I’m in the middle of creating a course for an online freelance group about Processes & Systems. If you have followed me or know me at all you know this is something I ‘preach’ about often. I am very passionate about this because it is so important to not only have these in place but to also make sure they are optimized and the right systems for your business. -WHY?- Why do I believe in these so much? I believe strongly in Processes & Systems because one day I woke up and could not work. In fact, I barely worked for a month! What would you do if you woke up and suddenly could not work and fulfill your clients’ service needs? Do you have a backup plan? Or… Do you have processes & systems in place to handle ALL you do in a day, a week, a month? Would your business survive without you?
What Would You Do?
We never think we need backup or that we can suddenly be taken away from our ‘plans’ for the day, week, or month. It is scary to consider. But it happened to me. And it could happen to you. What happened that I could not work for nearly a month?! Well, I simply woke up not feeling well, (and if you are not aware for those with auto-immune diseases this means you will be sicker than the average person). I ended up in the hospital only to find myself in ICU 24 hours later! I went into respiratory arrest! And, Yes, they apparently pushed that big red ‘CODE’ button, I am told.
This began a journey of trying to get back energy and strength because when you are sick and also have Multiple Sclerosis and Lupus (& a few other things) it completely zaps your system. Therefore I was not better in just a few days, nor was it a week or two, but it took me nearly a month before I could fully engage in my business again. The only reason my business stayed open and running smoothly was due to the processes & systems in place along with my amazing team who just took over!
I was blessed and had a great team member, Jeannie, who believed in strong processes and systems that everyone could follow. It is because of her that my business made it through the month that I suddenly disappeared from my company.
Let’s take a different approach here for one moment. I tend to lean toward the positive so let’s not make this all doom and gloom. What If…
- You wanted to take a 2 week trip (without an internet connection)?
- You won a month of dive school and amazing scuba site seeing places?
- Your child had a baby with special needs and needed help the first month or two?
- You decided you wanted more time off?
- You were going to take early retirement?
Considering some of these things, would your business survive – right now, IF one of these happened? I know, I’m still raising my hand as well as I’m still recording my new processes started this past year. Do not wait – Please do not hesitate, something amazing may be right around the corner. And it may mean you still need the income from your business to follow other passions. What would you do?
Perhaps now you are seeing the benefits of processes and systems. I certainly hope so as I know it saved my business and it could save yours as well.
What Are Processes & Systems?
I keep talking about these process & systems but what they? Once you read the definitions you will probably say, “oh I knew that!” Often we know these things but do not know how to put it together.
What are processes?
In a previous article I discussed processes and systems and defined them as…
“Processes are the list of tasks and Systems are the programs used to help accomplish the task.” – Tammy Durden
An updated, more refined version (or at least I like to think so) of the definition of Processes (from my upcoming freelancer course):
“How You Implement Your Processes or The Action You Take In Order to Accomplish Your Specific Tasks.” – Tammy
Processes are the knitty gritty of the day to day work. The step-by-step instructions on everything everyone does within the business. When these are documented you create a Manual of Operation or an SOP or Standard Operating Procedures. It doesn’t matter how small or large your business is, you need these. And the sooner the better.
What are systems?
I’ve seen differing definitions for systems. Sometimes this term (systems) is used interchangeably with processes. I, however, like to think about systems as the programs or mechanisms we use to accomplish our processes. In this way processes and systems work rather nicely together, almost like gears fitting into one another.
The Software and Programs You Use to Put Your Processes Into Practice. –Tammy (from Processes & Systems freelancer course)
How Can you Protect Your Business?
The best way to protect your business is to create your own processes and systems that anyone could walk in and sit down and follow in order to do what you do. Take time to record each task. Include screenshots as you do each task or even videos if it will help someone else perform the steps you are doing.
Then type up (or document) the instructions that go along with the screenshots or videos you created. Create easy to follow steps. In doing this you are creating your own SOP. This is truly the only way to protect your business from going under if you were to disappear from it for a month. I do not know many clients that will wait a month for you/your company to complete any work.
This sounds simple but it can be very time-consuming to create all of your processes and systems for every single thing you do. More than likely, you do not realize all you do in a day. This is a perfect and important task to hire a VA (virtual assistant) or Online Business Manager (OBM) to assist you. They can take your screenshots and short descriptions and turn them into your SOPs (Standard Operating System). You may even do some Zoom sessions where the your VA or OBM can follow what you do for a short period.
Where you do not shine please outsource to others who do!
There are many rising stars in this specific niche of Processes & Systems Specialists today. One of these specialists can even analyze, research, and report to you about the efficiencies of your current processes & systems. More than likely they will save you time and money. If you need help finding one let me know – I know a few great ones.
Tools To Help You With Recording Processes
Let’s not forget tools or systems that are out there to help us document all the processes. Here are a few that make it a little easier to help you record everything.
- ClickUp – gives you a format to add step-by-step processes so that anyone can follow you easily. It boasts that they replace it all including project management. You can easily start documenting and add sub-tasks underneath it and continue adding all of the steps for one task.
- Flowster – says they make it fast and easy to train new employees (could apply to subcontractor team members as well). They also have tons of templates that are shared. If you are looking for an SOP or Onboarding checklist they probably already have one ready for you. I, however, found this a pricey option.
- Processe.st – They have a “simple workflow software for businesses. They also have “checklists, workflows and SOPs for teams.”
- LucidChart – This is a great visual workflow option with many templates. Free trials and options are available as well.
- Mirra – Googles new mindmapping tool. It is great and has many of the same tools & options as other similar software. It has a small free account you can sign up for as you can see below.
I’m sure there are many more tools to help you but this will give you a place to begin. Be sure to take a look at them all and see which one will work best for you. If you are looking for a simpler method you could try one of these:
- Google Documents – the advantage of this is that it is updated live and all who share it can see the updates immediately.
- Microsoft Word – if you prefer Microsoft you can certainly put your step-by-step instructions on a Word document.
- PowerPoint – this makes an interesting option and has more availability to add in screenshots and videos if desired.
Building A Team
Building a good team that can work IN your business so you can work ON your business is an important part of the lesson I learned when I couldn’t work for nearly a month. Do you have a team in place? Do you need help scaling or putting your team together? It does not have to be employees it can be subcontractors (or 1099 employees – see the IRS guidelines if you are in the U.S.). I help clients all the time in scaling and growing by building an outsourced team. It is one of the easiest ways to grow your business so it can survive without you.
In summary, I hope you have come to realize just how important it is to have processes and systems in place no matter if you go on vacation or if something sudden happens in your life. Equally important is the team you have in place to work in the business so you can work on the business.
Be prepared and you will not have to wonder about this any longer. Don’t forget, if this is not your thing, please outsource the help you need to organize your processes & systems (I can point you toward some OBMs who would love to help you).
Thank you again for reading and allowing me to share some business common sense today. Take care and stay safe.