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Setting Up Systems

Free Yourself Up

Create a detailed operations manual and start letting others do your nitty-gritty work for you.

Brian Tracy

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FreeYourselfUp

Has your business grown to the point that you’re ready and able to delegate the daily menial responsibilities that are taking up your time to someone else? As a business owner, you can free yourself from the need to be involved in countless activities by creating a system for others to follow. Whether you’re creating one for the first time or improving an existing one, a detailed operations manual is a key component of a successful business – and a happy owner.

This is when your operations manual becomes your bible for running your business. It’s a series of policies, procedures and instructions that make it possible for you to operate your business efficiently and profitably.

Planning out your business processes on paper is easier than you think. Like furnishing each room of a house, you decide exactly what’s required in each area to perform the necessary functions. You then write it down in a logical order so someone else can do it.

There are two ways to approach this. Firstly, look at your business as though you were an outside consultant; you’ve been called in to learn about this business and prepare it for sale to a third party. Secondly, look at the business as though it were a franchise prototype. Your job is to systemise every activity of the business so you can create a blueprint that can be replicated.

To help you get started, ask yourself the following most important questions for planning and organising your business. Answering each question will give you a blueprint for mapping out your operations manual.

Exactly what do I sell?

Make a list of every product or service you sell. Determine the sales volume, real or projected, that you expect from each product. Determine the exact cost of offering each product, including everything from raw product cost through to the finished and delivered product. In order to do this, you need to determine the cost of:

  • The product/service itself
  • Marketing and sales per unit
  • Administration and overhead per unit
  • Labour – including yours – per unit
  • Defects, returns and losses on sales; and
  • Profit per unit

Make a list of every step necessary to create or procure the product for sale/delivery. Write out the list as a series of instructions, like a recipe, so someone else can do it. Make this the first section of your operations manual.

Who do I sell to?

This is a description of your ideal customer – the person your business is designed to serve above all others. Your description should include your ideal customer’s:

  • Demographic profile
  • Psychographic profile (social class, lifestyle and personality characteristics)
  • Benefits they’ll receive when they buy from you and
  • Wants, needs, expectations or demands when they buy from you

Explain this customer profile to everyone in your business who deals with customers.

Who is in charge of selling the products?

This describes the people who meet and talk to your customers face-to-face. Who exactly in your business is responsible for selling? What exactly do they say to the customer when he/she inquires about what you sell? What about when your salesperson calls on them outside of the office?

What is your sales methodology and process to ensure maximum conversion rates from prospects to customers? Write it out word-for-word, identifying the areas of weakness. Continually edit this methodology to improve the sales process.

What is your sales training process?

Each person who sells or deals with customers must be trained in what to do and say. You can’t expect a person to make a sale or get a result that he or she hasn’t been trained for. The best, most profitable companies have the best-trained salespeople – in every industry. Remember: nothing happens until someone sells something to somebody.

How do you sell your product?

This refers to the entire process of marketing, advertising, attracting customers and finally making the sale. You need a complete marketing plan. Determine your core marketing message and unique selling proposition. Determine the best ways to reach your prospective customers. Determine how you’ll advertise, where you’ll advertise, and how much you’ll spend.

Set standards to measure the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. Write all these things down on paper, in advance, and analyse them carefully. You require a complete sales process – with pre-planned steps and scripts for each product and each step of the process. You need contracts, order forms, price lists, brochures, website design and everything else to take the order once the sale has been made.

What are the prices and terms?

This answers the questions about how much you’re going to charge, and how you’re going to require payment. Determine your individual retail prices. Determine any discount, combination or special prices for special reasons that you’re willing to offer. Decide on your wholesale prices and those for large-volume purchases. Determine how much you’re willing to pay or discount to acquire a customer.

Estimate the lifetime value of each customer; how much is he or she likely to spend with you in the future? Continue to revisit and be willing to reconsider your prices, especially in the face of declining sales.

How is the product produced?

List the steps from the beginning of the production process to the finished product. Explain it in such detail that someone else could do it. If you purchase products for resale, write out a step-by-step description of the process of acquisition and payment.

