How systemising your small business by managing your workflow will save you time, give you control and deliver results that enable growth
Do you spend all your time working in your business, not on your business? Is this because you are too busy to do anything about this? As a business grows, things get more complex and it becomes difficult to keep an eye on everything that is happening. Before you know it, mistakes can be made, things forgotten and you feel swamped. It seems easy if you work alone to not prioritise systems as you are not accountable to others. However, here are a few reasons why clarifying workflow systems are the foundations for building a business of any size:
- A good system guides a business to manage and monitor their activity.
- Systems increase the effectiveness and efficiency of a business.
- Systems take out some, if not most of the risk for you as a business owner, by stabilising your business with proven methods of carrying out your business activities.
- Systems enable you to leverage your time, your effort, your knowledge and your money.
- Your systems will be based around policies, planning and procedures in every part of your business that you (and your staff as you grow) will apply every day.
When a business starts up, you, the business owner can watch everything carefully. Fortunately, when you start up, there is not usually a lot to watch. But this can become a habit that will need to be broken at some stage so your business can grow. It is impossible to maintain this micromanaging as you become busier. You may think it is easier to focus on what you feel most comfortable with and but then your quickly run out of time for what is important.
Business Planning is an important soul searching exercise for the business owner. You really have to be honest with yourself. You need to consider the strengths and weaknesses of your business. It takes time and commitment but it creates opportunities and pathways for your business to grow.
7 Steps to Systemising your Workflow
Identify all your major business systems. These may include Financial, Administration, Operations, People, Marketing and Risk Management systems. Each of these systems can often be broken down into subsystems. For example, your Financial System is likely to include Expenses, Invoices and Financial Reports. In each subsystem, a procedure should be set-up that you will use again and again.
Once you have identified your business systems, create Workflow Diagrams to clarify the procedure for each. This is a set of activities that will accomplish the specific work process. This could be a functional, technical, or a business process and will allow you to understand where you can add most value to your business or where there are gaps.
1. Identify and name a process
This step is clearer if it starts with a verb for example ‘Collect past due payments’.
2. Identify a clear start and end point for the process
Ask yourself: What’s the first activity that happens or what must be true before the process can start? What’s the last activity that happens or what signals that the process is complete?
3. Identify why the process is important
How does the process relate to your business goals? Why must it be done? Recognise what the process will achieve.
4. Clarify the steps for the process
What actually happens between the start point and the end point? Use decision boxes to capture variant flows.
5. Look for patterns
The purpose of the diagram is to streamline a process so it can be carried out consistently. Carefully consider the all main steps that will need to happen to ensure the process is completed.
6. Look for exceptions
What might happen to cause the process to deviate? Include these possibilities as well as possible solutions.
7. Take action
Do you need additional software, knowledge, staff for the procedure be administered? Develop instructions, schedules, forms, checklists etc to assist with the processes.
It is important that once a process is created, you are able to apply it effectively and if you have any staff they also understand the procedure. If the system is not followed, you don’t have one. However, remember that all systems need to be continually and regularly reviewed, update and improved to best manage the business direction and needs. You also need to be flexible to changing circumstances.
How have business systems helped you to grow your small business?