Should Business Owners Think in Terms of Systems?
Business owners should think in systems. Flowing processes, branches, and patterns. Or so we’re told … our education is in design, programming, and writing…
“Process” used to be sort of a dirty word around here. We didn’t want to be formulaic. We didn’t want to treat every client the same way. We wanted to invent ourselves anew for every project. It sounds pretty great in theory.
In actuality, it lead to a chaotic workflow, poor communication with clients, and a general feeling of aimlessness. Not to say we were ashamed of the work we were putting out; quite contrary. But we were making things harder on ourselves and our clients by not thinking about processes. Something had to change.
Almost a year ago we started working on a process manual. It’s incredibly hard and cathartic work. So much of what you do as a company happens by instinct. Putting it in writing takes lots of perspective. But we kept at is, and we ended up with a lot of incredibly useful information.
Eventually the process manual took the form of an FAQ hosted on a private section of our website. We can find articles there on lots of different topics, including how to convert videos to HTML5, employee vacation time, working from home, and asking for raises. We also included important articles about how to treat a client, dealing with revisions, and why logos are so important.
Hardly a week goes by when we as a company run into something where we think “we really ought to write this process down for next time.” It’s changed a lot of how we think about our jobs. We teach each other as we work now. One person’s discoveries or formulas enrich the company as a whole. We all try to be great at our one thing, but we also recognize the value of knowing someone else’s job, too. This process manual helps us do just that.
It’s common knowledge now to check “Howie” if you have a question about something. (Horrible joke… “how we” do things…) Howie has so many answers to the common questions that come up in a day. And we all know if we can’t find an answer to something we’re looking for, we have a new article to write soon.
Here’s a sample of the sort of articles we store there:
FOOD AND DRINKS
We’re not a cafe. But we want you healthy, satisfied and ready to work. Like a mid-morning snack of nuts or oranges? Ask to have them provided. Like a Dr. Pepper in the afternoon? We’ll put it on the list. We treat these things as productivity tools. If they keep you sharp, and happy, it’s our job to provide them for you. On the same note, we like to have backup food for the days when you’re busy. Grab a burrito. Grab a nutrition bar. If you’re going full-steam, we don’t want you to run out. It’s not just a health and happiness issue at that point – it’s also a productivity issue. Your prime opportunities for asking for things are when we’re making a grocery run, or an Amazon order.
It’s working for us; maybe it’ll work for your small business, too. If nothing else, you might rethink your position on having a process. If you’re afraid to say the p-word, think about how not having one is affecting your clients!