Systems for small businesses

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Systems for small businessesOne of the fastest ways to grow any business is introducing systems.

Systems for small businesses are no different to large business systems, but the great thing is they’re generally much quicker and easier to implement.

Effective systems for small businesses

For a system to work well it has to have 3 components:

1. A good reason

Don’t be tempted to introduce a system for the sake of it.

A quick way to check is to ask ‘What is the benefit of introducing Small Business System A?’

If your answer sounds like one of these you’re on the right track:

  • It will save us £10 for every order placed
  • It will save on average 30 seconds for every customer call
  • It will ensure we are giving a consistent service which will result in fewer complaints

You’ll notice there is something very specific and measurable in each of these answers.  You’ll see why in a minute…

2. Simplicity

The harder a system or process is to follow the less likely it will be maintained. Simplicity leads to consistency.

Consistency is the key – the same thing should happen every time a process is triggered, like this:

  • Reason: Customers are complaining their calls are not returned
  • System: All messages taken are to be emailed to the person responsible for responding with the subject line: Urgent Message – Please Return Call. Include the reason for call, callers name and telephone number
  • Trigger: Message taken
  • Action: Email sent, Subject: Urgent Message – Please Return Call, Mr Biggles rang regarding his order number 14326, please can you call back to advise delivery date? His number is #####-###-###.

3. Monitor your results

If you have introduced a system, then check in weekly or monthly to ensure that it’s working. In step 1 you determined exactly what your system set out to achieve. Now you need to review the results.

If your system is working, great – don’t forget to thank the people who helped set it up and keep it going.  If it isn’t working sit down and talk about why you haven’t seen the results you were expecting, not to blame anyone but to find a more workable solution.

If your small business system isn’t working, chances are it’s too complicated, people are forgetting to use it or it just isn’t needed. Try introducing the improvements a step at a time, so people can adjust to one small change before adding more.  Incremental improvements soon add up.

Saving time with small business systems

You can introduce a system for just about anything. From where incoming mail is put (it’s important that the person responsible for dealing with it knows it’s arrived), to how bad debts are handled (don’t fuss over what to say, copy – paste – edit – send).

As small business owners we have a lot to think about and any small saving on brain power gives us more energy for the important stuff.  If you find yourself having to think about the same thing again and again you’re using up valuable energy and it’s time to start planning some systems.

Quick small business systems

These are three of our favourites. We don’t stop to think, we just do them.  All of these have become good business habits. Boring tasks happen much faster and we have more time to spend on the fun, interesting things in our day.

  1. Telephone messages. All are emailed. All are set out the same way. We never hunt for a number, it’s always there. When done we tick and file them. Before close of business we all check our mailboxes for any missed ‘Message Taken’ emails and return the call before we go. We haven’t had a single caller ask ‘why didn’t you return my call’ for a long time (at least 6 months). In fact, we’re complimented on how quickly we respond to messages!
  2. Invoices to be paid. All are sent to one person, including details of what the invoice is for and who authorised the purchase, if it relates to a project the client details are included too. This person is responsible for checking it’s not a duplicate, adding the invoice to our accounting system, coding it and scheduling payment. We haven’t paid a single supplier late or accidentally paid someone twice in over a year.
  3. Processing orders. We have a written check-list of what we have to do. The check-list changes depending on the product or service ordered. The same thing happens every time. We have a rule that we don’t start unless we can finish the whole process, nothing interrupts us. We have a few email templates – we don’t waste time working out what to say! We haven’t missed an order or forgotten to charge a customer in a very long time – well over a year.  If a customer queries an order we all have complete confidence in the system and can quickly trace activity back, even if we weren’t the person to process it.

Some of the best small business systems take only minutes to work out. When you’ve decided which ones will give you the best return, we recommend writing them down, it means your whole team are completely clear on what’s required. Review systems regularly to make sure you are achieving consistency across the team – it’s a good time to discuss improvements too!

If you have a suggestion for a small business system you’ve implemented let us know in the comments below.

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2 Responses to Systems for small businesses

  1. Lisa M 10th January 2016 at 5:25 pm #

    I don’t think this applies to small businesses. I’m on my own – why bother writing a system down???

    • Susan 10th January 2016 at 6:27 pm #

      A couple of years ago I would have agreed with you – I was working on my own too. Looking back I wish I’d started my systems then, it saves me loads of time and it would have been a lot quicker to train new staff – I’d of given them a list of ‘what to do when…’

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