I’ve written about the sleep inducing powers of talking about systems and process before. It's something I've encountered the whole of my career - tell someone they need process in their business and their eyes glaze over. Ask them what they want to fix though, or what's holding them back, and they get a whole lot more animated. In 90% of those conversations, the answer to their problems or the thing that will get them unstuck is... you guessed it... a process.
There are three key processes that every business needs. The don’t need to take up huge amounts of time and if you implement and follow these three processes consistently, not only will you have a more profitable and sustainable business, you will also feel more sane and have more time for the good stuff like strategy and, well, the odd day off perhaps!
The key is to strike the right balance and use any process in business as an enabler, not as the end game itself. This is the secret to staying agile, maintaining your creativity and not feeling as though you're drowning in corporate nonsense.
None of these three things is rocket science, but don't let that fool you, they take discipline and focus to get started and make a habit of....
A process for tracking the numbers
I’m yet to come across a start-up or small business where all the numbers that matter are being tracked ALL the time. Looking into the numbers, both financial and non-financial, is often something that’s done sporadically or when looking for the answer to a problem.
The only way to feel confident about how your business is performing and whether you are going to achieve your goals is to review the numbers at least once a month. This will tell you what’s going on in your business and allow you to spot patterns and pick up things that need to be fixed.
The main things to track are sales, profit and cost. When I say track, I mean that you should be looking at how these things are performing vs. your targets or goals, working out why they were worse or better and creating an action plan based on any differences. If it sounds simple, it is, but you’d be surprised by how many companies, both big and small, don’t do this well.
A process for planning
When you’re in start up mode you try to find a way of doing everything. Everything that’s going to make your sales line increase. When you’re in the growth phase and trying to create structure and a feeling of sustainability, you need to be more structured. You need to be able to plan and prioritise.
Planning, however simple, is the most effective way to ensure you hit your goals. Whatever it is you want to achieve – break it down, and create a plan to complete each of the things that’s going to get you there. Next, spend some time ensuring it’s going to be possible to complete everything in the given time-frame. If not, you need to prioritise and re-plan to ensure you can do everything you need to do. Talk to the people that will be involved and make sure you, and they, know what the steps are. Then get it done and track your progress along with the numbers so that you can re-prioritise and course correct as needed.
A way of talking to the people that matter to your success
Last but not least, you need to have a process for talking to the people who are key to your business success. Give priority to the people that work for you. Far too often the conversations we have with our team are purely transactional, a kind of conversational to-do list, but in order to lead you need to be doing more than this. Your job is to set out the vision and then remove any barriers to the team achieving it. Make regular time for them to share what's standing in their way and then help them.
And don't forget the myriad other people that make up your business ecosystem. Suppliers, customers and strategic partners are all key and communicating with them needs to be something you do consistently, intentionally and regularly. Nothing complicated, just a check in, a reminder of where you are and what you’re trying to achieve. Make sure you’re on their radar, share any issues, check in on any issues they may have, and agree jointly if anything needs to be done differently.
How you make these things work for your own business is down to your own personal style and the dynamics of how you do things but implement all three and I promise you'll find hidden profit, ideas for growth and lots and lots of time.
If all of this sounds daunting, it really doesn't need to be. An outside perspective can often really help you to quickly get to where you need to be. For a free 30 minute consultation on your business book here - https://rebeccamorley.acuityscheduling.com/schedule.php?appointmentType=1939183