Making an investment in processes and procedures will pay off over the life of your business, says Donna Stone of Stone Consulting.
It’s a fact! That a business will sell easier and for a high price if there are documented systems and processes in place. Why do you think that franchising often works and is so popular? It’s, amongst other factors, about having a clearly written document that outlines how things are to be done. So, why are there a good number of business owners that just don’t see the value of this? Why would you leave the success of your business to random chance, good luck or a casual and unplanned process? Here are some points to get you started:
- Have a Client Agreement/Terms & Conditions/Contract with your customers – this ensures there is total transparency and they know what they can expect from you and what’s expected from them. Being clear up front, removes the squabbles and disputes down the track.
- Have the above for your staff too! Don’t assume they know they shouldn’t give your client list to your competitors – put this (and other facets) in writing and have them sign the acceptance.
- Have a staff induction checklist, everything from showing them where the toilet is, or the process on how they ask for annual leave. Ensure you also write down their duties and tasks as a Position Outline – so it’s clear what they are to do. Ideally, Position Outlines should be provided at interview.
- Have a procedural manual. This should cover all aspects of your business including Administration, Sales & Marketing, Production, Operations and Finance. Yes, this is a huge task, but the sooner you start the sooner it’s in place. This document is fantastic when inducting new staff – you simply show them once AND give them the written instructions – a way to better assure things are done in the way you want them done, or which has been proven successful.
- Have checklists. If you have a process or procedure – then having a checklist (or process) will ensure tasks are done in the same consistent manner. Don’t leave the success of your business to something as casual as whether a team member happens to remember a step – or not.
- Don’t forget your legal responsibilities, such as WH&S. Do you have a WH&S Plan to ensure your staff is safe. This isn’t just for the building industry – every workplace should have one for their staff. I even have one for my bookkeepers in my office – office staff can have instances more serious than a paper cut – ensure your staff know how to keep safe.
- Have a business and marketing plan. Remember the expression “businesses don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan”. Don’t fail. The critical value of a business plan is not just preparing a document (for example for your bank or financier) and then leaving it on the shelf. The value is in the activity. In looking at the strengths and weaknesses of your business (and working out how to maximise the strengths and minimise the weaknesses) and also to review your opportunities. And don’t forget the threats to your business. Look at this objectively and if you can implement a system to protect your business from these to a degree, or how you would recover from this, then so much the better. It’s the process of review (and often the opportunity to then improve) that is most valuable. But remember, don’t just do it and leave it on the shelf. Review it regularly and update it.
- From a QA perspective, even if you don’t have full QA processes in place, do you at least have some aspects of one? When stock or materials arrive, does someone check all are received in good order? Do you have a Purchase Order system? Do you randomly self-audit your business to see that things are being done well? Do you even ring your own business to see how your staff answer calls? If they might recognise your voice, get a friend or associate to pretend to be a prospective customer and see how your staff perform.
Yes, we are in a GFC and whilst some businesses are not doing so well, others are remaining very strong. If having systems, processes and planning make a stronger business – then you would bet that those which are remaining strong in a GFC are the businesses which do all this. They are strong because they don’t leave their success to fate, luck or chance. Think you can’t afford to setup processes – how can you not? Just start with one document – type it up and start growing the collection – it won’t happen overnight, but stick to it and you’ll be seeing the benefits soon enough.
Donna Stone is the founder of the multi award winning Consulting & Bookkeeping business Stone Consulting which provides solutions on MYOB, QuickBooks, Xero and Cashflow Manager. Donna is also the author of Stepping Stones to Business Success – a book of over 200 tips on how to succeed in business, borne of over 25 years experience working with businesses. Learn more at
© Donna Stone, 2011