I own and have owned many businesses in my life. Some were failures, but many were successes. After thirty years of diligently practicing this game we call business, patterns begin to emerge. When looking back, it is easy to see what I did right and what things I did that were downright stupid. I can state without any hesitation that every successful business I wound up with were successful because eventually systems were created and implemented. Based on that, I would argue until the sun goes down that if you want your small business to really be successful you need to start creating, documenting and implementing systems.
Keep in mind I always distinguish between being self-employed and being a small business owner. Neither one is necessarily better than the other. If your desire is to keep everything simple, never hire more than one or two people and to always be the main producer or service man, then being self-employed is a much less stressful way to go. But as a small business owner, the business will take on a life of its own. Like a child it needs rules to regulate how it acts or before you know it, the spoiled child will take you down, hard! Systems are the rules for your child.
Always keep in the back of your mind that the idea is to be able to have someone from the outside come into your business and begin being productive as quickly as possible. Systems take a lot of the guess work out of the hands of inexperienced employees. If you have learned the hard way that cranking up the oven to Mach 10 and setting your kitchen on fire will not double the speed of baking your Super Duper cookies, then why waste time letting every employee make the same mistake?
No matter what small business you own, I guarantee, (and that’s some pretty strong words), that laying down systems and insisting that those systems be followed, will help your business run smoother and be more profitable. Every operation that you can create and in which you write procedures will bring your company one step closer to running like a successful business.
If you want to see this in action go to your nearest Subway, preferably during lunch hour. This is how you want your business to run, whether you are a plumber or own five local car washes. You should always be thinking “Franchise”! How could you franchise your business or at the very least sell your business to someone else who is not familiar with the day to day operations.
In a video production company that I co-own, we are just now starting to document and systematize everything that we can. And since we have made this a priority, almost immediately we have seen our production go up, our cost go down and our stress level off to just under heart attack status.
Being in an artistic field like video production, photography or art does leave a tiny hole where a system simply cannot be, which is in the creative process itself. Although I do know many artists use a systemic process to prepare for the creative process. But even then, everything that supports that creative endeavor can usually be systematized.
I encourage you to start thinking about this now, before it is too late. As your company grows, systems become harder and harder to implant into the minds of current workers and partners. And developing an owner’s manual for your business will cause you to take some hard looks at the way you have been doing things. It will change the way you do business, I guarantee it (and that’s some pretty strong words)!