Do you follow defined processes for your business? Do you follow the same steps when you take on a new client, make a sales presentation, process an order or hire a new employee?
It may sound crazy, but having defined business processes are critical for your success. Entrepreneur magazine listed having defined business processes as one of the 14 traits of successful businesses.
There are tons of research and a whole discipline of engineering (called Industrial Engineering) that is focused on helping organizations define and improve their business processes. Have you ever heard “lean”, “workflow” and/or “value stream mapping”? Each concept helps organizations define efficient business processes.
What is a business process?
A business process is a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular task for your business. Business processes help you make decisions and take the guesswork out of your business operations.
There are many types of business processes and they can involve many people or be completely automated. You should have a process for every function of your organization, such as sales, marketing, and operations, etc.
You may be thinking… my business is small… Do I really need to define all of these processes?
YES! Businesses of all sizes need defined business processes to avoid inefficient business. In fact, the smaller the organization, the more little inefficiencies can hurt your bottom line and waste your time.
Why your business needs clearly defined processes
1. Improve customer satisfaction
Every customer that interacts with your business should have the same high-quality experience. Your business processes ensure that every customer gets the same high-quality service every time.
2. Save time
By defining and analyzing your business processes you will identify ways to save time and streamline your processes. In the end, you will do more in less time – your efficient business processes eliminate wasteful steps and remove bottlenecks in your system.
3. Increase profits
Streamlined processes will give you the ability to grow your business without increasing your resources – leading to an improved bottom line!
As I mentioned before there is a whole branch of engineering that is dedicated to improving business efficiency, yet that does not mean you need a degree in engineering to improve your own small business.
Ask yourself a few simple questions to get started
1. What is your goal?
Each business process helps your company reach a specific goal. So, before you can define your process, you need to define the goal. Your goal should have a start point and an end point.
Example Goal: Process a customer order
Starting point: Someone has indicated that they would like your product or service
Ending point: You give them your product or service and they have paid you.
2. What are the steps?
What has to happen to get from the starting point to the ending point? Do those steps have to occur in a particular order? What is required to complete each steps? Who is required to complete each steps? Are some steps mandatory and others optional? How long does it take to compete each step?
Be specific and write down your steps in a way that someone that knows nothing about your business would understand. You can use a simple excel spreadsheet or work document to do this. (If you want to get fancier you can create a flow chart or simulation to illustrate your process.)
3. Can you improve your process?
Take a moment to carefully review the steps. Can you remove or eliminate steps? Can you use technology to make those steps go faster? Make sure to document any changes to your process.
Once you have your process – it is time to put it to use. There is no point in defining a process that is not used!
I encourage you both as an Industrial Engineer and as a small business owner to invest a little time now and work on your business processes, it will pay off in the end! If you have any questions about how you can define, improve, document or implement your business processes feel free to reach out – I would love to chat!