So many service business owners I work with start off the same way. Some tools and skills with a dream of making a profitable business that one day provides for you and your family. And that’s a great place to start, but if you want a profitable business you need more than just your truck and some moxy! You need to create systems in your business to support your growth. Systems are what make a business a business and without them, you are simply self-employed. Even if you manage to hire a few employees, you won’t be able to get very far without having systems and processes in place.
Everything from management and employee training, to collections, marketing, dispatch, and how each and every single customer interaction goes should be defined by a system or process.
Do you know why McDonald’s is one of the biggest and most successful corporations in the world? It’s not because of the Big Mac, or the famous saying “Would you like fries with that?”.
The reason McDonald’s is ubiquitous around the world is that they were one of the first burger joints to really understand and implement the power of systems.
Just like when Ford created the first assembly line for manufacturing cars and took the world by storm, McDonald’s created a down-to-the-letter process for assembling delicious (if not particularly healthy) food every single time.
With billions and billions of customers served since then, it’s obvious that systems are important.
So how do you start putting these in place for your business? Let’s talk about that.
Here are five strategies to help your business evolve and mature.
- Start at the very beginning. Running a service business often means juggling many things and responding to the immediate needs of each day. It’s easy to work intuitively and just get things done. However, thinking about the steps and procedures of how each element of a job gets done from the very first day is vital to the ultimate success of the business. Don’t put documenting your process off to another day. Instead, take note of every procedure from the very beginning.
- Write it down. As you go through the daily work, take careful notes on the day-to-day processes. Take note of everything from how files are saved to how big decisions are made. One tip is to use screen recording software and narrate what you are doing when you are doing it. This creates a digital record of how a specific task is done. Break each task down into a step-by-step process and then write down the steps.
- Be proactive. Anticipate problems and methodically create solutions. When something new comes up, create a record of how it was handled and use that as the basis for the process in the future. Even when certain actions seem obvious, make a note of the steps and approaches. What is intuitive for one person may not occur to another. By keeping close notes of all procedures other members of the team will be able to understand the decision-making process.
- Get it out of your head. Once all of the operations are recorded, it is useful to have others review the material. Put all your SOPs and system documents into one area where members of your team can access it. It can help to have an outside professional look over your processes and see where any holes might be. They can also help you organize it in a way that makes sense for someone with fresh eyes.
- Share it. Once the operations manual is created, start sharing it with the members of the company. Make sure that all employees have easy access to the information. Posting the procedures on an intra-company website or distributing hard copies of the material will encourage people to refer and follow the guidelines. As updates are made to the materials, have alerts sent to the appropriate parties so that everyone is up to date.
- Your systems are alive! Once you’ve got them in place and documented, you need to revisit them at least once a year to make sure they are still relevant and appropriate to the task at hand. Did one of your team members come up with a better way of doing things? Test it out and if it works, update your systems. Your operations manual is a living document that needs to be periodically updated.
Growth and development are exciting stages in the evolution of a service business. However, without solid planning and infrastructure business owners can jeopardize valuable growth opportunities and get stuck in the early stages where you have essentially built yourself a job instead of a business.
By thinking proactively and consistently working on an operations plan, your business will be ready for future growth.