Improving your internal processes is highly beneficial even to small businesses. If you are having trouble being consistent, operations are still in the rough, and things are still aren’t in order you might need to change some things. These improvements may take some time but will save you a lot of effort in the in the long run.
Businesses have always used the word process. Brainstorming your business process can be very helpful in improving customer satisfaction, product quality, effectiveness, and much more.
What is a process?
The simple dictionary definition of a process would be stated as the chain of actions taking place to create a specific result or make something, as well as the changes implemented for a natural occurrence. Within the business world, this is the occurrence of transforming input to output. An example would be, a steel sheet undergoes a process to transform into a car door or an invoice undergoes a process to result in a payment. In business, we oftentimes hear fancy terms like process excellence, process management or process improvement. These, all describe a channel of thought and what you want to achieve for yourself. “Improving the way that businesses create and deliver value to customers”, as described by the Process Excellence Network. Obviously, this would be a fantastic goal for any business.
Why do we even talk about the business process?
The organisations in the 20th century were mostly structured around Adam Smith’s idea of breaking work down into discrete tasks which were carried out by workers with little to no skills, which were also managed by organizing into functions.
The problem with these functional organisations though is that they can be really rigid, which can result in slower response times to customers. As a response to the problem, they focused more on process rather than function. Think of a traditional organisation as a series of vertical silos that control specific areas like research, finance, operations, and support.
How does thinking about processes help?
A functional organisation chart will tell you who is in charge of a particular function or roles, and a process view helps you understand:
- Who is engaged in delivering a product or service
- What they do
- What alters as a result of those actions
Small business in the more developed economies provide services rather than manufactured goods, in a service business you are defined by your actions and how effectively you do it. If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you are doing. In order to survive and be successful in a service economy, you need to understand and cater to your customer’s needs better than the competition and planning your business process really helps with that. You need to create a brand for yourself and your business as services are not tangible, customers need to remember you by experience.
Re-engineering a business process was just thought as a fad 20 years ago. However, Large corporations have done their own share of work in that area. Thinking about the process is still way better than thinking about function especially with small businesses, this also applies to sole traders as well.
A challenge for most entrepreneurs is that they usually have specific interests, expertise and therefore, they are trying to duck some or avoid some tasks. An example would be, a marketing guru who enjoys doing sales might try and avoid bookkeeping, finance, and administration. Sadly though, businesses require attention in every aspect to work, so blind spots tend to create huge problems.
This issue was addressed by the author, Michael Gerber in his book, “The E-Myth Revisited”. Where he also said that an individual that has an understanding of the technical side of a business can run it successfully. He urges that small businesses should pretend that one day they will be franchised and should document all their work on manuals to provide uniform service to each customer.
Gerber’s program has seven steps that develop a business’s strategy that can then be used to help improve its operations system:
- Your primary aim
- Your strategic objective
- Your organisational strategy
- Your management strategy
- Your people strategy
- Your marketing strategy
- Your systems strategy
This is actually a pretty good approach and has been successful for quite some time. However, the book tries to explain each step in more detail thus helping you build a functional organisation about functions. If you can get the idea to relate to your customer, then you can make the strategy more successful.
How do I improve my internal processes?
A surefire way of improving your internal process is to think like a customer and have a look at industry standards and best practice benchmarking. Visualise your customer as someone who is standing outside your organisation looking at the steps you will be implementing to deliver their products and services. Does your brand planning goals translate to customer perception?
The objective is to answer these three questions:
- What roles are involved in delivering your product and services?
- What do you do at each step?
- What is modified as a result of your actions?
The roles in your business need to be decided, here is a list you can use as your reference.: Marketing, Sales, Service Delivery, Customer Service Research and Development, Marketing Support, Hiring and Recruitment, Administration, IT, Purchasing, Business Strategy, General Management, etc. This list does not always apply to your business, but if you think there are too many and you only know ‘sell’ and ‘deliver’; think again! Many roles in huge businesses are required in small businesses as well. A certain individual might need to work for more than one role and improve their worker productivity and output. Even if you are a sole trader, you need to think like you have a document for each step to create a manual when your business expands for other people to follow so they can follow the same process as you did.
Documenting the whole process doesn’t necessarily have to consume a lot of time or doesn’t need to be difficult. A diagram with a series of boxes or arrow will do, even a list of bullet points would be good enough; the real value comes from the steps and recognising that you can take on many roles in your business. You can also try and look at those areas you need to improve by streamlining the entire process. If you have difficulty breaking down the steps engage a small business coach to walk you through, it can be a difficult task to do on your own.
Spending some time in your business can help you pay dividends and can help you move closer towards a consistent, seamless, smooth, and organised continuous growth that every business aims for. Remember success doesn’t come overnight and streamlining your business takes time and strategic business advice and planning.