one person – and the need to outline procedures is put low on the priority list. Then things get busier. Maybe the business grows and more people are added. Suddenly, the need for processes and procedures becomes obvious. Today, 16 business owners share their thoughts on this topic.
1. WordPress Instructions
The one area that I wish I could have done differently was have the processes that I use to get my clients started documented. Due to the fact that some of them are new to WordPress, I have spent quite a bit of time showing them how to post to their blog, update pages, create new pages, tags, SEO…etc. Having much of that documented will provide a tool for them to utilize when I may not be available as well as bring efficiency to my business. It is currently under development and will be ready for that next client I have the privilege of introducing to WordPress.
Thanks to Michelle Church of Virtually Distinguished
2. In Case Of Emergency…Trust Your Procedure
Peace of mind is not bought; it is created through practice and procedure. Here are some basics that I have used, continue to use with positive results and advise others to employ:
1. Make sure your clients provide you with their VALID contact information. The last thing you want to do is wonder why you haven’t gotten paid, dial your client’s number and get the “doo roo roo, the number you have dialed is no longer in service” message.
2. Set up a preliminary Letter of Agreement (LOA) and a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA). Even a poorly written contract has a better chance of getting you paid in court than no contract. You’ll thank me later.
3. Have a weekly or monthly data purge and back up all your data regularly. Religiously.
4. Use encrypted data software. You’ll thank me later.
5. Have all the formalities of incorporation safely stored in a safe deposit box at the bank ensuring all the work you put in does not go up in flames, literally.
Thanks to Karine Macri of Thinker Extraordinaire, LLC
3. Create Systems With The Future In Mind
Begin with the end in mind and create systems based on where you want your business to go.
Do you have clients? Create a system of client follow up. Do you prospect? Create a system for prospecting…a “to do” list that you will do with every prospect (i.e.: phone call, send a card, etc.).
And create systems within your schedule. Follow up calls on Monday, prospecting calls on Tuesday, office work on Wednesday, meeting on Thursday, errands on Friday, etc.
To your success!
Thanks to Laura Aridgides of OrganizeNOW
4. Document it All
Before I started my company, I headed up production & marketing for a small entertainment company and was responsible for creating many of the processes & procedures required for my department to meet its many deadlines. When I was first hired, chaos reigned… my predecessor lacked my organizational capabilities & production experience. I spent my early days putting out fires in between trying to create some order. I ultimately created a production schedule which detailed the major tasks required to produce each of the company's video releases as well as the deadline for completing each task.
As I had seen first hand how the lack of procedures can impact a company, I have made sure to create procedures as needed so that my approach to clients & running my biz is consistent.
Thanks to Stephanie Shalofsky of The Organizing Zone
5. Nights Out
Particularly if speaking or giving classes is part of your business model, figure out: the number of nights you're comfortable working instead of being with family; whether you'll work with one-on-one clients evenings or only speak; weekends work or not; and how you'll “pay yourself back” that time – to you as an individual or to your family. Decide on your guidelines and stick to them so you have part of your procedures for life balance.
Thanks to Sue West of Space4U Organizing
6. Focus On Customers, Not Tasks
I started my training business almost 25 years ago. One of the lessons I learned early on was that it's easy to be busy and think you are being productive. When I started, it was easy to get side-tracked on tasks. I learned my lesson really quickly. I learned that as a business owner my focus has to be on my customers and sales, not busy work and errands. My success depends on delighting my customers, and earning their repeat business. Today, that's always on the top of my “to-do” list.
Thanks to Peter Coombs of FRONTLINE Training & Consulting
7. Clarity On Services I Offer
Over the years I have been asked to do a variety of things for my clients in addition to my organizing services. Usually I felt obligated to do what they asked because I had not thought through ahead of time how to handle a situation I did not want to do. Some of the many things I have been asked to do are: pick up supplies for a client, shop for them, drop off donations, speak with their spouse about how to clean up their mess, wait 30 min. for them while they are running errands but not charge for that time, to be videotaped during our session, drive them to a coffee shop to get coffee, to give reminder calls before our appointment, to watch their child while they went to pick another child up from school, clean up animal feces, dispose of pornographic material so it wouldn't be found, iron clothes for consignment, host a yard sale for them, move furniture, pack, load, move & unpack boxes, hang curtains, deep clean and clean out a refrigerator. By having a clear set of services I provide, it is easier to respond to unexpected requests.
Thanks to Susan Stewart of Perfectly Placed
8. The Most Important Procedure For Any Service Related Business.
I think the best procedure to have in place is the intake process. Having a phone log to capture all of the callers contact information and details specific to their inquiry are always crucial first steps and need to be consistent and easily repeatable.
Thanks to Maria White of Enuff With The Stuff
9. Market Time – No Matter Your Revenues
I was fortunate enough to have accounts virtually fall into my lap when I first started my business. The heaven-sent stream, though, dried up after a while. I had spent no time marketing in advance of that arid future–because there was no need. Then, when the need arrived, I had no backup plan, no prospect list, and no idea of how to find clients. If I had to do it all over, I'd learn about marketing from the get-go, and would spend time every single week on the go–getting new clients.