Imagine that you’re going away for a month and are hiring a temp to produce or acquire your products or services. Keep this saying in mind: “Your instructions should be written by a genius so clearly that they can be followed by a novice.”

How is the product delivered?

How is the finished, sold product or service going to be put in the hands of the end customer? Chart out every step of the delivery process. Determine how long each step will take. Determine how much each step will cost. Identify the possible problem areas where delay, damage or mistakes could occur in the delivery process. Take steps in advance to guard against problems in shipment and delivery. Document the entire process so that a child could do it.

How is the product serviced, repaired or replaced?

Set up a process to provide for breakage, returns and dissatisfied customers. Set up policies and procedures to deal with servicing, replacing and repairing the product, and set up a return policy and procedure. Document everything in your operations manual.

Whenever you have a problem, breakdown or blockage in any area of your business, take action to ensure it doesn’t happen again. A recurring problem is usually a sign of bad management. Determine exactly what has happened.

Every new business or business activity takes enormous effort and expense to learn and standardise. But once you’ve created your business process, it can be carried out quickly and correctly by ordinary people.

Brian Tracy is the most-listened-to audio author on personal and business success in the world. His talks and seminars on leadership, sales, managerial effectiveness and business strategy provide people with proven ideas and strategies that they can implement immediately for improved results.

Setting Up Systems

Create An Operational Plan

You probably have a business plan, but you need an operational plan to define your business’s day-to-day operations.

Alison Job

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Woman writing and planning business strategy

An operational plan forms part of the business’s strategic plan and is important for effective business leadership. It describes how the work will be done, the workflow from input to end results, including the resources that will be used along the way, all of which are required for success.

Streamlined business systems also defines how you will deal with risks, and how you will ensure sustainability of the project’s achievements.

An operational plan also explains how, or what portion of, a strategic plan will be put into operation during a given operational period.

What is an Operational Plan?

While strategic planning provides the vision, direction and goals for the business, operational planning translates that into the everyday workflow of the business that will hopefully produce the outcomes defined by the strategy.

Simply put, operational planning is the conversion of strategic goals into managed execution.

It deals specifically with the internal operations and resources necessary to produce your company’s product or service.

Operational Plan: 4 Steps to Success

An operational plan addresses four questions:

  1. Where are we now?
  2. Where do we want to be?
  3. How do we get there?
  4. How do we measure our progress?

The key components of a complete operational plan include:

  1. Human capital. The staff and skills required to implement your project, as well as current and potential sources of these resources.
  2. Financial requirements. The funding required to implement your project, your current and potential sources of these funds.
  3. Risk assessment. What risks exist and how they can be addressed.
  4. Estimate of project lifespan, sustainability and exit strategy. How long your project will last, when and how you will exit your project, and how you will ensure sustainability of your project’s achievements.

Operational plans should contain:

  • Clear objectives
  • Activities to be delivered
  • Quality standards
  • Desired outcomes
  • Staffing and resource requirements
  • Implementation timetables
  • A process for monitoring progress.

Related: Free Action Plan Template Download

Why have an operational plan?

operational-planning

An operational plan is important because it helps your team to:

  • Be clear about where you will get the necessary resources
  • Use those resources efficiently
  • Clearly define the most critical resource requirements.
    • Reduce risks where possible, and prepare contingency plans where necessary.
    • Think about the long-term future of the project, including its sustainability.

Who should prepare an operational plan?

Operational plans should be prepared by the people who will be involved in the implementation. There is often a need for cross-departmental dialogue as plans created by one part of the organisation inevitably have implications for other parts.

  • A project administrator or finance manager should be involved in defining financial requirements
  • Human resources should be involved in assessing HR and capacity needs
  • HR, IT or operations staff should be engaged in discussions of processes, procedures and systems.

Efficient operational planning and implementation calls for ongoing open communication between the project team and these other staff.

Related: How To Implement Systems for Success

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Company Posts

Why Skype When You Can Video Conference?

Why purchase a video conferencing system to expand my empire when I can get Skype for free?

