Streamlining systems and processes for small/medium sized businesses

Image of gears to represent the importance of streamlining systems and processes for small/medium sized businessesMost recently I have been asked to help a number of clients to stream line systems and processes for their small/medium sized businesses.  It is interesting now that we are a few months into the new calendar year I have been approached by several small business owners who feel like they are out of control with the way they are or are not operating their businesses.  Once upon a time they had structure but either due to growth or lack of time or a combination of both, the systems and processes they have in place no longer serve the business well.  Hence their call to do something about it and get in touch with me in order to assist.

For those who do not know my background this type of work is what I have basically done all of my career when working for others in the various project management, marketing or general management positions.  I really enjoy getting in and making a difference to the lives of business owners.

So why is this so important for a small/medium sized businesses?

Systems and processes play a significant role in building and growing a business.  They serve as the business essential building blocks and support.  Hence, it is necessary for business owners to incorporate them into their businesses. It is also important to consider the efficiency and accuracy of the business systems.

One of the biggest reasons is that you can focus on the most important aspect of your business by meeting the demands of your clients and not having to worry as much about the administration and backend if you have put the time and effort into establishing the necessary systems and processes so that it runs both efficiently and productively.

How might you go about setting up systems and processes?

When I work with clients in this area it is important to start with a business audit/review – where by we discuss and work through many issues like the following:

  • How is the business structured?
  • How do you operate – describe what the business does from the front end to the back end?  How does it all come together?
  • How many staff do you have and who is responsible for what roles?
  • What do you believe is working well for you?  Where do you feel you are efficient?
  • Where do you believe the challenges are?  What issues do you experience and are they regular occurances?
  • What areas do you believe you can or would like to streamline?
  • Are you meeting all your financial and tax obligations? What are your process around this?
  • What is your IT structure – what applications do you use?  Do you back up your systems? (Often many businesses do not have adequate systems around this which is just vital to the survival of a business should anything happen – when did you last review this for your business?)
  • Do you have a budget?
  • Do you have a business and marketing plan in place?
  • Do you have a reporting process in place so you know how the business is going and are able to track growth?
  • Who is on your team in terms of advisors?

By working through all of the above, and more, only then is there an opportunity to identify the areas of the business that need attention and ensure systems and processes are put in place.  For instance one of my recent clients wants to triple the growth of their business and understands the importance of ensuring all of the backend systems and processes are established to support this growth.  With so many plans and ideas for growth I explained to my client the necessity of prioritising and putting certain parts of those plans into place first before trying to do it all.  The danger by trying to do it all at once is that nothing actually gets done well and the business does not grow as planned.  In this clients instance we identified the importance of recruiting an admin assistant/bookkeeper and then all the other bits and pieces will be able to flow from there.

image of gears representing automation and process - Streamlining systems and processes for small/medium sized businesses

source: http://www.exciteit.com.au/

For another client they were struggling with the manual paperwork and manual processes for their business that they needed to review how they operated to improve efficiency and productivity.  By working through the current way they operated I was able to work with them to identify the areas that could be streamlined and automated which would save them time that they were craving.  Gaining more time has been beneficial to these clients on both a business and personal level  – it has allowed them more time to be out growing the business whilst giving them more time to enjoy life and not feel they are working all the time.

If you are operating a small to medium sized business when was the last time you took a step back and reviewed the way you are operate and function?  If you haven’t done this ever, or for some time, then make the time and allow yourself time and space to review what is and isn’t working as efficiently as it can.  After identifying this you will then be able to make changes or seek the input or help to do so.  At the end of the day we all want our businesses to do well and it is important to make time for both working IN and ON your business.

If you are not sure of the best place to start or would like some assistance in this area please do get in touch as I am only more than too happy to get you on track.

Here’s some further reading I thought would be useful to share with you on why this is so important to your business:

6 Key Benefits of Building Systems

Why A Lack Of Systems Is Stunting Your Business Growth And Costing You A Fortune

7 benefits you will get if you implement business systems in your company

Maintenance is the key to being organised

I’m sure you have all heard ‘maintenance is the key to being organised‘ said on numerous occasions well believe me it is true!  As an organising expert it is something I regularly discuss when working with my clients and in workshops.

Maintenance is the keySo what does ‘maintenance is the key to being organised‘ really mean?  In my world it usually means that when one works hard to get themselves organised in any space at home or work then it is important not to undo all that hard work over time by not maintaining that space.  It is taking the time on a regular basis to put things away.  The last thing you want to do is for it to become overwhelming and out of order or control again.

