Either you are in control of your business or your business is in control of you. Which will it be and how can you avoid the latter?
In this post, I reveal the top 5 steps which you can use to start building a valuable business which works without you.
1. Keep your eye on the prize
Put simply, there is really only one reason why some businesses scale and others don’t, and it comes down to the mindset of the founder.
A great entrepreneur understands the need to have one eye on the big picture, whilst still managing the need to complete the obligatory lower level tasks, of which there are many in a startup company!
Let’s face it, in the early days you don’t really have a business system. You are the business system. That’s the reality of the world you live in.
You compensate for the shortcomings of your non-existent business system by rolling up your sleeves and doing all of the things your business system will one day be able to do on your behalf.
You do everything. You attract the leads, you convert the leads and you deliver your product or service to your clients.
This makes it surprisingly easy to get stuck in the operations and lose sight of the reason you started the business in the first place.
This situation is not too indifferent to working in a job you don’t like and you need to actively work to avoid this situation.
A good starting point is to treat every activity as if you had to repeat it a thousand times over, as if you were a bigger business.
For example, are you managing your client list on a spreadsheet? As a big business you definitely wouldn’t be doing this, because it’s inefficient.
If it’s good enough for a large business to have a customer relationship management (CRM) system, then why shouldn’t you? Find a cost effective CRM system that will save you time and eliminate a plethora of unnecessary tasks.
Are you making sales calls off the cuff and doing it with varied results every time?
In big business you wouldn’t do this, because it’s inefficient. Instead you would have everybody using the same script to ensure the results you get are consistent.
So put a script in place for your sales calls. Use it, change it, tweak it until you get one that works. This becomes the way your business makes sales calls. You no longer leave it to chance, because leaving things to chance is not a scalable option.
Apply this methodology to every part of everything you do. The game is to build the best business system, not to be the business system.
Never forget that the business you have started ultimately has to work without you. This takes active thinking on your part.
2. Build your operations manual
The easiest, cheapest and most accessible step you can take to start removing yourself from the operations of the business is to develop an operations manual. This is simply a collection of systems and processes which ensure tasks are getting done consistently and efficiently every time.
An ops manual also gives you the ability to be able to one day delegate these tasks to somebody else and be confident they are being completed to the standard you expect.
Make sure the operations manual is available online for everybody in the company to access, the last thing you need is a folder which sits in the bottom draw gathering dust and going out of date.
The easiest place to start would be to use either Google Sites or a simple Drop Box folder to store your soon-to-be operations manual.
Get started by breaking your business into it’s three parts:
– lead generation
– lead conversion
– client fulfilment
Grab a clean piece of paper for each section and label the top of each page respectively. The most immediate objective is to identify and name all of the tasks you are currently doing under each section ready for delegation to somebody else.
Let’s say for example that as part of your lead generation strategy you are making phone calls to prospective clients. Since you’ve identified that prospect calls are a task you need to complete repetitively, now you need to give it a name.
For example you might name it the ‘prospect call system’.
Repeat this identification process until you can’t think of any other tasks for any of the sections that you are currently required to do.
The next stage is to start documenting each of your systems, so that you can delegate the tasks to others to complete.
This is all about taking what’s in your head and turning it into systems.
It’s important to note that you won’t finish systemising your business overnight. Rather, your ops manual will be something which sticks with you throughout your entire business journey and will evolve over time as your business evolves and becomes ever increasingly efficient.
Make sure your written systems include a detailed ‘how to’ description. In the case of our prospecting example, you could use a best practice script as a model for people to follow.
In the early days, make an effort to document at least one system per day for the activities you are doing. Before long you will be well on your way to having an operations manual which you can train other people to use.
3. Automate & outsource
Not every task in your business will need to be completed by your team internally. These are the tasks that can easily be outsourced and/or automated to free up your time and provide further efficiency in your operations.
The simplest way to decide which tasks should be automated are those tasks where the human element is not adding any value.
