- What is a Process?
- Who uses Processes?
- Issues with Processes?
- Improve Business by Processes
- 8 Step Guide to Processes
- Presentation about Processes
- Secrets of Processes
- FREE Example Process
Processes, Processes … Everywhere
Every “growing” business owner constantly struggles with juggling a million job descriptions everyday, from new customer acquisition, marketing, service / product delivery, accounting, human resource management and the rest. There is no “secret sauce” that will fix an entrepreneur’s need for knowing his business inside and out. One key, however, to every successful businesses are Processes (aka: To-Do’s, Procedures, Documentation, etc)
For those fortunate entrepreneurs who jumped into a business without any corporate or prior knowledge (first off: Congratulations), a “Process Document” is a written document that is used as a guide to ensure a level of quality is maintained within a product or service delivered to a customer. They can either be short or long, pure text-based or with images, can require previous skills or not previous skills,and they are a great point of reference to remove mistakes from any business.
Surely Not EVERYTHING Needs To Be Processed?
What needs a process or can be processed? EVERYTHING!
McDonalds, for instance, have Processes around time meat sits on the hotplate before flipping, ensuring the cook only places 2 pickles on that Cheeseburger and all the way to weighing packed fries (for new trainees). These ensure that their food maintains the same quality across all their restaurants and prevent any overcooking or undercooking. Their processes are even used to manage their inventory (portion control) so that they their profits always stay as high as possible.
But, you might be thinking that McDonalds is a unique example, no problems. Let’s continue researching:
- AT&T (Telecommunications):
Support staff runs off a phone script (Process) every time you call. Based on your needs, they will walk you through one of their hundreds of resolution documents (Processes)
- Deloitte (Accounting):
Checking your end-of-year financial statements against Government Requirements (Processes). Tracking their hours on your business, sending to accounting and then invoicing you (Process)
- Starbucks (Cafe):
Frothing milk until it’s 60 C – 70 C and then pour it on a 45 degree angle (Process). Making sure they confirm your order before you pay and counting out your change (Process)
We could go on for hours about business examples, and it has been proven time and time again that more than 90% of a task can be explained via a process document. At their best, process documents can achieve at least 70% to 80% successful delivery with decreased errors.
There are always elements of your business that will be hard to process and others that will be significantly easy. This is great; when starting out, always start with the lowest hanging fruit, so that you can start the snowball rolling.
(Getting a potential customer to say ‘Yes’ to questions will assist them in saying ‘Yes’ to your sales proposal. This is exactly the same as you creating one process document that might save you 30 minutes in a day by giving the document to someone to complete and realising the possibility of getting some of your life back and being able to focus on the areas of your business you are “needed” instead of where you have haven’t processed yet)
Fine but aren’t you just building robots
Yes and No.
Would you rather have a business built on a system that will reduce any growth issues or would you rather not grow your business and continue to work 100 hours a week? It is all about priorities in an entrepreneur’s life as well as levels of happiness.
Almost every successful business has processes–not to create robots but for scalability. A business cannot stop innovating. It is required to have its team members at the top of the business, delivering these innovative / non-processed solutions to customers. This will, in turn, help in giving incentives to those team members following documented processes.
An approach that is great to implement to your business is the 80 / 20 rule, only in a different approach. Let your team follow processes 80% of the time (Monday to Thursday), and then allow them to be challenged, test new approaches, research their job or at least fail for 20% of the time (Friday). This is especially beneficial to businesses that are within the digital space– an industry that is forever changing, where entrepreneurs need to incentivise team members to improve processes seeing as they are too busy working on more important business areas.
In addition to getting experienced members deliver the ‘creative’ / non-processed parts of your business, a lot of business owners believe their team are out to get them and worry that they will steal their processes, build Business v2, steal their clients, offer a better price and eventually take them out of business. If that’s what you are worried about, never leave your house just in case a dinosaur falls out of the sky, lands on your car, while you were inside it, fumbling for you keys – it is very rare that this will happen … if you are smart.
Cut team members OUT of process documents they don’t need. Why would the service delivery representative need access to your sales teams’ phone scripts and objection handling guide? Why does the finance team need to know how to reply to a customer complaint for quality issues with your products?
The simple answer: They don’t!
Allocate every process document to departments and team members that need them. This not only removes confusion for the team members (who love reading any internal document to gain more insight), but also means that if they DO try to copy your processes and beat your business, they already know the 5 other areas of the business that they have no idea about and they don’t have access to the process documents that will show them how to do it. Crisis Averted!