Establishing a few daily and regular habits will help you maintain your space without if feeling like a chore.  A little effort can go a long way as you make your home or work space the haven you love and enjoy having less clutter around you each and everyday.

6 tips for maintaining and staying organised are:

  1. Everything in its place – first and foremost ensure all of your belongings have a designated home or storage space.
  2. Put everything away in it’s place – for example put the scissors away in the office drawer not just on the desk or put your clothes in the cupboard not on the chair or end of your bed.  Another example I like to use is washing in the corner of the room.  Believe me it is much easier to take it off the line, fold it and put it away than to do several loads an pile it up in the corner of the room.  In this instance you look at it and think oh no that will take me ages and then before long it just lives there and you end up getting out what you need.  I hear you say “but that’s okay” – well it might be for now but if you keep doing the same thing before long you end up with a pile of stuff that becomes overwhelming and you dread having to spend time on sorting through it and putting away again.  A bit of short term pain is worth long term gain!
  3. Deal with your mail/paperwork daily – process the mail regularly rather than put it in piles all over the place. If you need to put it in a pile have one designated pile and not multiple.
  4. Have a clear desk or place to work – start and end the day with a clear desk.  Take the 5-10 minutes to put or file things away at the end of the day.  You will feel much better starting the next day rather than arriving to a pile of papers.
  5. Create an evening pick up routine – this should be for everyone and could be daily or or if not do it at least do this once a week.  Set the clock for 10-15 minutes and spend time putting things away where they belong.  You will be amazed at how much organised your place is and feels if you do this.
  6. Don’t have spare empty containers lying around – often when we have spare containers around there is a tendancy to just put things in them ie a visitor is coming over so let’s just put everything into the box from the table and bench space.  This makes the space look good may look good but it creates more work and time needed in having to go through all of the stuff in the container.  Often these containers just get piled up and not dealt with too.  So rather than just putting some thing away in the first place you now have the additional task of having to sort through the items and still spend the time to put away anyway.  I can tell you this is a regular thing I see in clients homes – often things are dumped in bags, boxes, plastic tubs.  My suggestion to you is to remove these empty items so you are not tempted to just stuff things in.

Another simple analysis for what I am saying is “Do it now as later never comes”.  In other words it is better to do the 5 minutes of regular maintenance here and now than compared with the alternative in that it will take you longer to get back in control.

Which would you rather do – spend 5 minutes at the outset and put belongings away or take hours at a later time sorting and then putting away?  I know which one I would rather!

Backing up is a must for everyone

Do you regularly back up your home computer or for those of you in an office does your business regularly back up?

I ask this question because lately I have been hearing terrible stories about families losing files and photos and businesses having to shut up shop due to not having backups to restore information when a virus has taken hold.  I was also speaking to a friend recently who was telling me how she now loves using her calendar on her iphone for both work and personal appointments.  I then asked her if she was backing up to which she said I don’t thinks so and how do I do that.  I explained it to her as now that she is happy with using this system there would be nothing worse if she lost it all and had to start again.  Don’t let this be you!

Last week I had my own issue where I accidently deleted a folder from my mailbox that had important information that I couldn’t afford to lose.  Personally I have never had to use my back up but I was reassured that within 5 minutes I was able to restore the folder and all was okay again.

The backing up process does not need to be difficult and if you are not sure how to do it then I ask that you seek the necessary advice from your relevant IT contact or provider.  For instance I use Apple products now for both my business and at home with my family and I back up the business/home computer daily and the information is saved to a portable hard drive as well as to the cloud.  I think it is also very useful to test your back up from time to time to ensure it actually works.  There is no point backing up if you are not 100% confident it is actually doing what it is meant to be.  It is also very useful to know what the process or procedure is that you need to follow should you be in a situation like I was when you need to restore something.

IMG_7568The other thing to be aware is it is okay to back up to a portable hard drive but what happens if your computer gets stolen as does your hard drive that probably lives next to the computer on your desk?  My suggestion here is to have two hard drives regularly rotating one off site (ie to a family members place or ones work place) so the worst case scenario is you lose a week or so of work, files or photos and not months & months!

In a family environment it is also important that not only are all your devices and computers backed up but so of your children, particularly those who are students.  There would be nothing worse that losing a major assignment that your child has spent hours on and all of a sudden the computer or ipad just died.  Please have this discussion with all family members and also it is useful to check their devices as I my son recently told me he was backing up as he thought he was when infact it actually wasn’t.

Please don’t leave it too late as when your device or computer dies then it is unlikely you will be able to recover anything and if you do you will be in the minority and lucky!  Please look into backing up now.