Helping a Business Owner Work on the Business
"Process is the Clark Kent of business ideas: seemingly mild and unassuming, but actually amazingly powerful." — Michael Hammer, The Agenda
What's the benefit of getting your people, processes, and technology — that is, your overall system of running your business — under control? Michael E. Gerber, in his book The E-Myth Revisited, talks about creating a system that makes your business sustainable and your success repeatable. To create this system, a business owner or executive has to step away from working "in the business" to enable working "on the business." As simple as this sounds, it is incredibly hard to do — every business person wrestles daily with the "tyranny of the urgent" which typically relegates truly important, value-building work to the "do it someday" status.
There are two things that make working "on your business" even harder:
Most of the time, this work is not especially sexy or glamorous — like Clark Kent, there's little sizzle here. The key is determining what tasks your business has to do absolutely well, and then ensuring that your people, processes, and technologies are aligned to support these key tasks.
To be effective, this work requires the executive to be able to detach from what is being done, to envision what needs to be done or what could be done. A third party can bring this vision to the executive, who typically lacks the "focus" and "distance" required to bring "clarity" to an issue.
This month's case study may seem simplistic, or even mundane, especially when compared to some of our other projects — the focus is on process, and not on technology. Our client project involved developing a procedures manual (process) and reconfiguring QuickBooks (technology) to help a business owner and a newly-hired office manager (people) work more proficiently, thus yielding improved business results. But our client wouldn't call this mundane — he would call it invaluable, because we helped him work "on the business" so as to position him to help grow the size and profits of the business.
So, read on, to see how one business owner went about making his company more profitable, by working "on his business."
Todd L. Herman
Read more on ways you can improve your business processes.
Case Study: Improve Productivity by Reducing Time on Administrative Tasks
The owner of a fast-growing small business providing equipment engineering and integration services needed to free himself from the day-to-day administrative matters of running the business to allow him more time to focus on activities that would profitably grow the business.
This entrepreneur had started the company several years ago — like other small business owners, he did multiple routine tasks, such as bookkeeping and invoicing, himself. He also had selected QuickBooks, which met his needs at the time — however, QuickBooks was not setup to fully utilize all its job (project) costing functionality. As a result, the growth of this company was being constrained, as long as the owner was in the office rather than out in the field. Because he was working so diligently "in the business," he did not have the time he needed to work "on the business."
First, we reviewed the key processes that needed to be performed in this business, analyzed how QuickBooks was configured in relation to these processes, and then recommended and implemented a streamlined approach to better match the capabilities of the software with the needs of the business — focusing on job estimation, tracking, and billing.
Next, we developed a procedures manual to document the key steps needed to perform time and expense processing, job cost estimation, and job cost tracking and reporting. We then determined the skills required to handle these processes, estimated the amount of time required for this, and prepared a job description for a part-time office manager/bookkeeper.
Finally, we helped interview and select the candidate for this position, and then trained the new employee in these duties.
Results & Benefits...
We worked with this owner in several short and focused sessions over a period of six months, at times convenient to his work and travel schedule. By retaining us, this business owner was able to shed virtually all of the day-to-day duties that had consumed up to 20 percent of his week, and thus focus on meeting new prospects, preparing and following up on proposals, servicing clients, and supervising staff.
Additionally, this owner now has accurate information to proactively manage projects on a timely basis — and quickly communicate any issues to staff or clients.
Our client benefited from having our focus (full attention) and distance (objectivity) applied to his situation, helping him achieve clarity on addressing issues — and meeting his goal of having more time to profitably grow his company.
For More Information...
To discuss how technology usage and business process improvements could be applied to the issues facing your business, call us at 336.297.4200 to schedule a no-obligation consultation, or click here to contact us online.