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We have two weeks left in 2016. I don’t know about you, but this year has flown by. Now is the time to start building momentum for 2017. Before the holidays really take hold, I am looking over what all has happened over the last 12 months, and I want to give you some tips on how you as a small business owner can evaluate and improve your practical processes for the new year.
1. Analyze your day-to-day operations and procedures manual - Though surprises always reveal themselves in sometimes inconvenient ways, your business maintains a level of routine. If you run a small business, you may have an easier time adjusting this routine than a larger corporation. If you have hourly team members, evaluate your scheduling practices to see if you utilize their abilities efficiently (i.e. seeing if a shift requires two people or four people for optimal customer service). If you have more of an office environment, look at how you can improve your task management system or if you can implement a regular meeting format. Keep a monthly journal of how each change provides or detracts value, so you can have something to review at the end of next year.
2. Get all your financial statements prepared for tax season - The first of the year can be incredibly hectic and stressful as you try to navigate new procedures, new hires or new clients. In addition, you need to take care of your employees and provide them their tax documents by the end of the month. Instead of letting everything build up, why not start taking care of those responsibilities now? Enlist the help of your in-house accountant to verify everything is correct. If that option is not available, plenty of outside resources exist specifically for this purpose.
3. Know how you will expand your brand and profit in the next year - Hopefully, you set some marketing and sales objectives at the beginning of this year. If so, use these last few days to truthfully evaluate your successes and failures. Even if you missed some opportunities, include them in next year's list. Plan out your marketing budget and include a portion for digital strategy, website development, email marketing and social media. Develop a content calendar and stick to it. Set up quarterly meetings to check on the analytics and progress of these initiatives. If you have a customer or client mailing or email list, send them a Christmas card and include an end-of-the-year survey that asks for feedback on how to provide better service in 2017.
4. Discover more about your team - Your team is the heartbeat of your company, so decide on ways to help them feel valued on a daily basis. Engage them with a year-end review, help them find and schedule professional development training or conferences for the new year, throw a Christmas or New Year's Eve party and if you can afford it, a Christmas bonus. January 1st marks a fresh start and you want to have everyone on the same page and buzzing with excitement.
Creating an efficient procedures manual can be a daunting task, but a creative one at that. It's definitely worth it if producing precise instructions allow you to step away and know all that is needed is within the manual.
Here are some tips:
1. Start a list/log for all activities - It is not easy to remember every step that you take to accomplish a task. Carrying a list or log in which you can notate steps as they arise will help exponentially later. Write down the explanation of the task, how long it should take and what tools you may need. Do this for approximately one month. After this period, you should have a good idea of what needs to be documented.
2. Begin documenting the actual full procedure - Understand why this procedure is important, clarify all the departments, people and other procedures it affects, recognize all those that need to participate in the procedure and make a list of all the tools needed.
3. Present your content in visually enticing ways - If applicable or necessary use pictures or graphics to help explain and elaborate on your procedures
4. Embrace the power of checklists – Checklists are my favorite tools; they are very helpful in a manual so that someone coming behind you can mark off each step after they finish. To ensure efficiency, be sure to include the specific action steps. If you add any notes within each action step use a different color or font. If other people are named within the action steps use their titles or department names because people come and go. Make sure the action steps are in the proper order to complete the procedure.
5. Don't forget these important "other items" -
A. Table of Contents – use this page to locate the exact procedure that you need to reference.
B. Contacts – keep a page that is frequently updated with names and numbers of others that can assist the person trying to step in
C. Templates – create templates for forms or action lists so they can be easily updated and replaced.
We love discussing the practical processes you need for running a successful company or small business. Now I want to give you a quick list of tools that have helped me and that I believe could work wonders for your company in maintaining your practical processes.
Email - serves as your main source of initial and continuous contact between you, your clients, your staff, your vendors and more. I recommend email services such as Outlook or Gmail.
