I was speaking today on the topic of business operations, and why having standard systems or standard way of doing things can really help your business grow and help you as the owner, actually work less.
I first realized this shortly after opening my first tearoom and someone asked what our refund policy was. Well at that time we didn’t have one, so I made it up on the spot.
Anyone see the problem with that? Not having one AND not having one written down. Its all about consistency AND others learning ‘how we do things around here’.
It manifested itself again a few years later, when I knew part of adding value to my business was having an operations manual. It's something that has value should you ever sell the business; other people know how to do stuff and you get it out of your head and in to writing in the form of an operations handbook or manual.
But as we know...knowing and doing are two very different things and this massive task called ‘document everything’ had stayed on my to do list for over a year and I had done nothing.
It was only when I was introduced to a book by Sam Carpenter, called Work the System – the simple mechanics of making more and working less, that I finally broke through.
Starting with a strategic objective – which only you the owner/founder of the business can write. This one page summarizes the owners vision, defines what business they are in (and not in), who they provide the service for and in what locations they do it in. It really answers the question – what would the owner do. It sets out who you are as a business and what you stand for and starts to outline your standards in the market place. This is an internal document rather than anything you would use in marketing to the outside world. More of a reference point for each team member to buy in to, so they ‘get it’. In today's world, if you are recruiting millennials, its important for them to know what you stand for.
More importantly, for you the owner, it helps you to get really clear on what it is your business is about and helps you get laser focused. This document is only a page long and should only take about an hour to create.
Then the next level down is your strategic objectives. This talks about 20-30 objectives your business has. How you treat people, how you want clients to treat you, how you expect the team to behave and generally turn up in your business. This might take a bit longer to write and would be 2-3 pages maybe. Again, not a long time, but it allows your team to know what you expect and to be honest, reminds you as the owner how you need to be showing up each day too.
Armed with these two documents, you can then go out in to the business and share this with your team. Then ask THEM to write up their own procedures for the repetitive tasks they do. Systems should be created for any activity that happens more than twice in a year.
This took my business about 3 months to complete this process, but really revolutionized my business. It was unrecognizable. Why?
Because the team knew exactly what was expected of them. And I felt secure in the knowledge that I didn’t have to be in the room, for the business to operate exactly as I wanted it to. It also made me realize that if I saw something I didn’t like or wasn’t done 'as Tina would do it' – then that identified another procedure that needed to be written.
The team loved it because they knew exactly what was expected of them, they could reach for the manual, rather than calling me and they could much more easily train other team members.
This way of creating systems in your business is ideal for growing the business beyond just you, whether you have employees on payroll or if you outsource or use a VA.
Try it - you be so glad you did - just like I was!
Tina Jesson is a serial entrepreneur, business practitioner and business coach, who helps other business owners to develop and grow their businesses by sharing success ideas that have helped her to grow a number of businesses in the travel, hospitality, design and restaurant industries.