Why are you in business?
Are you in business to do the job or are you in business to create a mini-empire? Do you plan on doing the grunt work forever or do you want to build a team to do it for you? Do you want to just close up shop when the time comes, or do you want to sell your business for a profit? If you answered yes, you must develop and record your systems. Because without them, all you have to sell is a customer list.
I know the excuses; I’ve used them. I’m too busy. I don’t have the time. I don’t have the money. So on and so forth. But if you want a high value business to sell next year or in twenty years, you must have solid systems in place. Just like an exit-strategy, the time to develop them is now. Regardless of how long you have been in business.
There are six key systems that transform a job into a well-functioning business. There is no getting around the fact that you will have to put your nose to the grindstone, work it out, and write it down. Technology will be a tremendous help, even with the learning curve.
How you will manage your business day to day? What services will you offer? How do you determine your prices? What are your hours? What is your service area? Everything down to user names and passwords must be recorded. This is one of those areas that you will have to hammer out yourself. Once you have the details on paper, technology can help manage some of these systems. Speaking of technology, please, please, please start using a password manager if you haven’t already. KeyPass doesn’t look as pretty as others but it is free and easy to use. It was recommended to me by the head of IT at Texas Instruments…who am I to argue? LastPass and 1Password are popular, but I haven’t used them.
Often referred to as CRM (client relationship management). How you will track inquires, book appointments, manage complaints, request recommendations, track communications, or anything else that transpires between you and your customers? You have lots of options, but I love Housecall Pro. It has been in the game for a long time and consistently ranks in the top 10 platforms.
I’m sorry but you cannot expect to be successful while using a shoebox to manage your finances. Yes, you can invoice through most CRM’s (see #2 above) but they do not provide you with the big picture. Successful companies manage their cash flow and assets. They have budgets, run payroll, manage their receipts. They also use financial reports to measure performance from period to period. All these things will tell you where you are and help you get to where you want to be. It will also make it easier for you take advantage of more tax deductions and cut your tax preparation fees. Successful businesses use accounting software like QuickBooks Online® (or Xero, NetSuite, etc.)
When I owned my campground writing blogs, creating vlogs, and social media marketing was just taking hold. Today they must be part of a cohesive marketing plan. So, what platforms are you going to use? Are you going to institute a referral program? Where are you getting the content for your blogs/vlogs? Are you going to track their effectiveness? How much time are you going to devote? What is your budget? There are experts and software to help you with all these questions, but both can be pricey. The thing is, you won’t succeed if people don’t know you exist. This may be the place to splurge, if only to get going. There are lots of companies, like Alpha Media Group to help you get started or manage your entire plan.
Who you hire makes a huge difference in how successful you are. Do they fit with your company vision? Are they motivated? Do other employees like working with them. Do your clients like them? Figure this out before you hire so you know what you are (and aren’t) looking for. Hiring is only the beginning. How much are you going to pay? Are you hiring employees or working with subcontractors? What is expected of people in each role? What are your termination procedures? Can your employees take personal calls during business hours? I could go on and on, but you get the point. While this is another area where you must make the final decisions people like myself can help you. Some payroll processing companies also offer human resource management services.
Having agreements, contracts, etc. is key to building business and sustaining it. They protect you, your employees, and your customers. Who will develop your contracts? How will you manage an inquiry that needs legal advice? Get started with a contract for use with customers and one for employees or sub-contractors. Modify one from a professional association or from an established business owner and have it looked at by an attorney. I know, you’re seeing dollar signs, but laws differ from state to state or even city to city. All I can say is CYA. (cover your …)
These systems must be documented to be implemented. If you are already in business, you likely have some iteration of these already in play. Write them down as they are now and find ways to improve them. If you are getting started, write things down as you go and improve them along the way. In either case don’t feel like you have to do it all in one sitting. That is way too overwhelming! When I was doing this, someone told me to record my operations as I did them. So I literally tuned on Zoom and recorded myself verbalizing every step I took. It didn’t take me any extra time and when I was done, my system was documented. Even better, I had a training tool for new employees!
Despite various hacks and short cuts, this is a lot of work. Well thought out and documented systems will command a higher sales price. There is an added bonus to all this legwork. Once done, you will find that your business is more profitable and is more efficient.