For example, sending the same follow up email to several different clients after an event would be a job well placed for automation.
The email is likely to be the same each time meaning there is really no value in having a person do this manually.
Here is a list of some other common tasks which can easily be automated or outsourced:
– Social Media
– Email Marketing
– Web design
– Customer Relationship Management
Make sure that when you are considering outsourcing or automating that you are looking for cost effective ways of doing so.
Virtual assistants (VA’s) are one option which many business owners now use as a cost effective alternative to more traditional methods of hiring.
There are also many software systems available which are very accessible from a cost perspective and a great way to free up significant amounts of time which you can reinvest in other, higher value activities.
Two common tasks which require strong software systems are customer relationship management and financial management.
Good examples of affordable software in each of these cases would be Survey Monkey for your CRM and Xero for your early stage accounting needs.
Whether you are looking to make use of VA’s to delegate tasks to, or you are looking to use software and technology systems to help automate your business, always do your best to find a recommendation from someone you trust.
You may have other business people in your networks who are or have used a VA before, speak with them and seek advice on how to effectively delegate to a VA.
Apply this same methodology to any software advancements you are looking to use. Seek out others in your network who have or are using particular systems and find out what they like or dislike about the system.
Automation and outsourcing will be play a big role in producing significant time savings for you and your business.
4. Train people to use the operations manual
This is where the magic happens. You’ve started developing an operations manual and are in a regular routine of identifying, naming, documenting and storing your systems.
Now it’s time to get your team into the rhythm of doing exactly the same thing and for you to watch the efficiency of the business sky rocket.
This is to where you bring your people and systems together by implementing effective training on how to use the systems.
When bringing your people and systems together the easiest way to think about your ops manual is to view it as ‘google for your own business’. The place your team need to go to when they need answers to operational questions.
Start referring your team to the operations manual whenever they ask you a ‘how to’ question. When you do this, there will either already be a system in place or there won’t be. If there is, instruct them to simply access the ops manual and follow the system.
If there isn’t, walk them through the steps involved for the task they are asking about and have them document it as you go. Then simply ask them to type up the new system and load it into the ops manual for future use.
Over time, you will notice that you’ll spend far less time answering unnecessary questions, your team will be better equipped to perform in their roles and your business will have a level of consistency and efficiency which your customers will learn to love you for.
5. Protect your time
We’ve all heard the saying ‘time is money’ and in start up business, nothing could be more true. The day you step into your own business it really hits you that you are strapped for resources.
You have limited time, limited money and limited expertise. In turn this means that you need to learn to be incredibly resourceful, to do more with less, in every aspect and particularly with your time.
The mistake which is often made though is that you will make decisions based on how cheaply you can get things done, rather that how efficiently you can get things done.
Let’s take an example of a non tech-savvy entrepreneur looking at building a website. This person is faced with two choices.
They can learn to build the website themselves which will cost nothing in monetary terms but will take at least a month in terms of time.
The alternative is for them to pay a tech-minded friend $1,000 to complete it on their behalf, however in doing so they will save a month of time.
In the example above, many entrepreneurs would decide to build the website themselves in order to save the dollars.
What may not get considered in many cases is the opportunity cost of losing a months worth of time. What else could you have done in that time and would it have been worth more than $1000?
That’s the question you need to ask yourself whenever you are making decisions in an early stage business.
“What is the opportunity cost of me spending my time on this activity?”
Once you start asking yourself this question you will quickly uncover that sometimes (not all the time) the cost of paying someone is actually cheaper than the time it would take for you to do it yourself.
Spending money can be a cost or it can be an investment, depending on the outcome it produces.
Take note of the things you are currently spending your time on which may be slowing you down.
Maybe there is someone who could do this for you cheaply, or as a favour, or for a bottle of wine.
In return you will get some time back, which you can reinvest in even higher value activities, like making sales.
Get creative with this one. Your time is your most valuable asset.
If you too are looking to build a business that can run without you, book in for a free business discovery session today to find out how you could benefit from joining our community.