So you’ve started your business and your humming along. You’re thrilled to be free of the restrictions and red tape of working for “The Machine”. Yet if you truly want to be free, you need systems and procedures.
“What?! You say. I don’t want to be bogged down by such things! That’s part of why I left corporate!
As someone who abhors being restricted in any way, I can totally understand your desire to wing it, go with what moves you, and not be limited by anyone or anything. Yet, whether you are a company of one or a hundred, systems will (paradoxically) free you.
When I first started my business I just did what I did. I was learning as I went and was totally resistant to deciding or documenting anything I did. That felt so, well, corporate busywork. Sure I had some technology that I was using, but that is about as far as a system went. It wasn’t until I realized how much energy, time, and potential money (not to mention sanity) that I was losing by being stubborn that I became open to the idea of running my solopreneur business as more of a company.
First, what do I mean by systems and procedures. In my book they include any and all of the following:
- Technology systems (web, software, hardware, anything that automates something or gets your “geek” on).
- Steps you take to perform any function in your business. For example:
- What happens when a prospect contacts you?
- What actions happen when you sign on a new client?
- What steps do you follow to deliver your service/product?
- What tasks need to be completed when you complete a project?
- How do you run your back office and administrative affairs?
- What roles and responsibilities do any team members (employees, subcontractors, etc.) have and what steps do they follow to meet those duties?
- What does your schedule look like? What constitutes “open for business hours” and “closed for business” time?
- What are your policies and procedures for working with clients? (Think: client agreements and signed contracts)
- What are your billing and payment policies and procedures?
The list can go on depending on how complex your business operations are. That said; don’t let the list or the idea deter you. I’m not talking about creating documentation and manuals that are pages upon pages long that say absolutely nothing. I’m talking a simple word processing document with bullet dots.
- Productivity. You don’t have to recreate the wheel every time you do something.
- Consistency. You don’t have to remember who you told what or how something is done.
- Better quality of work and customer service. You know what you promised and have set the framework so you can over deliver and delight them.
- Protection from the unexpected and unpleasant. With clear written agreements you are ahead of the game should something go awry and a customer be less than delighted, stop paying you, or generally demand more than contracted for, because you have it all spelled out.
- Ability to expand and grow quickly. When you have a process in place and have it documented, you can bring on new team members and transition other team members in an efficient manner.
- Continuity. If something happens to you or someone in your family that requires time away from the business (or god forbid closing it down), someone can figure out what the heck is going on in your business and keep things going or wind things down professionally and more easily.
- Freedom. Once you have a container for your operations in place you can freely go to the creative chaos space to innovate or take time to play without feeling untethered.
- Perspective. You can get a solid overview of what is really going on in your business at any given time operationally and financially so you can make sound, informed decisions.
I know that ever since I put solid systems in place I have been more efficient, more relaxed, and more profitable. I would recommend doing so as early as possible in your business knowing that you simply keep updating them as you evolve.
How about you? What have you done to create solid systems and procedures in your business? How has it benefitted you?
Would love to hear your experiences in the comments whether you’re a new business owner or established veteran.
This post originally appeared on BlogHer.com.