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Want to Grow Your Small Business? Optimize Your Processes

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July 28,2015

By Heather Wied, Pubsoft

Small business is great. It’s often a labor of love, and there is usually blood, sweat, tears, and straight up grinding and hustling involved to make it work. Your small business is your baby. There’s nothing wrong with being and staying a small business, if that is your goal, but many people want to grow their businesses to the next level. In order to constantly grow a small business, operators have to be thinking about a few key simple questions: “Is there a better way to do what we’re doing?” and, “How do we scale?”

Admittedly, I worked for a chain restaurant in my younger years. There was a process for everything and some kind accompanying laminated sign on the wall to remind you of the process, just in case you forgot or had a question. This company is a Fortune 500 company, and their Wikipedia page lists their revenues at more than $13 Billion. Later I worked for two large chain retail companies, and I encountered the same phenomenon. Binders stacked full to the brim that changed with seasons and showed employees the exact way merchandise should be laid out in the store, the directions that hangers should face, and lists of opening and closing tasks that had to be performed every. single. day. So what’s my point?

The reason companies are able to grow so large directly correlates to their scalability and scalability directly relates to defined business processes. Seems simple enough, but many small businesses often lack in documenting and following processes, and these are critical for growth.


Why Business Processes and Process Documentation Work?

Processes and documentation create consistency and cohesion, and they also remove ambiguity from the day to day tasks that are required to make the business move forward. If someone needs to know the answer to a question, can they first consult a binder, book, or intranet that outlines what they should or could be doing? While there is much to be said about a company culture with some degree of employee autonomy, it’s often comforting for employees to know that there is a specific way to keep the business running, and people aren’t always just doing things off the cuff or the way they feel like doing them.


When is the Right Time to Optimize?

If you’re business is sustaining a steady profit, but there is no growth, it’s probably time to look at your processes. It’s about taking a step back and recognizing why growth has stagnated, and identifying any areas that could use a process makeover. Business operations, even in small business, are complex and intricate beasts with many small moving parts and making a small change can have unseen implications in other areas, but making the right changes can move your company in the direction of growth.


Areas To Look to Optimize:

Communication Processes - How are we communicating? How are we getting messages between ourselves and our team? Are we meeting up every day, every week, every month to make sure we’re all on the same page? How are we communicating with our customers? Are we keeping track of this information somewhere that is easily accessible to the people who need it?
Production Processes - Can we change the components we use, vendors we use, and/or machinery we use to create our goods and services to make them better? Can we do something to improve our turnaround times? Are there forms or questionnaires we can create to make sure that we’re getting all the information we need vital to our production processes before we run into some kind of hitch?

Technology Processes - Can we incorporate new technology with our old technology? Is there some kind of software program that consolidates multiple processes so we only have to look in one place instead of multiple to find the answers we’re looking for? Do we need to create something specifically for our tem that helps us work better?


How To Optimize:

Determine and Design:

Managing change is difficult; therefore, choose one area you’re going to look at to improve. Let the whole team involved (sometimes that’s just a party of one) contribute to the optimization process. While you may have designed and defined original processes, if you’re no longer the one in the trenches, doing the work every day, listen to the feedback of others. People’s insight and creativity can surprise you, and maybe there is a better way, and that’s what optimization is all about.


This seems trivial, but put each process, step-by-excruciating-step in writing. The more specific the better. Put it somewhere easy for the people who need it to access, which will be dependent on how your team communicates.

Train, Implement, & Practice:

Use the documentation you’ve created and train your employees. Make sure you address any questions, problems, or concerns they may have. If something keeps coming up as unclear or is causing misunderstanding, revise the documentation.

Evaluate and Redesign:

The point of business process optimization is growth, give it some time to evaluate performance, but if that’s not happening, there could be a flaw in the process, and it may need to be redesigned. Conversely, the good news is that if you have optimized your processes, the growth you achieve requires the addition of new resources and new people, and you’ll need to redesign your processes again. 



Heather Wied is the Marketing Director for Pubsoft. Follow @Pubsoft on Twitter.





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