I had the pleasure of joining Barry Moltz, from Business Insanity Talk Radio, to talk about the chaos of small businesses and how to avoid that chaos. We talk about how processes for your internal business operations, as well as structure and organization, will get your life back.
Please find a full audio transcript below:
Speaker: This is a business radio show where we talk about the craziness of small business. It’s that craziness that actually makes it exciting, interesting, and totally unpredictable. This is Business Insanity Talk Radio with your host, Barry Moltz.
Barry: Well, thanks for joining this week’s radio show. Remember this is your final word in small business. For those keeping track, this is now show number 467. And this episode, of course, is provided by Nextiva, the answer to all your business communication solutions in the cloud. Well, if there’s anything that can characterize a small business is that it always seems like you’re just on the brink of chaos. This is why I constantly talk about the need for process to guarantee success. My first guest is Susan Fennema. She’s the Chaos Eradicating Officer, or CEO, of Beyond the Chaos, a consultant helping small business owners gain control of their lives through better process, organization, and structure of their business. Susan, welcome to the show.
Susan: Thanks for having me, Barry.
Barry: So a lot of small business owners will say, “I don’t know, chaos. It’s not so bad. I kind of like it.”
Susan: Well, they might say that, but then I think they also probably feel like they don’t get their lives back. Right? But they’re working until the middle of the night, and everything’s frazzled all the time, and they don’t have any time to actually work on their business because they’re busy reacting to emergencies all the time [crosstalk 00:01:38].
Barry: See, a lot of time … No, go ahead.
Susan: Process and procedures will help you get a little bit of a handle on that and eliminate some of that chaos.
Barry: And I think more importantly, especially as you grow your company, while you may enjoy the chaos, guess what? Your employees really don’t. They want process and procedures, right?
Susan: Oh, absolutely. One of the main signs of a lack of structure in your company is high employee turnover. So if you wanna grow, you need to show them and teach them how to repeat your successes through your process and your procedures, and not make them guess. That’s just a recipe for disaster.
Barry: And one of the problems I find with a lot of small business owners, Susan, is that they really don’t know why they’ve been successful so they really can’t document those process and procedures. Where can they look for help?
Susan: That’s a very good point. A lot of us small business owners succeed in spite of ourselves sort of. And so, one of the ways to start to look at that is to think about what you’re doing every day, and what is a repeatable process that you’re doing. What do you do constantly? When you hire a person, do you have to figure again what you have to do to onboard them? Okay, that’s a big sign, write it down, make a process, make a checklist, make a procedure. And then, the next time you know what to do. You just go down the list. If you’re delegating things to people, if you want them to do something, that’s another plate. What do you wanna take off your plate and have someone else do? Have you given them all the steps? Sometimes they can document that for you. Right? But if not, make sure that it’s clear. So those are the types of things you wanna be thinking about, is repeatable things.
Barry: We’re talking with Susan Fennema. She is the Chaos Eradicating Officer at Beyond the Chaos. Susan, you’ve been talking about these terms called process, procedure, and policy. Are those the same thing, or are they somehow different?
Susan: They are a little different. So I’ll start with policy because that’s really the one that’s the most straightforward. It’s the rules. Right? If you’re running your own company by yourself, you don’t need a policy of how many holidays there are. But once you start having employees, you need to know when the holidays are. You need to know what the paydays are. You need to be very clear about when time sheets are submitted. So those are basically the rules of the company, not negotiable type things.
Procedure is a checklist. Like when an airplane’s trying to take off and the pilot goes down the same list every time, checks them off, make sure that all of those things are set. They don’t even have to think about it. They do the same thing every time. That’s a procedure.
So a process is more of the steps to accomplish a task. Something like, how do you sell something to a new client? Or how do you make sure the client gets a bill? What are the details on which application to use for what purpose? Those types of things that are a little bit more written in prose would be the process.