– lets you schedule your emails for maximum communication efficiency. Dropbox – safely stores all your documents. You can share files and also have access across all devices. Google Docs – gives you the benefit of making changes in real time. Doodle – helps with arranging and scheduling meetings with more than two people. Join.Me – allows free server and screen sharing. Conference Calls – provides an easy dial-in number for participants in different cities and countries. Try Uber Conference or Freeconference.com. Buffer – aids in publishing content across several accounts. Feeling overwhelmed by keeping up your social media pages? Can’t
afford to pay a social media expert? Try Buffer. CRM (Customer Relations Management)- helps small businesses and solopreneurs track all your client/customer information. Zoho
or Streak (a Google app inside Gmail) are both good options. Evernote – provides an easy, searchable system for keeping notes. Shoeboxed – keeps receipts and creates expense reports. One of my favorite applications. Let us know in the comments which tools you use for your business!
Boomerang – lets you schedule your emails for maximum communication efficiency.
Dropbox – safely stores all your documents. You can share files and also have access across all devices.
Google Docs – gives you the benefit of making changes in real time.
Doodle – helps with arranging and scheduling meetings with more than two people.
Join.Me – allows free server and screen sharing.
Conference Calls – provides an easy dial-in number for participants in different cities and countries. Try Uber Conference or Freeconference.com.
Buffer – aids in publishing content across several accounts. Feeling overwhelmed by keeping up your social media pages? Can’t afford to pay a social media expert? Try Buffer.
CRM (Customer Relations Management)- helps small businesses and solopreneurs track all your client/customer information. Zoho or Streak (a Google app inside Gmail) are both good options.
Evernote – provides an easy, searchable system for keeping notes.
Shoeboxed – keeps receipts and creates expense reports. One of my favorite applications.
Let us know in the comments which tools you use for your business!
We present to you a visual representation of last week's blog post on raising the bar with your practical processes at your small business. If you
have any questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org
No sooner do businesses open their doors or offer services and they are already looking to the future growth and scale of the business. Most likely the owner/founder is aware of all the responsibilities and tasks that need to be managed. They may even delegate some of these responsibilities. As they look to future growth they may also look into financing. All of these are important to a strong business, however, to have a strong foundation built for that business is best. Remember that your company will never grow to be bigger than the strength of its practical processes.
Solid processes offer a systemic approach to operating the business as well as a more organized business creating less chaos at growth time. Here are a few steps to creating a process for each area of your business.
1. Better out than in
Get all of that information about your business and how to run it out of your head and down on paper or recorded digitally. Include everything that you can think of to establish the basis for a manual format (this will serve as your company’s operations manual).
2. Start things right on Day One, not later
Think back to Day One. Think of of the steps/procedures it took to get the business running (most importantly, the procedures that are done regularly and that are vital to the business). You need to refer back to your Day One philosophy on every procedure.
3. Shadow yourself
Start writing down every literal step you take a given day running the business. Take time to “shadow” yourself; it will be frustrating but well worth it. An intern can also help you establish these processes. Hiring someone who is interested in your type of business creates a win-win situation.
4. Fear the worst, Hope for the best
Think of any possible problems that could come up, identify those specific to your company and develop a process for dealing with them. Include these issues and concerns in your eventual Operations Manual.
5. Ask for help
If you are a solopreneur, ask a friend that you know will provide sound, objective advice; if you have a manager or employee ask them to review the information you have and provide feedback. It is possible that you missed something or they may have information to add.
6. Sharing is caring
Create and share your processes or the full Operations Manual you have now created. If you are a solopreneur you will now be ready when growth happens.
Operations Management, Sales & Marketing, Financial Management and Talent Management are the four practical processes your business needs to establish
from the beginning. See above for how these apply to your company and email email@example.com if we can help you in any way.
In any Small Business, there is a prevalent set of business processes that must exist for a strong foundation. These practical processes provide more than a set of rules for you and your employees, but help create and solidify the consistency, efficiency and innovation of your company.
