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Nostalgia for 80s and 90s culture is all over the internet, especially social media. However, one place this mindset doesn't belong is in your practical processes for your small business or startup.
Certain technologies and ways of communicating may see completely natural to your organization. You may favor Microsoft Word for document creation, PowerPoint for information decks and slides, Microsoft Excel for spreadsheets and analytics presentation, paper memos for important announcements, rolodexes for customer/client information, phone calls for internal office communication and email or flash drives (hopefully not floppy disks) for large file distribution. Below we'll help you bring these processes into the 2010s.
- Documents: Most workers these days have used Microsoft Word as a basis of their office applications, usually learning how to type and compose documents in the software. While this approach may seem logical for one-off information deliveries, you may consider using something like Google Docs as a way to easily distribute the documents and allow for input and changes whenever necessary, especially when the document needs to be checked by multiple people.
- Announcements: On a similar note, physical memos distributed for office announcements wastes paper and clutters desks and trashcans. Email is a more cost-effective alternative for alerting your staff of any upcoming events or policy changes. You can even use a tool like Boomerang to help schedule your emails if you have multiple announcements to make throughout the week or month.
- Client information: You may have a rolodex or even an email address book to keep up with prospects and leads, but oftentimes, that's far from enough to help organize all of your data. Using a customer relationship management (CRM) system allows you to create various accounts and categories for all of the people and clients you meet. You can even track the sales process from initial meeting to closed deal.
- File distribution: Though you can deliver files up to 25 MB in certain email providers, documents and other type of files larger than 25MB would have to be broken up into multiple emails or transferred via a flash drive or external hard drive. By paying a small monthly or annual fee depending on your needs, you can create a Dropbox account. You can decide who has access to your files or just send a link with the ability to download but not edit.
- Presentations, data and analytics: Though PowerPoint and Excel can be crucial business tools, the flexibility that online applications provide should not be ignored. Google's Slides and Sheets can make delivery of these presentations and analytics incredibly easy. As mentioned in many of the above sections, collaborative teams and offices benefit from the ability to review and edit in real-time. You can also access PowerPoint and Excel on the internet via Office365.
- Office communication: Although email seems like big step away from phone calls towards tech-savvy office management, you can go even further by using messaging systems such as Google Hangouts and Slack, which allow you to monitor who is available on your team to talk at any given time. You can also send files and images for immediate download.
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As much as we businesses owners want to be personally involved every single aspect of our company, there eventually comes a point when the business is growing too much for one or a few people. To make sure each part of the proverbial business “ship” is running smoothly, owners and managers must establish efficient procedures, processes and systems.
Here are a few tips on making that happen.
Learning how to balance the operations and sales/marketing of your business with the systems and processes of your business is crucial to establishing a path for future success and growth. Creation, development, auditing, documentation and collaboration represent five steps you can take to make these objectives achievable.
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.
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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Before focusing on elements such as sales & marketing, financial management and talent management and then delegating tasks to those specific departments, a small business owner must understand why an operations manager is so crucial. Operations management sets the tone for the day-to-day tasks necessary for a successful company.
Here are three ways describing how an operations manager is the heartbeat of your small business:
1) Selecting and cultivating relationships with your vendors - No matter how small or large your operation, you will need to contract vendors for office supplies or product distribution. An operations manager will provide you the template for seeking out and using certain vendors, whether that is the schedule for deliveries, certain contact persons or price points for different products.
2. Establishing daily procedures for employees - Your policies and procedure manuals are essential to providing structure within your team. Click HERE for a list of items you should include. The procedures developed by your operations manager can help solidify the practical processes for new hire training, team member absences and more.
3. Creating company objectives - Before releasing your sales and marketing teams out into the world, you must first provide them a series of company-related goals to meet. These team members look to your guidance to provide them with a mission that permeates all their efforts. Your operations manager can help clarify what is needed for the next month, six month or 1-year period.
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As job satisfaction and career/life balance becomes increasingly important to the modern workforce, today's business owners must be aware of their team members' needs and objectives. The onboarding process represents a significant step for new hires that helps determine their view of their tenure with the company.
Here are five reasons why the onboarding process is so crucial:
1) Expedited Paperwork Processing - It's a part of every job. Forms for taxes, insurance, company policies and other miscellaneous documents are stacked in front of every new hire, taking up valuable time away from that first few hours on the job. With all of the technological advances, software and apps, you can find a way to take care of these forms well before the new team member walks through the door.
2) Early Rapport Building with Team - No matter how jobs we have throughout our career, meeting people can be difficult. If possible, surround your new hire with team members in their department as early as you can. Allow an open environment for any kind of questions and give plenty of shadowing opportunities to make sure that the new hires learn how to do things the proper way. You can also create a FAQ document with questions and answers submitted by current team members. Making these new hires comfortable with their team in the onboarding process will help them succeed when they start the actual work.
3) An Initial Sense of Ownership - Speaking of the actual work, your company's onboarding process allows you to communicate tangible goals, objectives and responsibilities to the new hire. Explaining the mission of your business and how their role impacts the overall picture can help new hires experience a sense of ownership before they even begin their tasks.
4) Reinforcement of Business Mission for Other Team Members - By encouraging this sense of rapport between new hires and current team members in the onboarding process, you can help reemphasize your values and mission throughout the company. This new energy can even lead to innovation in current and future projects.
5) Higher Retention Rate - Most businesses have a probationary period of three to six months to determine if the company and new hire are the right fit. Using a structured onboarding process to engage the new hire from the very beginning can help ensure a higher chance of retention those first few months and beyond.
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Whether your team numbers two or twenty, developing practical processes for your business ensures the ability to maintain productivity in the different components of your company. Here are a few areas that need these practical processes:
1) Operations - Your day-to-day management makes up the foundation for both the spontaneous and routine aspects of your business. You can establish stability in your operations through a policies and procedures manual for all team members, the selection of your suppliers and vendors, and important checklists for your administrative and executive assistants.
2) Marketing and Sales - These areas of your business bring new life to your company as well as maintain the brand and voice of your objectives. Be sure to assign goals to your sales team, so they can hit measurable results of acquiring new customers and clients. Provide a branding guide for your marketing team that keeps the delivery of your products professional and consistent.
3) Finances - As worrisome as money can make people, you cannot ignore its significance in the maintenance and growth of your business. Find consistent, practical processes to document and manage your revenue and cash flow. You do not want to mix up or lose important financial records, especially when tax season comes along.
4) Talent - Unless you're a solopreneur, you rely on your team to accomplish the totality of your company goals. If you want your team members and leaders to reach their full potential for your business, invest heavily in initial training and professional development.
After creating these practical processes, remember to evaluate them from time to time. You want your company to grow, so be willing to innovate when necessary.
Keeping a manual of your company's policies and procedures is essential to business management. Here is a checklist of essential items.
- Table of Contents
- Company Background/Information
- Example: Company History
- Contact List of Employees and Important Vendors
- Company Policy
- Example: Personnel Policies such as Time Off and Benefits
- Company Procedures
- Example: How-To Guides
- Information on Workplace Safety
- Sample Forms or Templates
- Legal Disclaimers
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