The Workflow Problem
Let me tell you the absolute truth about your business and workflow.
I don’t mean to scare you but...
… Everything in business is going to drive you insane if you don’t have a workflow.
From the fear of missing a deadline, to sleepless nights afraid that your new client isn’t going to get the quality of service you promised.
No way are you about to let that happen and run your business to the ground when it only just started to grow. You meant business when you set up your business.
But business isn’t supposed to be this hard. Unfortunately, yours feels like it right now:
- You have a random on-boarding process
- No step by step process for recurring client tasks
- No way to track work progress for yourself or your team
On top of that, when an employee or freelancer quits, they leave with the “how” of the roles they held. No “standard operating procedure” (SOP'S) to hand over to the new employee. As a result, you always have to on-board and train the new hire from scratch while still trying to meet up with client deadlines.
Nothing can be more time, revenue, and sanity draining.
I feel your pain! I’ve been there and I made it through to the other side--I now have a workflow for every aspect of my business; you need one too.
Why you need a workflow for your business
You need workflows for your business for so many reasons. Here are a few:
With a workflow and sytems, you get more done in less time
It helps you stay on tasks and not compromise quality
You free up your time to focus on marketing and expanding your business
Your workflow gives you the confidence that you are able to give your clients the service you promised
It ensures that all steps have been completed correctly
An automated workflow ensures that paperwork and paper chasing is eliminated
You stay sane and organized while doing what you love and generating the income of your dreams
Ready to create your own workflow? Before I show you how there are two caveats.
Be ready to invest time
Reading this guide isn’t enough. You are going to have to invest some time.
Whether that means you need to physically get away from your office and go spend dedicated time or to set out a block of time every day, once a week, or weekends. Or whatever works for you.
The goal is to block some time to get what's in your head out.
Be willing to do the work.
If you’re willing to invest time then you definitely should be ready to do the work. To outsource your workflow creation will be counterproductive. No one else knows how you run your business better than you.
Certainly you can get tools, templates, and assistance, but you still have to be actively involved in the work of building it.
Steps to Creating a Workflow for Your Business
There are 7 steps to creating an efficient workflow for any type of business you do.
Let's dive in!
Plan to create your workflow
Stop wishing you had a workflow. You need to plan to create one. Planning is essential because it will help you get very clear about your overall goals. This will help you determine what the end goal of the process will be.
1. Allocate time to plan
You need a workflow as early as yesterday? Allocate time to plan for its creation.
For instance, as part of my workflow for on-boarding clients, I allocate time to plan and adapt my workflow for that particular client from start to finish.
2. Write down all you want to achieve with your workflow
During your planning time, you need to document all you want to achieve with your workflow to determine the scope.
3. Share your plans with your team (if you have a team)
It’s always good to have another pair of eyes take a peek at your goals. In this case, you want your team members to see what you expect from their roles and make adjustments where necessary.
4. Specify a time frame for the creation of your workflow
Every other step in the process of creating your workflow should follow a definite timeline. Remember that your workflow isn’t a one-off project! You will however, need to get the first version up and running quickly. You can modify as your business expands or divests.
Track Your Business Processes
You’ve done your planning and are set to create your workflow. Your next move is to track your business processes.
Deep breath. It is not as hard as you think.
The big piece here is to have a brain dump document, spreadsheet, paper, Google doc, or whatever works for you. Start by having it open or beside you as you're doing your work. Your objective is to track what you do and document. No need to worry about the order of operations, organization or anything else.
As you work, quickly document what you do and how you do it, up to the smallest of tasks. And if you do time tracking, include the time it takes per task. Doing this from the beginning of your client project to finish, will help you have a sense of all you do, how you do it and what it takes to get it done.
For example, what worked really well for me was to have my assistant document all of her daily tasks... and she was happy to do it. She was getting paid. She didn't care.
It was just another task to her. She wrote down everything that she was doing for a client and then she gave it to me. I added it to what I do for clients and this gave me a complete picture of my service to clients.
It wasn’t a workflow yet but it was a good framework to build on. From there I could then document my business processes.
Here’s our sample Handoff tracker spreadsheet to help you get started.
Document Your Business Processes
You’ve tracked your processes and created your brain dump document. Now you need to document your business processes.
Take a look at your brain dump document. In no particular order, identify your processes and document them as tasks with steps where necessary.
