Once upon a time, running your business may have been a simple, intuitive affair. It may have been easy to coordinate with your team due to its small size. You may have completed your daily tasks on an as-needed basis, using basic tools like spreadsheets. And you may have allotted resources wherever there was space, like in a tiny office or in your garage.
But the thing is, small businesses won’t stay small in the same way forever—especially if they want a fighting chance to succeed. Even if a business owner wants to keep their team small and their operations limited, they’ll need to upscale two things: work flow and process. Work flow and process can be thought of as guidelines for working smart, as opposed to just working hard. They’ll add greater structure, purpose, and efficiency to everyday tasks—all of which a business of any size will need in order to stay viable.
How will you adapt a work flow and process that will give you the same power as a big company? Here are five tips on setting the standard for your small business, without overhauling the way you do things.
Revisit Existing Processes and Find Sources of Strength and Weakness
The first thing you should do before you devise a new work flow and process is to revisit your old methodologies. Simply put, you should look at where your team is excelling versus what you could all stand to fix.
You may have gotten more leads since the previous year, which means that you can continue your current lead generation processes. For seasonal projects, however, you may have noticed that the team tends to rush things or not keep track of partnerships. That’s a sign to reconfigure the processes so that you can do them more successfully—for example, investing in tools to improve project management efficiency.
Learn to Prioritize
Dedicating equal attention to all business tasks is not a smart way to work. There should be a set hierarchy of all the tasks that you and your staff need to complete. But how do you determine which tasks take precedence over others? For one, you can base the hierarchy on fixed needs, like the need to issue bi-monthly pay slips every second and fourth week. For another, you can assign priority tasks per quarter, i.e. dedicating the last quarter of the year to preparing for financial audit.
In short, determine which tasks need to be moved up ahead versus which can be held off at the moment. Don’t decide which tasks are more important while you’re on the fly—have a fixed hierarchy that you and your staff can refer to.
Automate and Digitize
A more old-school business owner might think that digitizing their business will cost a lot of time and money. But in today’s business environment, that’s not the case at all. There are a lot of affordable technologies that business owners can invest in for the upkeep of their daily tasks. Past the initial investment, they could save staff a lot of time and reduce costs from human error or potential business disruption.
It’s highly recommended that you incorporate automated technologies into your work flow. Automating tasks like calendaring, payroll, bills payment, and the like can free up your staff for work that needs their human faculties more. And in general, it would be good to keep a digital paper trail as well as a physical one. Doing so will make it easier to access company files remotely, as well as back them up in case they are lost to a fire, accident, or pests.
Document Your Processes
You and your staff members may have established implicit SOPs over the years, but it’s good to have those set in stone. That’s the importance of documenting your processes, whether it’s for something as minor as waste segregation policies or something as major as onboarding.
Keeping proper documentation of your processes ensures that you have a reference point for how to properly do things. You’ll want to revisit such processes, such as in the company handbook or in your company circulars, for when you’re making key business decisions. And when it’s time to hand over the reins of your business to new leaders, they will know exactly how to replicate your good work.
Delegate, Don’t Micromanage
If you’re in a position of leadership in your small business, it may be second nature to micromanage. After all, the business is small enough for everyone to be privy to the smallest details. But putting yourself at the center of each and every process, and part of every step of the work flow, will likely burn you out. Moreover, what would your staff do in the off-chance that you weren’t there to handle everything?
To avoid this, see which aspects of the work flow and which processes you can delegate to other staff. Be sure that everyone knows that they are the point persons. Encourage more of your team members to step up and lead with you, in order to keep the overall management capacities of the business strong.
Summary: Giving Due Importance to Work Flow and Process
Having airtight processes and detailed work flows are highly advantageous to small businesses. As recounted above, they will be a means to achieve greater agility, productivity, and focus. And most of all, they will provide a sense of direction that your small business needs—so that it can grow in huge ways.