One of the recurring themes among my clients and small business colleagues is the desire to be set fr-ee from the demands of running a business. It’s only when your business operations are in order and running predictably, that you can become fr-ee. In other words, you must be well organized.
What does being organized do for us? It affords us the ability to streamline the process of getting our work done.
By organizing our business and our work we can save time, effort, confusion and frustration. We can increase productivity (both business and personal) and gain a level of freedom that all business owners strive to achieve. Organizing allows us to put our procedures on autopilot as much as possible. This is the key to gaining the freedom from business that seems to elude so many entrepreneurs.
Organization is step number three in a six step process toward achieving your goals. The six steps are:
Set Goal – What are we trying to accomplish?
Assess – What are the factors involved in getting the job done?
Organize – How do the factors most logically fit together and in what sequence?
Plan – Document the process and how it will be incorporated?
Act – Implement the Plan
Assess – Did we accomplish our Goal?
This approach works whether you’re organizing your personal work or that of your business.
So why aren’t we better organized? Most of us don’t know how to approach the process of getting organized. We’re in the bad habit of “winging it” when we really could be better prepared.
Let’s face it, effective leaders are organized. They have a system for handling predictable work. Most businesses have a great deal of predicable work.
How do you determine predictable work? These are the key elements or factors that must take place in order to complete each aspect of your business. If you’re a retail business with product it will be different than if you are a service business with intellectual property. In order to give order to your activities and predictability to your results you must assess the activities in your business and understand how each step takes you closer to the finished job.
Organization requires thought and a strategy to establish the most cost effective workflow.
Let’s take a closer look at the Steps 1 through 3.
Step 1 – Set Goal
What are you trying to accomplish? Here’s where you must consider the value of all aspects of your ultimate goal, like accuracy and timeliness. An example of a Goal might be: Assemble information from 15 sources into accurate and timely news to be released on a web portal.
Step 2 – Assess
How much of your work is predictable? It’s easier if you think in terms of percentage of time involved. Using the above example, probably 90% of this work is predictable.
You also want to determine what is within your control and what outside controls you must work within. The theory to apply is: control what you can and manage what you can’t.
Internal processes generally are within your control. If you have to live short term with systems that are outdated or not serving you, be sure to include a plan for changing them over time. And don’t forget to include financial controls because you cannot afford to be vulnerable to fraud and embezzlement.
What’s generally not controllable are external rules, deadlines and timeframes. If your work includes submitting RFP’s, you need to gather the information as required and transmit to be received before the deadline. That must be considered as you set up your workflow and sequence.
Step 3 – Organize
What internal predictable factors apply? How do they interface with the predictable external factors? Sometimes it’s easier if you break them down into manageable parts.
Intake – When setting up this part be sure to determine ahead of time what must be received or created in order to complete the job. Structure intake to provide what you need.
Process – Think through the sequence of key factors that lead to completion and identify decisions that need to be made along the way. Outline your process and test it a few times before committing it to a system.
Manage – This involves relationships and tasks that keep the business functioning. Be sure to include management of employees, customers and providers. What do you need for a baseline level of satisfaction in each of these situations? What actions will most likely assure this is achieved?
Maintain & Retrieve – When and under what circumstances will you need to retrieve information about the steps taken, the decisions made, the outcome or account status? Identify frequently needed information and keep it readily available. Less frequently needed information can be more remote.
Resources – What will you need to carry out your activities? Consider technology, people and capital. If you don’t have resources when you need them, you could reach an impasse.
Once you’ve gone through all the steps you have the basis for a system or a structure – that can be used over and over again when predictable work occurs. Think of Michael Gerber’s concepts, as outlined in his business classic, The E-Myth Revisited”. He suggested every business should be organized as if it were to be franchised. In other words, operate from a clearly documented and well integrated system.
Write the System – As a place to start you will probably want to do it in as an outline until you’ve lived through the process a few times. Make sure everyone knows the system and their place in it. Your job gets easier when you have a system that works.
Now you’ve not only got yourself organized to DO THE JOB, you’ve got a foundation to grow on. In the process you’ll gain your personal freedom from your business.
Yes, it takes time and commitment to make the changes that will set you fr-ee. As David Allen says in his book, Ready for Anything, “It’s hard to stay on track without rails”. With the rails in place you can concentrate on the controls and enjoy the trip.
If you’re ready to change your results, get organized NOW, and set yourself fr-ee.
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NATIONAL DIALOGUE ON ENTREPRENEURSHIP
To stay current on political and economic trends and how they are affecting small business, you might benefit from the National Dialogue on Entrepreneurship. This is an initiative sponsored by The Public Forum Institute of the Kauffman Foundation and is designed to improve awareness of the value of entrepreneurship. The home page is http://www.publicforuminstitute.org/nde/aboutnde/index.htm. You can sign up for their weekly newsletter at http://www.publicforuminstitute.org/nde/join/index.htm.