Most small business owners have a brain that’s dipped in gold. Not only does it hold the original idea that started the business, but it also has the playbook of how to run their business. The good thing is all the company’s secrets are stored in one place. The bad thing is all the company’s secrets are stored in one place. If you have dreams to scale your business you NEED to get some things documented. You may have already heard terms such as processes, procedures, workflows. We tend to use these terms interchangeably, but are there REALLY differences? The answer may surprise you as a resounding “YES”, but what are they? If you’re ready to take your business to the next level, grab some coffee and a notebook—you don’t want to miss out on this!
Some people cringe when they hear the word “process” but really, it’s not as painful as most of us make it. So let’s start simple. A process is a “bird’s eye” view of a particular part of your business. Most big corporations use organizational charts or a decision tree to show a process. An organizational chart shows the chain of command and the functional relationships within a company. Notice that details such as job descriptions are NOT included, the chart does not explain the logistics of HOW everyone gets their responsibilities completed.
A great example of a process is: preparing a dinner party.
The process would look something like this:
- Meal Plan
- Purchase food
- Prepare Dinner
- Eat dinner
- Clean up the kitchen
As you can see, the process is the high level. It shows the major steps, but it doesn’t go into the nitty-gritty of how to do each step.
So now that we have a process, let’s look at the steps or details also known as procedures.
If you have ever started a new job, MOST of the time you are given ‘job training’ -During the training, you are taught procedures on how to successfully complete your responsibilities. Great companies have figured out that documenting these procedures allows the same training to occur for each position. If you have a business, you want to incorporate the same principles so that you can have confidence in the case of extended absenteeism or in case you are going to an exotic island for 10 days and need your business to be consistent and run like clock-work.
Back to our example, above we have listed five processes so we need to have at least five procedures. For the sake of time, let’s focus on ONE process: ‘prepare dinner’. In order to prepare a meal, most of us follow a recipe/procedure. A recipe/procedure allows us to use the same amount of ingredients, prepare the dish in the same steps and cook at the same temperature to deliver a dish that tastes the same every single time. If we deviate from the procedure, the dish will taste different. Sometimes it can be an improvement; other times, it’s not. Following the same procedure allows us to be consistent. You have taken the time to record the recipe so that anyone can follow it and produce the same result every time. Since we are probably having more than one item for dinner, we need a procedure/recipe for EVERY ITEM we serve. If we are having meat, two vegetables, bread, dessert, that’s five procedures within the process of meal preparation! We also need to include the procedure of how we want the place setting at the table. As you can see, ANYTHING you do is a procedure and should be documented, especially if you want it to be a certain way. We all know that there are several ways to prepare the same dish. Since it’s YOUR dinner party or YOUR business, you get to choose how it is done in YOUR organization!
A workflow is a tool (or series of tools) that allows you to automate and track the process and procedures we have discussed. Tracking your orders allows you to know and understand where your client’s or your projects are within your process. Let’s go back to our example of the dinner party and apply some automation. Using an online grocery shopping application you can automate some steps in the procedure of ‘purchasing food’. You can further automate the workflow by having the groceries delivered. You triggered the workflow by selecting the items you wish to purchase, but several steps happened without YOU actually doing it. By ordering your groceries and having them delivered to, you leverage your time, which allows you to focus your efforts on other areas at the same time thereby being more productive.
Automating workflows can be a little tedious; it takes time to draw out your process(es) and even more time to document procedures. But once you nail it down, finding the right tool/app/software is the easy part. Understanding your process and procedures also helps you determine the features you need in a tool.
To reiterate – documenting is the first step of taking your business to the next level. Carve out some time to document your process. If you have more than one – document one process at a time. Then, commit to documenting a procedure on regular bases. Once you have everything documented we can look at some automation! Bottom line: Don’t become overwhelmed by this journey. If the thought of going through these steps keeps you up at night or if you find yourself procrastinating, let’s connect. While we can’t automate EVERYTHING, wouldn’t it be nice to know that while you are taking a day off, you can rest easy that when someone contacts you via your website, an automated workflow can take your prospective client through the first three steps before you get back to work mode?
Here’s a tip: To grow your business, you want your business to run and thrive without you doing every single task! If you are overwhelmed, feeling stuck or simply do not have time, I would love to hear from you. Let’s connect to see exactly where you are and where you want to go! Email me HERE!