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Document Processes – Wash, Rinse & Repeat

by Angee Robertson.

A vital step in building your business foundation is documenting how certain tasks are performed whether by you or someone else. This may seem like an annoyance at first but you will thank me for it later. By completing this step, you will ensure that tasks are completed consistently and efficiently every time.

One of the biggest challenges I hear with solo business owners is their lack of time. When I probe a little further, I discover they spend too much time trying to remember how a certain task is completed.

Example

A business owner’s potential customers send e-mails asking the same question. Rather than create an automated response that the client can use to answer, she hunts and searches for the similar e-mail that was sent about three months ago. This is a waste of time and effort. More importantly, how will the business owner be able to delegate this task to someone else if h/she can’t even figure out how it was completed? She won’t! This is the biggest challenge I have with clients. They won’t let go of tasks because they really aren’t sure of how to provide me with instructions for completing the task.

Before we get started on creating procedures for your business, you will need to go on a fact-finding mission. Do you currently have any sub contractors, partners and/or employees in your business? If so, you need to meet with each of them to find out what tasks they perform for your business. Explain to them that you are in the process of developing a procedure manual to help your business run more efficiently.

You want to fully engage everyone so they understand the importance of this step. Express to them their feedback and questions are more than welcomed and needed. If you are truly working solo, it is even more vital you complete the process I am about to share with you as you will eventually add someone to your business in the future.

Steps to Prioritizing

1. Identify the tasks – Once you have gathered everyone’s responses, make a comprehensive list of all the operations that are performed in your business, from invoicing, scheduling, shipping, etc. List everything that is currently necessary to make your business function.

Once you have that, make a list of things you want to be doing in your business but have not been able to begin because you are too busy or currently don’t possess the resources. These will include things like upgrading or creating a Web site, starting an electronic newsletter, marketing to more clients, etc.

2. Examining the purpose of the tasks – As you look at the tasks on your lists, really examine why you are performing these tasks. Determine what the end results should be, when something should happen or be completed. If you predetermine the outcome of each task, you will have a clear vision and not leave the task to chance.

Note: Don’t be surprised if you eliminate certain tasks and add new ones.

3. Rate the importance of each task –  Now that you have a working list of tasks, examine each item on the list and rate each process as an A, B, or C.

A items are “must dos” in order for your business to be in existence. You can also look at these as the “money making” activities.
B items are not as critical but are still important aspects of your business. These tasks may not be carried out on a daily basis.
C items are not totally necessary and your business could most likely function without them although it would be a struggle. Your wish list items would go in this category.

Now that you have prioritized your processes it is time to begin documenting them. Our first step is to document the processes in Category A because these are your money making tasks. Review this list and determine which task is the most important to your business. To help you select the task that is most important, ask yourself this question, “If this task was documented, would it improve the overall function of my business and allow me to have more free time?”

As you go through your list, the task that meets this requirement will stand out. Once you find that task, if it appears to be too overwhelming to document, pick the next most important task. I don’t want you to become frustrated and give up so start anywhere even if it is small. Once you feel comfortable with how to document processes, you will have the confidence to come back and document that larger task.

Since we have selected our task to document, let’s begin with an outline for the procedure.

Task Outline:

Identify the person who performs the task. It might be you and that is fine.
You or the responsible person writes down every step and action that is taken to complete the task. As these steps are being documented be sure to include descriptions, where applicable, of what results should be occurring with each step.
Note: Always keep in the back of your mind, “Would someone with no prior experience be able to follow these instructions?”
Organize your steps and review them for accuracy.

Practice Makes Perfect

Now that we have a rough outline for our task, it is time to put it through a test to determine if it needs to be adjusted. Answer the following questions once you attempt the process yourself:

Was the outcome the desired result?
Did the process flow smoothly or did it appear a step was missing or out of place?

After you have tried the process yourself, have someone with little or no knowledge of the task try to follow your procedures. Ask them to answer the following questions:

Did you feel you needed prior knowledge before you could complete the process?
Did the process flow smoothly or did there appear to be steps missing?
Although it was your first time performing the task and there is some natural discomfort, did you feel you would become more confident each time you attempted the process?

Once you gather the feedback from yourself and the inexperienced person, fill in the gaps where needed. There may be times where some prior knowledge is needed so keep this in mind as you revise your document. You want a good working document but you don’t want to overkill on the detail. Remember not to get caught up in “Analysis Paralysis”.

Copyright 2011 Shepolitan Corp. All Rights Reserved.

About the Author

Angee Robertson is President of Shepolitan Corp, a company committed to supporting overwhelmed women entrepreneurs in the day-to-day operations so they can focus on what brings them joy in their business.

For the past nine years, Angee has worked as a virtual business manager for six and seven figure business owners, helping them to automate and organize their systems and operations. This allows them to focus on their “genius work” and do the things they really love in their businesses.

Angee understands the importance of building relationships with her clients. Her favorite comment is, “well, that was easy!” She has recently launched Sheic Journals, a product to help women get out of overwhelm and provide a safe place to clear their minds. You can learn more about her and view her products at www.shepolitan.com.

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