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!