Your business has a lot of moving parts, so being organized and having business systems is mission critical for ensuring everything runs smoothly.
As an OBM, one of the most common things I help clients with are their systems and processes.
Business systems help ensure your operations are streamlined. They provide both consistency and predictability. Also, they enable your team to work to their full potential as repetitive tasks become routine, everyone on your team is on the same page and errors are minimized.
While establishing business systems may not seem like a high priority when things are running smoothly, the reality is that breakdowns in your processes can cost you both time and money.
Let’s take a look at how exactly business systems can create efficiency and explore some of the most common business systems I work with my clients to implement.
Before You Begin
Before you dive into creating or updating business systems, it’s a good idea to take a step back and do a full assessment of all the areas of your business that potentially need processes in place.
I often find that while my clients have business systems relating to the work they do with clients, their processes are not documented or streamlined. That’s why I like to start with creating a customer service manual — because this affects your business internally and externally.
Any business will have some frequently asked questions, along with common customer service related tasks that may come up, including:
- Refund requests
- Delivery of items
- Client responsibilities
- And more!
Other areas of your business that may under the category of internal processes could be:
- Deliverables and deadlines
- Expense management
- Email management
- Customer testimonials
- Content creation
- Vacations and time off
- Marketing activities
At a glance, this may seem like a lot of business systems. Here’s what you need to keep in mind. Yes, you’ll spend the time now documenting each one, but you’ll gain so much more time — and potentially money — in the future as the result of everything running more efficiently.
For example, let’s look at following up on leads. While not all systems can be directly tied to increased revenue, establishing an effective lead follow-up system is one that can definitely help you grow your income.
As a busy business owner, consistently following up with leads easily falls to the wayside. How you pursue leads, though, is directly related to your revenue. It’s only logical that if you have a system that ensures regular follow up with leads, you’ll convert more prospects into clients.
Here are some of the business systems to consider for your organization:
Consistent Content Creation
Most businesses have some sort of content creation that they do, be it blog posts, newsletters, or social media posts. To ensure you’re connecting regularly, you need to be consistent. Consistency helps keep your audience engaged, because if they don’t know when to expect to hear from you, they’ll eventually stop expecting to hear from you at all.
That’s exactly why business systems for your content are important.
Like anything else in your business, things run more smoothly with a plan, so having an editorial calendar is a must. Keeping track of the what, when and where of all the content you create gives everyone you work with a reference point for what comes next. Your editorial calendar doesn’t have to be fancy — a simple spreadsheet or chart will suffice — but it does need to be updated regularly.
I recommend creating your editorial calendar on a quarterly basis, as that enables you to avoid the scramble of deciding monthly or weekly what content you need to create.
Along with your editorial calendar, you should also document processes for preparing and creating your content including:
- Who’s responsible for which pieces of content?
- What are the timelines for each type of content?
- Who reviews the content and approves it?
- Where’s the content housed?
- What are your writing guidelines for each content type? This includes preferred styles, fonts, word choices and more.
Newsletters are one of the most common types of content businesses produce, but if you don’t have a business system or a schedule in place they can easily be forgotten.
The five step process I use to help my clients create a newsletter system are:
- Create a content hub.
- Establish a set structure.
- Create a template.
- Document your preferences.
- Decide on your timelines.
For blog posts, I recommend a similar approach, however, I also always recommend testing out your business systems to make sure they work for you.
- Document how you create a blog post.
- Include links, or where to find directions, for any tools or resources you use to complete the process.
- Read through the completed document for any obvious gaps.
- Test the system for completeness the next time you do a post.
- After you’ve tested the system and made any adjustments, consider it live, and ready to go.
Handling Your Money
As your business grows, the money you’ll need to be managing for your business will also grow. And if there’s one place in your biz you want things to be airtight, it’s your money!
Business systems related to your money generally fall into one of four categories:
Whether you’re offering services or products, you need a way to invoice your clients/customers. This means you’ll likely need some kind of service provider, like Quickbooks or Xero. If you’re selling online, you’ll need an online shopping cart.
PayPal can be an option if you don’t need high functionality, but something like something like SamCart or Thrivecart may be more suitable. You’ll also need a merchant account of some sort. Stripe and PayPal are easy to set up and integrate into your business.
Having a business system for receipts is essential if you want to minimize a ton of stress and headaches when tax time rolls around. By setting up an easy, reliable, and recurring method of saving receipts for your records, you can keep things organized and on track.
Consider using email filters and labels to automatically flag receipts as they come in. Then once a month, save them all to one place. My team uses Dropbox folders to group them by month and then by year.
As a business owner, knowing exactly how much money is needed to run your business each month is essential. Many of your expenses will be automated charges with varying frequency, so documenting them all in one place helps keep them corralled.
A simple document with billing date, amount, method of payment, frequency, and short description of what it is you’re paying for is all you need to create your system. You should also have a regularly scheduled time (like quarterly) to review everything on the list and ensure all the tools you’re paying for are actually being used.
