The Two Things Your Small Business Success Depends On
If you’ve got a great product or service that satisfies a need in the market, but things just aren’t falling into place for your small business, you might have a problem somewhere in your processes and systems. No matter how small or artsy your business is – and even if you don’t have them written down – your processes and systems are there. While they might sound like yucky, boring, stick-in-the-mud stuff, you should give them some thought and attention. They affect every success and failure you experience.
What is a “process” and what is a “system”?
According to Merriam-Webster online, they’re defined as:
Process – “a series of actions that produce something or that lead to a particular result”
System – “a group of related parts that move or work together”
It stands to reason that to get results, you need processes. And you need systems to help you execute and maintain your processes.
Processes and systems applied in a small business
At the start of 2014, I joined a small online mastermind group, that’s got me looking at my business in a different way. It’s challenging me to think about the systems and processes behind my freelance company and how they affect my success. In a way, I’m rediscovering by business by thinking in these terms. While I hadn’t acknowledged or officially defined all of them in the past, virtually everything I do in my line of work is guided by processes supported by systems.
I have processes for:
- Managing my blog
- Fielding and qualifying leads
- Prospecting for new business
- Creating proposals and estimates
- Maintaining working relationships with clients
- Executing project work
- Executing hourly work
- Invoicing clients
- Receiving client payments
My systems to support my processes consist of a variety of platforms and tools:
- My bank
- My credit card
- Email (Gmail and Google Apps)
- Social media platforms: Linkedin, Twitter, Google+, Facebook,
- Social media apps: Hootsuite & Buffer
- Memberships to various local networking groups.
- My calendar
- My smartphone
- My whiteboard
- Sticky notes
Essentially, everything that goes right or wrong in my business can somehow be traced back to a success or failure within my processes and system components.
While you might drive yourself to the brink by trying to lay out everything you do into perfectly-detailed processes, it can help to at the very least recognize your business functions that involve multiple steps and identify the systems/components that support your efforts to accomplish them. That way, you can objectively look back on what you did and how you did it to discover why something fell through the cracks and determine what needs to be fixed or removed from the equation.
So the next time your check book balance isn’t matching up with your accounting records, or you’re falling behind on project deadlines, or your engagement on social media has plummeted, or you’ve missed out on an assignment because you responded too late…look a little deeper. There’s probably a process or system that needs some tweaking.
Special thanks to my mastermind cohorts, Rachel Strella, Jennifer Grigg, and Terry League for their insight and support.
By Dawn Mentzer
Another Insatiable Solopreneur™ post
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Thank you Dawn. Great piece as usual.
I am so glad to see that these phrases are “sneaking” into the world of solo professionals. Process improvements are so close to my heart.
One can also have a process for planning a business year and evaluating the progress on quarterly bases.
I would like to propose a third dimension: roles.
Sales and marketing processes require different mind set and mental state than delivery or invoicing. Planning a day around roles and thinking in processes makes meeting stiff deadlines easier.
Hi Attila! Thank you for reading and weighing in on the topic. Your suggestion about a process for planning and evaluation is excellent! And your observation about roles is one not to be ignored. As solopreneurs, we often need to shift our mindsets when addressing different areas of our businesses. If we’re not able to do that effectively, it’s important to recognize it and consider outsourcing certain responsibilities.