Processes are critical to the successful management of a business. They guide staff, allow easier management of the business, reduce confusion and need for additional staff, and allow more time spent on business development and quality client interactions. The use of processes ensures staff aren’t wasting time reinventing the wheel, communicating ineffectively, or wavering from business standards. And the payoff of creating processes is magnified and liberating for growing businesses that seek to manage a lean team and maintain strong profits. Here is a simple primer on the jargon, methods to start building, and get team buy-in on using processes.
Processes and workflows are, at their most basic level, a sequence of steps that tells staff how to complete a task. These processes can be built for just about every task undertaken, from on boarding clients to the client annual meetings. So, for example, when the business brings on a new client, a process can be triggered that tells the staff what to do, when to do the work, how best to do it, and which staff member owns each step of the work. I equate a process to an umbrella and the workflows as the spokes.
- A “process” is a group of workflows, automations, and elements referenced within the workflows. Elements can be items such as email templates, activity/task templates, mail merge templates, templated documents residing in a document management system, and more.
- A “workflow” is a series of steps that can include decision breaks. Example: A Prospect to Client workflow has a step that allows you to say whether the prospect is a qualified prospect or not. The next set of steps is dependent on which choice you choose: Qualified or Not Qualified.
- An “automated workflow” is a step in a process or workflow that actually is programmed to the do the work. Example: You change a field from the word “prospect” to “client”. Instantly, an email goes to the new client welcoming them aboard and another email automatically goes to the referral source thanking them for the introduction to this new client.
Hurdles and Solutions
While businesses agree that processes are necessary to build a thriving business, processes are far from universally adopted for a number of reasons:
- It is time consuming to document processes
- It takes energy to get buy-in to using processes
- Businesses lack the knowledge on where to start and what tools to use to help build processes
- Owners aren’t convinced that the effort will pay off sufficiently to merit the work involved
Fortunately, here are some solutions:
- Ask your CRM vendor for a sample workflow or process that you can practice using. This jumps starts the understanding of process use.
- Ask a member of your staff to create a short process or workflow and show it to you and the team. That starts to build buy-in.
- Choose one area of business that is time consuming. Write information about how you manage that part of the business. Share this document with a staff member, coach or consultant and ask for advice on improving the process or how to embed it into standard operating procedures.
- Learn how processes can benefit your business by Google searching “benefits of workflows and processes” or read “Good to Great”, “Raving Fan”, Six Sigma, Jack Welch, etc. This also helps with buy-in.
The Holy Grail is to create automated workflows so the technology is doing the work, not you nor your staff. Automated workflows allow the team to focus on meaningful client facing activities and business development. This saves a business a significant amount of time and money and provide mistake-proof methods to operate. Follow the same steps by asking your vendor, employing a staff member to build an automation, or lean on outside parties to help.
Shifting Staff to Rise Up
If you implement processes properly, there is a shift in staff’s responsibilities and workload. The goal of effective processes is that everyone is working at their highest skill level. This evolution of rising skills and use will allow executives to delegate work with confidence and shift their time to work ON the business. And while processes require continuous review and improvements, the return on investment is measurable and rewarding. The staff now have processes to guide them, which reduces management and mentoring time and eliminates operations and staff headaches.
Our Final Word
Processes, workflows and especially automated workflows are very important to scale a thriving, profitable business. They allow continuous reduction of work, staff working at their highest skill level, and comfort knowing the business is running smoothly.
We wish you the best as you continue to look for better ways to manage your business.