Processes: [Why, what and] how (part 2)
Ok, you've started documenting some of your business processes, now what? I show how to analyse, iterate and delegate them to create the best efficiencies possible. So you can focus on the stuff you're really interested in.
Welcome to process-nerd land. If you haven't read part 1 yet, have a look at that first.
Ok, I've documented things. Now what?
This is where things get really useful. If you've put in the effort to document things in simple terms, you can start analysing them, iterating them and delegating responsibility for them.
This is really just about using the process and considering how well it's working. Some really simple ones don't need changing for months or years at a time, while others are constantly being updated as the team learns new and better ways of working. There is no rule as to how or when you should analyse things. I find it helpful to have 30 mins every few weeks where I just look at which processes I've used in the last little while and how easy / hard I found them to follow. More often than not, I identify a part of a process which isn't working in the moment, when it takes more time than I think it should or I'm getting confused. This is a sure sign that how I'm carrying out the task should change.
I talk about iterating a lot (you'll remember this from my How to Learn Marketing series) but I really believe that this is the biggest superpower of small businesses. You have the ability to iterate on absolutely anything, at any time, as quickly as you like, because you're not bogged down in bureaucracy, internal politics or giant company infrastructure.
Dedicate a bit of time to improving on specific processes that you identified in your analysis. There's always an efficiency that can be created, and those small changes really add up in the longer term. To summarise the update I spoke about in this blog post:
Prospective customer reaches out → Switch focus to New Business mode → 1-2 hours researching to craft an appropriate response → 30 min Conversation about response → 60% conversion rate.
The research phase was taking up time and the conversion rate was ok but not as good as I would have liked. When trying to optimise this I realised that I needed that much time to research and put a good proposal together, but I didn't need to do that so early on. Having a quick conversation with the prospective client was much more useful to find out if they are really engaged, and also gave me a lot more information to research with. So by creating a simple canned response, which takes all of 10 seconds to send back to the enquiry, I was able to cut out time spent on anyone who wasn't really serious about working with us.
Prospective customer reaches out → Canned response → 15 min meeting → Plan time for research → 1 - 2 hours creating a bespoke proposal → 90% conversion rate.
Bear in mind that this is only one aspect of one process. If you can make these small improvements all over the place, pretty soon you'll be saving yourself tens of thousands of dollars worth of time and effort, which can be put into more effective work.
The best thing about having documented processes, especially as sole founder, is that as you start growing, you can easily delegate whole chunks of responsibility quite quickly, because they're not exclusively stored in your own brain (avoiding bottlenecks / gatekeeping of information is a whole other blog post!).
As soon as you make that all important first hire, whether it's a freelancer or a permanent role, you'll have the ability to share the How To guides that person needs to get started, requiring a lot less time for you to personally onboard them. Of course, you still need that in person introduction to the business, and this is absolutely not saying you don't, but these black and white lists provide literal checklists for all members of staff which helps reduce the margin for human error on a whole host of potential tasks.
As people start moving up in responsibility, you can also delegate management of certain processes. So not only do they have access, but it's also their job to keep the documentation up to date and communicate any major changes to those team members who need to know about it.
As with all organisational things, processes don't have to be implemented all at once, but if you can start noting things down as you go from the start, you'll make those all important efficiencies SO much easier later on. Remember that this is really just tactics to ensure you can spend as much time as possible focused on the stuff you're really interested in.
I hope this helps you start centralising your processes so you can get them out of your brain and laid out so they're more useful in future. If you need help getting started or would just like a chat about which processes are important for your business right now, get in touch and let's see if I can help!