Processes. Oh, processes.
How easy they are to ignore. How easy they are to let languish.
If cash is the blood of a business, departments are the organs and personnel are the cells, then processes are the bones. You must build your business on efficient, effective and solid processes.
What do you do when a customer’s order is going to be late? How can you track all of your supply usage and reordering supplies? How do you set a new vendor up in your system?
Your business rests on the foundations of these processes running correctly, and they should be consistently evaluated, adjusted and strengthened. Think of that evaluation as drinking milk and giving your business the calcium it needs.
Hire Someone? Yeah – Hire You!
Many people hire consultants to come in and tell them how to enact more effective processes in their daily business management. Consultants often have great solutions that they’ve designed or a commanding understanding of best practices, but before resorting to this route consider being your own consultant.
As the leader of your business, you should know how things run. You should be in touch with the people who work at your business at every level. You should be asking them questions about the kinds of issues they see or when something seems to consistently work incorrectly. You should find out what they do and how they do it. You should ask them if they think there would be a faster or smarter way of doing something that wouldn’t compromise other important principles (like quality, customer service or another step in the process).
And then you should put that information together and consider a reevaluation and a strengthening of the processes that govern your business. If there’s something happening that doesn’t have a process and keeps occurring in an erratic manner, put a process in place.
Let me give you an example. Let’s say you run an online retail store called Zoey’s Zoo in which you sell various animal figurines directly to customers but also to various zoos and theme parks around the country (first, I hope you have separate processes for dealing with your B to B and B to C customers). What do you do when Wally the Walrus figurines are no longer available in the largest size but you get an order for one? Do you pull the product from your website, backorder the item, or contact the customer whose order will most certainly be late? As you bypass the order number and continue fulfilling orders that are in stock do you have a system for returning to this unshipped order?
If you are Zoey, you need to have a process for what happens when a product runs out of stock. You need a pipeline for pulling the product from your website, informing customers with outstanding orders, checking on the status of any incoming inventory, and then making sure that Wally the Walrus is purchasable again when it’s back in stock.
This may seem like a basic example and an easily constructed process, but it’s just one small bone among hundreds that make a body stand tall and a business run efficiently and effectively.
Consider the processes at your business. Evaluate and reevaluate.
What do you find to be the most difficult element of process creation and management?