Unless you own and wish to continue to own a micro-business where you work on your own in your profession or trade, it is more than likely that as a small business owner you wish to expand and grow your business to the extent that you will be employing people as you grow.
Most of us who run and operate small businesses wish to grow in size – as our sales and profits grow, by necessity we need to scale and grow our workforce so that we can produce more, or meet more customers or provide more services. We are constrained by the number of productive hours we, or anyone we employ, can spend on producing goods or services. So we employ more people.
Some of the new people we employ may not be directly customer-facing. Indeed we may need more and more “back-room” hours from new people – keeping the books, managing the stores, manufacturing or working behind the scenes.
The question is, how do you introduce more and more people and continue to control and manage the business as more and more people do the things that you used to do?
The key is to train your employees as if you will not be there.
This means that you need to imagine a time when you will be absent, and each employee has to learn how you used to do their job, and do it in exactly the same way.
Not only will doing this mean that you spend less and less time training new employees (how will become clear), but also that the most efficient processes are duplicated seamlessly.
There are three phases of doing this:
- Plan the work and the people you will employ;
- Record each separate work process that takes place in your business;
- Train your employees in the work processes.
First, plan the work and the people you will employ.
To do this, analyse and work out, in the full attainment of your “ideal” business model, what types of work will be carried out in the business.
Knowing your “Vision” for your business that describes the ideal business model will obviously help you to do this.
Basically, what you need to do is to list all the work required to productively bring your product or service to the customer. These may include:
- Materials (or other resources) ordering process
- Inventory process
- Manufacture (or service production) process
- Quality control/Review process
- Marketing process
- Sales process
- Delivery process
- After-sales service/Customer satisfaction process
- Warranty process
- Purchase Order to the supplier payment process
- Invoicing to the customer payment process
- The accounting process
- The Human Resources processes of hiring, performance reviews and termination
- The salaries payment process including timesheets if used
- The equipment purchase and maintenance process
- The process to enter into leases of premises and maintenance of premises
- And so on!
If you are to be truly absent, you need to first think of everything you do (and as you grow will have to do) so that you can hand over responsibilities for everything. Imagine the problems if you hand over everything but forget to hand over a process to deal with finding and ordering the right materials or resources to produce your products or services!
Each of these major work processes may have sub-processes. For example “the accounting process” may include recording bank transactions, a purchasing records process, an invoicing process, and so on, but you need not identify these at this stage.
Then, knowing the types of work your business needs to have done, you can design an Organisation Chart where the different departments or work processes sit under you.
An Organisation Chart is a graphic description of how your business is organised into “departments” (or work responsibility areas), who is “in charge” of each department, who works in each department, how they relate to each other, and what they are responsible for. Each of the work processes you listed in your discovery session should fit into the various departments as being their responsibility.
For example, the Marketing, Sales, and After-Sales processes may well fit into the “Marketing Department”.
I have already written extensively about Organisation Charts which you can read about here or here, or you can download our free worksheet to help you design your own Organisation Chart here, so I won’t go into great detail in this post.
It’s sufficient to say in this context that having an Organisation Chart means, from the beginning, you can plan for how your business grows in terms of employing the right people to do the right job.
Once you populate your Organisation Chart and see where each work process fits, you should also start to see the different sub-processes within each area of work. This is where it would be helpful in identifying the number of people in each department, and their areas of responsibility that would correspond to those sub-processes.
By the end of this, you should have a clearer idea of all the work that is required in the business.
The second stage is to analyse how that work is done.
You need to take each process or sub-process and map out how it is done now. Remember, there are probably no new processes predicted for the future – it’s really a question of scale where the work you are doing now just becomes bigger.
If you believe that as you grow there may be new and additional work processes you will have to introduce, leave those for when you do introduce them to work out.
So, for the moment, deal only with all the work processes that you work on now.
It may be more efficient if you started with an urgent work process that you need to document – perhaps one where you are about to employ someone new to take over that responsibility, or one where it is affecting customer satisfaction or your efficiency.
The task is just to write down step-by-step what you do to work that process. For example, if the process is to hire new employees, the steps may be:
- Identify the new position
- Write a Position Description recording what that position is called, who they report to, who reports to them (if any), what their main objective is, what they are responsible for, and what their daily duties are
- Identify the skills and experience required
- Decide on the level of remuneration
- Compose and advertisement
- Acknowledge each application
- Prepare a shortlist based on skills and experience
- Organise an interview schedule
- Conduct interviews
- Choose the best candidate
- Send them a letter of offer
- Agree on terms and hire them
- Conduct an induction when they start work
If you delegate this process to someone, you may also want to add various steps through the process where they report back to you on their decisions and obtain agreement before they proceed further. However, remember that if you do this, not to take the responsibility away from the delegate and end up more caught up in the process than you want to.
You can also draw the process like a flowchart so that there is a graphic representation of the steps (and branches or decisions) to go along with the written description.
Once you finish describing that process, don’t forget to review it for improvements.
Often, because we have done something one way for so long, it is only when we write it down step-by-step that we can question why we do certain steps, and if there are more efficient ways. For example, in the above, why send them a letter of offer and then agree on the terms afterwards? Why not include the terms in the letter and they can sign the letter and return it as their agreement with the terms offered?
Do this for every work process and gradually compile what will be your business’ “Procedures Manual”.
If you want more details about compiling Procedures you can get our free report and templates to start writing your procedures here.
The benefit of writing procedures around all your work processes is that you record the system of how things work in your business. This means there is one system for doing things, and people don’t have to reinvent the wheel, or worse, change the way things are done so that after a while, the outcomes from those processes no longer resemble what is required!
Having systems mean:
- Everyone knows what to do and when to do it – imagine if everyone had to be told what to do every time!
- Outcomes and outputs are predictable – imagine if you did your accounting a different way every week!
- You can delegate confidently – imagine explaining what you wanted to be done and having to check that it’s done the right way every time!
- Work is measurable – imagine not knowing what works and what does not or how long a task will take this week compared to last week!
- You can keep improving and becoming more and more efficient – imagine doing things the same way because nobody understood all the steps!
- You can scale your business – once you have the recipe, you can bake more and more cakes the same way!
The third phase of training your employees for your absence is to train each employee to use the Procedures Manual.
Rather than training them on what to do, using the Procedures Manual means you train them on how to do.
Once they have their role and responsibilities through the Organisation Chart and Position Description, and there are a set of replaceable procedures, they don’t need to know what to do because it is recorded. All you need to do is to train them on how to use the Procedures manual, to refer to it, follow it and work through it.
Once your current employees know how to use the procedures, it becomes easy for them to train new employees. No longer will people train new employees on what they used to do themselves – everyone will be doing it in the same way throughout the business.
To find out more, I have written a free report on How To Build Your Self-Running Business that you can get here.
All of this may take some time, so while you are still growing your business, now is the perfect time to train your employees for your absence.
Let the systems develop now so that you can grow into them as you hire more and more people. The older employees will also benefit through experience, and be promoted into supervisory or management levels as they know more and more about the systems, to allow them to supervise new people in the systems.
In this way, one day, you can actually be absent and your business will not fall apart.
Isn’t that what we are all working for?
See you next week!