Hello everyone, welcome to the Balanced Business Leaders Podcast hosted by yours truly, Claire Jones, owner of Liminal Clarity. We are a business development agency that helps small business leaders scale and grow without burning out.
This is the next podcast in a series where we will be discussing the various trials and tribulations that lead me to creating my Three Pillars of Business Success, a framework that represents the foundational systems that contribute to sustainable business growth.
If you’re interested in learning more, please join us in our free Balanced Business Leaders Facebook Group at facebook.com/groups/balancedbusinessleaders.
Ready? Alright, let’s dive in.
So I started this podcast as a way to tell my story, particularly when it comes to the many, many different lessons that I have learned over the years when it comes to founding, developing, running, and growing small businesses.
This particular episode is an introduction into the third pillar of business success – Processes & Systems. These are important because they represent the foundations upon which business growth is built.
In order to survive an earthquake, buildings need to be both structurally sound and flexible enough to move with the tremors.
In order to grow sustainably, your business also needs to have stable foundations as well as practices that proactively respond to changes in the landscape.
Processes & systems represent these stable foundations that will help support the business alongside with you so that you’re not carrying the whole thing by yourself.
By documenting everything, you can then much more easily automate or delegate responsibilities.
By getting a clear understanding of the bird’s eye view of your business, you will be able to see the forest – not just the trees. This will help keep you out of the weeds on a day to day basis so that you can make clearer, more strategic decisions to move your company forward.
We’re basically aiming at more clarity, more structure, and less overwhelm here.
That’s the importance of processes & systems.
Your Processes & Systems journey begins with Business Plans so that you can strategically set up your business for success. A well-developed business plan will provide you with a solid blueprint for the management and growth of your business. This is your chance to discover any weaknesses in your business idea, identify opportunities you may not have considered, and plan how you will deal with challenges that are likely to arise.
What we’re talking about here is planning ahead so that you can direct and guide your business according to the compass that is your company values, vision, and mission.
A solid business plan answers the questions – “Where do you want to go with this? And how do you plan on getting there?”
There are nine main parts of a business plan:
- The executive summary
- The company description
- Your products & services
- Your marketing plan
- Your operational plan
- The management and organizational structure
- Your startup finances
- Your financial plan
- And the appendices
Business plans tend to vary in length, depending on how complex your business is. Sometimes they’re a couple of pages, sometimes they’re upwards of 20 pages in length. The point is to clearly and concisely describe each aspect of your business so that you have a solid blueprint of how you’re going to manage and grow your business.
Next, you can take control over your Finances by learning about the importance of Cash Flow Reporting and handy tools like Quickbooks Online. The key here is setting up the backend systems that will help you track your business’s finances.
If you don’t, you’re putting yourself at risk for:
- Being short on cash
- Facing unexpected tax bills
- Failing to claim business tax deductions
- Getting audited by the IRS
- Not being able to access capital, like business loans
- Not understanding your legal liability
So where do you start?
- Get yourself a separate business banking account. This will really help you track business expenses & income if everything is going through a separate account, plus it helps you separate your personal legal liabilities from your business’s legal liabilities.
- Create a Cash Flow Reporting system. Your first Cash Flow report should detail your starting financial position as well as the next 12 months so that you can plan ahead. Then, you should routinely update your report so that you can continue planning accordingly.
- Set up an accounting software to track revenue and expenses. This will help you stay on top of your tax responsibilities so that taxes aren’t a once-a-year panic fest.
These three fundamental steps will get you set up. Once these are in place, then you can decide whether the maintenance tasks are something you want to DIY or delegate to someone else – like a bookkeeper.
Then comes your Client Journey – basically the process by which you help your clients and customers feel a sense of clarity and certainty by setting external expectations that thoughtfully guide them throughout their time with you. Whether you’re a service-based business or a product-based business, you need to think through each of the steps of your customer’s journey. Remember, like I’ve said before, your overall business goal should be creating satisfied customers.
There are three main parts to a solid Client Journey:
- Project management/fulfillment
Each of these are super important and will vary widely depending on what industry your business is in, so it’s highly recommended that you create at least a basic outline of what your Client’s journey looks like.
If you’re a service-based business, you’re going to have a much more in-depth process for this (especially if multiple people are involved with providing the services).
If you’re a product-based business, this is going to be the specific sequence of actions that need to be taken once you receive a purchase order.
And, on the internal side, you can help your team members get clear about what exactly they’re responsible for by setting up Company Structures & Work Flows. This way, they know what to do, how to do it, where to do it, when to do it, and who to do it with. Clear documentation for these processes will help with HR issues, it will help avoid misunderstandings, and it will free up your time because then your team members won’t need to run to you all day every day to ask questions about their responsibilities.
These are important aspects to the long term success of your business because they document and distribute the weight of task responsibility evenly across the company so that one person (or one software application) doesn’t become a bottleneck.
They also provide some fail safes in the sense that if one person or one software application is suddenly out of commission, then the business can continue functioning.
Some people call this the “Bus Factor”. The bus factor is a measurement of the risk resulting from information and capabilities not being shared among team members, derived from the phrase “in case they get hit by a bus.”
We want to document as many processes, procedures, systems, and tasks as possible so that the information is still available when/if key people or softwares run into problems.
This all leads into being able to create your Operations Manual, a document that will precisely detail your company’s philosophies, expectations, policies, and guidelines. That way, you will have a well-developed set of Standard Operating Procedures that you can then hand off to anyone. You might even be able to take a vacation then, because you will have confidence in your business’s ability to run successfully without you. What a concept!
If you’ve completed the first four steps of the Processes System, you’re going to have almost everything you need already created. Now, we just need to bring it all together in one doc and format it accordingly.
The key here is for team members and employees to be able to perform their functions correctly and efficiently without your direct involvement. Because it’s all documented clearly and task responsibilities and accountabilities are transparent and accessible to everyone.
You can have hard copies, digital copies, whatever you want as long as it is completely transparent and accessible to all team members.
And your Operations Manual should be considered a living, breathing document that you return to and update yearly. Because things will always change, so make sure you keep it as up to date as possible.
I’ll go more in depth about all of these steps later, but, for now, just keep in mind that all of these 5 steps lead into the next. They are in a certain order for a reason.
They represent the formula for sustained long term business success.
Imagine if you could have all of these pieces securely in place so that you spent less time troubleshooting and reinventing the wheel… how would that impact your business and your life?
Even if you’re currently a solopreneur, someone who is a one-woman or one-man team, it is highly recommended that you still go through each and every of these steps. They will help you make better decisions, identify weaknesses, take advantage of opportunities, and free up your time to work more ON your business rather than IN your business.
So next time, we’ll be going more in depth into the first step of Processes & Systems, Business Plans. I hope to interweave my personal experiences with the business lessons I learned along the way so that I can paint a full picture for you guys.
And please let me know what you think! I am always open to feedback and love connecting with my audiences.
If you want to learn more, I personally invite you to join us in the Balanced Business Leaders VIP Group Program. In as little as one hour per week, you will walk away with a clear action plan to grow and scale your business sustainably.
Please visit linktr.ee/liminalclarity for more information.
You can find the episode outline, video recording, transcript downloads, related links, etc. below.
And, until next time, love you all, take care, and I hope you have a good day wherever you are.