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Vital Stats

If you’re looking to put an end to time-consuming, expensive and exhausting business travel or just considering the next step to boost your business’ productivity, you’re likely to be faced with the ‘Skype vs video conferencing’ dilemma. Why purchase a video conferencing system to expand my empire when I can get Skype for free?

While Skype provides a great solution to staying in touch with friends and family abroad at no cost, certain drawbacks, such as limited resolution, high bandwidth usage and the fact that the service is only available to Skype users, make this a less-than-ideal solution in the professional environment.

Until recently, professional video conferencing has been inaccessible to most businesses in SA due to its high cost of ownership but Yealink has changed this by providing professional video conferencing solutions designed for SMEs, offering a perfect balance between high quality, ease-of-use and affordability.

Related: (Video) Video Conference Etiquette for Dummies

Here are some of the key reasons to choose one of Yealink’s video conferencing solutions over a free video conferencing service.

1. Increased reliability

Free video conferencing services do not offer a performance guarantee. You run the risk of poor call quality or dropped calls due to network issues. While this may be a free service, it could cost you your business’s reputation.

Corporate video conferencing solutions (VCS) only require one megabit of bandwidth – half of what is needed for Skype – allowing high-quality video, even under fluctuating network conditions.

2. Improved visual and audio quality

While Skype allows for multi-participant calls, there are limitations in terms of visual and audio quality.

Skype does not have zoom-in and focus camera functionality, allowing only the host of the call to be seen in the corner of the screen during a multi-participant call. Poor audio quality and echoing is also often the result of Skype’s microphone being built into the camera.

Yealink’s VCS support full-HD dual systems to display people and content at one time and, thanks to integrated packet loss, you can be sure of a high quality viewing experience. The system’s Full-HD PTZ, 12x optical zoom PTZ camera allows you zoom in, out and around the room with a clear picture at all times.

The Yealink VCS phone has several built-in microphone arrays and supports 360-degree voice pickup, so you won’t have to shout across the room.

There’s also no need for squishing up to hear other attendees. With an optimal expansion microphone KIT, the voice pick-up range can be extended up to 5 metres and video phones are available for desktop video if you don’t fancy joining the rest of your team in the boardroom.

video-conference-in-south-africa

3. Ease of use

Concerned about complicated VCS equipment setups? Don’t be. Yealink VCS plug-and-play simplicity makes installation quick and fuss-free. And thanks to VCS unique industry-intelligent firewall, there isn’t even a need for firewall configuration. Bonus!

While Skype appears simple to use, its multi-party settings are not as intuitive as those of its one-to-one call functionality.

Related: While Tech Investing Slows These 3 Growing Industries Are Getting Hot

4. Management and support

Unlike Skype, Yealink’s video conferencing solutions offer the peace of mind of top-quality, 24/7 support. Yealink provides scheduling, software updates and reporting over a controlled secure network infrastructure.

5. Unlimited access

While four people can participate in a multi-party Skype call, quality is unreliable whereas Yealink’s VCS allow for eight participants, bridging a client site which allows for a more secure, controlled and reliable VC experience.

Finally, while Skype is limited to 100 hours per month for multi-party calling, you are able to use Yealink’s VCS as many times as you want per month.

Related: From Simple Idea To Sideline Business: How Nkosenhle Hlophe Spotted An Opportunity

Want to learn more or book a VCS demo? Click here to get in touch and we’ll show you why it’s worth investing in one of Yealink’s premium video conferencing solutions.

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Setting Up Systems

3 Ways To Avoid Catastrophic Failure By Streamlining Day-to-Day Processes

Type up “small business failure” on a search engine and you get tons of overwhelmingly depressing results showing various statistics demonstrating that there’s a realistically slim chance that any business will survive past the 15-year mark.

Harald Merckel

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business-systems

Type up “small business failure” on a search engine and you get tons of overwhelmingly depressing results showing various statistics demonstrating that there’s a realistically slim chance that any business will survive past the 15-year mark.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the chances a business founded in 1994 will have survived to this day dips down to 20 percent. There is, of course, the issue of context whenever you’re looking at a cold statistic that does little to paint a picture of how businesses reach such a high failure rate. In addition to that, failure rates vary depending on other circumstances such as industry and political climate.

