How Business Systems Can Make You More Profitable
Welcome back - we're here in the 3rd installment of my “4 Steps to a More Profitable Business” email series. If you missed the first two, here are links to catch up: Read Part 1 - Common Profit Myths, Read Part 2 - Profit from Better Time Management.
In Part 2, I broke down some of the many ways we manage (or don't manage) our time affects how much money we keep in our pocket as profit.
In today's story, we'll look at:
USING SYSTEMS FOR MORE PROFITABILITY IN YOUR SMALL BUSINESS
Oh man - systems. There's an oft-loaded and intimidating subject in the entrepreneurial world. It can seem scary (is she going to tell me I need to automate everything? I can't afford fancy IT solutions, etc.). But rest assured, today, I want to show you that you already have systems in place, they aren't all "technical," how they affect your bottom line, and what you can do to improve them.
A system can be your process, and you've already got some in place.
A system doesn't have to be technical and I'm willing to be you have more of them going than you realize. You probably have a way that people most often book your services or buy your product right? There are steps you take and steps your clients / customers take. That represents a system - a process - at work in your business.
Now there are definitely systems you might not already have such as: client offboarding (what do you to finalize a project and close out with a client), client onboarding (how do you get clients ready to receive your services), a bookkeeping routine and more. But wherever you sit with having processes in your business, I want to encourage you to begin thinking about what you can do to make them run more smoothly because...
Systems save you time and they save you money, so it's in your best interest to have them and to make the most of them.
Systems and processes allow you to do things more quickly (and we've already covered how powerful saving time can be to saving profits from your business). They also allow you to be crystal clear on your goals, who your ideal clients and customers are, and to make their experiences smooth (so you attract and keep clients that are profitable for your business). When you don't have your processes nailed down, you likely spend a lot of your time putting out fires and losing money on unhappy clients and customers.
Last year, I took the entire month of December off from client work to do a deep dive on business development and operations work for Greatest Story. Called "Batch December," it's the single greatest investment of time I've put into the business.
A lot of the big things I did in that 140 hour experiment included:
- Documenting my systems already in place
- Optimizing many of these processes
- Creating new systems that didn't exist, but needed to
Documentation: For example - I already had a process I used to book new clients but I wasn't clearly aware of all the steps. I used Keynote (a magical program that can be used in all these creative ways) to create a map / flow chart of every step I took in that sales process. Documenting, whether you do it digitally or on paper, can help you see the current state and ensure everything is working as best it can.
Optimization: In my case, I saw several opportunities to shorten the process and make it easier for the client. One of the biggest things I realized was how much time it took to schedule, so I invested in a new tool: Acuity Scheduling - which streamlined everything and kept the process running smoothly. It saved me time on setting meetings, communicating details of those meetings, and more. It even allows you the opportunity to book a consult directly with me right here with just a few clicks!
Creation: Switching gears, there was a lot of work I was constantly re-doing in my business (which I realized when I finally could take a break and look at everything). I used part of my time last December to create TEMPLATES for key elements of my creative and my administrative work. Here are all the things I created templates for:
- Proposals for all common packages
- Client Presentations
- File Set-ups for Adobe Illustrator (the program I use to create logos, etc.)
- File Set-ups for Microsoft Word
I can easily say this saved me a ton of time in 2017. My proposals that used to take an hour or an hour and a half to create came down to an average of 20 minutes to customize. Contracts that'd take an hour or more (plus the headache of hand-scheduling each project) are now about a 15-minute endeavor, including scheduling the project using a new tool called Smartsheet.
I know without a doubt that time I've spent documenting my existing processes, optimizing them, and creating new ones were a powerful investment. It's something that's easy to overlook, but the more organized we are, the more we know about our businesses and keep looking at how to make them run more smoothly, it keeps more profit in our pocket. It also makes our lives as business owners a heck of a lot calmer.
I'd also say the more you can improve your systems that are client and customer facing, the happier your clients and customers will be. This means returning business and raving fans who refer more business to you (profit and profit - not to mention overall business growth).
How can you use systems to profit more from your business?
DOCUMENT WHAT YOU'RE ALREADY DOING
Set aside a morning or afternoon coming up purely to document what you're already doing as a full-on process (Step 1, Step 2, Step 3). Here are some questions to get you started:
- How do clients book our services (or buy our products)?
- How do we welcome clients?
- How do we finish client projects?
- How do we prepare for our tax return each year?
- How do we market our business?
- How do we hire new people?
Write this out - ideally digitally - so you can save it and share with others. Just document.
OPTIMIZE YOUR EXISTING SYSTEMS AND PROCESSES
From the first step, take one process and take a closer look.
- Is this process working as well as it should?
- What is this process like from the client's or customer's perspective?
- What can I do to shorten this process?
- What can I do to make parts of this process run more smoothly?
- Is there a tool, app, or person that could make this process easier or better?
Take action on your insights to improve what you're already doing.
CREATE NEW SYSTEMS AND PROCESSES THAT ADD VALUE TO YOUR BUSINESS
Consider creating a new system or process that would add more value to your business and/or to your clients and customers.
Here are some process ideas that could fit this bill:
- A Client Welcome Process
- A Referral Initiative (How do you give and send referrals, do you give gifts or other support to those who send you referrals)
- A Client Thank You Process
- A Customer Feedback Process
- A Weekly Marketing Process
- Templates for Your Common Contracts, Services, Work, etc.
Jot down your initial ideas, map it out with Keynote, pen and paper, or another program - then repeat the step of optimizing. What can you do to make your initial ideas better?
You can also put your new process into action and then ask for feedback from your clients on what you can do to improve it.
We're looking at the last piece of profitability next week: investment
Some say you have to spend money to make money, and sometimes you do - but only strategically.
See you again next week when we dive into how investing in the right professionals and resources (at the right time) can actually grow your business and make you even more profitable.
- 5 Spring Cleaning Ideas to Freshen Up Your Online Business Systems - Lisa R. Wells
- Improving Business Processes - MindTools