A practical approach to systems and processes

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Quite often we can feel as though we are juggling all parts of the business that we own. Trying to be everything to everybody. You find yourself neglecting to take time out for yourself, or with little or no time for family, friends and holidays.

Let’s take a step back from the business we own, and take a good hard look at things. Think about your role in the business objectively and ask, “How can I improve the business without working harder?”

Think about what you could do more of, but in less time. Ask yourself, what would happen to your business without you. In other words, what can you do with your business so you have more time available for family and friends and to take that holiday?

Consider why you went into this business in the first place. Often it was to give you the ability to earn more, take time off when you would like, or simply because you didn’t want to work for someone else. Are you achieving the goals that you set out to achieve when you went into business? What we need to do in taking this step back from the business, is to consider our role in the business as a job.

What needs to happen is to start with the end in mind and work backwards. This is where planning for the business comes to the forefront.

We need to break the cycle that we are currently operating in, through the use of systemisation. The key is to develop systems for everything, allowing for someone to undertake our role if we were not there.

You may be thinking, but developing systems takes time, and that is just what I don’t have. Things change and make systems out of date, and anyway there is so much personalising that goes on in my role that I could not possibly systemise it.

The truth is that 80 percent of what we do is repetitive. Think about this carefully before you discount it. Think about:

• Improved productivity – less time spent on wasted unproductive activities.

• Improved workflow management – work will be getting done faster.

• The more time allocated to systemising, the more spare time we are going to end up having.

Then there are the advantages of systemising that will convince even those who doubt you:

• Improved quality control – you remove the personal element from decisions providing a consistent high quality, there is consistency – everyone is doing things the same way.

• Reduced dependency on key people – the business becomes systems dependent not people dependent, so you are able to recruit less experienced people. And this frees up others to carry out certain parts of your role as necessary.

• Reduced upward delegation – higher level work is able to be done by lower level people. Systems empower staff to learn new tasks and gain additional responsibilities so they can progress to higher positions within the business, meaning the managers and owners are no longer the bottlenecks.

• Reduced stress and improved lifestyle – because the business no longer relies on your daily presence.

• Time freed for higher level activities – strategic planning, management issues, customer nurturing.

• Enables you to expand – systems make it easier to train new people and to retain people, significantly reducing staff turnover costs.

In a lot of businesses systems tend to be paper based, not secure. Some systems are missing, the systems are only structured around operations and administration, they are not linked to position descriptions, and without an effective search engine. But the biggest problem of all is that they are permanently under construction and are often never finished.

That is why you need to create the “way that we do it here” for your business. Develop systems, processes and documentation to ensure the business runs smoothly, efficiently, consistently, effectively – and without you.

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Stephen Graham
Stephen Graham
Stephen Graham is director and managing partner at BDO Rotorua, Chartered Accountants and Advisers. To find out more visit bdorotorua.co.nz or email rotorua@bdo.co.nz

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