When you start a business you are often a jack of all trades, juggling lots of balls and managing a never-ending to-do list. Systems and processes can help you to reliably and consistently grow your business.
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Which systems & processes need to be put in place when starting a business?
I’m a business systemiser and founder of CRM software Connectably. I help business users who aren’t always natural “software people” to systemise their processes.
A process is a series of steps for anything in your business that needs to be repeated more than once. If a task needs repeating, you need a process for it. Your business exists to solve problems for your customers so you need to have processes in place that provide the steps necessary to solve those problems repeatedly.
Despite what the software industry would have you believe a ‘system’ is not a piece of ‘software’. Systems are a level above processes. Systems combine multiple processes together with people, technologies, and customer contact points to create a core function in your business.
Here’s a handy, tongue-in-cheek definition of how a ‘system’ benefits you:
‘Saves Yourself Stress, Time, Energy, and Money’
Systems deliver clearer structure to your business’ processes so that activities are more consistent, scalable and valuable.
A small service-based business is reliant on three core customer systems:
1. Acquisition – how you find prospects, nurture them and agree on what you’ll deliver
2. Onboarding – how you sign off work to be delivered, then deliver it to new customers
3. Delight – how you get one or more of: (1) more paid work; (2) a glowing testimonial, or; (3) referrals to others like your delighted customer.
This video illustrates the Simpler Method® by Connectably and explains the significance of systemisation in your business and bridging the gaps between those steps along your customer’s journey.
I help purpose-driven business leaders with change and improvement solutions that save them time and help them increase their positive impact on the world by optimising their organisation.
Often start-ups can spend the first several months purely in survival mode – we’ve all heard the scary statistics of businesses failing within the first year or 18 months.
But one of the ways to give yourself a head-start is to put some effective systems and processes in place or to set up your Business Foundations, as we refer to them at DH Professional Solutions.
I’ve worked in operations and business improvements for over 15 years and I’ve seen everything from absolutely awful to genius and everything in between, as well as having started my own business at the end of 2019.
Some key areas I would recommend getting in order from the outset are:
Winning and keeping customers – otherwise what you have is a hobby. You should use your customer ‘journey’ to understand how to make things better and easier from their point of view, as well as yours.
If you’re going to need a CRM, find one that is going to suit your business sooner rather than later and if you need to network, you might find a calendar appointment booking tool useful. And you’ll need to know how you’re going to convert interested potential customers into loyal advocates of your business.
Building a team – at whatever point your business becomes bigger than just you, getting the right people in the right roles will be your biggest win. Think about how you will run your recruitment activity and how individuals will be supported, developed and engaged once in place.
Delivering your product or service – design and document your processes in a format that is appropriate for your organisation – this could be flow charts, procedure manuals or videos. This will help you ensure quality, consistency and efficiency.
Managing your finances – getting paid is a pretty important one! Make sure you have an easy way of creating and sending invoices, tracking payments and managing your cashflow.
The Get Ahead VA team is made up of experts in all sorts of different fields, from social media to business development to web design.
When starting your business it’s always good to have the future in mind. So that when you get to a point of delegating some aspects of your work that this is as easy to do as possible.
Thinking about which software and systems you want to use to support the growth of your business is a great place to start. From invoicing and CRM to emails and file storage it’s good to look at what the options are and ask for advice.
Once you have decided which systems you would like to use. The next step is thinking about how you set them up so that you make the best use of their functionality to streamline your processes, to save you time now and in the future.
aDigitalMe is a business support agency providing Operational Consultancy and Management. We work with business owners to automate their processes, increase their efficiency and team communications.
When implementing systems think about all the cogs of your business.
Client delivery, marketing, finance, operation, people and professional development
Brainstorm what you think you need to do so you can prioritise the processes you need to focus on.
A great place to start is project management software. When starting a business your to-do list will grow quickly, creating systems will free up your mind and make things easier in the long run. Trello, Asana and ClickUp are a few of your options. All of which have free plans.
Nothing gives me more joy, apart from good food and wine than finding better ways of working, solving problems, and ticking those things off your list so you, as a business owner, can really focus on what needs to be done.
The fundamental part of any business is the customer experience and as such, I believe the most important first step in creating systems in your business is to look at the customer journey. That could be meeting someone at networking or a social media post popping up in their feed.
Something I wish I had done when I started my business, is write a list of all the elements there are to my customer’s journey. From that initial contact and booking a meeting right through to how and when you’re going to invoice them and any aftercare or check-ins. I have it now, but it would have made things easier if a rough draft had been there from the beginning.
Things to think about are arranging the first meeting or call, what do you need to know from them, how do you follow up after that first call? What happens if they want to buy? What happens if they don’t – you still need to look after the people that don’t buy as it could be a case of, not yet. Then you need to look at how you deliver the product or service, how and when they need to pay for it and what if they need any aftercare or continuing support.
There are a range of free and paid for tools that you can use to support this, some of my favourites are:
Calendly – an appointment booking system that links with your calendar. It integrates with Zoom, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams so the meeting link will be automatically generated. It’s free for one appointment type and I use it for my 30-minute discovery and catch-up calls.
Asana – a really simple and easy to use task management system. You can create projects, add team members and they have just created a desktop app.
FreeAgent – this is not only great for invoicing but if you have associates or staff you can get them to log their time. You can create projects and tasks which enables you to easily keep track of the time you and your team are working on specific tasks/projects.
If you don’t need an automated invoicing system but still want to keep track of your time, then I like Clockify, it has both a Chrome and Edge extension, so you only need to hit select the project from your toolbar and hit start and away it goes.
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