7 Ideas for Developing Business Systems

Wherever you are today with respect to growing your company or organization, systematizing your activities is an essential part of setting the conditions for success. Because it’s critical to establish a solid foundation before your business starts growing rapidly, this article offers seven ideas for developing systems and processes in your organization.

Before your company can respond to rapid shifts or prepare for expansion, you will want to look around for leaks and cracks. Ask, “How do communications and work products flow from suppliers, within the organization, and to customers? Who hands off what to whom? Is this ideal or should we optimize processes?”

The answers may reveal areas where no methods exist, where methods are still too vaguely defined to cement, and where critical gaps reside that should be sealed before everyone can perform effectively on a grander scale.

For example, it might be comfortable in the early stages of a business for people to communicate very informally. However, informal communication by itself cannot support a consistent way of operating once more people become involved. If you plan for growth by systematizing as soon as possible, you’ll lay a solid framework and avoid an “implosion” later.

Another major consideration is the amount of irreplaceable intellectual property that might be stored in the heads of your employees or contractors. Employees, contractors, and consultants might come and go without your retaining a fraction of what they know. Can you afford to let them walk away without capturing their wisdom in your company’s knowledgebase? Can employees take time off without causing routine business activities to come to a halt?

————————————————

Take Time to Do a Little “Task Triage”

————————————————

Look at each of the applicable areas of your business, such as:

. Administration

. Project management

. Production management

. Information technology

. Quality assurance

. Marketing/sales

. Customer support

. Other functional activities

In each area — and even more importantly, across areas — you’ll find possibilities for streamlining, strengthening, and documenting your processes. Many processes will begin in one functional area and continue through other areas before completion.

The handoffs between people or functions often represent the weakest links because of the possibilities for miscommunication, bottlenecks, delays, and data entry errors. So be especially alert for those areas!

————————————————

Seven Things to Consider When Systematizing Your Business

————————————————

As you proceed to develop and fine-tune your processes, consider the following.

1. How mature are your processes?

Especially while in a startup mode, many of your methods might be in a “mushy,” formative state. It can take time to develop a repeatable pattern for accomplishing work. Even if your business has operated for a while, new activities will inevitably emerge. Consider whether each is mature enough to justify formal documentation, or whether less formal “desk instructions” would suffice in the meantime.

2. Can you streamline processes before documenting them?

Before documenting your processes:

— Consider whether all of the tasks or steps are actually needed.

— Consider where activities can be simplified, automated, or eliminated.

— Research where obstacles to productivity exist.

— Ponder all areas with the greatest potential for waste, errors, mistakes, and hidden drains on your bottom line.

— Think about how streamlining each area would improve your profitability, customer satisfaction, and internal effectiveness, and prioritize your efforts accordingly.

3. Who should document your systems?

People often don’t have the “extra” time to document their own tasks, since they already spend all of their time doing their regular jobs. Another option might involve “job shadowing,” where an intern or new-hire continually observes, discusses, and documents what an expert performer does.

This relieves the expert of that burden, while providing a way for the intern to learn and contribute value immediately. Alternatively, you could hire a procedure specialist, and if a client engagement benefits enough to pay for it, that’s ideal!

The intern or specialist also can recommend ideas for improvement that surface from a having a fresh perspective. The expert can help fine-tune the resulting procedures, which would all become part of the company’s information library.

4. How can you go about systematizing?

Begin by asking, “How do we […]?” and then fill in the blank with the activity you wish to systematize. Diagram all steps required to complete that process, across all functional areas.

You may discover that if you routinely perform certain steps in a given order, those are good candidates for step-by-step procedures. In areas where the steps vary based on the circumstances, a list of guidelines might be more appropriate. If you are able to automate procedures, consider using electronic support systems.

5. What types of documentation should you produce?

— Systems, at the highest level, represent collections of related processes.

— Processes, depicted as diagrams or process maps, provide overviews of tasks that transform inputs into outputs by adding value during each task step.

— Procedures cover the step-by-step, “how-to” details for performing task steps. Procedures might appear in training materials, job aids, and work instructions. Similarly, guidelines show what rules to follow in more variable situations.

6. What can you delegate or outsource?

If you have designed your processes to be easy to follow and repeatable, so that others can produce the same result each time, you are ready to delegate. And if you can hand off to someone with less expertise without losing speed or quality, hurray!

7. What can you continuously improve?

Always be alert for ways to eliminate, automate, or simplify every activity that you perform routinely. Your time is valuable, so your goal should be to spend time on the activities that will contribute most to your company’s profitability. For every step, ask, “What value does this add? What’s a faster, less complicated way of getting this done? Can a different view of this system expose new possibilities for streamlining?”

In conclusion, systematizing your business may seem like an overwhelming effort. By enlisting outside help, and prioritizing the areas to simplify and document according to what will have the greatest impact on your bottom line, you’ll achieve better results in a shorter period of time.

Contractor Verification System

90% of U.S. Firms neglect to screen contractors [1]. Despite the number of contractor relationships that thrive in the workforce, historically contractors have not been screened.

