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4 Reasons to Document How Your Business Works

image - SMARTSTART Processes

It’s not going to be your favourite thing to do. Get over it!

Every business owner has a way they want things done. How you do things sets you apart from competitors and makes you unique. That’s all good.

And, from a customer’s perspective, there must be consistency in your interactions with them. That is what makes them feel safe dealing with you; it’s also what helps you secure their trust so they feel comfortable doing business with your company.

Initially, you will likely be the person performing all the tasks in your business. Some of those tasks occur infrequently. If you haven’t documented the process for how you handled something, you may not even remember how you did it the last time. Yes, you can repeat a task many times over and never do it the same way twice yet still get the job done. But that just isn’t the best way of managing your business in either the short or the long term.

When problems arise, as they surely will, you’ll have nothing to go back to when you try to figure out what your initial intentions were or how something you set up a long time ago was supposed to work. This makes the mystery of why it’s not working today even harder to crack.

Worse, if your customers have any visibility into any of this, it will make them crazy and not in a good way.

As your business grows, the importance of having documented business processes becomes even more important for the following reasons:

  1. You can’t fix a problem if you don’t know how something was supposed to work. You do want a business that runs smoothly but, in reality, things happen that aren’t always predictable. When you know how something was supposed to work or how it should have been done, it’s much easier to resolve related issues when problems crop up. Customers can be forgiving when fast corrective action is taken.
  2. You won’t always be available to fix a problem and may need to rely on the help of others. When things do go wrong, the timing is most likely to be inconvenient. Possibly, you will not be able to address it immediately. If there is someone who could help you, they are going to need something to refer to in figuring things out on your behalf. Process documentation can go a long way to helping them be more productive in assisting you. Help them be the hero you need them to be when you can’t be there.
  3. You can’t find better ways of doing things tomorrow if you don’t have a defined starting point for today. Your business grows through continuous process improvement. While you can’t design to infinity, you can benefit from looking at how you were doing things last year and find ways of improving on them this year. Anyone who has had to work with your process can provide feedback to help you do that. The conversation is more easily managed when you are both coming from the same place.
  4. You can’t do everything yourself forever.  As your business grows, you’ll need to delegate specific processes to others. The more people you have, the more important it is they are doing things the same way. You also do not want to leave yourself open to chaos should a key person decide to leave your business. It’s dangerous to have all the details in someone else’s head so make it a standard practice to keep process documentation current for every job in the company, including yours.

Well documented business processes support efficiency, add value to customer interactions and are the best non-prescription stress relievers I know of that work. Make a commitment to documenting everything you do, even if you just make notes on one business process per week until you’ve captured everything that is done or needs to happen in your business. I’m going to start doing that for myself as well and have already set up a binder to start this project. Along the way, I’m sure to develop a template or two for my own use and I promise to share them with you.

More next time. Until then, remember to LOVE YOUR WORK, whatever it may be.

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