If you’re like most of the entrepreneurs I have spoken to over the years, you want to grow your business, but the idea of employees terrifies you. Whether you have them, had them, or are dreading them, they are a key component to growing your business. After all, if the business is just you, then the business is just you. You have nothing to sell, because if you leave, the business dies. You also only have so many hours in the day to do the work, so your income becomes limited by your time. So in order to grow, you need staff.
A truly successful business, in my mind, is one that doesn’t rely on you at all. However, I don’t want to downplay your importance. This is your baby! You made the business what it is. If you are thinking about growth, then clearly you’ve done something right. The problem is, you can no longer do it all on your own and other people have other ideas. So how do you grow your business and maintain the quality of your product or service that your customers have come to appreciate about you?
The title may have given it away, but the answer is systems.
If I had to guess, you’ve been doing what you do for so long, you don’t even think about it anymore. This is a problem, in itself, for a few reasons. Without a structured system:
Any interruptions in the process, and you have to spend time and effort trying to remember where you left off. Or worse, you forget what you were doing all together until the client calls asking what happened to the work they were expecting.
Even without employees, the benefits of a system are huge. You can ensure the work is done to your standards every time. An interruption will still slow you down, but you’ll know exactly where to pick up again. Errors will decrease over time and efficiencies can be found. In some cases just writing out the steps you take to do certain tasks will allow you to see the waste in your current processes. You may be able to identify steps that can be eliminated, automated, or delegated.
Hiring employees without a system in place first will result in every employee creating their own system. This is where the frustration with employees begins.
Some people will tell you that you need systems from day one. I’m not one of those people.
First of all, you need a successful idea. You need to prove that whatever your business does, will bring in money. Generally when you’re starting out you have more time than money, so it doesn’t matter if your system is the most efficient. Chances are at the beginning of your business you weren’t thinking about growth, you were just trying to survive.
To me the best time to implement systems is after you’ve proven your business idea, but before you’ve hired. You’re getting busier and finding efficiencies can help push off the hiring process a little longer and keep more money in your pocket. Also, documenting at this point will put you in a good position to have something for your employees to follow once you bring them on board.
If that window has come and gone though, the next best time to implement systems is now.
I’m a tech guy, so I love to use software to help with the actual following of systems. However, any sort of workflow or checklist works. Write down the steps and photocopy a checklist if you have to. When something goes wrong, make sure you look to the systems first to see where the fault lies, rather than blaming your employees for mistakes, which may not be their fault. See if the system can be improved to prevent the same employee or another, from making the same mistake next time.
If you are in a new or emerging industry, you may have no choice but to create your own systems (or at least adapt an existing one). However, you may find that in your industry, someone has already created a system for you to follow. The benefit of buying an existing system is you can skip the years it takes to create something from scratch. Buying a franchise has the benefit that they already come with systems to follow.
From experience though, I still find you’re left tweaking the systems you buy to fit your style. Whichever route you go is up to you. Like everything else in life it either costs you time or money.
As for myself, I opted to go the purchase route. I got a jump start on my systems by becoming a Pure Bookkeeping Licensee. This gave us a system that had been created and developed over ten years and had been tested by hundreds of other bookkeepers. This was a crucial component in making sure we provided rock-solid books, by using the best bookkeeping practices.
We did end up having to tweak the systems quite a bit, as we’re using a lot more technology than the system was initially made for. They are catching up now, but it was too late for us.
We documented the systems using Jetpack Workflow. This is an amazing checklist software that allows us to create templates for all our workflows and then customize for each client.
Our mission is always to make our clients more profitable. The Pure Bookkeeping system allowed us to give clients rock-solid books and financial clarity, but I never felt like we delivered on the profit strategy. Better books do lead to better decisions, but that puts the burden on the client to read the financials and make their own adjustments. I felt like there had to be a better system to do this.
This is where Profit First Professionals comes in. This is a profit/cash flow system that we are in the process of implementing that will give us the missing component. We believe this system will be a game changer for our clients as they go from living pay cheque to pay cheque, to becoming very profitable.
If you want to discuss anything mentioned here, please comment, or reach out to us. We would love to be a part of seeing your business grow profitably.