Unfortunately, although contractual employment relationships are prevalent in the U.S., so are the lawsuits that occur as the result of the employing company should have a contractor verification system to ensure that their contractors are screened prior to performing work.

Luckily, there’s a simple solution: contractor screening. In fact, many companies have picked up on the recent trend of employing a third-party contractor verification system, to ensure their contractors are pre-qualified for work. Contractor verification systems are designed to screen your contractors and suppliers that come on site or support major portions of your business.

In the past ten years it’s become quite common to see large Multinational companies who employ thousands of contractors every year to the big company to hire a third-party contractor verification system to pre-qualify and manage suppliers. These contractor verification systems are a highly effective way of ensuring that your company avoids a potential lawsuit as the result of employing an unsafe or unethical contingent worker.

Developing and maintaining a world-class contractor verification system can be easy. It’s a matter of properly collecting, organizing and centralizing your contractor data into an efficient database. The information that you gather should then be reviewed and verified for accuracy:

1. Documents- Each contractor should complete a qualification form which can be reviewed for contractor licenses and compliance with regulation requirements.

2. Insurance – Insurance statistics are an important indication of how qualified your contractor is and should be reviewed for accuracy and adequate coverage.

3. Safety Information- For those companies with a higher level of safety, audits should be performed on your contractor’s Safety Manual and implementation of their safety plan.

4. Employee Information- Background information should be collected including drug screening and past history on those employees engaged in important company activities.

Awareness in selecting safe contractors and subcontractors cannot be overrated. Choosing a safe team using an effective contractor verification system greatly reduces risk and minimizes incidents. Incorrect documentation, inadequate insurance coverage and be an employee’s prior disruptive or destructive performance can severely negatively impact your business.

By evaluating the criteria we discuss above, implementing a contractor verification system and keeping up with regulatory changes and best practices, you can avoid lawsuits and protect your company. These simple measures can save you millions in losses and damages every year.

References:

[1] Source: Screening Contract Employees: An Important Slice of Corporate Security. Jennifer http://www.allbusiness.com/labor-employment/human-resources-personnel-management/12398009-1.html

Why Smart Virtual Assistants Create Systems

Virtual assistants are gifted professionals who can typically organize and run any business their clients hand to them. But when it comes to being organizing and running their own businesses, that’s more of a challenge. When you’re wearing multiple hats it is easy to put off creating our own systems.

A smart virtual assistant’s business should strive to run as smoothly as their local 5-start restaurant. At anytime you should be able to add a new client to your workload and not miss a beat in your productivity and service standards.

Creating and documenting your business procedures can be done quickly and easily if you take a few steps. And thanks to technology, we can create our systems plan in a variety of ways. Here are three steps to get you started:

Gather Your Information. This step is quite challenging for many because it means collecting all of the information you have previously stored in your brain (and all over your office) into one specific document. Your goal is to record your daily business routine to paper. Be sue that it includes all passwords, resources, the web addresses, phone numbers, contact information, etc.

Create a Video Record. In addition to recording your information on paper creating a video tutorial where you explain and describe exactly what you’re doing and why you are doing it. You can use Camtasia or its open source counterpart CamStudio to complete this step. The benefit of the video is that you’ll be able to share them with future contractors or employees.

Monitor Your Results. This step involves paying attention to your business. For example, let’s say when you began your virtual assistance business you were using Excel to keep track of your accounting. But now you have more clients and Excel is becoming cumbersome. So you decide to try a program like FreshBooks. So you’d take a moment to compare how much time you are saving (or losing) with your newly proposed accounting system. Once you’ve examined your experience you would update your systems document.

Business systems can be broken down into three words: Plan – Do – Review.

  • Plan out how you want you business to run.
  • Do what your systems plan outlines; don’t improvise or change anything until you get to the next step which is to Review.
  • Review if the way that you’re working is the most effective way to get business done and if not, make adjustments as necessary. By repeating these steps you’re well on your way to a well-run business organization.

Building Your Home Business System

Many home based businesses fail within six months of starting. This is usually because the new business owner has not put in place, the proper systems to run a home based business. In this article I’ve included a few tips that should help you to organize your new business.

Office space

It is important to have a proper workplace for your home business. Many people try to work out of their garage or a corner of their bedroom or even in a portion of the family room. This tends to cause disorganization. Curious children getting into things in your workspace can also be a problem. If you don’t have a specific space set aside for your home based business you need to make one.

Set up an office space specifically for your business, even if most of your work is done outside of your home (as with building contractors or plumbers). Setting up a specific desk, file cabinet, and telephone line for your business is important. If you don’t have a room in your home that is exclusively used for your business, you need to have at least a portion of a room set aside. This area shouldn’t be used for anything else.

Telephone

Your home base business should have its own telephone number and an answering machine set up specifically for your business. If your clients can get a hold of you via the telephone you need to have a way for them to contact your online. Sharing your home telephone line with your home based business can cause problems. If you have teenagers or other family members who are prone to use the telephone a lot you may not get an important business calls. Setup rules for your business phone. It should be used for business use only. Whoever answers your business phone needs to do it in a professional manner. This is important if you want your business to be taken seriously.

