Document, Delegate, Dominate

Mostly I write about marketing here so when I seem to stray off topic you can bet it’s related to growing a small business and sometimes that takes getting your house in order so you can effectively market.

documentThe most common reason business owners tell me they can’t get around to marketing, particularly some of the newer social tactics, is time. They’re already working 80 hours and week and can’t seem to find the time to squeeze more stuff in. While I get that completely I would also suggest, from experience, that you must find ways to create systems and processes that allow you to effectively delegate most of what you do today if you are to have any shot at growing a business that helps you get what you want out of life. Plain and simple, your business will suck the life out of you if you allow yourself to stay buried in the doing it work of making it, fixing it, shipping it.

The secret to getting yourself high enough out of the routine and focused on the strategic, the marketing, the innovation, is to document and delegate your success systems. I know that sounds really boring, kind of like creating an operations manual, but if you don’t do it nothing will change – or worse yet, you’ll abdicate work to others and risk sinking your brand completely.

Much of the success of your business may reside in the heads of your key employees. So, what happens when they leave? Do they take your processes with them or do you have them documented in a way that others can quickly learn? Want to hire as you grow? I wonder how much time you’ll save training that next employee with a set of documented routines in place?

Documenting the functional processes of your business doesn’t have to be painful or complicated. Taking a couple simple steps and making them part of your routine may be all it takes. Once you get in the habit, you’ll reap the rewards long-term.

  1. Create a functional org chart – even if you don’t have people for boxes you have the boxes so identify all the functions in your business
  2. List the processes – start making lists of all the processes needed by each function (this will grow and change but get the biggies down)
  3. Start creating checklists – process documentation can be as simple as a list of five things to check off, don’t over complicate this
  4. Create an online manual – use wiki technology like Central Desktop that allows you to create and organize your success manual from your web browser
  5. Get the entire team in – get everyone working in your business to contribute their processes and get in the habit of documenting as they go

You’ll need to trim and adjust your manual from time to time, but simply starting down this path is going to show you what a freeing step this is. And, when it comes time to sell your business your documented processes will be one of the most valuable assets you have to offer.

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  • Joy Johnson

    Tremendous post! I rank this post as one of the most important posts I've ever seen relative to small business success. I've also found that the very act of documenting systems helps business owners recognize strengths and weaknesses so just going through the process makes businesses more successful.

  • ducttape

    Thanks Joy – I do think it's one of those things that hampers growth but owners don't even recognize the problem as such.

  • timtasker

    Great post, thanks for sharing!

    I think that creating working systems that lead your business to keep a working routine that is managed effectively producing the desired results is essential. That way, you (owner/manager) and your team have a framework/guide to follow and accomplish. That would lead to a better performance and highly motivated employees because they are happy with what they are doing for the best of the company.

  • Ivan Hernandez

    Excellent post John! This is probably one of the most important advice for small business owners, as it is quite common for small companies to simply “go with the flow” instead of establishing processes and systems that in the long run will build the foundation for the organization's effectiveness when it comes down to operations, sales, marketing … everything! Thank you John!

  • craigsteinhoff

    Great article! I come from the audit world (as a CPA), and the #1 way to understand the risks within a business are to perform a walkthrough of a company's processes. It also helps us determine if any oversight controls are missing. If a company already has this done for us – that's a bonus!

  • rachaelann

    Thanks for the post. I'd like to invite small business owners to a free launch event in NYC with MSNBC guest expert, Dawn Fotopulos. She will unveil her NEW training site for solopreneurs live in NYC + via webcast on 4.19.2010 More Info RSVP Guest Limited.

  • Mike Stenger

    They say to conquer the list everyday and the list can be defined from specific processes and systems put in place, that need to be worked on every day. Good stuff John

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  • Terez

    I love organization! This is an unbelievable post. If you want to grow into a seasoned entrepreneur, you cannot ignore the steps you have to take to walk down that path. At times, it feels like delving into organizational procedures takes time away from other tasks you would like to complete. But in the end, spending the time to organize saves time!

  • Karen A. Davis

    This is especially important for solopreneurs and those starting out in business. Documenting processes can help us understand what's working and what's not. I particularly like no.1 – creating the org chart. Even if it's a one person business, the chart can guide you as you grow and need to hire help.

  • yuregininsesi

    Great article! I come from the audit world (as a CPA), and the #1 way to understand the risks within a business are to perform a walkthrough of a company's processes. It also helps us determine if any oversight controls are missing. If a company already has this done for us – that's a bonus!