What’s your small business operating system?
If that question leaves you stumped, you might want to think about whether you’re really running your business, or whether your business is running you.
Most small business owners started their business to gain more freedom, yet they find themselves working harder than ever– with less freedom.
If that sounds like you, then what you have is not a company, but a job. And the solution isn’t working harder or hiring more people, it’s creating an operating system, to help scale your business.
So what’s an operating system?
An operating system is a written document stating how you do things at your company – and more importantly, how you want your employees to do things. It could also include software that makes many of these things happen automatically, which enables you to scale without hiring more and more people.
Think about your last trip to McDonald’s. Or the last product you ordered from Amazon. Or the last Uber ride you took. Did you know what to expect from the interaction? Were your expectations fulfilled? I bet they were. Because those companies have finely tuned operating systems.
An operating system states how you, the boss, want things done. From how your staff should show up in the morning to how they should treat clients to how jobs should get done. It lays down the law – so if you weren’t there, everybody would still know what you expected to get done.
Sorry, we’ll call you back in 3 weeks.
If you sent two technicians out on two service calls, would they do things the same way? If two leads came into your business, would they be handled the same way? How can you be sure? Have you trained your people on what to do or do you just leave it to chance?
I recently called a local irrigation system to activate my sprinkler system for the summer. A young woman who answered the phone told me in a hurried tone that they were too busy and would call me back in 3 weeks. Then she hung up. 3 weeks! Not what I wanted to hear.
I called another company and got service in the same week.
I’m pretty sure the boss of the first company didn’t know the business’s phone calls were being answered that way. But because the company didn’t have an operating system dictating how calls should be answered, they lost a ready-to-buy customer (me).
How do I get started?
First, map out the key functions of your company. There are online resources to help you such as 7 Power Contractor (www.7powercontractor.com) but you can also do these yourself. Thinking through the steps of each core activity is the key.
Then, think about the journey your client’s point of view, from finding your business the first time (likely online or through word-of-mouth), through booking the initial appointment, to communicating about the potential job, through getting the estimate, job completion, invoicing, payment, and request for referral.
Is that process automated in a client experience system? A system such as Thryv (www.thryv.com) automates key processes and saves the time required to handle much of the communication and tasks manually – and the process works better because it happens faster, more reliably, and is more scalable.
Scared by the idea of automation, or feel it’s too impersonal?
Remember, most of your clients are emailing and texting their kids and friends right now, so why not you? Up to 62% of all calls to small businesses simply go unanswered. That’s no way to make clients happy.
Start doing business the way your clients want to do business, and you will see your business thrive. You’re in control of the system, so it will do what you want – faster and with fewer errors than are likely occurring in your business today.
Oh, and one more benefit.
Ever think of selling your business someday? No business buyer wants to buy a business that requires the seller – you – to remain at the helm. In fact, buyers explicitly want businesses that do not require the owner to remain in place.
Document your processes and automate as many functions as possible, and you will be on your way to having a valuable business that you can sell for a nice sum in the future. Which may actually give you that elusive freedom you’ve been looking for!
Beyond the business, what’s YOUR purpose? You can do more of this, when you scale, have systems and if you choose, sell your business.
Gordon Henry is the Chief Strategy Officer and Executive Vice President for Thryv (www.thryv.com), a small business software and marketing services firm with over 400,000 small business clients worldwide.
Being a “good” entrepreneur is not enough
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