Do your workflows enhance your business? Or do they hold you back? Do you even have effective workflows in place, or are you scrambling to get tasks done and solve the problems that arise each month? It’s a common issue among many businesses, in that you and your team are so caught up in managing the day-to-day, there never seems to be the time to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Yet, getting the right workflows in place is essential for saving time and improving efficiency.
What is a workflow?
A workflow is a set of actions and results that must be performed in order to get a job done. To map out a workflow, you can use digital tools and software, stick notes to a wall, or even use good old-fashioned pen and paper to recreate the processes and show them as a flow chart. This gives you a visual, step-by-step guide to how things are currently working and who is responsible for each part of the process. Having a bird’s eye view makes the big problems obvious, or could highlight the smaller sticking-points you were not aware of, putting you in the position to make effective changes.
Taking the time to map out your current workflows is key to getting a full understanding of how your business runs. To get the most from mapping workflows, begin with the areas of your business that cause you the most hold-ups. This helps you to get the urgent changes in progress and bring the most benefits to your business.
If you have a team of staff, a workflow map means everyone knows exactly what is expected of them, and in what order. When looking at workflows, it is important to get input and feedback from team members who are carrying out the processes, as they know first-hand what works well and what the hurdles are.
Mapping workflows allows you to create simple processes to save time, such as automating actions that are repeated frequently. For example, in setting up email auto responders or creating templates to use for common documents, you and your team are already saving time and energy. When you begin to look at your workflows in more detail, you will see even more ways to improve efficiency. No matter how busy your day-to-day operations are, it is worth taking the time to map workflows because the benefits are exponential.
Benefits of Effective Workflows
Effective workflows can help simplify tasks, cut out unnecessary steps that are a waste of time and productivity, and create a streamlined approach that runs almost on auto-pilot. This not only benefits your own team, but efficient workflows create a good experience for your customers and clients.
Effective workflows set standards for your business that are always upheld and can be relied upon by yourself, your team and your clients. It eliminates unnecessary work, reduces errors, saves time and boosts productivity. Not only that, but when jobs are broken down into smaller tasks, it lessens that sense of overwhelm that contributes to work-stress.
It’s amazing how many positive effects come from efficient workflows, not only for a business but also for the team behind it. When everyone is working ‘from the same page’ it increases communication, team spirit and even brand image. It’s a win-win for everyone involved, from business owners and staff to customers or clients.
Ready to start?
When you are caught up in the daily grind of running of your business, it can sometimes feel overwhelming to stop what you are doing to map workflows, or review existing ones. As an online business manager (OBM) I can help you improve the way you work, creating a more efficient and productive environment from which you can drive the growth of your business. If that sounds good, get in touch to see how we could work together!
Simply put, business systems are a combination of strategies, tools and processes that help coordinate activities and allow people to work together and to achieve a specific goal, or solve a problem. No matter what the task, a series of actions need to be completed in order to get it done. Systems may work well, or they may not! But, every business, even the smallest, needs effective systems in place to facilitate the day to day running, encourage growth and maximise profits.
The right systems bring many benefits to a business. Not only do they ensure that the needs of both the business and its customers/clients are met, but it does so in a way that makes operations cost-effective and efficient.
Types of Business Systems
Every business needs systems, but what they are and the priority of each one will depend on the business niche and the business goals. As a rule, each business area typically has its own systems that enables movement in steps from point A to point B. Areas of business such as payroll, human resources, inventory management, marketing and accounts each has a set of actions, processes and software that are different from one another, but they all add to the journey that achieves a goal or solves a problem.
Some systems may be small, such as sending out email campaigns. Others may be larger and more complex, such as on-boarding new clients or staff members. It is also important to work out who is responsible for running each system, so that it works properly. For example, if a payroll system does not have someone to ensure all the necessary inputs are made in the right time frames, it would lead to a lot of unhappy employees!
Successful business systems create easy workflows, but it is important to realise that systems also need to be flexible so they can be adapted when business needs change. For example, a change in the market, new rules and regulations, or changing demands of a supplier, could create gaps in output or bottle necks that slow down productivity. Having flexible systems in place helps to keep business flowing during times of change.
