Best practices for managing business processes
(The following post is by guest blogger Tom Garrity, managing partner of Compass Point, a consulting firm that helps family business owners secure the future they deserve through people, decisions, strategy and succession to ensure financial freedom and a business legacy.)
How did you answer? Yes? No? Not sure?
Let’s first define what a process is, and then why my question is so important. In it’s simplest form, a process creates effectiveness and delivers more value for the end user. Wikipedia defines a process as “a set of activities that interact to achieve a result.” What business doesn’t want to achieve results?
(For more on what a process is, check out my blog post on the subject.)
Look inside any successful business and you will find a common thread.
They all have developed a systematic approach – an effectiveness process that uses fewer resources and eliminates unnecessary activities – for every facet of their operation. It’s present in the front office and on the shop floor; on the loading dock and in the call center.
Now back to my original question. In terms of your own business, do you own the processes, or do they own you?
Let me ask the question another way. If a key person left today, does that tribal knowledge leave with them? Could the business keep going without missing a beat? Or, would everything come to a screeching halt? Having processes is important not only to business growth, but to the stability of a business as well.
Documentation is critical for business processes
Yet, having a process is one thing. Being able to repeat it day in and day out, regardless of who is in the office or not, is another. The ability to repeat takes documentation.
Writing down and capturing a business process offers a number of benefits that might not be immediately obvious:
- The ability to identify a problem and fix the root cause
- The ability to grow faster by providing consistent systems to hire and train new employees
- Higher value to customers due to efficient operation
- Identify and eliminate inefficiencies
- The gathering of consistent information that allows for consistent comparison to previous periods and the ability to benchmark with other organizations
Documenting “how we do it here” is the critical step in growing a scalable business that can be operated by other people, not just the owner, not just a few key people. The operative words here are “other people”.
Whether it is a new hire or an existing employee stepping in because someone is out sick, having a go-to document that lists every critical function needed to run the company should be at the finger tips of every department head.
If you don’t have that go-to document – a manual – get started!
A few words of advice (and encouragement), it is not easy getting started. In fact, it’s down right hard, time consuming but…totally worth it. The key is to start.
(You can find out more about how to get started with documenting processes on my blog.)
Tom Garrity is the managing partner of Compass Point – a business consulting firm working with family-owned companies who want to grow, care about the legacy of the business and want to protect their financial future. He works primarily with companies in the manufacturing, construction & professional service industries.