Small and large business owners alike will usually only stand up and take notice of how their business operates when they have reached a tipping point. A tipping point can be anything from the addition of a new member of staff through to landing a news sales deal or putting together an exit plan, and anything in-between.
For some business owners that tipping point is a need for investment, an injection of cash to take their business to the next level. These are business owners who can tell you clearly what they do and why they do it, in themselves both powerful and compelling stories. However, a lot of these businesses have one other thing in common; they poorly demonstrate HOW they do what they do.
Investors obviously need to have bought into the what’s and why’s behind a business but one of the real driving forces behind their investment choice is their belief that a business can deliver a quality service or product over and over again. The value of a business is far higher if it can be demonstrated that the business has consistent standards and can operate with or without its owner present.
So how does a business, small or large, reveal its true value? The simplest way to do this is to write everything down! Describing how people and teams work together and how decisions are made on a day to day basis gives you a much richer document than a business plan alone.
Creating a manual for your business that anyone can pick up will immediately add tangible value. A good manual is a living thing that at its most basic level tells people how to do things. At a higher level though it allows you to manage the resources within your business, measure your performance in an unbiased way, creates stability and ultimately increases the reputation of your business.
With a manual in place instead of getting someone up to speed in 3 weeks you can get them there in 3 days. Instead of being dragged into meetings where people aren’t able to express the issues they are having or resources they need you can refer back conclusively to a process. Even if the process doesn’t work you can change the process to make it better. Written processes provide a guiding principle within a business that makes inter-team communication work better.
There is also an unseen cultural element to having a business that runs in the right way and with the right processes in place. It gives a business a sense of direction and purpose and underpins its values. It allows business owners to make a decision and have it applied equally throughout the business without mixing up the message and losing clarity.
If documented processes can do all these things, imagine the potential cost to businesses that don’t have these in place.
Top 5 tips for getting your processes written down
- Decide on a format – hard or soft copy, online or offline, and one or a combination of written and multimedia (video, audio, photos). Your choice will be as unique as you and your business are.
- Know your audience – a process that is intended to help train new staff will need a different level of detail to one that is intended to give clients, for example, an overview of how you deliver your product or services.
- Keep it simple – use only as much detail as is needed to ensure the process outcome is consistent. Answer the basic questions: Who is involved in the process? What activities are performed and in what sequence? Where does the process start and finish?
- Decide who will document the process – the best person to do this is the person who actually does the work. Don’t be afraid to ask outsourced resources such as book keepers and virtual assistants to document what they are doing.
- Document on the go – trying to write all your processes down at once will be unnecessarily time-consuming and disruptive. Take your time and plan to do a little at a time over a time frame that is realistic.