When it comes to bookkeeping, I’m a big proponent of outsourcing to an expert. With regular bookkeeping, you can ensure you’re managing your money and keeping the proper attention on the financial health of the business regularly. Don’t be afraid to ask for the data you need to understand the big picture. My bookkeeper does all of the traditional reporting you’d expect, but we’ve also created some additional reporting to help me have a better idea of what’s going on in the business.
For example, my bookkeeper generates a monthly report to help me keep track of client reimbursables. These are a part of my bookkeeping business systems we’ve developed over time to make it easier for me to understand what’s going on day-to-day and in the big picture — both of which are critical to managing your money.
Upleveling Your Customer Experience
Customer experience can make or break your business, so having a few business systems in place that enhance their experience and make doing business with you easier are a must.
Onboarding is your client’s first experience interacting with you or your team, so you want to get things on the right track. By creating business systems that cover each step of onboarding you can ensure a positive experience from day one.
Here are five simple steps to start building your client onboarding system:
- Document and prepare the essential items that need to be sent as soon as you get a “yes.” (Think proposal, contract, invoice, etc.)
- Document and prepare the essential items that need to be sent as soon as the payment and contract are complete. (Think intake forms, welcome packets, scheduling links or other necessary items to get your client prepared for the first step of working with you.)
- Identify what emails you regularly send, and create templates for them.
- Build your internal client setup so you’re ready to go once you get started. (Think Dropbox folders, Google Drive folders, project management setup, time tracking setup, etc.)
- Decide where to file your signed contract.
You can also find some additional details for creating your onboarding system right here.
Another big consideration for your customer experience is how you deal with emails from customers. While initially you may think that having everyone who works with you should answer customer service emails as they come in, that may not actually be the right approach.
The reason for this is twofold:
- Is it worth the time investment to train certain staff on systems they won’t ever use except to answer occasional questions?
- If you do train them, will they have enough knowledge to understand all of the system triggers? Is it realistic that they’ll be able to learn and remember that when you do A then B.C and D happen, which then affects E and F?
When setting up business systems for your customer service emails, creating templates should be a top priority. Brainstorm with your team on the most common types of emails you receive and then create templates to accompany each type of inquiry.
Another consideration are the tools you’re currently using. The fact is, the more platforms, tools and groups you have for clients to use, the more questions they’ll generate. So look for opportunities to consolidate and streamline, and whenever possible, try and offer your clients a “one stop shop” experience.
Bonus: Sorting Out Your Household
While an aspect of my role as an OBM is to focus on business systems, I am someone who firmly believes that systems can help you both at work and at home.
Because when one area of your life is stressful, it can bleed into the others. By focusing on getting this under control at home, you’ll have more energy to focus on growing your business. Systematizing certain household tasks frees up time you can spend on your biz, your hobbies or anything else you want to do.
My four tips for improving your household systems are:
Nail down the morning routine
Mornings can be complete chaos, so consider what you can to minimize the stress. If you have kids, that may be making lunches the night before and having them pick out their clothes. Develop a routine that allows them to be more independent and minimizes distractions. I’m a big fan of visual charts that remind everyone what to do.
Use a seven minute timer
I have a daily habit of spending seven minutes cleaning one area of the house and seven minutes cleaning my office. This is one of my favorite household systems because it makes such a big difference in a pretty short amount of time. By dealing with the clutter in my office and around the house, I’m freeing up mental energy and I don’t have the dread of having to get all these other things done after the work day is over.
Why seven minutes? It’s a small, manageable chunk of time. In my experience, you can get a whole lot done in that timeframe when you are focusing on the task at hand.
Schedule your laundry and other dreaded chores
Fun fact about me: I loathe doing laundry. There’s always so much of it and it can feel like it’s never done. And because of my disdain for laundry, more than once I found myself ignoring it until the last possible minute, then resenting the fact I had to spend a whole weekend catching up.
My way of systematizing this was to do either one or two loads a few times a week. I work from home, so taking a few minutes to change over the laundry forces me to take a break, which is something a lot of us business owners don’t do enough of. By taking care of it a little bit at a time, it frees up my time on weekends and I don’t start my Mondays feeling like I didn’t get a break.
Outsource what you can.
It’s all too easy to get caught in the trap of thinking we can handle everything. The reality of running a business though, is that if you want to grow and scale, something’s got to give.
At the point I started outsourcing some of my “at home” work, my life improved greatly. For me, outsourcing includes having a housecleaner come once every two weeks and having someone come once a week to do meal prep.
Build Your Business Systems One at a Time
For those of you thinking about how to get started with your business systems, I recommend not just jumping in without a plan. Prioritize the areas of your business in terms of what will be most impacted by having strong business, and then work from there.
Consider creating monthly or quarterly goals for what you want to accomplish, and don’t forget to include your team in the discussion. By taking the time to create business systems, you’ll have the space to grow your business while still offering your clients an exceptional customer experience.