I remember when my kids were around pre-school age. They needed constant supervision and would throw temper tantrums, because that's what 4-year-olds do. You need to constantly supervise them, and things can easily go wrong, typically without any warning. Running a business without systems in place is like raising a 4-year-old who never grows up.
When you have established systems that detail how tasks should be performed, your business doesn't need you as much. Your employees complete tasks the right way each time. As a result, they are more productive, which saves you both time and money. Once you have systems in your business, it's easier to hire and train new people. You can take more time to focus on building your business instead of merely running it.
Does this really work? You bet. One of my clients was able to cut his hours by 40 percent and consistently grow revenues by implementing the right systems. And you can too.
The first step is to figure out what should be systematized in your business and what type of systems to create. Systematize any task or function that your organization performs repeatedly, and that if completed faster, more precisely, or for less money, would give your organization a competitive advantage. For my clients, these tasks have ranged from answering customer service calls to manufacturing new products.
Take a few minutes to write down your list of these potential tasks.
The second step is to figure out what type of system to create for each task. There are two core types of systems I recommend:
1. Process maps. Process maps are flowcharts. To create a process map for the task of securing a new customer, for example, write down the first step of the process: calling the prospective customer on the phone. Then write down the ideal outcome: the prospect purchasing your product. Finally, fill in all the steps in between. For example, calling with a scripted introduction and developing and sending a professional proposal might be key steps to achieving your desired outcome.
Once you understand all the steps, you can work to improve performance by developing systems for each step that yield consistent, high quality performance.
2. Standard operating procedures. SOPs are written instructions that document a routine or repetitive activity. Generally, SOPs are simply checklists for your employees to follow. Unlike a process map that may have several "if this, then do that" components, SOPs are very linear, taking the reader step-by-step through one standard process.
For example, to ensure your client proposals are completed correctly, you could have a checklist that makes sure your salesperson has changed the date and client's name, added the client's logo and researched and answered three questions about the client.
As my kids have gotten older, they've put their own systems in place to help them succeed. They know to complete their homework before playing. They set and clear the table before and after dinner. Just as raising children requires less day-to-day monitoring as they grow up, your company and employees can be managed much more easily when you put the right systems in place. Not only will your company's performance markedly improve, you will enjoy running your business more and have a lot less stress.
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.
Dave Lavinsky is the co-founder of Growthink, a Los Angeles-based consulting firm that helps entrepreneurs identify and pursue new opportunities, develop business plans, raise capital and build growth strategies. He also is the author of Start at The End (Wiley, 2012).