If you looked at a business’s structure under a microscope, you would see that it’s made up of a number of processes and procedures that keep it afloat. Just as a cell’s organelles keep it alive, the inner workings of a business are what allow it to be productive and profitable (or hinder it from being so).
Although processes and procedures form naturally, they need mindful attention to be at their best. When you first started your business, you probably had some rudimentary processes that kept you organized. A spreadsheet here and an app there were probably all you needed.
But, as your business grew and you took on more clients, you likely had to upgrade those workflows to accommodate your workload better. For example, a simple spreadsheet may need a more robust solution to streamline your business, or maybe you paid to upgrade an app to a better plan. Business growth seems like an external endeavor, but it’s just as much an internal shift. Your operations must be able to evolve with you.
If you don’t give your processes and procedures the time of day, you’ll find yourself elbow-deep in laborious and wasteful tasks that do more harm than good for your business. Spending time evaluating and adjusting your internal operations is the key to forming a business that runs like a well-oiled machine.
Here are the critical steps to getting your processes and procedures in gear for a smooth and streamlined brand experience from the inside out.
Perform a full audit.
You can’t know what to fix if you don’t know what’s broken (or on its way to breaking). Before taking any steps, sit down and draw out all of your business processes. Here are a few examples that you may have in your company:
● How you respond to new inquiries
● Your sales funnel, from consultation to contract
● How you onboard and offboard clients
● Your marketing workflow
● The way you track expenses and revenue
● How you invoice clients
For each process, write down every step and look for inefficiencies along the way. Are there unnecessary steps? Touchpoints that can be automated? Try to reduce the manual work you must invest in these processes.
Alternatively, is there anything missing in your processes that can make your life easier? For example, you may find that creating an onboarding packet for new clients sets expectations early in the process, so you don’t have to answer as many questions down the line. Building efficient procedures is about looking at the big picture, so keep your sights focused on saving time and enhancing the client experience.
Adopt new systems.
Once you know the processes that need to be optimized, you can start experimenting with systems to address your inefficiencies. In some cases, it may just be a matter of doing things in a different order or skipping over unnecessary steps.
However, for more significant adjustments, I recommend looking to technology to bridge the gaps in your processes. Whether you’re looking to automate your procedures (like sending invoices and collecting payments) or you simply want a better platform to organize manual tasks (like a social media scheduler), digital tools free up your schedule and create consistency in your workflows.
As you explore options, be mindful that it takes time to get used to a new system! It might not feel comfortable after the first day or even the first week. Give it a month and see how it fits into your business; if you’re still not a fan, try out some of the choices on your backup list. Only you know what suits your work style best!
Outsource as needed.
You might need human oversight for some of your processes, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be you. Outsourcing your recurring tasks requires an investment in personnel, but it allows you to delegate without losing a personal touch.
For example, you might find that contracting a virtual assistant helps you create consistency in your inquiry process without sacrificing authenticity. New leads will get responses from an actual, live human — but you don’t have to send emails manually!
If you want to outsource, you’ll have to consider whether you want to hire in-house employees, work with a contractor, or create an internship program. This article lays out the pros and cons of each so you can make a wise, strategic decision.
Set client expectations.
If you’re changing your processes, you will need to be mindful about how that shift will impact your clients. Of course, some adjustments won’t affect them — like if you start outsourcing social media and implement a new system for tracking your budget.
However, if you’re altering your onboarding process or any other client-facing procedures, you will need to walk them through the transition. Then, explain how things will change on their end, setting new expectations for their involvement.
Since your new business processes are intended to simplify and streamline, it should be a welcome change for clients! Show them the benefits of your new way of doing things and let them ask questions to ensure they’re on the same page.
It all boils down to one big truth: If your processes and procedures are broken, your business will break down eventually. Think of it like a car: One broken gasket can cause a mess of trouble, so it’s always best to catch it before it ultimately falls apart. Likewise, regular maintenance of your internal operations will help you detect potential problems before they blow up into catastrophes.
Not sure where to start in optimizing your processes and procedures? Give Jen a call to see how she can help you start putting your business in order with strategies that increase efficiency and boost the client experience.
Jennifer Taylor is the principal of Jen Taylor Consulting, a consulting firm that works with creative businesses of all sizes to implement streamlined workflows and organized systems to find more time and space for business growth and personal development.
System & Workflow Strategist
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