In today’s episode, we are continuing on the topic of processes in your business and why they are so important. More specifically, we are focusing on operational processes. We are excited to welcome back to the show today, Kim Nixon, Director of Operations for PJS & Co CPAs for this important discussion about procedures and their role in growth.
What we cover in this episode:
- 03:11 – Why are operational processes important?
- 05:40 – Where do you start?
- 11:45 – How do you implement the processes?
Why are operational processes important?
There are many reasons to improve business processes, not the least of which is achieving business goals faster and with more clarity, the ability to scale, and ultimately increase the value of your business. There are primary processes you need to establish in your business and operations is one large area that needs attention.
When we think about the importance of processes in regards to operations, we believe one of the most important things to consider is quality control. By quality control, we mean ensuring all of your clients are treated in the same way that aligns with your company standards. You’ll want to make sure that all communications that come from your company are consistent. The only way to reliably achieve that is to document your procedures and your processes and then train your staff.
Another reason that processes are important, especially if you are in an industry that is heavily regulated, is to make sure you are following all the laws, rules, and regulations that guide your industry. Also included in this reasoning are all the rules and regulations that you’ve set for yourself and your business, and making sure that your team is compliant.
Scalability & Efficiency
A further reason is for ease in scalability as your company grows. As you document more procedures and establish processes, it will increase the speed and ease with which you train new employees as they onboard and learn their role in your business. Having processes and procedures in place and documented improves efficiency in training new hires and keeps your team focused as you grow.
Delegation Allows for Growth
Lastly, established processes allow you to minimize risks and gain continuity in your business as you’re able to delegate tasks more easily. With documented processes and procedures in place that you can easily distribute, train replacements, cover any gaps in staffing and delegate any tasks you may need. We discuss the importance of delegation for the growth of your business in episode #46, which you can revisit if you’re looking for tips on how to do this when you’re running a business.
Where do you start?
As we discussed on a big picture level with Jaime Staley in episode #87: Business Processes, Documentation and Their Role in Growth, it’s difficult as a business owner to find dedicated time to focus solely on your processes and procedures. Kim suggests rather than trying to sit down and list out all of your daily, weekly, monthly, etc. responsibilities, that you complete your workday as you normally would and write down everything you do that day or week in a notebook you keep at your desk.
It can be easy to forget steps or certain business activities if you’re trying to simply list them out. Kim adds, “It might just be best to operate the way you normally operate and just take notes as you’re working, because then as you’re doing things throughout your day, you’re going to have a much more complete idea of the tasks that you’re working on so that you can start with a list of things.”
Once you have a list of all processes, think about the most important processes and tasks you want to address first. What would be the easiest process to move to someone else or to document? Once you have your list, you can then think about the perspective and your audience for the procedures.
You will want your procedures to be easy to follow and detailed enough so that the reader can complete them without any oversight if needed. The level of detail makes a difference, depending on the complexity and needs of your company. You may need to be extra cautious about what procedures cover the whole company, versus what procedures are departmental, for example.
You can also ask your team or departments to assist in documentation by asking them to track and write down what they do on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis, and then all come together to discuss and create your list of the processes that need to be documented. Getting everyone’s insight and including the whole team in the process can be very effective, and may give you a better product in the end than doing all the documentation yourself.
How do you implement the processes?
You may have some documentation already completed, but there are some considerations in business process management before you start implementation. Additionally, there is always room for continuous improvement.
Organizational Structure and Hierarchy
One of the most important things to consider when implementing the processes for your business is to consider the structure and hierarchy in your company. What is the structure of your business? Who reports to who? And who will be responsible for each part of the process?
In every company, there is someone who is responsible for certain aspects of each process, and documenting the hierarchy and responsibilities is key to keeping your company on track and making sure your clients have a smooth experience. Things can go sideways, and cracks can happen when one person or group thinks that somebody else has taken care of it when really that other person or group thought the others were handling it, and no one actually does it.
If you don’t have a clear hierarchy in place about who reports to whom, and there is one person that has multiple bosses, it can get complicated for that individual, and there may be conflicting priorities. Try to break things down by department and have designated decision makers in order to improve efficiency.
Any efficiencies you can adopt in your business will be a benefit to you, and you can save time and potentially cut costs with administrative tasks when you implement the processes and documentation across your departments. One thing we recommend also is to choose your decision makers wisely, and select people you trust and who have the abilities they need to make those decisions in their skillset so you as the business owner do not fall into the trap of having to approve or weigh in on everything.
If your business has a number of manual processes, consider bringing in software that can minimize those and create more efficiencies to eliminate manual work. Anytime you have manual processes, there are many more opportunities for errors.
Consider if there is anything that your team or company is doing that can be outsourced to someone else. For instance, there are many companies that can handle your H/R, payroll or other administrative processes that may be able to alleviate any pain points you may be experiencing in your business.
This could save precious time and money, freeing your team up to do the things that will make a larger impact. You can even hire a company to help you document all of your time and procedures. There are many companies that specialize in this task and can help you write a procedure manual.
Look to Other Companies for Inspiration
You can also reach out to companies that you may look up to, and you can try to emulate their successes. You can reach out to your circle of friends, or your business consultant, to see if there are people they work with that are similar to your business that you can use for inspiration.
Scheduling and Accountability Buddies
Kim stated, ”You may have to assign somebody to be an accountability buddy, as you put it, I call it a babysitter. Sometimes I need a babysitter and I just schedule a time to meet with them every week we’re working on a project. Even if all we’re doing is working on that task during that designated time, we know that project is moving forward and we’re making progress on it.”
She continued, “And eventually it’ll get done. It takes a little bit longer if you’re only doing it on a weekly basis, and only once a week with someone, but it’s better than nothing.” You can also consider hiring someone, say a virtual assistant, or executive assistant to help you execute this.
Get Input From Your Leadership & Team
Your leadership team should be a part of creating and managing the processes within the business. If you try to document it all by yourself without input or buy-in from your leadership team, it may be a tougher road to implementation. If key leadership wasn’t involved, there may be things that you’ve missed. Kim adds, “As good as you think you are, if you have a team of people that are working with you, they know things that you don’t know.”
Don’t forget about your team and department as well. The takeaway is that the more buy-in you have from your team, the more successful those procedures are going to be when implemented. Any collaboration you can get with other professionals, your team, or a business coach, is what will fuel growth in your own business. That collaboration sheds insight from experienced professionals to help you move forward.
When you own your own business, you are handling so many things and may feel you have too much going on to focus on processes and documentation. If your goal is to grow your business and have a consistent voice and level of communication to your clients, documented procedures and processes are a necessity.
When you need to rely on employees and contractors in your company to provide the same level of service to your clients that you would, it’s imperative to put these processes in place. Every part of your business impacts your clients and their experience with your company and this is an important step in ensuring your organizations continues to run smoothly as you grow, when you’re no longer the one completing every task.