March 01st, 2013

I’ve been around a lot of entrepreneurs in the past twelve months, and for every one of them the growth and scaleability of their business is pretty close to top of mind.  Thoughts turn to funding, to adding staff and improving leadership skills, maybe to product creation, and while these are all important considerations for any successful business, what is often missed is the need to create the systems which will form the platform for growth.
While it is true that many small businesses are run instinctively, with a small team who simply ‘make things happen’ maybe because they have been there from the start, this modus operandi will ultimately fall short as new employees are brought in to deal with new business.
So it makes sense to start thinking along the lines of how you might set up your business as a virtual ‘franchise’, very early in its life, if not from day one.  By that I mean, think of how you might replicate what you do in another town, or another country…what would you need to have in place to make sure everything was consistent no matter where that second or third franchise was?
Here are five strategies to help you.  Put these into practice and you will not only ease the inevitable growing pains, but also keep your operation running smoothly, and maintain a consistently great experience for your customers.

  1. Start as you mean to go on. In the early days of business, there are many things to juggle just to keep things running day to day, and any free time is often spent in learning the ropes.  Investing time in documenting your process and systems in these early stages may seem like a chore too far, but taking time to think about the steps and procedures in your business now, will save you a whole heap of pain later.
  2. Take notes.  In this digital age there are so many quick and easy ways to make a note of your thoughts – recording them for later review is probably the easiest, but there are a number of other ways to jot down your thoughts, including of course, the good old-fashioned pen and notepad.  Taking careful notes on the day-to-day processes, from how files are saved to how big decisions are made, and asking your team if you have one to do likewise, will make it much easier to document your processes to train new staff when the time comes.
  3. Imagine if… Be proactive in identifying potential issues and methodically create solutions and a system for responding to each. Spend time thinking through anything that could possibly go wrong, work with your team to do this if you have one, so that if and when a situation occurs both you and your team are ready to deal with it quickly and effectively.
  4. Remember your values.  Documenting your story – the reason why you started your business, your values, your goals – should also be done now.  They will act as a great reminder to you and your existing team of why you are in business, and also give any new team members a feel for the culture of the business they are joining. 
  5. Don’t forget the new stuff. Once you’ve documented all of your procedures, had someone review the material for clarity and simplicity, and shared the documents with your team, both old and new, then you can relax…yes?    Well no sadly, updating of procedures as they evolve, and adding new procedures for a new product say, should be regularly on your list of things to do.  And of course, the ongoing training of your team never stops!

The first few years of a business are exciting and filled with opportunity, but they can also be stressful and at times a little chaotic, with many a business owner feeling like they have no time and even less control.  By investing time early in building a solid foundation of systems and procedures, you give yourself the chance to take full advantage of the opportunities that come your way, and you may be able to sleep just that little bit better at night, knowing that you are prepared for whatever comes.


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Marianne Page

Marianne is the author of three books, and is currently working on her fourth, whilst regularly writing her blog, we hope you enjoy it :-)


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