I had a health scare in September.
As it turns out, everything’s perfectly okay. But the possibility of things not being okay really knocked me for a loop.
For the first time … ever … I thought about what would happen to my business if I suddenly weren’t around to take care of it.
What an eye-opener!
Fact is, I’m the only person who really knows how things work in my business.
Several people – from my attorney to my coach to my book printer – know ‘bits’ of it. But there’s really no one who knows enough about my business to step in, figure things out, and keep things moving without me.
And that was pretty scary to me. (Fortunately, it was scary enough to actually do something about it.)
Thought it would be helpful to share with you what’s working for me….
1 – Put your business systems in writing
The good news: I know exactly how things work in my business.
The not-so-good news: I’m the only person who knows exactly how things work in my business.
Why is this a problem?
For starters, I’m heading out on vacation tomorrow. And I don’t want to bring work with me! If I’m the only person who knows how to keep things moving, how is this possible?
It’s clear I need some business systems. So what needs to be in writing?
Ideally, practically everything. But you might want to start with something fairly easy. Say, how you ‘process’ new customers, or clients.
When someone decides to work with me as a Business Coach, here’s what happens:
- We make our first coaching appointment
- I get credit or debit card authorization for payment of coaching fees
- I send out a Welcome Pack, which includes: pocket folder/label, cover letter, business card, Policies & Procedures, Client Data Form, Client Checklist, Coaching Prep Form, and additional information about coaching
- I use my ‘KG Checklist’ to check off the exact forms I send out; note date mailed/delivered
- I prepare a client folder for my office: insert checklist, cover letter and all info/notes to date, write phone number on tab, write date of first coaching appointment (and all subsequent appointments) on the folder cover
- I follow up and note when the signed Policies & Procedures form is returned, and add it to the client folder
- I staple the completed Client Data Form to the inside cover of the client folder
- As we work together, I add all relevant materials (correspondence, reviews, work samples, etc.) to the folder
What’s your ‘system’ or ‘process’ for prospects and new customers? Do you:
- Capture all their contact information (name, address, phone, email, snail mail)?
- Send them a thank you note?
- Give/send them an Artist Pack (folder with you Bio, Artist Statement, Resume, and other information about you and your work)?
- Add them to your database? How? When?
- Follow up with them regularly? How often? In what way(s)?
- Invite them to your events?
- Send event announcements?
- Send holiday cards?
- Ask them for referrals?
Chances are, if you have a ‘system’ for doing things, you’ll be more consistent. And that’s likely to make your business stronger.
2 – Let people know where you keep things
Okay, I actually do need to be around for some things – for example, my 1:1 telephone coaching sessions.
But other business processes don’t need me at all. Take, for example, my book sales:
- It’s already written, already published
- Website’s up
- Advertising (googleAdwords) is in place
- Orders are moving smoothly through online booksellers, my website/shopping cart, retail outlets
- Revenue is automatically deposited in my business account
So what’s the problem? Once again, I’m the only person right now who knows how this works.
Unless I write down my ‘book-selling’ system – and let someone know where to find it – if I’m not around, my book sales come to a screeching halt.
I’ve put way too much work into the book to allow that to happen. So I’m writing – and will soon be sharing – exactly how my ‘book-selling’ system works, and how to keep it working without me.
So that’s the point of this section: Writing your operating systems is just the first step. You also have to let a trusted colleague (or assistant, or family member, or friend) know where they are – and how to use them.
3 – Automate and delegate
One of the coolest benefits of writing out your systems and procedures is that you’ll see places that you can automate … or delegate.
Yep. That means less work for you!
Looking back at my procedures for new clients, for example, it’s pretty clear that I don’t need to do everything myself.
For starters, I could ask someone else to put together and mail the Welcome Packs for me. That could be a half hour or so every time I add a client.
And where does automation come in? Wherever possible, I say. Case in point, I used my automated email broadcasting system to send out this month’s newsletter.
I didn’t do it myself, because I was on vacation…..