Your business seems to be swimming along smoothly. The staff is sufficient to cover the workload, they mostly know what they’re doing, and they get along…usually. Oh sure, there are those days when nothing seems to go well but, every business has those days, don’t they? Of course.
As you look across the office, you realize that you have the full range of employees from great to green. You like them, for the most part, and they seem to like you, even though you’ve overheard some conversations that sounded like grumbling in the hallway. Several of them probably need help to do their job better but, where will you find the time for that? You’ve got bigger fish to fry. You want to figure out a way to take your business to the next level. That’s priority A-Number-One right now.
And then, Josh and Amy blushingly announce that they are engaged to be married, plan to move across the country and both are submitting their 2-week notice. TODAY. The staff is beyond excited and proceeds to plan the celebration party.
What (you gasp)? You didn’t even know they were dating!
Josh and Amy have been with you the longest and have executed almost every function in the shop. The amount of knowledge they have in their respective heads is staggering, and none of it is written down. No one else on the staff comes close to having their skill level. What on earth will you do now?
This type of situation happens every single day in seemingly healthy companies all across the globe. Business owners unfortunately have a tendency to significantly under-value the importance of not only documenting procedures but making them an integral part of the daily process and ensuring that cross-training has taken place. They don’t understand that a weak infrastructure has the power to burn your business to the ground.
Here are some common situations that are currently running rampant:
- Procedures are like tribal knowledge that gets passed by word-of-mouth. You remember the Telephone Party Game? Do I need to say more?
- Processing errors aren’t reviewed, and the solutions aren’t documented, so there’s no way to ensure that they don’t happen again.
- Checks and balances, if they exist, are casually observed and therefore unreliable.
- Communication is ineffective, and the staff is frustrated.
- Errors are too frequent, and there’s no impetus to correct them.
- You’re called out of your office way too often to resolve processing issues.
- The staff has no ownership of their work product and therefore no motivation to do well.
- Absenteeism and turnover are high, and there’s no stability in sight.
Every item on this list has cost associated with it, some of which are higher than you think.
Getting your procedures updated or created from scratch takes a concerted effort, without a doubt, but it is some of the best money you can spend to create a productive, smooth running and proactive organization.
Here’s how it could be:
- All the steps in the daily operation are documented and assigned to the appropriate task owner - consistency.
- These procedures are loaded into an online repository where each step is checked-off by the task owner so that everyone, including you, knows the status of the daily flow - reliability.
- When errors do occur, the staff ensures that the solution is incorporated into the procedures to prevent recurrence - ownership.
- The staff is operating from a common platform making communication clear – continuity.
- The process flow is smoother, faster and you’re seeing the possibility of adding a new product line – scalability.
- Turnover is lower than ever, but when you do bring on new staff, onboarding is a breeze – efficiency.
- You’ve instituted a quarterly or semi-annual process review where you encourage the staff to contribute their ideas for improvement – culture shift.
- The staff is happy, feels they have a voice in the business and enjoys the feeling of having ownership with what they do - effectiveness.
- You have made your standards and expectations clear, and the staff is meeting them – sustainability.
- You, as the business owner, have more time, space and freedom to be the strategic leader you need to be – growth.
That’s a different world. Operating in this fashion is the hallmark of a sophisticated, mature organization that understands its business and the financial benefits of running a smart shop.
As Your Project Planner, I specialize in helping small and medium-sized businesses strengthen their infrastructure so they can achieve the growth goals they envision. I do that by bolstering their Standard Operating Procedures, sorting out their process flows and aligning their business systems so they can operate more efficiently, effectively and profitably.