When business processes and people are in conflict
I was talking to my friend when he started complaining that his employees are taking too long time for lunch breaks and they don’t keep the exact working hours and minutes that they should work each day. “Are you not expecting your employees to work exactly 8 hrs per day as it is stated in their contract, not a minute less or more?” – he asked me.
Straight away I remembered my time as an employee and to be honest I never liked when I was expected to arrive at 7:30 am exactly every single day and leaving at 4 pm exactly. By the way living in London or any big city in the world it is an unrealistic expectation, so many things can happen… Interestingly I read two articles about the workforce changes. One was about 4 day workweek and how effective it is.
The other was talking about how people below 40 years old are less likely to do a full time job anymore. Anyhow my friend’s business is in a city in Eastern Europe which is nothing in size compare to London. My answer was: “No, actually I am not. It’s not important how long time they spend in the office but what matters is what they deliver and how long it takes them to deliver their work.” We went into a discussion and he told me that his webshop office hours are from 8 am – 5pm, Monday to Friday. “So what about Saturday?” – I asked. Oh, they are not open.
It was interesting to see how I started unfolding areas that as a business owner, he never looked at, not the way I started showing anyway. For me this sounded like being in the Stone Age. Of course there are professions where the arrival hours and minutes matter. If you are a small business owner one of the key to success is flexibility. If you are flexible as the owner, then you can expect flexibility from your employees.
You might find it cliché but lead by example takes you a long way. Of course the time wasn’t the only problem here, but soon I realized that there are other issues regarding how they do things in the office. There are 3 employees doing the same things in 3 different ways. No one is able to handle other’s work because they don’t understand each other’s method.
Well, I wasn’t surprised. Ice on the cake was that the expectation was a fourth method. Again I questioned my friend “how did you train them?” “Well, I explained and explained God knows how many times and they still do it in a different way!” Sounds familiar? At this point he was getting angry by the fact that despite all his efforts (which might not even be the best way) the message just did not go through to his employees.
As a business coach one of my tasks is showing my clients different perspectives, so I asked what processes they have, who has written them, when were they updated the last time and how many do they have? He looked at me and goes: “I have none”. It was the time to dig deeper and make my friend realise that his business is running on an ad hoc basis. It does not matter how much revenue you make if the back office is not in order soon you can shut your doors. It has taken huge amount of time from him to try to create an order instead of spending this time on creating new visions, new relationships, finding new products and the list goes on.
First we agreed to the followings:
Step 1: he creates a plan that what processes his business should have by now
Step 2: set up a priority by using 1, 2, 3 (1 being the most important)
Step 3: set up deadlines
Step 4: delegate some of the processes to be written by his employees – killing two birds with one stone: someone does the job; the employees learn what they should be doing and cannot be further excuses from their side why they are not following them.
Step 5: all processes accepted and implemented.
It is extremely important that from day 1 you have some basic system set up. It is not just to have an efficiently running business. That is just one side of it. What if your employees actually like working for you? What if everything runs smoothly and even if someone needs to step in they know what is expected and what they should do? Let’s take this to another level: this simply will affect your customers as well because you just raised the standard. Raising the standard can lead to outperforming your competition without doing it intentionally. Once you are on the top in your niche then you can look for other markets. And if you decide to sell your company you can actually get 3-5 times more money because you have created your business manual. Now you see that it’s worth spending time creating systems, don’t you?
Many business owners fail to do this very important step. Usually they don’t like doing them or don’t understand why they should do them in the first place as they are just a small business. It does not matter how small or big you are, the bottom line is that you do yourself a favour at the end of the day. My friend spent the last 1 year arguing with his employees, getting rid of them, spending time to find new people and starting the whole thing over again. You as a business owner, you are solely responsible whether your business runs efficiently or not. Are you willing to do what it takes?