I have seen many businesses that are owner-dependent rather than systems and process-dependent. Once you hire your first employee, the whole dynamic of the business will change. That employee is representing your interests and is now the face of the company. Things can start falling through the cracks. Many owners respond to this by trying to micro-manage each employee to ensure the work gets done the way the owner desires. They are working long hours and feel they cannot take a vacation because the business will fail without them. This is the wrong way to run your business!!
You need to create a company that can operate without a constant owner presence.
Unless you have a process that the employee(s) did not follow to address each scenario. Every problem IS your fault!!! Most owners have in their mind what should be done to handle almost any situation but never document or put a system in place to pass this knowledge onto the employees. Employees change and can start deviating from the ways you want things done.
Your goal should be to create a system where you can make a new employee effective and successful quickly and consistently.
Where do you start? Create a flow chart for each individual process your company does with a timeline. Some of these might include customer contact, ordering of inventory, accounting, performing the service, etc. Doing this will show you where you need to spend your time.
How do you create each process? One method is to do the task yourself and document the most efficient way to accomplish it. Next figure out how to make it into a repeatable and consistent process. This might include software, custom forms, custom spreadsheets, documentation, etc.
For example, let’s compile a flow chart and process analysis for the sales process for a service-based company. A customer may call in, send an email, or fill out a request on your website. You would create a process to collect this information for each contact type. If they call in, how and where will you record their information? Most companies use some type of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software. My advice is to document every contact you have with a customer. As you are talking to the customer, they may want to set up an appointment to come see their property. What system do you have to see when you are available? Software such as Google Calendar and/or CRM software will have this feature. You also need to set a benchmark on an acceptable time frame to visit the customer.
This information needs to be available to the salesperson. What will their processes look like? Do they call first to introduce themselves and confirm the appointment? Do they just show up? What information should he gather when he is at the customer's property? How will you capture this? This may be via a special form or online. What process will be used to create the estimate? I recommend always using a mathematical formula for estimates. As the owner, you may really good at winging it but that is not going to work for an employee. For my lawn company, I created my own estimating system. I broke it down to linear feet of edging along sidewalks and beds, square feet of the lawn to mow, and every obstacle in the lawn that slowed me down. I used Excel to make a form that anybody could use. I could hand a new employee the Excel sheet and a measuring wheel and they could produce accurate estimates.
What is your process to present the estimate to the customer? Do you handwrite an estimate or print one? Do you give it to the customer while you are there or when you get back to the office? If you do it once you return to the office, what is the expectation on timing that you share with the customer? And the process continues…
As you can see there are many choices to make as an owner and in many places, things can go wrong. Incorrect estimates, poor customer service, incorrect information, etc. This can all lead to lost sales, poor profits, and possibly even a bad reputation. As an owner, you need to eliminate as many of the unknown variables as possible. If you don’t, you will spend all your time putting out fires and blaming the employees for the failure when really it is your fault. If a failure does occur, spend the time to determine what caused the failure and what process you can put in place to prevent the failure in the future. This will allow you to only spend your time making sure the processes are being followed by the employees and this can be done by spot checking.
Time to start planning that well-deserved vacation!
Glen Zior is a certified SCORE Frederick mentor. He has owned and operated several small businesses, including a software company and a lawn care company.
SCORE is a nationwide volunteer network of 310 chapters dedicated to the formation, growth, and success of small businesses. SCORE Frederick provides free and confidential business advice and mentoring to entrepreneurs, start-up businesses, and to established small businesses in Frederick and Carroll counties. SCORE Frederick also offers workshops for entrepreneurs and established businesses. SCORE Frederick continually seeks volunteers with small business and or management experience retired or working to become chapter mentors. For details visit http://www.scorefrederick.org or call 240-215-4757.