You will find a vast ocean of pundits attempting to provide their own two cents on why businesses have a high failure rate, and they will tell cite anything from poor management to the lack of a presence online.

After looking through the various reasons, there’s one thing that many have in common and it’s in your control:

Businesses will often lose the momentum they first had because they do not manage to keep up with the demands of running their everyday operations.

They can’t talk to their customers effectively online, their service quality doesn’t match the expectations of a fast-paced fickle market, their inventory is disorganised or the business itself doesn’t differentiate itself enough to make a mark on visitors.

Related: 3 Ways You Can Use Mobile Apps To Improve Your Customer Experience

Businesses that don’t have all of their ducks in a row cannot hope to address these issues. It is only logical that the first thing everyone needs to do before going any further is to face the elephant in the room by streamlining daily business activities in such a way that they are (at the very least) manageable.

Organise the backroom environment

Behind every jar of honey you buy is an army of bees that have traveled thousands of miles to make each spoonful. We know honey is made this way, yet we seldom ever ponder the journey each bee took to making that entire jar that’s now sitting in your cupboard.

Businesses work in much the same way; there are backroom processes that keep the ship afloat each and every day. Although few customers will ever see these mechanisms, their impact on the forward-facing side of a company is on full display.

Having the right software to run your back office will come a long way in helping you to avoid experiencing trouble in these departments. Applications like ProWorkflow do an excellent job of streamlining task management, invoicing, and many other functions that are often overlooked when hunting for inefficiencies that need addressing.

Get social with your online base

business-processes-and-online-presence

One of the things making large corporate entities stand out online right now is their ingenious use of social media. While there are many who see this as a carte blanche to spread a dizzying array of bland boilerplate marketing content in a desperate attempt to be relevant with the “cool” crowd, there are stellar examples of companies like Starbucks, Etsy, Calvin Klein, and McDonald’s using platforms like Twitter to embrace trends and engage directly with customers.

When you look at these brands extending their presence, it’s tempting to think that they have teams of people entirely dedicated to browse social sites and start conversations.

The truth is that much of their social media engagement efforts come from the use of applications that help automate this in an intelligent way, letting them concentrate solely on the parts of social branding that help build engagement and retain it.

Tools like Narrow provide an enormous boost by taking a no-nonsense approach to Twitter interaction, showing you who’s talking about subjects that are relevant to your goals. Other applications like Hootsuite help you schedule posts ahead of time so that you do not have to spend every living moment on social networks.

This will effectively reduce the amount of time you spend on this activity to a couple of hours a week, freeing you from the headache of having yet another front to fight on.

Related: Using An Online Meeting To Talk With Your Subscribers

Keep your inventory in check

The reason that retail giants have no problem opening a gazillion locations is because they were able to keep their ducks in a row when it came to tracking everything they sell and acquire.

Having a systematic approach to inventory simplifies operations to the point that reproducing the model is a simple game of “plug and play”. They do this like every other successful and long-living enterprise still alive in the 21st century does. They use the magic of software.

Without this ingredient, you’ll be spending more time tracking where things are going and who’s paying for what than taking care of any of the other 18 million different things you have to do to keep the lights on.

It’s a not-so-well-guarded secret that there are solutions that even smaller contenders can use to keep themselves in good competition with their much larger counterparts, and one of those solutions is inventory management.

Software like Vend, for example, contains a variety of smaller applications that come together to form one of the most powerful point-of-sale and inventory management suites, even allowing for things like layaways, parked sales, and gift cards.

Related: How To Promote Your Blog By Following Your Passion

Technology may have advanced to a point where it perhaps has a stronger grasp on our daily lives than we’d like, but the game of retaining customers still operates on the same rules it did back when the first street markets began appearing thousands of years ago.

You have to make sure that they don’t find greener pastures elsewhere and one of the main ways you can do that is by showing them that you provide a fluid environment and a dedication to serve.

The difference is that today there are pieces of software that make these things a lot simpler. Take advantage of this and you’ll have a very strong chance of living to see another decade (or ten).

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