Starting a business is exciting. It’s a journey. You take in your know-how, your gut intuition and all your experience. You’re out there, helping people and doing what you always wanted.
But, what happens when things really start to accelerate and you struggle to get everything done?
It’s time to change how things get done, and get your systems in place. Elimination, Automation and Delegation are the keys to fit more into your day – so where do you start?
In order to create efficiencies and automation you first need to know where and how you’re spending your time.
One easy way is to start documenting what you do regularly – keep a simple diary for a week to record what you’re doing and how long it takes you (this is vital!).
Don’t miss activities that are also required monthly, quarterly or yearly – add these in to your list too.
Step by Step
Once you’ve identified how you’re spending your time – drop each activity into this matrix by judging the value added by the activity.
NB – Value is determined by your customer, not you. For example – if you are spending time producing glossy reports that are of little use to your client – this does NOT represent a value add to them and should be re-evaluated.
Waste is defined as
Unnecessary activities that consume resources but add no value to the product or service
By going through this process you may already have found some things to eliminate. This is an easy win. If an activity doesn’t serve your customer, and by extension, you or your business and, ceasing won’t have a detrimental effect, then simply stop doing it.
Be careful not to eliminate activities that are legally required!
Activities that represent investment in your education (not waste!), side-projects/ potential new business directions and “just for fun” may simply need rescheduling rather than elimination.
Activities that ARE necessary will then fall into several categories…
Activities which are necessary but can be done with greater efficiency and skill by another should be delegated or outsourced.
It’s good practice to fully understand the process yourself before handing it over as sometimes a closer look may yet identify the activity as waste or something which can be done less frequently. Delegating to an expert has the added advantage of improving it’s results by the experience and know-how of the expert.
This is where hiring a Virtual Professional can be invaluable to your business.
Activities which are repetitive and follow a series of well-defined steps can often be automated either by making use of software or by setting up a process which requires little maintenance on your part.
Automate the easiest processes first. Choose tasks where there is no human value-add. Automation lets you avoid human error while saving time in execution.
Setting up this automation process may also be ideal to delegate to your VA or expert.
Here’s where you, as business owner should be spending the majority of your time – be it client meetings, lead generation, or accomplishing client-specific tasks.
Having said that, these tasks can also often be improved winning you more time.
Process Improvement in a Nutshell
1. Write down the current steps you take to get from a to b.
- If there are others involved in the process – document this also
- Document dependencies and possible roadblocks also
2. Map out the ideal situation
- What does this process look like in an ideal world? or, How would you like it to work?
3. Compare the 2 and you’ll start to see where efficiency can be gained
This may be in
- Automation of part of the process
- Delegation of parts of the process
- Elimination of parts of the process
Build a history of this process of change. Document what you do: Where you started, what you spent, what the results were. It’s important to do this for each project. If you don’t, you may take for granted the progress you have made and hesitate to continue with your efforts. Process improvement has been shown time and time again to yield incredible ROIs (return on investment).
The learning curve is steep. There’s no shortage of advice, tips, helpful hints and information out there. But what’s right for you and your business? Only you can decide, which is why YOU need to drive this “performance review” of your business.
It will take time but the time you could save will make it worthwhile and carry you forward to achieve your goals.
Oh, and while we’re talking about goals – set some simple measures along the way to ensure that the changes you’re making are paying off.
Hi Rachel, your “process in a nutshell” is brilliant and I have copied into a word file, made it bigger and printed it off. I am going to pin it to my wall and use it to do a systematic review of my systems and processes. I think part of the problem is as you develop systems and processes in your business you tend to bolt them on to existing systems rather than do this review and find out what can be eliminated. Thanks for a great article.
That’s great Liz! Good luck with your clear out of systems – I hope it rewards you with some time and space!
So many great take aways in this article Rachel, but this is by far my favourite – Value is determined by your customer not you. Things change in business once this clicks! Thanks for a great read!