Is Your Business Running You?
By Dave Lavinsky
Remember how good it felt to start your own business? You were going to manage your own time, be your own boss, and answer only to yourself, right?
Have your dreams of playing golf at the 3 o’clock in the afternoon vaporized under the pressure of answering client calls, paperwork, estimates, business meetings, accounting, payroll, and on…and on…and on…?
If you have been transformed from the master of your destiny to a slave of the trade, then something is very wrong. Your existing business processes are shackling you rather than serving you.
It’s time to stop, analyze, and intelligently systemize your business.
Make The Time
You can scream, shout, and kick that you don’t have time to do this, but in the end, you are only hurting yourself. First, lack of enjoyment in your work is a fast track to disease. Weight gain, depression, ulcers, and heart attacks can all be instigated by stress.
Secondly, is this why you started your own business, so you can slave drive yourself? No, this isn’t how it was supposed to be and it can change. You owe it to yourself. Besides, it’s easier than you think.
Step 1: Document Your Processes
While this step isn’t necessarily difficult, it can be time consuming. There is no way around it; you have to know what you are doing so you can a) improve what you are doing and b) teach someone else to do it.
There are a lot of fancy process mapping techniques and software programs. A Google search will put dozens of them at your fingertips. You can use any one of these that feel comfortable to you, or you can keep it simple and document your processes in numbered steps or hand drawn flowcharts.
To save time, you could ask one of your employees to document your processes, or hire a college student or temporary personnel to help you.
Step 2: Improve Your Processes
Once you have documented all your processes, study them carefully. Look for those following issues that can flag areas that need improvement:
Is there duplication of efforts?
Are there bottlenecks?
Are there delays?
Is there only one person who knows how to complete a certain process?
Is it a purely manual process?
Is there a customer-impacting issue?
If there are issues with any process that negatively impact the quality of your customer’s experience, fix that issue first.
Then tackle the “low-hanging fruit.” These are issues that are fairly simple to resolve and add time back into your day. Move on to tougher issues and continuously improve the issues you’ve identified.
Pay particular attention to processes that are currently only done by one person. What if that person quits without notice? Redundancy is critical to business continuity.
May sure at least two people know how to perform every process in your business, or that the process is so well documented, that someone else can do it well by following the written instructions.
Step 3: Automation, Automation, Automation
Location may be the key to real estate success, but the key to process improvement is intelligent automation. What is being done manually that you know can be automated?
For example: payroll, inventory, customer contacts, invoicing, staff scheduling, etc? There are many free and low cost automated software solutions to tedious, time consuming work processes.
List your manual processes in order of priority and begin automating the ones that you can easily convert and give you the most time back in your day. Remember that even if a process is automated, it still needs to be documented. The more processes you have outlined in writing, the easier it is to train others and delegate.
Put It All Together
By following these steps, you will have a complete set of efficient and documented business procedures. You will be able to unshackle yourself from the business by delegating repetitive or low value functions to others.
One trick to help you know when to delegate versus do it yourself is to compare it to your hourly worth. If you are worth $60 an hour, apply that to every task. Would you pay someone $60 an hour to clean the office bathroom? No? Then maybe it’s time to delegate that to a staff member or outsource it to a lower cost service provider. That frees your time to work on revenue-producing activities.
Remember you are the captain of the ship. You are needed at the helm building relationships with lucrative clients, not in a back office ordering ink for the printer (a process that you can automate!).
Take your place at the helm this year and experience the difference for yourself.
Dave Lavinsky is President of Growthink and creator of the Million Dollar Exits training program.