How to leverage small business processes to eliminate workplace inefficiencies—and take your business to the next level in the process.
When you’re starting a business, it’s all about rolling up your sleeves, putting your nose to the grindstone, and getting things done—by any means necessary. And that scrappy, can-do approach can be a great way to help get your business off the ground.
But the approach that got your business off the ground is generally not the best approach to growing and scaling your business. That “get it done” mentality may have worked when you were just starting out, but as your team, workload, and the complexity of your projects grow, that mentality can lead to serious workplace inefficiencies—inefficiencies that can ultimately prevent your business from reaching its full potential.
That’s where small business processes come in. With the right processes, you can maximize efficiency throughout your business—and ensure you maintain that same level of efficiency as you grow, scale, and take things to the next level.
But how, exactly, do processes drive efficiency? What areas of your business do you need to develop processes for as you grow? And how can you create the kind of small business processes that allow you to create more efficiency today—and maintain that efficiency as you continue to grow your business into tomorrow?
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Why Are Small Business Processes So Important?
First things first—before we jump into how to create processes in your business, let’s talk about why small business processes are so important, to begin with.
Small business processes can support your business in a variety of ways, including:
- Eliminating workplace inefficiencies. The way you managed your business on day one may not be the most effective way to manage your business as it grows. Developing processes helps you identify and eliminate inefficiencies in the workplace, replace systems that are no longer serving your business, and put a structure in place that allows your business to continue to grow and scale.
- Small business processes save your team time, energy and hassle. When you start a business, you and your team are still figuring things out: You’re tackling tasks and issues as they get thrown at you. But as you grow your business, starting from scratch and figuring things out on the fly isn’t the most efficient use of your team’s resources. Having processes in place ensures that your business runs like a well-oiled machine, and when a task or issue arises, it’s crystal clear who should be handling it and how it should be handled—which will save you and your team plenty of time, energy and hassle.
- Processes make it easy to train new team members. When an employee leaves your company or gets promoted to a new position, having documented processes in place ensures a smooth transition, making it easier for a new hire to step in and immediately take over the employee’s responsibilities.
What’s the Process for Creating Processes Within Your Business?
Clearly, having processes in place is a must if you want to maximize efficiency and successfully grow and scale your business.
But how do you develop those processes?
There are a few different steps that go into creating small business processes, including:
- Identify where you want or need processes. What areas of your business could benefit from a process? Generally, any repeatable tasks or projects within your business could be improved with a clear process—including tasks that come up on a daily basis (like how to answer customer phone inquiries) and projects that happen less frequently (like preparing your business taxes).
- Identify key stakeholders. In order to develop an effective process, you need to understand who is going to be using the process—and that means identifying who is ultimately going to be involved and/or be responsible for implementing and managing the process. Identifying key stakeholders can also help you get insights into how to make the process more effective (who better to help guide the development of a process than the people who are going to use the process in the end?).
- Define where you are and where you want to go. When you develop a process, it’s important to look at how the task or project is currently being managed—and figure out what’s working, what’s not working, and how you can improve and develop a process that gets you from where you are to where you want to go.
- Research and invest in the right tools. Processes are all about driving efficiency—and part of the way they drive that efficiency is through automation. By researching and investing in the right tools to automate parts of your processes, you can save your business time, money, and effort—and make sure your process is as efficient as possible.
- Document the process. In order for a small business process to drive efficiency and productivity within your business, it needs to be repeatable—and in order to ensure your process is repeatable, it needs to be documented. Make sure that once you’ve developed a process, you thoroughly document the entire process from beginning to end. That way, when you need to get someone up to speed on your processes (like a new team member), they’ll instantly understand how the process works, what’s involved, and what their role is in implementing or managing the process.
- Roll out the new process… Once your new process is documented, it’s time to implement the process and roll it out to your team. (Depending on the complexity of the process, you may need to spend some time training your team to get them up to speed.)
- …and evaluate and adjust the process as necessary. Once you implement a new process, it’s important to have periodic check-ins to evaluate the process, see how it is (or isn’t) driving efficiency and productivity within your business and adjust accordingly. While there’s no clear-cut rule on how long to wait before scheduling a check-in, you want to allow for enough time for a) your team to fully implement the process, and b) the process to start driving results. If you’re not sure about timelines, somewhere between 30 and 90 days is typically a good place to start.
What Areas of Your Business Are Ideal for Small Business Processes?
Now that you know how to create processes to support your business, the question is—what areas of your business would benefit from processes?
And the answer? Pretty much all of them.
You can use processes to increase efficiency across a wide variety of departments and functions within your business, including:
- Marketing: The more organized and process-driven you are in your marketing efforts, the more effectively you’ll be able to get the word out and get your company in front of your target prospects—and the more easily you’ll be able to convert those prospects into customers. For example, let’s say you decide to use content marketing as a strategy to market your business. Instead of just writing whatever pops into your head when you have a minute to write, having a content marketing process (including scheduling a monthly content brainstorming session with your marketing team, crafting an editorial calendar, and scheduling and posting content) can help ensure your time creating content is time well spent—and that your content efforts help you hit your goals and drive leads for your business.
- Sales: When marketing passes a lead to your sales team, they shouldn’t be coming up with their sales strategy on the fly. That leaves too much up to chance—and can cause your business to miss out on customers. Developing a clear sales process for your team to follow (including how quickly and how often they should follow up with leads, how they should pitch your product or service, and how to overcome common objections) can help improve efficiency, increase conversions and drive more revenue for your business.
- Customer service: Similar to sales, your customer service reps (CSRs) shouldn’t be coming up with a new answer or solution every time they get a question from a customer. Having a process for how to deal with customer complaints, questions, or issues can help save your CSRs time and energy—and ensure your customers get the high-quality support they deserve.
- Accounting and invoicing: The last area where you want to wing it in your business is, without a doubt, your finances. It’s imperative for your accounting and invoicing to be organized and on time. Having processes in place will ensure that your finance team manages financial tasks (like sending invoices, collecting payments, and categorizing expenses) efficiently, consistently, and in the appropriate time window.
- Project management: There are a lot of balls in the air when you’re managing a project—and when there’s no clear process in place for how the project should be managed, it’s easy for one (or more) of those balls to get dropped. Having a project management process in place (including how tasks are assigned and how deliverables should be submitted) can keep your project running smoothly from beginning to end.
Use Small Business Processes to Grow, Scale and Take Your Business to the Next Level
If you want your business to reach its highest potential, you need to make your day-to-day operations as efficient as possible—and small business processes are the way to do it. Now that you know how to create the most effective processes for your business, all that’s left to do? Create and implement those processes—and use them to take your business to the next level.
This post was updated in November 2020.