You’ve heard me talk about how structure and process are important pieces to creating balance in your life, but they are vital pieces to you being able to efficiently run and scale your business as well.
On the car ride to Tennessee, my girls watched the movie Descendants 3 for the 100th time. There is a song at the end of the movie has the line that states, “Why tell all those lies? You feel unworthy. Like there isn’t solid ground for you to stand on. But a stack of lies is not a firm foundation. You cannot build a castle on a mountain made of sand.” The same is true for your business. You need a solid foundation for your business to grow and thrive.
For me, there are two main questions to ask yourself in order to quickly assess if the foundation of your business is solid.
- First, “If I asked someone to describe what I do or what my business is about, could they?” Are you confident that they would give the same answer you would? Before you can grow your business you need to be crystal clear on what you do or sell, for whom, and why. You need to have a rock-solid understanding of the core of your business because this shapes all the other decisions you will make. Each choice, each additional product or service, and each change in process should be evaluated using this lens of delivering the best to your ideal customer in pursuit of your purpose.
Here’s why this is important. You must know and understand your ideal customer in order to deliver the best product or service for their needs and desires. If what you offer isn’t something they want, you will spend tremendous resources (of time and money) trying to convince them to buy from you. You will likely have also wasted numerous hours and dollars in the development of a product that doesn’t convert. This approach is like throwing spaghetti at the wall; you’re cooking up things and holding your breath to see what sticks.
A better approach is to identify your ideal clients and then study them. Talk to them. Find out exactly what their pain points are, what they desire, and where they are already looking for solutions. Understand your competition and find ways to differentiate yourself or improve on what they are offering. Talk to your ideal clients and your current clients about how they interact with you and your business, what their experience is like, how they use your product, how responsive they feel you are, and any other questions you feel will give you insight into the overall customer experience.
- Second, take a big step back for a moment and objectively look at your business. Then ask yourself, “If I were to double my business tomorrow, could I handle it?” Often our first reaction to this question is YES! You want to be able to grow your business, your impact, and your wealth. But honestly stop and ask yourself the question again. Could you handle it? Do you have enough capacity (inventory, run time, warehouse space, time, emotional bandwidth, etc)? Do you have enough help to ensure your customer experience doesn’t suffer?
Think about everything that you do on a day-to-day basis in your business. It’s unlikely that you have a comprehensive job description written down. Write down all the tasks that you take personal responsibility for, including the less frequent jobs like attending annual conferences or monthly networking events. Then categorize how you spend your time into major segments or functions and see how many hours you spend on what and where you might be able to delegate. Once you have an accurate picture of what you do, you can start training people to take over these roles.
Figuring out all of the roles you perform in your business will also give you the opportunity to do some streamlining. It’s quite likely that, because you have been working on this business since the beginning, you have become used to doing things a certain way. Take this opportunity to look at all of the tasks and processes and ask yourself if they are all completely necessary. Simplifying how you work may reduce the workload that you are working to pass on. It will also increase the chance that your employees will be able to undertake the work successfully and reduce the margin of error.
If you are going to scale your business and maintain consistency, you will also need to standardize some of your ways of doing things. The best way to achieve this is to create Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). These are procedures that will allow your business to run without your direct involvement while maintaining a high-quality output.
Write manuals and protocols for each of the key procedures that your business undertakes, so regardless of who is undertaking the tasks, they will be done the same way. This will prevent fluctuations in the quality of the work done by your business, and it will also make staff training a lot easier when you decide you’re at that phase.
Staff who are following procedures will be a lot more confident, and less likely to make mistakes. This also works if you’re the only one in the business. Having a standardized way of working reduces errors, creates consistency, and eliminates decision overwhelm. It will also inspire confidence from your customers who will associate your business with consistency and quality.
Don’t settle for “we’ve always done it this way.” Challenge yourself and your team to find better ways to accomplish things. Continually improve how you operate and put the new “best practices” in your operating procedures manual.
So here is my challenge for you today, step back and take a good look at your business. Ask yourself, “if I were to double my business, could I handle it?” and “if I asked someone to describe what I do, could they?”. Then be really honest with yourself about the answers.
If you need some help working through ways to build your foundation, reach out.