Let’s be real, running a business is extremely hard. There are always a million tasks to do on a thousand fronts. You need to be able to finance, account, market, serve, and operate, and do all of this perfectly so you can end up with some profits at the end of every month.
I know, because I’ve been there. Before I started JANIIS, my career was focused on turnaround consulting. This type of consulting is exactly what it sounds like...if a business or division was struggling, I was brought in to solve the problem and make them successful again. When departments were bloated with heavy costs; when there was a pattern of deadlines being missed; when there was no visibility for managers or owners into their employees’ work; it was my job to come in and turn the tide. For every problem that needed solving, I always went in and focused on one thing: Process.
You may be thinking, “My business isn’t failing so this post isn’t for me”. I completely understand that perception, but something I want to call out based on my experience is that every company should engage in "process improvement activities" no matter the stage. Businesses are a living thing...they ebb and flow constantly. That means if you haven’t re-looked at your process recently, most likely you will find inefficiencies that you didn’t realize were there. Don’t be hard on yourself if you haven’t taken a second to look at your procedures...it is an easy thing to forget! You’re working, growing...sometimes you may be so busy keeping the business going it will feel like you are drowning in your own operations. This exact feeling is something to avoid, and taking a moment to refocus your process can help with this.
This blog post is dedicated to all owners and managers that make things happen. My hope is to share some tips on how you can improve your business.
Process Improvement Activities
So, what are process improvement activities? Are they difficult? Time consuming? Not at all! The activities I used were:
Each of these activities are prerequisites to each other...meaning you have to do them in order, and you can’t skip a step. But I promise they’re worth it! Let’s dive in.
Process mapping is the art of interviewing employees about what they do in their jobs and then making that into a visual representation.
Some great questions to ask are:
What are the tasks you do each day and in what order?
What software / paperwork / systems do you conduct each task in?
How long does it take you to do each task?
What are common blockers that you face?
What is the worst part of your day?
Being able to ask the right questions and document what you hear in interviews is a mixture of an art and a science. Learning how to effectively interview someone on their procedure could be a post in and of itself, but suffice it to say that you will undoubtedly hear multiple versions of the same process from your employees. Each time you draw out an individual's process, you'll get better at it, and more quickly be able to identify root causes of confusion.
Process optimization is where you inspect the process map, and look for things like:
Duplication of effort
Manual data entry
Overall cycle time
Grab highlighters, markers, colored pens and mark up your process map. Identify these areas of process breaking down and then optimize your process map. What I mean by that is - make it shorter!
Fig.2 Example of process optimization. Notice this is the process map from Figure 1, but it is marked up, highlighted, and annotated where there are areas of inefficiency.
By seeing the process on paper, it makes it much easier to spot root causes of problems you normally wouldn’t see. I could go into way more detail on this, but I’ll save it for another post. In a later blog post, I will share ideas on how you can quickly make processes shorter.
Fig.3 Example of your new, efficient process. Notice all bad process steps that were marked up in Figure 2 are removed.
Change management is the phase where you have to train yourself and your team the new, more efficient process. This can include training new software, identifying new paradigms of thought, and re-defining roles. The ultimate goal of this phase is to make sure the new process is adopted into the business.
So again, why should you do this? Process improvement activities are a form of low hanging fruit that can dramatically improve your business. By regularly practicing these steps, you can:
Every minute you save adds to the bottom line
The number of properties you can manage can increase without the need to hire additional resources
If you increase your capacity limit, you can take on more properties without adding additional cost
Increase Revenue 2.0
Employees that used to be overwhelmed with manual process, can now be repurposed to revenue producing activities
Scale the business
With better process, the business can scale for less cost. Your change management plan can become the new training program for any additional resources you hire
In conclusion, by regularly incorporating these steps, you will have an evolving, healthy, thriving business with happy employees.