How Written Procedures And Systems Allow You To Grow Your Business: They Are Essential For Directing Business Success

“If you think sheer energy, clever thinking, and unbounded enthusiasm are enough to secure the freedom and income you want, think a bit further. Certain structures – certain systems – must be in place before these important attributes can take you where you want to go.”

--Sam Carpenter

This quote is completely opposite to how most entrepreneurial types handle their businesses:
  • Most think they’re efficient because they can jump right in and get things done quickly.
  • They’ve done this type of work over and over for years and have their system down cold.
  • Their skills and experiences make them the only person qualified for the job.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but you cannot grow a business thinking this way.

To successfully grow your business you must transfer your knowledge and experience to other people so they can perform the hands-on work.

The best way to transfer your experience and knowledge is through written procedures and systems. This is why I say they are essential.

Note I didn’t say they are sexy, or exciting.

I said they are essential.

It doesn’t matter if taking time out to write things down step-by-step is not your style. Do it anyway.

Harsh. I know. But, here are three reasons why:

Multiplying inefficiencies

It is much easier to compensate for one person’s small inefficiencies. But, this is not true for two, five, ten or more people. Those seemingly small inefficiencies quickly add up into large amounts of wasted time and/or money.

The process of writing down exactly how you do something can highlight opportunities for improvements. For example:

  • Unnecessary steps
  • Steps that would improve performance
  • Reordering steps

It is an opportunity to take a detailed objective look at the way you work to make sure your process is efficient while providing a quality product or service.

Putting out fires 

When you take the time to really transfer your knowledge and experience into a document that anyone can follow, you greatly reduce the number of unexpected “emergencies” that pop up during the day.

People doing the hands-on work are empowered to resolve situations themselves in a way that aligns with your values. They don’t have to constantly reach out for your guidance because they already have it. You only get involved with true emergencies or unique situations.

Customer confidence

I always like to bring it back to the customer.

When you grow a business, customers have to adjust to working with new people. This can make them anxious and apprehensive.

Customers must be confident the new person will deliver the same service or product they received when you did the work. Written procedures and systems will help you provide a consistent product or service no matter who does the work.

Your business will become more valuable because you have a team your customers can rely on instead of depending on just you.

I believe these reasons justify all the work it is going to take to make all the written procedures for your business.

But there is a silver-lining - you only have to do the heavy lifting once. Then you just review and revise with input from your team.

So let’s jump in and do this!

My top twelve tips for creating procedures and systems documents:

1 - Give it a title that clearly describes the procedure and date of revision

As you build out your library of procedures a good title will let you quickly find the one you need

2 - Use active voice and short, clear language

no jargon; don’t try to be cute or clever

3 - Don’t use “you”

for example, “turn on the computer ” not “you should turn on the computer”

4 - List the steps so that anyone could perform the work

When you first create a written procedure include any step on matter how small. As you use and revise the document, you will find the right amount of detail.

5 - List any equipment and supplies needed

This is extra important if you work on location at your customers’ site

6 - Include communication points if more than one person is involved

Failure to communicate is a far too common problem so be sure to keep all involved informed

7 - Include health and safety procedures and warnings

Taking health and safety seriously presents a professional attitude and concern about your workers and your work

8 - Include a troubleshooting steps section

It's a lot more efficient to take a few minutes to diagnose the issue than to waste hours doing work that won’t solve the problem

9 - Include required customer communications

Keeping your customer in the loop will reinforce how much your customers trust you

10 - Set-up a periodic revision schedule

Outdated procedures will not be followed so regular revision is mandatory

11 - Make sure everyone has anytime access to the document

Use paper, digital or both; easy accessibility is critical to the success of a procedures policy

12 – Document one procedure, test it, and make any revisions before moving to the next

I have encountered the hardest pushback from business owners when I suggest they need to do things differently.

Again with the harsh truth:

It doesn’t matter that the way you do things is working, right now. Growth isn’t about just doing more of the same.

Growth requires you trust in the work other people do so you can focus on being the leader. You have to see your role as making sure the systems and procedures are working instead of just getting the tasks done.

I opened with that quote from Sam Carpenter because it really hit home for me. Too many times, I’ve seen business owner’s put everything they’ve worked so hard to build at risk because they try to scale up their businesses the wrong way.

Growth means you will not be able to “do it all yourself.” Written procedures are the way to assure your values are represented in the work now performed by someone else.

Everyone says they want to grow their business.

But, are you willing to make the tough changes that allow for growth?

I hope I’ve convinced you to make written procedure documents.

Share your opinions, questions, or experiences in the comments below. I would love to hear your input.

I want to give a shout out to Sam Carpenter’s book, Work the System: The Simple Mechanics of Making More and Working Less. It was a major inspiration for the post.

Last but not least . . .

Check out my Facebook Live on this blog post at Susan W Brown Solutions.

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