Small business process management. The very phrase might be enough to make you sigh and roll your eyes, as you conjure images of indecipherable flow charts and lifeless statistics.
However, famous engineer, author, and business management consultant W. Edwards Deming had some strong words for business owners who ignored processes:
“If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.”
According to various studies, Deming might say that most of us don’t know what we’re doing. The Study of Business Process Management 2016, done over the course of ten years, found that at most, only 4% of companies always document their processes and keep them up to date. The rest do it only some of the time.
What are some signs that your processes might be robbing you of profits, or worse, pushing you to the brink of insolvency?
- Chaos and continuous mistakes
- Missed deadlines and customer complaints
- Declining profits on what used to be profitable
- Working too many hours
- You repeatedly answer the same questions from customers and co-workers
- Frequent interruptions
If you suffer any of the seven symptoms of business process failure listed above, it’s certainly time for a review.
Wherever you are in the life of your business, you have processes and systems in place for everything you do. This holds true whether you’re a solopreneur or you run a 100-year-old business with a staff of fifty.
Here are six compelling reasons why a review of your processes is one of the most powerful things you can do for your business health.
Even if you don’t have any of the process failure symptoms listed, there is always room for improvement, which translates to instantly higher profits.
Business Process Management (BPM) Improves Efficiency
Trimming the fat and eliminating excess work increases your efficiency. You can take regular tasks that suck up a great deal of time, money, or energy and find ways to eliminate them, delegate them, or automate them.
For example, the screenshot below shows some of the lead generation tasks I automate using Zapier. Information collected on a Hubspot (my website platform) or from Facebook lead ads, is automatically entered into Infusionsoft (my email and order management system.)
Once upon a time this was a tedious manual task that might require an hour or two daily. Now we’re free from that mundane task. Automating saves us thousands of dollars annually and lets us produce more of what’s valuable to our customers.
Zapier’s sole job is to integrate these and hundreds of other apps to make you more effective. If there’s a repetitive task done on a piece of software or an online app, they probably automate it.
IFTTT is another app that does similar functions. (I’m not affiliated with them. I just think they have an awesome, effective product ideally suited for small business owners.)
Sometimes our inefficient processes distract or interrupt other co-workers. And in a world built for distraction, it’s easy to focus on what’s around us rather than the task in front of us. We don’t need to add more interruptions. Streamlined processes, built correctly, eliminate this problem.
When interruptions and distractions decrease, productivity increases substantially. University studies quoted in a NY Times article on distraction found that it takes an average of 25 minutes to return to a task after a single distraction or interruption.
The result of a streamlined process is you expend fewer resources to get the same results. You also get additional capacity to produce more high-value work without having to hire additional staff.
Small Business Process Management Frees You From Low-Value Work
When you get rid of tasks that can be trimmed, automated, or delegated, you’re freed from the mundane. You can take care of things that only YOU can do.
The same goes for your team. Elimination of everyday low-value tasks frees everyone up to focus on creative work, customer service, high-value production tasks, or "thinking" tasks.
Boost Your Bottom Line
Increased efficiency in your organization translates into increased profits. Your energy, your labor, and your time are all money.
Let’s not forget, money is also money—every dollar you save goes directly to net profit. When you save on these precious, finite resources, you keep more of what you earn.
Process Management Reduces Stress in the Workplace
When business processes are inefficient, you and your employees are stressed.
Tasks pile up, paperwork remains undone or overdue, your staff gets mired in everyday tasks. It's not a healthy situation.
Streamlining reduces stress and allows everybody to take longer lunch breaks and leave work sooner. It also makes it possible to create a better corporate culture.
Process Management Improves Customer Service
Any changes you make in processes will lead to improvements in your customer service.
- You'll be able to offer faster response time and optimize your use of resources.
- Customers won't have to wait so long to get what they need from you.
- When they encounter your team, they'll see happy and fulfilled people rather than people who are stressed and harried.
- Your team members will be able to take all the time they need to deal with customers appropriately.
Process Management Lets You Scale Your Business
Finally, when you and your team are bogged down with a growing list of routine tasks and low-value work, it’s difficult and costly to scale your business.
- When inboxes are swamped with emails, you can't handle more.
- When orders pile up, you can't take more without disappointing customers.
With better processes in place, you can do more, and do it with the resources you have. Better systems give your business the space it needs to grow.
Big Change, One Small Task at a Time
Streamlining business processes isn't a one-time massive, organizational overhaul. Rather, it's a pain-free, step-by-step process in which you tackle one task at a time.
You make changes to one small task, implement a new and revised process, and then monitor to make sure things are on track. When that’s working the way you want, you move on the next one.
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