Systematizing Your Business

If you’ve been reading this column for any amount of time, you already know I’m a big fan of Michael Gerber, author of the book “The E-Myth.” He summarizes the small business owners’ dilemma well: when any successful small business grows, and an owner finds themselves doing more and more things just to keep up, they inevitably find themselves at the point where they don’t own a business, their business owns them.

Most remodelers I know would readily agree with this statement. As any successful company grows, an owner must be able to delegate day to day activities effectively to the responsible people they have hired. Company wide “systems” need to be created to provide consistent results (processes and outcomes). The steps involved in creating these in-house systems include the development of company goals and vision, company wide organizational chart, related job descriptions, and the creation of “standard operating procedures” that form the basis of a procedures/policies manual for each position that has been identified in the company organizational chart.

Most people who read this respond the same way: “I don’t have time for this. I’m already working too many hours now. How do I take this on too?” Here is the simple answer: You don’t do this alone. You can’t do this alone. This is not another job for the owner of the company. You must enlist the help of your staff to not only get these systems created, but to get buy-in. When people help author this material, they will own the material. The better people in your company want this kind of responsibility. They also may know a better way to do it. Here is the remodeler/business owner’s dilemma: any good owner is a control freak. But the only way your company will grow, and the owner survive, both mentally and physically, is to delegate the day-to-day details of running the business. You do this successfully by putting your expectations on paper. Develop the job descriptions/functions with your staff, and review. Develop the standard procedures with your staff, and review.

Project Positioning

For a project like this to succeed, a business owner must “position” the project so that the project itself is seen as a positive event to all employees involved. The project must be seen as a positive force that will bring the company to greater stability, efficiency and profitability. This project positioning must be well received by employees for this project to proceed in a timely fashion. This can happen when an owner asks for help in the right way. This is what I mean by “positioning.” Some key positioning points are reviewed below:

Key Project Positioning Points

  1. (The owner/management team) has specific goals for the company.
  2. So as to not overwhelm current employees, management needs help developing in-house systems and procedures to help the company grow in an organized fashion.
  3. The owner has so much confidence in the employees at _______________ that he/she will be asking employees to help generate job descriptions and standard procedures those future employees will be using. (Who better to do this than them?)
  4. Employees will be asked to help define these descriptions and procedures.
  5. We (owner and employers) will jointly be developing a policies/procedure manual that future employees will use. This will allow growth to happen in a systematic fashion.

The actual writing of job descriptions, and all the related “standard operating procedures” involve the participation of company managers and key company personnel who will “author” the material. The actual time it takes to develop and integrate these new “operating systems” depend on the participation and follow-through of both managers and field personnel. For true integration and acceptance of company wide systems and standard procedures, employee participation is a must. Employees must feel they have a “voice” to insure employee support and implementation. Their participation in this process will help the owner gain a clearer understanding of all the various functions that the company performs, as well as give employees a sense of ownership in company operations and direction.

One common problem is that owners can ask employees to do too much, too fast, in addition to their regular workload. Healthy change moves at it’s own speed. Put time aside every week to “systematize” your business, but asking for more than 2 hours a week from employees may cause resistance. They have a job to do too. This project represents a major time commitment for both management and staff in the development and review of all these systems. How you go about creating your in-house systems will set the foundation for how successful they are later. In this respect, the process is as important as the goal.