Thanks to Marlene Caroselli of Center For Professional Development
10. ICE, ICE, Baby
My business has grown more complex over the years, adding coaching, consulting, and marketing services and tools for professional organizers in addition to hands-on organizing. I started thinking, “What would happen to my business if something happened to me?”
So I created my ICE (In Case of Emergency) procedure list. I typed up everything my hubby would need to do to keep my business afloat (or put it on hold, or shut it down) depending upon the situation. He knows where the list is located, and I update it annually. This simple task has lifted a burden from me, and I highly recommend that all small business owners create their own ICE list.
Thanks to Sara Pedersen of Time To Organize
11. Document Processes And Procedures In Pictures
If today were the day I started my business, I would document my processes, procedures, and unique company style with photos and videos to go along with the written Process & Procedure manual.
Learning new skills by watching videos and interactive Power Point presentations is a widely accepted medium for explaining terminology and techniques – just look at the popularity of YouTube! Photos and videos help to communicate concepts in a way that words alone often cannot, especially when it comes to conveying company style, attitude and expectations to new team members. The addition of visual training elements allow the viewer to learn when it's convenient for them (and the business owner) and the material can be reviewed over and over until the concept sticks.
Thanks to Melinda Anderson of Southern Home Organizers
12. How Much Is Your Time Really Worth?
My first year in business was almost entirely built on referrals. I started out working for people who knew me, then who had perhaps heard of me through a connection. In this context, I found it difficult to set and implement a cancellation policy. I did not want to appear ungrateful for the referrals coming my way, so I overcompensated in flexibility.
This is a cardinal mistake! People respect our time and efforts only as much as we do ourselves.
By their mere existence, boundaries such as a cancellation policy set the foundation for mutual respect between the client and consultant.
I placed the cancellation policy in my contract right above my guarantee. Everyone can at their best, when they know what's expected of them.
Wishing you a meaningful and productive day!
Thanks to Lauren Davidson of ARoundTuit Organizing & Productivity
13. Check The Checklist
If I had it all to do over again, I'd create a phone consultation checklist that included all the essential points I'd want to make to a client even (or especially) if the client didn't inquire about them. For example, while clients will usually ask about price, scheduling or procedures, it's incumbent upon me to volunteer information regarding how my cancellation policy works, whether I'll call to confirm appointments and what payment types are acceptable.
By creating an intake sheet in checklist form, you can remember to ask all the essential questions, detail and clarify policies, and make notes on the prospect's comments (whether they are red flags or merely useful tidbits). Before you hang up, make sure that every item is checked off to ensure the consultation is complete.
Thanks to Julie Bestry of Best Results Organizing
14. Get It Right The First Time!
I own two businesses – my consultancy and an e-tailer of kayaking gear. The latter, Outdoorplay, migrated to a cloud-based software package called NetSuite in early 2010. From the very beginning we required everyone to document the various business processes they learned about the NetSuite system. Google Docs was used to share the process sheets amongst ourselves. Now, one year later, we have a complete library of How-Tos on almost every feature we use in NetSuite.
So, when we hired a new employee recently, we had her review the applicable process sheets before digging into the software. Then, while she was coming up to speed, she referred to the process sheets to guide her way. The net results were faster learning and fewer questions to be answered by others = 2x productivity!
Thanks to Paul Burton of QuietSpacing
15. Adding Structure To Your Growing Business
The one key document I would create in the beginning of any business would be an Organizational Flow Chart.
Mainly because as your business grows you’ll want to delegate less favored tasks so you can do more of your best work.
Creating a chart takes a small amount of time. It’s just a flowchart, which provides a clear visible outline of the roles performed in the business, from the top down.
In return for this effort you’ll have a good sense of how departments and future staff will interact with each other. Identifying decision-making processes and determining distribution of authority.
At first, the chart may look like mine did, with my name in every box! But over time, your business will grow and so will the list of names.
Thanks to Michelle Panzlaff of Tidy Tiger Solutions
16. Blueprint Your Business!
I would take my business more seriously from the start! I was so excited to be doing something I love and no longer practicing law that I think I did not see myself as a “real” entrepreneur early on. As time progressed and I realized I was a “real” business owner, I started implementing business systems and that made a huge difference. It also caused an important mindset shift where I started seeing myself as an entrepreneur and, therefore, so did others. We often start our businesses because we love doing the technical skill, but that is not enough. We are also a business owner. I wish I had seen that from the beginning as I would have taken myself much more seriously.
My recommendation is to treat your business as a “real” business from the beginning. Put all of the operational procedures in place that you need to in order to have the business run like a well-oiled machine. Obtain proper insurance coverage, create a business structure that matches your needs, and protect yourself and your business through smart use of intellectual property, such as trademark and copyright. Start by “blueprinting” your business little by little and, over time, you will have an operations manual and proper protections in place so that the business runs and grows like a powerhouse!
Thanks to Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC
What Would You Do?
If you were able to start all over again, what processes and procedures would you make sure to put into place right away and why?
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