At a recent Roundtables™ meeting, several remodeling company owners were drilling deep into the workings of a production department of a fellow member. Their goal was to develop an improvement action plan for this company that would allow them to grow revenue, grow profits, and reduce the chaos and stress in the office.
These business owners were smart because they focused their efforts on developing strong systems for each area of this department. They understood that systems are a tool to provide the owner with freedom and help him or her focus their efforts on tasks that would have a big impact on the company–like bringing in more business!
They understood that the most successful small businesses are built on a repeatable system that others can easily follow. We can’t shoot from the hip every day without consequences. There has to be some consistent way of doing things. If you intend to scale your business and eventually add to the team of people who help you, then effective systems are a requirement.
So, as a first step, the group listed each “system” that was needed to run a production department efficiently with an eye toward these goals: On time, on budget, with a delighted client. Here’s what they came up with:
- Sales to Production Handoff
- Pre-Construction Conference-Internal
- Pre-Construction Conference-External (w/client)
- Requesting and Compiling Trade Contractor Bids
- Selections System
- Change Order System
- Draw/Payment System
- Job Close Out System
- Communication Systems
- Weekly Production Meetings
- Safety Systems
- Training Systems
- Construction Standards Development
- Client Evaluation System
- Jobsite Radius Marketing
- Two-Week Look Ahead
- Material Ordering
- Special Orders
That’s quite a list! (If we missed one, tell me in the comment section!)
Next, they organized this list to show what systems already existed and which needed to be created. Then they made suggestions as to which needed system should be tackled first, second, and third and shared this with their peer.
One smart person said; if you find yourself doing something more than once, develop a system to handle it. Many think that developing systems is too difficult to tackle but, depending on the system, it can be quite simple.
Here are some tips on developing systems that I picked up from Forbes magazine:
- Start at the beginning. Running a small-business often means juggling many things and responding to the immediate needs of the day. In this constantly evolving environment it is easy to work intuitively and just get things done. However, thinking about the steps and procedures of a business from the very first day is vital to the ultimate success of the business. Don’t put documenting your process off to another day. Instead, take note of every procedure from the very beginning.
- Write it down. As you go through the daily work, take careful notes on the day-to-day processes. Take note on everything from how files are saved to how big decisions are made. If there are other people working in the business with you, have those people also keep close records of how they manage tasks. It is always easier to edit and delete than try to fill in the blanks and remember exactly how certain procedures were handled.
- Be proactive. Anticipate problems and methodically create solutions. Identify areas of concern and meticulously develop a response system. Even when certain actions seem obvious, make a note of the steps and approaches. What is intuitive for one person may not occur to another. By keeping close notes of all procedures other members of the team will be able to understand the decision-making process and arrive at the appropriate results.
- Get it out of your head. Once all of the operations are recorded, it is useful to have others review the material. Collaborate with your team as you record the various steps. They’ll help you identify the small pieces that you might miss. Include folks from different departments. Someone who is not in the thick of the process may have a clearer ability to convey the important ideas.
- Share it. Once the operations manual is created, start sharing it with the members of the company. Make sure that all employees have easy access to the information. Posting the procedures on an intra-company website or distributing hardcopies of the material will encourage people to refer and follow the guidelines. As updates are made to the materials, have alerts sent to the appropriate parties so that everyone is up to date.
Other remodelers have hired temporary workers to follow them around during the day, documenting the systems that are being used throughout the company but which are not documented anywhere. There are many ways to attack this issue. But attack you must!
The morale of this story is this: If you want to grow your business, delegate responsibilities to others in the company, and be able to take long vacations while the business hums along, start developing your systems today.
If you’re ready to systematize your business, be smart and use resources that already exist rather than reinventing the wheel. Remodelers Advantage University includes a huge library of checklists, job descriptions, forms, spreadsheets and more — all tools to help you create workable systems fast! And all for less than $1.50 a day. It’s the best investment you can make for your business.