Fine, Processes seem good but I have no time
This is the most common reason for people to not process their businesses activities: no time and the sunken cost behind them. But you need to start somewhere. Why did you quit your job and become an entrepreneur?
– For more money? Processes help you grow your business, sales and profit
– For free time? Processes help free up your time by training others to do the work
– To Challenge yourself? Processes move your skills around every part of your business constantly
– To not answer to anybody? Processes help remove adhoc team member requests by answering all their questions
Still not enough? Great!
Creating KPI’s from Processes
Imagine you have team members executing repetitive processes that you know “should” take them 1 hour to complete (which equals 8 completions of that process every working day). If they achieve 5 completions in a day, they are wasting company resources. If they complete 8 a day, they are on par and a perfect part of the team. But if they complete 10 in a day, you know they are a great asset, striving for greatness because you set the KPI based on what you can successfully deliver.
Fixing inefficiencies via Processes
Do you need to write a to-do list each day, create mind-maps for new business concepts, or see a rough design for a website before approving finals? This is because when everything is placed in front of our eyes, our brain can start filling in the missing areas, rather than trying to map it out on the fly. What the heck does this have to do with processes?
Well, have you ever tried explaining something seemingly simple but you always forget parts and remember only the end? This is the same with processes.
At the start, when they go from your mind to the document, it will be horrible. But when you have it all laid out, you can see each individual step that is required to execute it. With every part broken down, you will see areas you can automate and improve, parts that were missed out, sections that could lead to wasting time, etc.
Improving Quality due to Processes
The key to a business is increasing sales or the price of your goods while growing sales, but also trying to either decrease your cost of goods / services or improve the quality of what is provided. Process documents help you both improve the quality while finding ways to decrease costs.
Have meetings with teams members who execute the processes and review how you can improve them Remember that they are the ones doing them day in and day out, so they will know the steps that are taking 5 times longer than the others, and it’s your job to improve them. Processes must be treated as dynamic (something that always grows / is forever changing) and not static (you complete once / never go back to improve)
Shut Up and Tell Me How To Process
As a business owner, by now you know you need processes to grow your business. If you don’t, good luck with the expensive road ahead, finding the best of the best to execute every part of your business for you.
Let’s run through the 8 Core Steps to build a successful business process.
Note: Using Google Docs is a free alternative for building process documents but we are looking at moving our documents to a new Start Up: Processful. Google Docs allow you to make process documents available
Step 1: Desired Outcome
The focus is to work backwards. What are you trying to achieve from the entire process document(s)?
(Processes can be broken down into manageable documents or just in one document)
Making this the Title of the document will ensure that while you are building the process, it will always stay relevant to the desired outcome.
To help ensure that the process you are creating is a requirement, ask yourself what the justification is for the process. Will it save you time? Is it to complete a deliverable for a customer? Does it help with reporting?
Not only does this help ensure the process is needed in the business now, it is also great for team members to know why they are executing the document and what it will achieve.
Then create a KPI (Key Performance Indicator) metric for the process. This is how you will ensure team members are successfully delivering the outcome, within time / budget. It will also help out with improving quality of goods / services given to the customer.
Step 2: Layout Elements
This is a definite requirement for processes with a lot of different elements involved, rather than an appendix process that just shows one thing. Examples of large processes that need to be broken down into elements usually involve different departments needing to follow different documents, processes that require unique appendices to reference, and ultimately any process that is multi-faceted.
Having multiple process documents (elements) to make up the one process will save the team time looking up the step they left off while waiting for a response, another department’s action, etc, since they open a new document after they receive their required information.
Step 3: Step Out the Process (or each Element)
This is as simple as roughly noting down each step that needs to be completed in a chronological order. The reason why you don’t want to go into detail yet is there are typically parts of the original process you conceptualised which are inefficient, weren’t well thought out or require more research.
Simply put, research any step you need to do, delete steps that are not required, add some that you have missed, or scrap the whole process if it is not what you were after.
Note: Try to keep each point to 5 – 10 words and do not take screenshots yet
Step 4: Test it
Even thought the process is not yet at a stage to make it commercialised (getting a team to execute it), testing it from step 1 and following this draft will show any items that were left out, instantly show inefficient areas as well as improve allowing you to see points that could make it more effective.
Never skip this step, even if an expert team member from in your team is creating the process, they will need to test it before building it out – non-negotiable!
Step 5: Process it!
