When you win a job, if there’s less of a process and more of a chaotic disaster, the likes of which wouldn’t be uncommon at an unsanctioned rave, you might want to pay attention to this post.
There should be a very clearly defined workflow process that is documented and understood by everyone in the business. It’s the one area of your business that you are trying to repeat as much as possible so it should be as slick and as streamlined as it can be.
The way you do this is by focusing on merging, eliminating, outsourcing or automating as many tasks as possible. Here’s our process:
No matter what happens, every single business that wants to use our software goes through that process. We have internal documentation for each stage and at any moment in time we know what needs doing and who should be doing it.
If you do custom work for your clients, you might not be able to make it this simple but there should still be some sort of process.
If you’re going to start re-hashing your existing workflow, start by writing down what it currently is. Don’t sugarcoat it and pretend to yourself it’s better than it is. Be truthful with yourself and write down all of the steps you take once a client decides to go ahead with you. There are four ways to shorten a process:
Only once you’ve defined your workflow can you begin to think about whether it’s possible to merge, eliminate, outsource or automate certain steps.
The idea here is to kill two birds with one stone. If you have processes that either involve the same information but different people, or different information to be sent to the same person, you can merge these steps so long as they are consecutive. It’s no good passing an instruction to someone that they don’t need to action for 3 weeks. The best example of merging is when you complete a task to progress the job and also want to email the client and let them know. This can and should be done at the same time. It makes your customer service consistent, professional and provides comfort to your clients which will result in making it considerably easier to get referrals.
It’s surprising how many stages of a process actually don’t need to be done. You need to be ruthless. If you find yourself doing something that takes ages and produces further issues, stop doing it. Key culprits here are meetings and phone calls. I’m far from suggesting never meeting your clients and avoiding calls but if you replaced “I just wanted to give you an update” calls to emails and saved calls for discussions, how much time would you save over a month?
There’s no escaping it. You’ll need to outsource as much of your business as you can. Chris Howard once said “Never outsource your core competency”. He’s right, but most businesses don’t understand what their core competency actually is.
For us, it’s not developing software, it’s marketing and writing. If I were to outsource that, I’d be stupid as that is the core of what makes us different. Software Development is a commodity and any trained developer can do it with the right plan.
One of the top directors at McDonalds once said “We sell hamburgers but we’re in the Real Estate business”. You wouldn’t think of McDonalds as a property company but that’s exactly what they are. Think about your business and what you produce. Is the actual thing you sell really something that only you can do?
If you are a consultant then maybe you can’t outsource the part that involves your thinking, but if you have back-end work that needs doing, you should be looking to outsource that element. Even if you are a consultant, is there any reason why you couldn’t have junior consultants following the documentation, training and responses that you’ve already produced? If you did that, could you not charge considerably more for your services? It’s worth a thought.
The only way to automate a manual process is by doing work upfront and using digital communication to handle the delivery. You can’t get software to build a house or mend a boat engine, but you can automate pre-written emails and create a set of standard communication for the admin portion of your process.
If your production is manual in any way, you can’t truly automate, but you can merge and eliminate as much as possible.
Now I want you to go back through your existing workflow process.
On a new piece of paper, write out your new workflow. Take the merging, eliminating, outsourcing and automating into account. This will serve as the backbone of your business. You can print this out, stick it on the wall and get everyone working from it.
If you are using the Business Automation CRM, you can set this up in the system itself so every job you do will operate from the same process. Some businesses might have a different workflow for each product. For instance, the process for making a table is different to making a chair.
For every product you set up in the Business Automation CRM, there’s a corresponding sales process and workflow for it.