Process cannot be enforced without good systems to enforce them and systems cannot produce good end results without robust processes in place.

Want to grow?

Expand to new markets? Take on another segment or introduce another product line?

Of course you do. Before you do, consider what will happen if it’s a roaring success.

Can the systems and processes that you have in place meet the demand? Systems and process may sound rather dull but they are the life blood of your business; delivering to customers your products or services in the best way possible.

Think about the best use of your time.

Would you rather…

  • re-enter information into three different systems, taking a days effort to fulfill an order
  • get on with creating new products and developing new business
  • spend a day at the end of the month collating multiple spreadsheets and reviewing time-sheets to balance out what has been spent and billed
  • analyse time spent to ascertain where additional productivity can be gained
  • count your inventory 5 or 6 times through the process of order creation and fulfillment
  • ensure that inventory is where it needs to be and available to the customer in the moment of purchase?

Most of us would rather not be doing boring dull re-entering of information on the left hand side of this list.

We would rather be focusing on the big picture than getting lost in reworking the details again and again.

The usual culprits

Many businesses that I have worked with struggle with some or all of the following:

  1. Entering data into more than one system (accounting, web site and inventory for example) and re-key information; sometimes this can take all day or be a whole persons job! Boring, and not a lot of job satisfaction there…
  2. Discrepancies between data in place A and place B (not a surprise; a natural result of point 1 really…)
  3. Incomplete view of what is going on in the business; (further lack of surprise…) which can lead to delusional decision making. If you don’t have all the information how can you make a good choice?
  4. Heavy manual intervention in data analysis, manipulation and presentation; this is usually when the systems that support the business don’t provide reporting at the right level of detail or flexibility
  5. Measures that are ‘what’s available’ or ‘what’s always been measured’ rather than ‘what’s needed’ right now… so often a business builds layers and layers of things to look at forgetting to discard the measure that are no longer relevant.

Consider your own business in this light, is there an opportunity to improve?

As businesses grow it’s easy to forget that streamlining processes is what leads to more growth.

Consider for a moment some factors at play here…

  • Shoppers are incredibly value savvy; they know where and how to get the best deal; this means that your online store might be attracting visitors from down the road or across the globe.
  • Sellers are trying to deliver great value; so margins are under pressure. Not just the retail margin but all the way back to the producer.
  • When you’re trying to deliver value and margins are tight the last thing needed is excess inventory (or stock)… “Inventory OWES YOU MONEY.” The point being that unless you have negotiated some super terms with both your customers and your suppliers you have already laid out the cash to purchase the stock and it has not yet been purchased by the customer.

Start small but think big!

Three actionable points that will make a difference right away:

  1. As a business you now have to be ‘global ready’ from earlier in your growth cycle.  Look at your most important information and how it is gathered. Start simple. Have you ensured that customers all enter their phone number in the same format? What about address information? A small point at the beginning when you have a manageable number of customers but it can be the difference between a SMS blast to specific customers and a complete failure to communicate. The larger your list of customers gets the harder it is to clean up these types of data anomalies.
  2. It’s impossible to stay profitable if you don’t have a clear grip on your costs (and how they can fluctuate) and where the profit is coming from in your business. Do you have a ‘living’ costing document for each product or project? Do you have a process for review of costs? For some businesses costs can fluctuate depending on the season or the mode of transport. If you can consider your costs with both best and worst case scenario in mind then you are better equipped to make decisions on the fly. A system that can show actualised costs as orders or projects are completed is one that will show you how accurate you are in estimating and where the blow outs are coming from. It’s essential to be able to clearly see through the purchase cycle what has been spent and when it is due to be paid. If you don’t have a way of tracking this critical information then you are flying blind.
  3. Control over inventory no matter where it is. Knowing where your inventory is and how to get it to your customer in the shortest time possible (at the best margin possible) is all about how accurate your information is and how visible it is to you and your team. Do you know where your inventory is? Can you deliver it to a customer (globally) from where it is? Live inventory information is critical to any retail business. In accurate inventory can lead to disappointments in store or online or alternatively items left on the shelf when they could have been sold. Remember – it owes you money!

Leonie will be conducting workshops on systems and process in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne during the month of May – bring along your process problems and let’s put a plan in place that will take your business to the next level!

Brisbane 6th May – Book Here SOLD OUT

Sydney 14th May – Book Here SOLD OUT

Melbourne 27th May – Book Here SOLD OUT

This article was featured in this month’s issue of Gloss Magazine.