Document Your Business… it Could Save you from Bankruptcy.
Editor’s Note: This article is part of a bigger series on supercharging the growth in your business. To start at the beginning click here – Nine Critical Strategies to Grow Your Business in 2020!
In the last article we went a bit deep on marketing. I shared 4 different marketing strategies that every business owner should be focused on. Then I drilled down on text message marketing specifically… and I gave out 7 best practices to use with your text message marketing efforts. To read that article click here…
Today, I want to talk about a very boring topic… Documentation.
Wait, wait, don’t go.
I’m going to show you how this simple step can mean FEWER Hours in the office. (As much as 20% fewer hours!)
Look, Documentation is boring. Nobody talks about it… but there are two reasons I think it’s critical to growing your business.
First – proper business documentation can literally save your business from bankruptcy.
Second – Documenting your business will enable you to work at least 20% less!
How’s that for a promise?
Ok, hold on to your hats… Here we go…
Why You MUST Document Your Business
Let’s start with a true story…
One day I got a phone call… It could have spelled the end of my business. What had happened was shocking.
A key employee of mine – she handled ALL the billing process for the company – was in the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital. A drunk driver had fallen asleep at the wheel, crossed over the freeway median, and hit her car head on.
It was a freak accident you hear about on the news, but never expect to experience.
Not only was I worried about my friend, my employee, I was also worried about my business.
We were rapidly growing… and had just added 2 new people to the staff… 10 people looked to me for their livelihood.
Now the one person who handled all of our revenue processing was in the ICU… in a coma.
Without payments being properly processed, we were suddenly at risk of running out of cash… It’s every business owner’s nightmare.
Luckily, the month before the accident, we’d made an effort to document our entire business. To be honest, we never thought we’d need the documentation for these reasons.
We’d asked everyone to document their business process so we could cross train staff, and make it easier to hire more people.
The unexpected benefit… we had the process documented for something catastrophic.
Within 48 hours of the accident, we’d moved people internally to cover the missing employee. Staff stepped up and took on extra work to cover the hole.
What made it possible was the 40 pages of detailed process steps (with screenshots) so anyone could step in and process payments.
A few things happened very quickly… We brought on an additional staff member to help those taking on extra work.
We immediately made “Process Sheets” and their regular update a mission critical focus of our business.
Finally, we started looking at key members of our team in very different ways… from additional bonuses and better pay, to top of the line health insurance.
At the end of the day, this horrible situation ended up roses and sunshine.
My employee left the ICU after 3 months, and a few months later, was, as she put it… “Back to 99%!”
Better still, we started documenting every part of our business, and it gave us a huge benefit that we didn’t expect.
Unintended Benefits to Business Process Documentation
First, let me say this…
I honestly believe without these process sheets, my business was days away from serious trouble.
10 years ago, the complex process of processing payments would have taken weeks for us to document from scratch. The cash flow impact would have dropped like a lead balloon on our head.
So, the first obvious benefit of having our business process documented is comfort. Being able to sleep better at night, knowing it’s all documented.
The Second benefit… training and new employees.
Another benefit of having your business process documented is training employees, cross training employees… and onboarding new employees.
It’s so much easier to teach an employee how to do something, when it’s documented… I don’t care if they’ve been with you for 3 days or 3 years, having documentation makes everyone’s life easier.
Many times training people now involves sharing the appropriate “How-to” videos and letting employees learn at their own pace. Most employees, I’ve found, use the videos as a reference resource!
The third benefit is for owners.
I personally discovered that many employees get upset about creating these “process sheets” or how to videos. The excuses run from… “creating process sheets take too long”… to “are you going to use this to replace me?” Fear is very powerful.
So, I stepped up and told everyone, I was going to document everything I did too.
This helped eliminate the complainers and those fearful for their jobs. I guess knowing the boss was doing this too gave them some comfort?
Better still, I actually sat down and documented everything I did on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.
I documented how I check ad runs daily… how I test new ads weekly… how I close out my finances monthly… how I put together numbers quarterly… how I review metrics and goals quarterly… and how every 6 months we do a full marketing revamp. I also outlined my regular follow-up with employees.
This was the crazy thing…
As I documented some of the work I was doing… Like posting blog content, or preparing emails to send… I realized I wasn’t adding value. I could outsource those processes to other people.
That’s exactly what I did… I outsourced a whole bunch of stuff.
I used the very process documents I put together… and immediately cut my workload by at least 20%… if not more!
Look, I know it sounds crazy… but document your business… and see what you can outsource. I guarantee it will make your job 20% easier!
Now I know what you’re thinking…
What should I Document… and HOW?
Let’s start with the easiest question first…
How to document things.
Here’s what I do… I plug in my head set, and record the screen and voice over what I’m doing.
Yep – that’s it.
One take, mistakes and all. I save the file and name it something obvious like “How to do whatever.”
Then I save it to a folder we have on our shared drive for training videos.
No scripting, no editing, no second takes. I simply say what I’m doing and why, and I make sure I record the whole process step by step.
Now the bigger question… What should you document?
One word: EVERYTHING.
The more you document the better off you’ll be.
Document things like Advertising… Sales processes… Customer follow-up… onboarding… Retention processes… Billing. Monthly settle up… Software upgrades… Answer every question you can think of… How to publish stuff on the website… How to hire people… How to use your shared drives, how to send emails…
Yes it’s that simple… document everything you can. After that, I’m going to give you one more task…
Document Now… and Work Less Later
Here’s your final task with documentation…
Once you finish a video, I want you to ask yourself a question… are you the best person to be doing that process?
This simple question will help you work less.
After you’re done answering that question for yourself… do something even more crazy… ask that question about each and every one of your employees.
For example, my head salesperson did a training video on how to pull advertising statistics for clients.
It took 30 minutes to pull that data and put it into a spreadsheet. The process wasn’t hard… but it took time… and it had to be done several times a week.
I quickly realized my best sales person was spending several hours a week just pulling numbers. Not an ideal situation.
The training video was quickly passed to an intern who now does the heavy lifting of getting results into a spreadsheet… and my salesperson just found 4 extra hours a week to sell!
Here’s one more thought… When a process is documented, ask yourself WHY you’re doing this work? Do you really need to do that process? Could it be handled in an easier way?
One more example.
In my software business, when a customer cancels their service, we have a checklist of things that need to be done. The customer needs to be removed from our internal marketing lists, the account needs to be re-coded for access and archiving data… and a bunch of other stuff.
Right now, our support team has to push those buttons and make those updates.
But they really shouldn’t be doing this backend processing… Support needs to be on the phone and on email helping customers.
So, we’re working with the IT team to change our technology… so that the entire process can be handled by software. Eliminating work for our employees.
This feeds into an Idea that I share with all of my business partners… The idea of working yourself out of a job.
Yep – this is the goal of every astute business owner I know.
You want to pass off everything possible to other people. Once you’ve done that, you get to sit back and collect a paycheck for doing almost nothing.
If you want to double your business… here’s one crazy way… make the same amount of money, but work half as hard. You doubled your business in that situation too!
How’s it possible to work less?
Document everything… then find other people to do it!
I told you I’m full of crazy ideas.
What’s up next?
Documentation will take some time… Start today and do it little by little. Before long, you’ll have tons of documentation made, and you’ll start finding areas you can cut back on!
Just remember, when it comes to making your life easy – that’s what we’re all about here at Betwext. Cut back on your overly complicated email marketing and start deploying text message marketing.
Fewer messages, better responses… that’s what you’ll see with Betwext.com.
In our next article we’re going to discuss the best ways to inspire your employees!
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