Organizing Data and Supplies

Your office should have a secure filing cabinet to organize your business documents. You should keep all important data in this filing cabinet. All receipts and other forms need to be kept where you are not going to lose them. It’s also important to keep documents and other business related materials put away so that someone doesn’t spell something on them. Losing important paperwork can be very costly for your home based business. Selling products that look like your children have been playing with them is also not good for your business.

Computer

Data on your computer should be password protected. If you don’t password protect your business documents it’s possible that children or even other family members can go in and accidentally delete your home based business data. Losing computerized business records can also be very costly for a new home based business.

Financial Management System

Another big mistake that new home business owners tend to make is not having a separate financial management system for their business and your own money. Your business should have its own bank account. You should give yourself a payday. Avoid giving your self advances, even when you feel you have earned them. Keeping track of business expenditures is important. If your financial records are mingled in with your grocery shopping it’s going to become very difficult to keep track of funds.

Network Marketing Home Business – Advantages Over a Traditional Business Or Job

Maybe like me you’ve become underemployed. Maybe you are one of the less fortunate who’ve become unemployed. Or maybe you’re even a college graduate who has discovered, that even with a degree, there are not many quality job opportunities out here right now. Sure you might be able to flip burgers for minimum wage, but that certainly doesn’t support a family or pay off loans from college.

Personally, I had to make some changes. I had worked full time in the same industry for about 20 years. I had started out as an unskilled laborer and learned skilled labor and customer service the first five years. From there I’d gone on to be a crew chief and supervisor for the next ten years. After that I went into logistics, management and sales for the last five years. Even after a long period of experience, honing skills and ever increasing responsibility I suddenly found me underemployed! With my wife out of work and things slow at my job we began falling behind more and more.

I found myself having to make the same kind of evaluation you are making about home based business. I had been exposed to many opportunities like Amway, Pre-paid Legal, Young Living, Mona Vie, etc. I’d spent a ton on books, audio books and eBooks. I’d checked out and read tons of books from the libraries. I even spent $6,000 on an e-commerce home business that I have not seen a dime of profit from. I’d started my own home and small businesses (even losing $50,000 on a small business). I’d been actively researching network marketing home business for a few years.

I thought about it quite a bit and determined what disadvantages might be of doing network marketing home business over a traditional business. (I knew just going to my job every day would get us nowhere but on the streets at that point. After 20 years, that was pretty shocking!) First of all, it would be wholly based on the quality and amount of effort and commitment I was willing to make, at least in the beginning. If I truly wanted leverage of my time and money I would have to work very hard and very smart for quite awhile. If I was lazy about it, my expectations and goals would certainly not be met.

There would be no healthcare, dental, vision, stock, 401K or any traditional benefits. Everything would be my responsibility. For me, this was no different than my job, since as a contractor I didn’t get any of that stuff anyway. If I went to another job I might get these things, but if I moved full time into a network marketing home business I would not.

I looked at these and other aspects and not only were there a lot of advantages of network marketing home business over a traditional business, but a lot of disadvantages could actually be advantages to me. It just depended on my point of view. For instance, since it is wholly based on my level of commitment I would get out of it what I put in. If I wanted a raise I would give myself a raise.

Advantages of a network marketing home business were many and varied. Ability to choose the amount of time put in daily and rate of growth would be an awesome benefit. I could put in 5 hours in my spare time or 50 hours. I could keep my job in a traditional business while working my home business part time or do network marketing full time. I chose to keep my day job while building my network marketing home business full time. Everything else was put on the back burner and I worked several hours in the morning before I started my regular job, getting up very early. If I had dead time in my workday, I would put in more time on the home business. I would work on network marketing for long days on my two weekend days.

My thoughts were that I would put in far more time, effort and commitment than the average network marketer is willing to do. I wanted to grow an organization fast reaching leverage and freedom as quickly as possible. Other advantages were to be had. The time flexibility was a phenomenal advantage. I had the freedom to put the time in whenever my schedule allowed as well. I could work in the middle of the night, during breaks at work, early morning, weekends or whatever it took. This was not to be had in a job or in a traditional business.

Most have heard and somewhat understand the concepts of leverage of both time and money. This is what the owner of a large business has. He gets a percentage of the efforts of many others. The lowest cost and quickest way for me to get that type of leverage was through the right network marketing home business. This was the place that had the least barriers to entry, but it had a steep learning curve. I discovered in my research three areas where most network marketers fail. Marketing effectively to generate unlimited quality leads, leadership and communication were the areas I found to be lacking in most network marketing home businesses, systems or so-called gurus. I resolved to make myself an expert in those areas while building my home business so that I could help to educate my down line in these areas.

If you have read any of my other articles or my blog you know that I try to speak objectively about this business. On this subject, I will admit I am biased. I love what I do. I have freedom on the horizon that I have never seen my life. I now get to really utilize leadership skills I have been developing for a lifetime. I have control of my destiny. There is a professor in Chicago named Dr Charles King who has been doing rigorous research on the network marketing home business phenomenon since 1994. He has created accredited courses in network marketing home business skills and teaches them as well. If you can find video on YouTube with him speaking, it is really worth watching for his well-educated and objective viewpoint on the business.