Leadership Tips to Systematize Your Business

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At some point, every business must impose a systematic structure on its operations or risk losing untold amounts of time and money on inefficiency and lapses in productivity. Having systems in place not only guards against these negative factors, it helps businesses expand with fewer difficulties because everyone in the organization understands how things get done and who the ultimate customer or end-user is.

“Anything performed in your company at least twice needs a proven system,” notes efficiency expert Nancy Gaines. “Anything performed three times or more should be automated.”

Low-level business systems that get repeated (and should therefore be automated) range from lead generation and social media marketing to client onboarding, employee recruiting and inventory management. High-level areas that cry out for more detailed systematizing, Gaines says, include sales, marketing, HR functions and front- and back-office activities.

How should you as CEO or business owner get the systematizing process rolling?

Identify and evaluate all existing systems. Instruct a key team leader to compile a list of all existing business operations with the goal of asking fundamental questions about each one:

  • Why does this system exist?
  • What specific purpose does it serve?
  • What challenges does the system overcome?
  • How does it contribute to the growth of the business?

Get your employees involved. For many, if not most, business operations, your employees are the ones who know “how things work.” As part of the systematizing (or mapping) process, involve them in identifying issues that prevent a smooth running of the business, such as paperwork bottlenecks or procedural roadblocks. This information is crucial for improving business systems.

Ask employees to identify and record daily, repetitive tasks for one week. A compilation of all employee records of their week’s activities should give you a clear idea of where they all fit into the bigger picture.

Pinpoint customers and end-users for all systems. No matter what the process or system is, there should always be an end-user in mind–customers (internal or external) or vendor. A system that has no such end-user is a good candidate for elimination. It follows, therefore, that individual employees or a team should know precisely what that end-user wants (quality of product/service, turnaround or delivery time, etc.), in order to provide better service.

Identify which systems aren’t operating efficiently. In most businesses, certain processes consume the most time, money and employee effort. When these systems are dysfunctional, this consumption is far out of proportion to the return on investment. (This is especially true if the business owner or CEO is continually called upon to intervene and “repair” the situation.) Any such broken system is a good place to start the comprehensive systematizing process.

Document high-end systems. Some attempts at systematization get bogged down in the effort to document all systems within the company. Generally speaking, this isn’t necessary for low-level operations and automated functions. Instead, focus on thoroughly documenting your high-end systems (sales, employee recruiting, inventory management, etc.), so that everyone involved understands the most efficient way to achieve objectives in these areas.

You’ll find this particularly helpful when introducing new employees to the process. Detailed documentation removes the time-wasting component wherein people keep asking questions about process and procedure, instead of actually getting the work done. With documented procedures, the learning curve is much quicker.

Businesses that systematize their operations and eliminate “broken” ways of doing things are better positioned for growth than their less-organized competitors. And they’ll likely outperform in key areas such as product quality and consistent customer service.

Want more advice on systematizing your business or sales and marketing or general advice from other business owners like you? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!

 

5 Steps to Boosting Your Company’s Approach to Quality

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What sets you apart from your competition? Chances are, one key differentiator is the quality of your products or services. Even in an era where quality is supposedly a “given,” your customers nonetheless value your offerings because of their consistently high quality. They have attained that special status of “repeat customer,” knowing they can depend on you to provide only the best for their money.

But even great companies experience low points from time to time. Or—if you’re engaged in a start-up or other early-phase business—quality can sometimes be an issue. If so, taking key action steps can correct the problem and help solidify your reputation and high-standing in the marketplace. Such action steps include:

1. Document how things get done. For many small businesses, growth occurs organically and the business owner doesn’t ever get around to documenting essential processes. But the more customers you take on, the more important it is to ensure things are done right, every time, and that’s only possible if there’s a standardized, documented path to production and distribution. This is even more urgent if your business is subject to any sort of state or federal oversight (like OSHA).

2. Incorporate testing at the start of the process, not at the end. Discovering a quality issue at the end of the manufacturing (or customer service) process is often too costly or damaging for an easy fix. That’s why iterative testing is so important. Problems that arise at any stage of the testing cycle should be addressed as soon as possible. By immediately resolving issues related to either quality or a defect in production, you can save significant time and resources over the long run.

3. Correct quality control issues without casting blame. Sometimes, in the course of doing his or her job, an employee is first to spot a quality issue within the organization. Unfortunately, there are times when a company is reluctant to acknowledge the issue, whether due to constraints involving time or resources and instead chooses to “blame the messenger.”

To better ensure quality, the opposite approach is preferable. “Companies are all too often surprised when they routinely chastise people who raise quality concerns and then find that people hide these issues,” note management consultants Doug and Polly White. The key is rewarding employees “who identify quality issues, don’t punish them.”

4. Train employees to focus on quality from day one. Not all employees understand their individual role in ensuring the quality of your products or services. But they’re often the ones best positioned to pinpoint quality issues or other shortcomings in various systems—if they’ve been trained (and empowered) to prioritize and identify those issues.

A focus on quality can be incorporated into employee training from their first days on the job. Look for ways to share details of the history of your business, emphasizing how valuable it’s been for employees to determine where shortcomings or obstacles have undermined product (or service) quality. Make sure your employees, both veterans and new hires, understand how attention to detail in their daily jobs has a direct impact on the company’s overall success.

5. Look to your customers for feedback and insights. Quality-conscious businesses actively solicit feedback from their customers. Whether through surveys, focus groups or personal interaction, check in with your valued customers and ask them to describe the quality and consistency of their experience with your business. If problems seem to repeatedly crop up, it’s safe to say there’s an issue with quality that should be addressed and resolved ASAP.

As small business coach Melinda Emerson says, “Consistency and quality walk hand-in-hand. Without consistency, quality doesn’t matter because your customers won’t know what to expect.”

Want more advice on boosting quality or general advice from other business owners like you? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!