Effective business processes can make your service-based business go POW! When you hone in on them together with your business tools and your team, they provide the key to growing your business from small to large.
There is a saying in Dutch.
Loosely translated, it goes like this:
‘When things go wrong, a bad craftsman blames his tools’.
What this really says is that you can have the best tools in the world. If you don’t use them right, the result will be poor.
Fair to say, this wisdom doesn’t solely apply to artisans and tradespeople.
See, for us service-based business owners, the right software will free up time for all the other things you have to do in your business. We spoke about this last week.
But those tools won’t get you anywhere without some very effective business processes to underpin them. Tools and processes go hand in hand. Without each other, they mean very little.
So, about these processes for a service-based business….
Why Processes Are Important In Business
Good business practices are vital because they give you efficiency, reliability, and consistency. Indispensable characters for a thriving business.
The result of getting the processes right is…
- improved team productivity
- a reduction in errors
- increased customer satisfaction
It goes without saying that effective business processes are what gets your business from small to large.
Interestingly enough, despite its clear benefits, there is also a reluctance I often encounter with owners of small service-based businesses I coach and mentor.
They argue that processes cause the business to lose its personal touch with its customers.
My experience is that it couldn’t be further away from the truth.
Just think about it: I’m still to meet the first client who complains about efficiency and reliability! Don’t get me wrong, personal touch is important, but it’s not good processes in your business that are going to be in the way of that. Errors and a lack of response to an email, however….
But back to these effective business processes.
The question is, what makes a process effective? The answer may surprise you.
How To Document Business Processes?
Something happens when you DOCUMENT your processes.
As soon as you put them down on paper, they stop being fluffy, non-committal, hard to ignore. Even better, writing things down forces you to think about it. It says in no uncertain terms you mean business (pun intended).
As a result, by taking the time to define and document your processes, you set up your business to deliver a quality consistent service.
It’s something that doesn’t just work for processes, by the way, but that on a side note.
I KNOW, I KNOW! Designing and implementing a process that works for your business (often called Standard Operating Procedures or SOPs for short) can sound quite daunting to begin with.
You’re not alone in quietly thinking this!
So, I thought I’d provide you with some helpful key steps:
1. Start with tasks that are already delegated to team members.
Getting these processes for a service-based business documented will give you peace of mind. You’ll KNOW that delegated tasks are carried out consistently. Your team will also thank you for making their job easier when they land a new responsibility, or have to temporarily step in.
2. Gather information about the current small business standard operating procedures.
This includes pain points or bottlenecks. This will help you understand what needs to change and where improvements can be made. Brainstorm with the team about how you could improve the bottlenecks and pain points.
3. Define the process by outlining the steps.
Include the inputs, outputs, and decision points. Document the initial good business practices by numbering the steps and include screen shots. You can also record the process; include a link to the video in the SOP.
4. Involve your team.
This will help ensure that the process is practical and will work well for everyone. Get the person responsible to document what they are already doing and then get everyone’s feedback. Experiment with different ways of doing things.
5. Test the effective business processes with your team and collect feedback.
Use this feedback to refine the small business standard operating procedures and make any necessary adjustments. Tweak as you try it out. Sometimes it is just a language thing. Make sure it is clear to somebody who hasn’t done this task before and produces a result that is up to your standard.
6. Communicate the finished product to your entire team and provide training.
After all, everyone needs to know how to use your small business standard operating procedures.
7. Monitor the final SOP for small business over time to identify any issues or areas for improvement.
Keep your processes up to date with your current practices. A regular review is a good idea. (More on this a bit further down.)
Where And How To Store Your Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)?
But what’s the point of having the most thought out processes for a service-based business
when nobody knows where to find them?
This is another area where I see small business owners get stuck.
Unless you’re organised, it’s hard to know where to find the effective business processes when you (or one of the team) need them. Some may live in Vimeo or Loom, some can be found on Google Drive and then some just ventured off to the bottom drawer as a print-out.
Storing standard operating procedures (SOPs) is just as important as writing them. I mean, what’s the point if you mess this part up?
So documenting is one thing, CENTRALISATION is the next.
Here are a few options for where and how to store your SOPs:
This can be on a company intranet or in a cloud-based storage service such as Google Drive, Dropbox or OneDrive. This allows your team (including contractors) to access the good business practices from any location and ensures that they have access to the most up-to-date version.
- As a hard copy
This can be useful in situations where internet access isn't always available. Pre-COVID we used to have a hard copy and a soft copy of all our procedures. But now we're a remote team by default, we no longer have a hard copy.
- Process Management Software
This software is specifically designed to store and manage SOPs. It can automate the process of creating, updating, and distributing SOPs. Examples of this type of software is Process Street ( I have used this in the past), SweetProcess, ProcedureFlow. As a SOP for small business solution, I find it’s pricey. So it may be something to look at when your team gets bigger.
Some Final Tips To Get The Best Out Of Business Processes For Small Business
1. Make sure you have a clear table of content, a numbering system and group similar SOPs together
Make it as easy as possible for any team member to put their hand on the SOP they need without having to spend hours looking for it.
2. Create a standardised Word doc or Google doc template for all SOP
Write everything in a doc and stored in the cloud so you can access it from anywhere. Include links to templates and videos in the doc.
3. Make a team member responsible for the SOPs in your business
In my business it’s my VBM. She’s responsible for maintaining and reviewing SOPs, following up with team members, creating a first draft of any new SOPs (A team member fills in the gaps and the details, and yet another team member does the peer review. If it’s an important SOP, I give it the final once over.)
4. Enforce the SOP’s
Creating-slash-documenting SOP’s is a first step, storing them in a centralised spot is a second, ENFORCING them is the third non-negotiable. I make it clear in no uncertain terms that following SOP’s is what’s expected in my business.
5. I don’t recommend buying SOP templates on the internet
Tempting as it may seem, good business practices are specific to you! The last thing you want is to run your business according to somebody else’s way of doing things.
6. Set-up a SOP board on Monday.com
I’ve spoken multiple times about how vital Monday.com is for my business. Organising effective business processes is no exception to the rule. Here are some things we do.
- Our Monday.com SOP board acts as our SOP table of content AND our review system all in one. Because our Monday.com board is searchable, anybody looking for a particular SOP can quickly jump on and see if the SOP exists.
- It immediately shows if the SOP is in review, we have implemented it, and when it is due for review.
- We link SOP documents to the Monday.com SOP board and to the relevant tasks in our client project management board for easy access.
INTRIGUEGED ABOUT WHY I GET SO EXCITED ABOUT MONDAY.COM?
If you want to try Monday.com for yourself, I’ve got an affiliate link below. You can get started on Monday.com for free PLUS, you can book a VIP day with me to help you set up your version exactly the way it works for you!
I will see you again next week for part 3 where we talk about people and teams.