Ready to Rock and Roll. After everything is tested, improved, updated and smooth, you can turn it into a step by step process. This does not need to be completed by you, as your draft is probably easy enough for someone to execute and create themselves.
Here is a structure that we use on EVERY process and that every process step MUST have:
This outlines the step within 5 to 10 words (great as a point of reference for team members familiar with the process step but just need to be reminded)
Complete detail of where the button is they need to click, how to evaluate the page, the response to be used to the customer question, an email template to insert, etc. Make sure that each step within the process only have 1 deliverable (clicking a button is not a deliverable but moving data across is)
Note: You can separate a process step into sub-steps for complex items
Always have a screenshot of the area that is being described (not the whole screen – just the part that is relevant). This will be great for users who are very visual and is also a great point of reference, as a picture means a 1,000 words, or for us, it means decreasing confusion and improving deliverables. Images are also very easy to update if the process step changes from time to time
Note: We do not use videos due to how difficult they are to edit, you need to host them on YouTube, etc
Step 6: Test it again
Testing is always key to ensure you do not need to micromanage or describe the process in detail to anybody because there have been so many experienced and non-experienced people used to build it. The best approach to this step is to give the process to someone who has no previous experience or education in the area and outlined to ask ANY questions that they get confused with – and with any question, you update the process to answer that (stops that question from ever being asked again)
Always update the processes on questions from people executing them, as it will improve the training on a ne team member who is looking at the documents for the first time
Step 7: Easy Navigation
Ensuring that the process elements are easy to find is a no brainer, right? Well, too many businesses do not organise their documentation and it means that they are not used, they are lost or creates a headache trying to find them. Below we have a hint to make sure that you don’t loose your process documents and so that you can allocate a page specific to each department / group of team members
There are lots of reasons as to why processes are created but it is just as important to make sure that they are executed on time, every time. Scheduling can be very easy and here are a couple of scenario’s that might help:
- Repeating: Daily, Weekly Monthly, etc.
eg, Every Monday orders must be completed at 3pm
- Once Off’s: Creating Social Media accounts, designing, checks, etc
eg, Check the website for malware
- Triggered: Process is complete and then move to this one, etc
eg, Sales team gets a new client and triggers finance to get payment details
- Appendix: (Points of reference) Items on a website, glossary, additional reading, etc
eg, How to evaluate a quality website to get links form
Presentation: Shut Up! And Process It!
- Use Google Calendar: Everybody uses it, you can assign it to business emails or gmail’s and is mobile friendly
- Departments: Assign a colour to a specific department. This will allow you to assign that particular department to another email account (without giving access to the other departments process schedules and still allows you access to see everything)
- Repeating: Very easy to set repeating tasks based on days, weeks, months and years as well as allowing you to allocate a time for the process to be started or completed by.
- Dashboard: Always have a dashboard that the whole company uses. This will have links to each department but also outline the companies principles, core vision and any important notes.
Note: Number 1 thing every team member opens up on a daily basis
- Department Pages: This organisation will allow a department to open their teams documents in a layout that is easy to follow and links to every process that they we will ever need
Note: Use headings and subheadings to section different areas of the department for easy navigation
- Segment Users: Cut out any users who do not need to be involved with the department. If they are not a sales representative, why does the technician need access to your sales scripts, proposal documents and other client information?
Note: Google Docs is best at this as you can even segment users from not being able to edit your documents as well and only allow management to make changes
- Flow Chart: This is a chart that is visually appealing and outlines the entire process (including the multiple process elements). They are great for outlining when items needs to be sent to different department or people and to visually show the key approach.
- Indenting: By creating indents in your paragraphs, dashboard, department pages, etc it helps outline a hierarchy of the primary process elements, sub elements and appendix’s
Surely you didn’t think you would walk away with nothing to implement and nothing to copy, so that you learn from over 2 and a half years of process execution? Here – download a completed process for:
PROCESS: Converting Blog Content to HTML
DOWNLOAD A COPY: http://www.grantmerriel.com/process-example/
Note: To save it to your own Google Apps or Gmail account, go to “File” -> “Make a Copy”
Processes are great, it is a love / hate relationship a lot of the time though. They help with scaling a business very easy, remove a lot of quality control issues and make building up from your core business a breeze. All of the positives to processes are for the future and longevity of your business where the negatives to building processes are for the here and now. Don’t be silly and ask yourself:
WHAT AM I DOING TODAY, THAT IS HELPING WITH MY FUTURE GOALS?