OK. I admit this series of blog posts started with a bang and are in danger of ending with a whimper. It’s been MONTHS since I decided to write a series of articles about “why good businesses fail”.
But I have a good excuse.
The last few months have been a bit of w whirlwind, but I’m on the train to Aberdeen right now, so I have a bit of time to sit and think.
In this first article, I’m going to focus on one of the least sexy parts of any business, but one of the most critical to get right – the processes.
When most businesses start, they start small. A one-man-band. A couple of friends. It’s pretty bloody rare to be a fully funded large team. There’s nothing wrong with that. I started my first business out of the spare bedroom. These early (small) years are crucial. You learn a lot. You make a lot of mistakes. Hopefully you come through with a stronger, smarter, business.
Small can be good, but it can also be a bit of a mixed blessing.
One of the things that tends to happen when you have a very small business with a very small team is that you tend to compensate for weaknesses without thinking about it. Everyone sort of knows what to do (in an ideal world) and everyone just gets on with it. But what does that mean for the business?
It means people keep numbers in their head. It means they just ‘remember’ to email a reminder to someone. It means a lot of things that need to happen for the business to run properly are done by instinct, not by process.
Now add a couple more people to that mix. And maybe a couple more.
What we have is suddenly a business that has to deliver at a much higher level, still be run as if it was three people in a room.
We have seen this situation first hand. A lot.
Part of the problem, I think, is the perception people have about building processes in their business. For some reason, a lot of people tend to be nervous about it.
“We don’t want to make things too formal”
“We don’t need to make this complicated”
“We’re too small. We’re not IBM”
All excuses I’ve heard before.
Process isn’t a dirty word, and believe me, I’ve learned the hard way what happens to a business when they don’t invest time and effort (and possibly money) into sorting out how their processes work.
Process is part of every area of your business. As you grow, the lack of consistent process leaves you exposed.
Don’t believe me?
I’ll give you two examples.
Example one is a software client of ours. Great wee company delivering a pretty niche software product to a pretty niche set of clients. They had grown organically over the years, and had hit a ceiling they couldn’t seem to break through. For two years they had no growth. The same money coming in and the same money coming out.
Now we were approached to look at their marketing, but what we realised when we started to work, was that they needed to develop proper processes for their sales team. Up until now, the sales team was unfocussed and undirected. There was no defined process and no metrics to hold people to account.
We fixed that, and in the first five months they shattered last year’s turnover. What was the key? The processes.
Example two is an innovative training company. These guys have grown pretty damn quick and the cracks are very much starting to show. They brought us in to work on their marketing, but we identified pretty quickly that the company couldn’t handle any more growth if they didn’t sort their internal project management processes out first.
You see the company was scrambling on all levels. Throw another couple of projects on and we genuinely were worried the whole team might collapse. It was the way they managed work that was the problem, and we focussed on building them a new project management process from the ground up.
Two pretty crucial parts to a successful business.
Processes are key to every successful business we’ve helped build. You have to stop thinking about them as handcuffs and start thinking about them as performance enhancers.
Need some help? Give us a call.