Prioritising procedures: Why your start-up needs systems and processes
In getting a new business off the ground, founders often find themselves frantically juggling tasks in no particular order as they become urgent, with no system in place to do so.
While this may work at the start-up level, this approach can quickly become unsustainable as the business starts to expand and grow.
Given the time-consuming nature of starting a business, it comes as no surprise that so many new companies are established without working systems and processes in place, but as an owner, you can only “wing it” for so long. Having the right procedures as your company grows in size and complexity is vital for ensuring that not only is your business operating efficiently at its present size but is also well placed for future expansion.
What are systems and processes?
A business process is a sequence of actions that lead to your chosen aim or goals. This usually involves a documented series of interconnected steps that can be followed to achieve your desired result, such as onboarding clients or branding guidelines.
Systems refer to the entire structure for delivering those results, rather than the individual steps that make up each process. They are the framework through which ideas, plans and raw materials pass to become your final service or product.
Systems should be established at the earliest opportunity, ideally while your business is still in the start-up phase, as they require an initial investment of time. As a business grows in size and complexity, implementing these procedures becomes more time-consuming and costly.
Once established, having a codified way of doing things that can be adjusted and honed as required, allows you to optimise your available resources and reduce running costs. Without this, you risk limiting how quickly and effectively your business can begin to scale.
Building effective procedures and processes
Though the types of procedures in place might differ between businesses, there are certain core systems that every business will require. Broadly speaking, all businesses need a marketing system to generate a flow of leads, a sales system that converts these leads into customers, a fulfilment system to generate revenue, and a robust administrative system that supports these functions.
Building these involves establishing a process for a specific task. This means defining a method for that task, as well as which person or department is responsible for each action. This is then documented, implemented, and adjusted as required. The key is to keep these processes as simple as possible, avoiding unnecessary complication to ensure they work well within the business.
How your business benefits
One of the major benefits of implementing systems early on is how they improve efficiency. This documented way of doing things means staff are more productive, and as you optimise your systems and refine your processes, your team can concentrate their efforts on actions that yield the largest return on investment.
Systems that free up time from mundane or repetitive tasks means more time can be spent on forward planning, creating new products or services, and increasing profit margins, allowing your business to scale more rapidly. As your business expands and your team grows, having procedures in place also means new recruits have a clear idea of how your business operates, improving both the quality and consistency of work.
Using systems and processes that deliver a consistent, high-quality experience to your customers is vital for gaining loyalty and increasing retention rates, which in turn takes your business from a start-up to an asset that can attract additional investment and opportunities.
Most importantly, putting these systems in place benefits you directly as the owner, as they provide a framework for the business to operate independently of you, with less of your time taken up working in the business instead of on it. This means you can focus on leading your business.
Though building effective systems and procedures is often seen as a low priority for start-up businesses, failure to do so can quickly lead to unsustainable growth or an inability to effectively scale. It will cause unnecessary stress for both your staff and your management. Robust systems that are regularly evaluated and adjusted, are key to delivering the consistent results needed to grow your revenue and profit margins, ultimately expanding and scaling your business.