Here are four essential examples.
1) Of course the goal of a business is to make money; therefore, you need a strong process for your Financial Management. The size of your small business/solo venture will determine how extensive this will need to be. Take the initial steps of setting up a company
bank account, ordering a company credit card, choosing your bookkeeping software, creating a budget and documenting your financial procedures.
Using the right technology combined with the right professionals allows you to automate this process for the most accurate results, and knowing
the amount of assets, liabilities and equity your company has equips you to make smarter financial decisions.
2) In order to keep the cash flowing, every business needs to utilize a Sales & Marketing process
to keep their name in front of potential clients/customers and service then in good standing. Develop your brand through a mix of traditional approaches
and digital practices with a decidedly personal touch; your customers and clients want to know that they matter and that the information you provide
benefits them beyond the product or service. For sales, create and maintain a schedule of measurable objectives, goals, benchmarks and checkpoints
along with specific procedures for documenting new and current clients. However, give yourself and your sales staff the flexibility to adjust the
process if something isn’t working.
3) At some point even the solopreneur will find the need for outside help, and for those small businesses that rely on employees, a proficient
process for dealing with Talent Management will help ensure
less problems. If you haven’t already, create an employee handbook and//or specific orientation process for every new hire. Provide opportunities
for professional development and training as often as you can, so that all team members feel invested in the company, no matter how small or large
their role actually is. Have weekly, monthly or quarterly “all-staff” meetings as well as an open door policy for feedback and evaluations. Many
employees desire to know how they are performing in their position, but often feel too afraid to ask.
4) Finally, your company must have an exhaustive Operations Management process that makes everything flow together, bringing all of the above into your products, the who, what, when and even why to your business. Establish essential daily operation policies for employee benefits and sick leave/vacation time, create company objectives and select and cultivate healthy relationships with your vendors. If need be, hire a reliable, coachable and client-oriented operations manager.
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Last time, we provided you a checklist of things to have in place for healthy financial management. This week, we want to continue our discussion on financial health for your business.
Why is it important to know your company’s overall financial health and to do checkups regularly? A good financial process will assist you in making broader financial decisions as well as day-to-day decisions.
Consider the following items when evaluating your company’s financial health:
1) Review your Profit and Loss and Balance Sheet reports – Include any additional key players on your team in these reviews. Be sure they understand these reports so they can offer input.
2) Start all monthly/quarterly meetings with a financial update - This keeps key team members in the know and helps explain targeted goals. Have a consistent time and place as well as know who really needs to be in the room for each meeting.
3) Be aware of Sales Goals and Sales Pipelines - Have these in writing with clearly defined benchmarks. Comparing sales from last year to this year can also help you keep track of any increased revenue.
4) Know the costs for your business - Have an understanding of how your company spends money and where cutbacks may be needed. Refer to your yearly budget and consult experts. Sound financial information is beneficial when you are figuring prices and selecting what vendors you can afford.
5) Continue planning for the future - You want to constantly be innovating new ways to add value to your company and customers. Know your key services and products. Keep track of the ones that are most popular/profitable and analyze why they are successful. Your documented financial management processes can also help you grow your business when you are ready to try new ventures.
Financial Management is an important Practical Process that should not be treated as an afterthought. You should never be haphazard in your planning and strategies because one major error in accounting or sales can deeply impact your company’s past, present or future.
Here are some important facts you should consider for keeping your company financial healthy.
1) Have a specific bank account for your business only
2) Have a one specific credit card for the business only
3) Have a designated software for financial record keeping, i.e., Quickbooks, Freshbooks, etc.
4) Have a designated financial point person. If this is not your avenue of expertise, hire a reliable trustworthy person to assist in this arena.
5) Have a documented financial process in place
6) Have a system for filing financial paperwork
7) Have a budget – this is a crucial step in the planning
Look out for part two of this series later this month.
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