Barry: So where does a small business owner start because there’s a lot of folks that say, “I got out of a big business because I didn’t want all these process, procedures, and policies,” but we know they’re ally important. What kinds of things should they have that are most important as they get more employees in their company?
Susan: Sure. So some basics. A sales process, how do you sell to a new client; from the first contact with them through how do you invoice them. That’s a good process for sure to have in place. How do you start a new project? If you’re a project based business, that’s definitely one that needs to be written down. Interview and hiring, unless you’re doing all the interviewing and hiring as the business owner yourself, if you want someone else to help with that, that’s a place the write down the steps, as is onboarding and off-boarding employees. Now if you don’t have employees, some of those points you don’t have to worry about. But if you don’t, I would say minimally write down your own sales process, so you can repeat that, and give all of your customers that same touch. And make it part of your brand. If your sales process is part of making sure they’re confident that you’re gonna be able to handle their work so make it consistent.
Barry: It’s interesting because in all of my companies, we started with an initial setup process and procedures and policies, and then of course some employee would always figure out a way either to get around it, or they would do some area where we didn’t think we needed to have a policy or procedure so we’d actually bring that new policy or procedure in, and we’d actually name it after that person that originally made us put that in.
Susan: That’s a great plan. I love that. And that’s something that’s important to note, is that process is meant to evolve. It’s not a rule. It’s meant to grow. So as you learn something new, you want to add that to your process. As you get more employees, you might find that you needed to document something that you never thought of before, or they might have a brilliant idea of how to change your process to improve things. Most of the time those changes to process come out of complete disaster, a complete failure, and you’re like, “Ah, if only we had done this first.” Well, write it down, do it next time. And that’s a great way to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Barry: So who should actually write these things down because, again, most small business owners would say, “Hey, we’re too busy to write this stuff down. Do I bring someone in from the outside? Do I have teams do it, and then the teams talk to other teams?”
Susan: Sure. So there are several ways of how to write the process. If you’re your own person and you’re just writing them for you, you can put them in Word and have it on your hard drive. But if you’re sharing them with other people, it’s important to have a place that they all know to go. And if you have a company Wiki, that’s a great place for it. If you have project management software, a lot of times there’s a place for it there. Google Docs is another place. And then, my last one that I’ll put out there is printed handbooks or binders. I don’t like those because they don’t evolve that easily, but if that’s easiest for you, it’s better than nothing.
How you get to write them … So that’s how you can share them, right, with the team. But how you get to actually put them together can be challenging. If you’re a systems oriented person, you can probably write down the checklist yourself. If not, you might want an outside consultant like me to come in and ask you the right questions. Okay, what do you do next? Then what do you do? What if this happens? How do you respond to that? And you just step by step go through and put everything down, and then ask somebody to repeat it based on what you wrote down. You’ll be amazed at the number of question you get back to things that you never thought of. So those are the best ways to write them and share them with your team.
Barry: And Susan, what happens when someone says, “Well, I don’t believe in following procedures. I got my own way. It’s better.”
Susan: That’s great. If you wanna run a business by yourself that way, that’s great. If you wanna hire employees and grow your business, it’s probably not gonna succeed for you. Your employees wanna know what to do, and they wanna please you. And if it’s all in your head, it’s gonna be very hard for them to say, “Oh, I know exactly what he or she wants, and I will make that happen for them.” If you’re being very clear about, “This is the success I wanna repeat, and this is how I wanna repeat it,” then you can grow your business and expand it. The other thing that these processes allow for is actual value in your business, beyond just a client list. So down the road when you get ready to sell your business, you don’t just have a list of clients. You have a way of doing things that is also valuable to anybody who’s looking to purchase your business.
Barry: I totally agree with that. That’s why I’ve always said that people times process equals profit. Susan, thanks for being on the show. You can reach Susan at beyondthechaos.biz. Susan, thanks again.
Susan: Thanks for having me, Barry. I enjoyed it.
Barry: This is AM 560 The Answer. We’re gonna be right back with more of how to get your small business unstuck here in 2018.