Few things make a business run as smoothly and sustainably as streamlining your processes. Not only does streamlining things push you to utilize your time, energy, and resources in the most effective way possible, but it also positions your business for attainable growth and scale. Running a solo operation is nice, but so is the ability to add additional staff down the road as you grow and require more man power.
I’ll admit, the prospect of adding additional staff was incredibly intimidating to me in the beginning. One reason for that was my hesitancy to, at least in my mind, relinquish some of the control of every day activities I was so used to owning. The second reason was my concern that the business wasn’t streamlined enough to be able to bring someone on, entrust them with a sizable piece of the operation, and feel confident that all would fall into place and it would move forward smoothly. I was concerned I’d end up spending more time informing someone how to do the tasks I needed help with, than I would have spent simply doing them myself.
So what does streamlining look like exactly? It can mean a number of different things, depending upon the nature of your business and the systems you employ. For example:
- Utilizing a style guide for website updates, email newsletters, or other marketing materials (font colors and choices, structure, general color schemes, imagery, etc.)
- Having a set process for recurring tasks you repeat on a regular basis (weekly, bi-weekly) – things like blog posts, social media, newsletter mailings, and other functions. I try to do most of my social media for about half an hour in the mornings, and I write my blog posts typically every Tuesday and Thursday morning; that way, they’re in my subscribers’ inboxes by noon, and I’m leveraging the best time of day and week for open rates.
- Employing a structured process for dealing with customers – think about things like response time to inquiries, verbiage that you use, guidelines for customer service and resolving issues, establishing boundaries, etc.. I have some verbiage that I typically use and modify when responding to general inquiries – it’s helpful to have a template that I can pull from and customize, versus writing my response from scratch each time. This is helpful when it’s a typical communication, like telling someone where they can view my products and services, what my process looks like, or how to move forward with working with me. Having processes in place to manage the customer experience benefits both you and your customer, by ensuring fair and professional treatment, and making the relationship as seamless as possible.
- Utilizing a reliable payment system that reflects the needs of your business & product – things like the ability to charge sales tax, track transactions, organize and follow up on invoices is important, so you’re not shuffling papers and juggling a mess of client records. Intuit has a great suite of products for this, and I use PayPal for simple transactions.
- Having systems for tracking necessary information such as income, expenses, client project status, marketing efforts, and where your customers are coming from. I utilize a spreadsheet for each of those things, in addition to a backup P&L/financial ledger in QuickBooks for easy analysis and retrieval come tax time. If you don’t have a reliable system for tracking what’s working, what’s not working, and how much money your business is making/spending, you’re setting up yourself up for failure (and insanity)
- Hiring an accountant, lawyer, and any other vendor or professional whose role you’re simply not qualified to do, ’nuff said.
Those are primarily examples of how I’ve streamlined different systems and processes in my business. It’s important to look at your business individually at a high level and understand the daily lifecycle of it – what goes on, what kind of systems do you need in place to keep the ship afloat, to keep customers happy, and to keep growing your bottom line?