It’s a business truth: if you don’t control your processes, your processes control you.
Take, for example, the startup owner who doesn’t have a handle on expense tracking. He’ll invite a potential funder to coffee and forget to grab the receipt. Or he’ll keep the receipt but neglect to enter it into a system like Expensify, meaning that at the end of the year, he has to set aside a few days to go through all of his receipts and sort out the tax-deductible expenses. That’s an example of a bad process controlling an entrepreneur, not the other way around.
Think about the business process your startup is struggling with the most right now. Chances are, you’re struggling because you don’t yet have control of the process. If you feel like the process is backlogged or disorganized, it’s probably because you lack control of one of the essential process systems.
Here are a few ways for you to examine your struggling business processes and take control:
1. Handle each piece of paper only once
Let’s take a look at that startup owner and his receipts. An inefficient process means he has to handle each individual receipt multiple times:
- Taking it after the purchase and putting it in his wallet
- Retrieving it from his wallet and putting it on top of a pile on his desk
- Digging it out of the pile on his desk and putting it in a “to be sorted” pile
- Taking it out of the “to be sorted” pile and sorting it with other receipts
- (FINALLY) Entering the receipt into an expense tracking system
Installing a simple expense tracking app on his smartphone, entering the expense tracking info at time of purchase, and correctly filing the receipt as soon as he returns to the office drastically cuts down the number of times he has to handle that piece of paper. That’s what taking charge of business processes is all about.
2. Do things the same way every time
When you sit down to write a vendor contract or a consultancy agreement, do you start from scratch? That sounds like an inefficient process that is controlling you, not the other way around. Documents like contracts, hiring letters, and press releases should all generate from templates and should include as many typing shortcuts as possible; if you’re typing out your name and title at the end of each letter, for example, you’re wasting time.
Your completed documents also need to be filed the same way every time, whether they are contracts, expense reports, or employee evaluations. As the Contract Logix team notes: a software solution can often solve the document management problem and give you a way to take control of these otherwise complicated processes. After all, if you have to dig through stacks of file folders to find the contract you want, instead of pulling it up with a quick computer search, that’s yet another process that’s controlling you.
3. Work towards results
To take control of a process, you have to understand what kind of results you want. Our entrepreneur with the receipt problem won’t be able to solve it until he understands that the result he’s working towards is “process and file all receipts immediately after purchase.” The startup owner with the vendor contracts won’t get a handle on his problem until he decides to work towards the result of “contract templates for all vendors, able to write new contracts in under 10 minutes and sort and retrieve all contracts via software program.”
If you’re having trouble getting control of a process, you’re probably not clear on what result you want. Focus on your result, and the quickest way to get there will often become clear.
What business processes do you need to take control of? Do you have process tips for other startup owners? Let us know in the comments.