As a business owner, you wear a lot of hats in your business. You aren’t just the CEO, but rather . You make strategic decisions about branding, messaging, budgeting, team building, and more. But, even if you’re a solopreneur, the reality is that you don’t have to do it alone.
By developing systems in your business, you can effectively streamline every process that takes up valuable space and time. From how you onboard and offboard a client to how you ship a product, systems take the guesswork out of your work and, in some cases, even do the job for you. Ultimately, systems will help structure your business so you can do more with less brain power. Sounds enticing, right?
Now, I’m willing to bet you already have certain systems in your business. Whether they’re optimized to simplify your life is another story, but you likely have specific processes that run like clockwork. Consider how you:
- Respond to inquiries
- Create and send proposals and contracts
- Accept payments
- Organize client information
- Develop content for social media
There’s a good chance you have some systems in there. You aren’t recreating the wheel every time you take a payment or welcome a new client into your brand experience. Systems tend to develop naturally over the course of a business, but that doesn’t always mean that they are as efficient as they could be.
In other areas, you really might be scraping together the pieces every time. How does that help you in your business? Furthermore, how does that help your client?
Creating new systems and revamping existing ones follow a similar four-step process: Audit, Research, Implement, and Evaluate. Let’s break each of these steps down so you can start getting your systems in order today.
You know what they say: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” This rings true when it comes to your business operations, but that leads to the big question: How do I know if it’s broken? Before overhauling your business, take some intentional time to look at your current systems and processes under a microscope to identify where it flows and where it’s blocked.
Start with your administrative responsibilities since that tends to be the area that bogs down creativity the most. There’s nothing like an hour’s worth of emails or a spreadsheet of numbers to suppress your genius. What are the repetitive tasks that must be completed but make your eyes roll into the back of your head? Where are you spending more time than necessary? Here are some suggestions:
- Responding to emails
- Creating and sending proposals, contracts, and invoices
- Scheduling meetings and appointments
- Organizing your filing system
- Collecting receipts and tracking expenses
- Managing regular client communications
Now, move onto the more focused tasks that are specific to your clients. Consider these questions, adjusting them as needed for your business model:
- What does client onboarding and offboarding look like?
- How do you ensure a consistent client experience?
- What are your shipping procedures?
- How do you request and gather feedback?
Then, set your signs on your creative process:
- What are the steps you must take to bring a project to fruition?
- Do you have a structured workflow to ensure you meet deadlines?
- Are you blocking time to work through your projects?
- Is anything preventing your productivity?
By the end of this brainstorming exercise, you should have a clear idea of the systems that are operating smoothly, those that need some love, and the areas that never had a system in the first place. That leads us to the next step: research.
You know what you need to fix, so now you need to figure out how to solve it. In many cases, you can find online, cloud-based software that can bridge the gaps in your business.
In today’s market, you have many options to sift through to find the right fit. Be mindful of the must-haves for your ideal system and keep looking until you find the perfect solution for your needs. It could be a robust customer relationship management platform (CRM), or it may be as simple as an appointment scheduler that syncs with your calendar. You know how you operate best, so find a solution that matches your work style.
For other tasks, you may not need any fancy software at all but rather a shift in procedures and mindset. Perhaps you start blocking out time on your calendar or adopting the technique for time management, which limits distractions by breaking your projects down into manageable 25-minute blocks. Maybe you create an out-of-office responder to enhance your client touchpoints. Sometimes, the smallest adjustments to your systems can make the most significant impacts!
If you’re ready for new software, take advantage of the free trial period to ensure it’s a solution that will meet your needs. If it’s more of a shift in standard operating procedures (SOPs), commit to it for three weeks to see if it provides the results you expected. Then, it’s all about implementation.
The implementation stage can be the most exciting experience…or the most frustrating. It can take some time to see real change in your business and, on top of that, you’re learning an all-new process. You have to change your habits, which is never easy!
I encourage you to stick with it for at least three weeks to a month. If you reach the end of that period and you’re not happy with the change, revisit the research stage and see if you had noted potential alternatives that would better suit your needs.
Implementing a new system is challenging on your own, but it can become even more difficult if you have to onboard clients or team members as well. Plan for a soft rollout, letting them know about the transition in advance to set clear expectations. When it comes time to introduce your new system, explain it in detail, open yourself up to answer questions, and assist in getting everyone up to speed.
As time goes on and your new system is adopted as an , you should start to see the results over time. It may even inspire you to adjust some of the other processes in your business to boost productivity. But, first, you must evaluate your new system’s efficacy.
Evaluation should be a part of every system and process in your business, not just the new ones. It helps you be proactive and stay on top of your operations, ensuring that nothing falls into disrepair. Consider your business like a vehicle: You wouldn’t leave it to collect dust in a garage, would you? No, it needs regular maintenance and, in some cases, a little extra fine-tuning to run smoothly.
Of course, if you get a new feature installed in your car, you’ll be keeping an extra close eye on how it performs. Were those new speakers really worth the cost? Is that upgraded engine everything it promised? The same goes for your new systems.
In business, accept that you are always learning. Even after your three-week period is over and you think it’s a fit, pay close attention to your return on investment. Are you really saving all of the time you expected? How have you felt since optimizing XYZ process? Keep this speculative mindset up for six months to a year before filing your new system away as one of the good ones. (Even then, be open to new possibilities!)
The most successful businesses run on a collection of practical, streamlined systems that keep the gears turning, even if you’re out of the office or neck deep in a client project. It’s never too late to kickstart your systems, so go ahead and make an appointment with yourself to put that audit on your calendar!
Looking for more guidance in creating systems that work for you? Connect with Jen to take the next steps to a more streamlined, productive future for your business.
System & Workflow Strategist
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