Whatever the purpose of a system, it needs to run smoothly to reduce the need for additional work and supervision, allowing business owners and their staff to work smarter, not harder.
Do your business systems need upgrading?
Good business systems create standards for consistent output, streamlining your processes and operations. This also makes your business more profitable. However, creating the right systems and implementing them can be a challenge, especially where old systems that worked previously are no longer up to the job.
Sometimes when we have done things in a certain way for a long time, it can be daunting to make changes, especially when there are many other correlating links in the chain of action that may also need to be changed. That is when hiring an Online Business Manager (OBM) can help.
Developing new systems can be a time consuming process, but it is worth it in the long run. An OBM can look at the systems you already have in place and, with a fresh set of eyes, can see what works well and what could be improved. They have the skills and expertise to tweak existing systems, or completely overhaul them, by developing new processes and finding the right tools to create better workflows for your business.
When business systems work well, it means that time and energy is not wasted and can be channelled into new areas of development, or give business owners the chance of a better work/life balance. If that sounds interesting, get in touch to see how we can work together!
When you run a business, there are always ongoing jobs that take up precious time. It can be frustrating to spend hours on tasks that need doing, yet which don’t necessarily push your business forward, bring in money, or drive growth. Luckily, there are some ways to make life easier and free up more time to focus on other areas of your business, and that is by using automation tools. Here’s a quick guide to some business processes and workflows that can be automated, and some of the best tools to use.
Even though we live in the digital era, accounting still uses many different processes and ways to gather information. It may involve data entry into numerous spreadsheets, electronic and paper invoices, filing, and using a calculator. But, using automation tools can save you time, eliminate human error, and give you the convenience of retrieving information whenever you need it. What’s more, many of the tools will merge seamlessly with your accounting software and can interact with one another. For example, payments that arrive through a gateway such as Stripe or PayPal can assimilate with accounting software, for an invoice or receipt to be created using a tool such as Zapier.
Not just for accounting, Zapier is a fantastic tool for connecting different apps and automating many business processes. It allows data to be shared from many apps you use, and passes information between them, so workflows become more streamlined.
Call scheduling tools make it easy for clients or people interested in your services to book a time slot for a call. It is then automatically added to a calendar so you can see exactly what is booked in on any day. This saves you time on sending correspondence via email to arrange appointments, and organising your diary.
Some of the best call scheduling tools are Calendly, ScheduleOnce, HubSpot and YouCanBook.me (I use this one), and most will also sync with Google apps such as Google Calendar and Gmail.
Creating an engaged community around your business is an essential part of marketing, but posting on social media takes time. This is especially true if you have an audience on many different platforms. One great way to save time is to use social media scheduling tools. This means you can batch create posts and set them to be published at the best times of day to reach your audience, and it can be done in advance.
Tools such as Hootsuite can schedule posts across different platforms, and you can also reply to comments, see new followers and keep an eye on your timeline too. Other options include Social Sprout, Buffer and Later. The key features of many of these tools allow you manage multiple social media platforms from one place, saving time.
Lead Magnets and Email Marketing
When someone lands on your website, one of the best ways for them to become a customer or client is to offer them something, in return for their email address. Once you have a subscriber, you can then contact them directly with news of the services you provide. Lead magnets include useful resources, such as a planner or template, an eBook, a mini email course or taster coaching session.
Once you have your lead magnet created, it can automatically be sent once a website visitor has opted in. Every new subscriber will follow the same path, and receive a lead magnet and set of follow up emails over time, automatically. One of the most commonly used tools for this is MailChimp. Other options include ActiveCampaign, InfusionSoft and ConvertKit.
Using automation tools can be a great benefit to your business, and many are free to begin with. As your business grows, or you increase your use of the tools, you may need to upgrade to use additional features. When running a business, smooth workflows makes all the difference. If you want some helpful advice on how we can work together to streamline your processes, feel free to get in touch.