Setting up standard procedures in the workplace is an important step in properly preparing your company for growth. Even if your business is currently small, it’s never too early to start planning for expansion, and will ultimately make your transition into booming success much easier.
What exactly are procedures/processes?
They are the standard method for completing a certain task.
For example, a warehouse might have standard processes that employees follow when receiving inventory, or when reporting lost or damaged goods. They might also have procedures detailing how to pack and ship orders from customers.
In an office environment, you would probably find standard procedures in place for employees when they want to place an order for new supplies, how to close the accounting for the past month, and how to request time off.
What are the advantages of having processes in place?
It removes ambiguity from your business. If all of your employees had their own methods for placing new orders, you might not always be sure of the outcomes because of the variation. When everyone follows the same process, you can be sure of the expected results.
It’s easy to control and to detect discrepancies early. You can set up your processes so that all matters can pass through the appropriate authority. For instance, if requests for time off are ultimately decided only by you, you would never run into a problem where an employee tells you their supervisor approved their time off unbeknownst to you.
It saves time. No one is trying to reinvent the wheel by coming up with ways to do something. If a system is in place, everyone knows what steps to follow and in what order. If accomplished correctly, there shouldn't be any need for anyone to run around trying to fix or manage issues.
It’s easy to train staff. If every process is defined in your training materials, new employees can have a step-by-step guide to follow and learn their responsibilities quicker. You only need to spend a few hours composing those training materials; after that, it basically does all the work of training for you.
When should you introduce processes to your business?
Not every company needs processes, it depends on what stage the business is in. A few indicators that processes might benefit you are:
Your sales have grown exponentially in the last few years and processes that were once simple have become more complicated, resulting in you feeling overwhelmed and disorganized. It’s likely that the steps you would have taken to complete an order of 100 could have been completed by one or two people in an efficient amount of time. If your growth has increased your sales by a drastic amount, you might need more staff to complete those processes, or to implement a system that tracks inventory, or find some other method that effectively executes the processes you create.
You’re a business owner and you have plans you have to grow your business, but you never are able to find the time to put them into action. If you find yourself running around plugging up leaking holes everywhere, it might be time to implement processes to eliminate those holes in the first place, giving you more time to focus on growth, and less on damage control.
Your sales are increasing but you are not seeing that reflected in your bank account. Your currently processes, or lack of, might be costing you more money than they’re earning you. Take the time to create processes that will remedy that problem. It will be a lot of work upfront, but will pay off down the line.
You feel like you’re doing all the heavy lifting. You know how things work better than anyone, but as a result, you’re doing everything and your employee’s aren’t keeping pace. Teaching them processes would increase their productivity, and relieve the stress on you.
You’re exhausted when you step away from your work. You feel that it eats up all of your time and energy, and you feel tired and frustrated rather than satisfied and accomplished. Processes can serve as a checklist, too. Knowing what needs to be done and how to do it can help take away the guesswork of your progress and growth.
How should you create your specific processes?
There’s no need to rush. After all, you only want to have to create processes once, so take the time to evaluate your business and the way that it runs. Really look into the details of your operations and your financial patterns, and compare areas of your company that are running smoothly with those that are weak. If something works in one department, can you use the same technique in a different one? Can you see the potential for growth somewhere? If so, can you set up processes that will help keep you and your staff organized when that growth happens? Think of the processes you need today, but don’t forget to plan for your big picture, too.
If your problem is staff, consider outsourcing some of your responsibilities. If it helps, write down everything you do when completing a task, and give those instructions to your employees. Create a “Policies and Procedures” handbook. Figure out ways for them to copy what you do and how you do it, and make sure everyone is on the same page. Alternatively, you may be able to find ways to automate certain systems, instead of hiring more help.
Be clear on your objectives and circle back often to check the effectiveness of what you have implemented. You might find that your best processes are discovered by trial and error, so don’t be afraid to adjust where necessary. You are the business owner, and you have the power to control the direction you’re heading in. So make sure you’re taking the time to smooth the edges as you go.
Ultimately, you want your business to run like a well oiled machine. Even after your processes are in place and running smoothly, don’t be surprised if the need for new processes occurs from time to time as your business expands. Taking the time to address these those new things will ensure your company continues to be as efficient and strong as possible.