Next spend some time getting these tasks sorted.
Again, if you have someone to who you can delegate, now’s the perfect time to assign this to a VA (virtual assistant). It doesn't have to be someone with any huge technical skills. They're just going to need to sort similar tasks for you. For instance, it could be a Quickbook task, Xero tasks, or on-boarding tasks, etc. You just want to ensure all tasks for each business process is well documented.
Test Your Business Process
This is where you need to take your documented process and work with it.
Sit down and tell yourself, "Okay, I'm working with this client. This week I am using this template that I have created." and start going through it. You’ll find things come up:
"Well, that's in the wrong order.”
“No, this task doesn't have the right wording."
"I need to have this login attached to this task."
If it's a digital document, it's really easy to make these notes. Again, this is a point in the process where you can get someone to help you. You can get help with all of this, other than that first original brain dump.
You can start modifying a Google document where you can make notes on each task. Note whatever tasks go into each step. Create this document as an interactive one that you can work through and build on.
The working document is the one to start adding to, but make sure you have a copy that is becoming the template. Once you have a template of all your tasks and get it really close to what you want it to be, then you need to start thinking about a platform you're going to use.
Ideally, if you're going to be growing, you will need something that you can assign tasks to a team. There are a lot of options as far as systems or software, but all all you need is one that allows you to assign tasks to people, to track their tasks and to-dos, and save and sort everything by a client.
Software and Programs that I recommend when you're starting out:
Once you have your list, it will give you a better idea of what you’ll need as far as software. Doing it the other way can feel a bit backwards. I did it that way because I'd already chosen Asana, so it can be done...However, it's definitely the better way to go to have your list and then decide, "What do I need to support this list of tasks that I'm doing?"
Choose something. Don't get hung up on the testing them all or over analyzing.
How to Automate Your Workflow
Take the top three systems that you've been considering
Input your template
Take some time and play with them
There's a learning curve to everything and some will be easier than others. I've done this! I've tried it with clients that are using different systems.
I’ve used their system and thought, "Oh wow, this is awful!" They may love it though.
You've really got to dig in, try it and see what's the best fit for you. Keep in mind to make your top three choices. Don't waste time on anymore than that. Take the trial, and get your assistant or someone else to put your completed template into those pieces of software. Then spend a day or perhaps two hours a day testing each one and see what feels and looks right to you.
Keep it to a week to do the testing and implementing phase. Test your software and then make a decision.
The analysis paralysis we all experience is because there's so many options! This can be such a big hindrance. Just make a choice. I went with Asana because it worked for me.
People ask, "Why don't you use this? Why don't you use that?"
Because I don't have the bandwidth to spend any more time on this. I have a product that's working. It's working for me. I have to move on and service my clients and grow my business! I have a life and spend winters in Mexico and so much more.
Once you've made a choice on your platform and inputted your template, go ahead and invite your team in to start playing with this.
Tip: Be sure to input your template first because your team is going to have a different way of looking at things. Remember, this is your system, this is your business and you decide what is best for you. Employees and team members come and go. You choose for you. Then they will learn how to use it, period. Then ensure you use it: because if you don't use it, nobody else will either.
You've got everything out of your brain and into a platform...so now is the time to start using it! I recommend to start implementing one client at a time, just in the first couple of weeks. Perhaps one client a week, input all their information, and get the new system set up for them.
Again, your assistant or your team can help you with this because all this information is going to be somewhere and they can collect and input it. It’s a perfect daily or weekly task.
When you start with a new client, have them input the client into the new system and get the steps setup. You can do this yourself, but you probably don't have time, which is why you're implementing a system. Delegate it.
Then you check in, have them continue, and then tweak it. This is the way that you can allow someone else to help you with this process. Truly, it's ongoing tweaking. As you come across a client quick, you may realize that the step could be really handy to have in your master template.
Review and Adjust
Keep a master template that you do not alter. Copy it and use it again. Be sure only to alter your master template if it will be a change that you'll use across the board for all your clients.
Do this as you go along, change your master, add new tasks at new steps, add new pieces, add new automations, as new things come up. As an example, Zapier comes up with a new add-on that all of a sudden changes and you can lose four steps to your workflow because it will do a zap that will change your world. Stay on top of things like this and keep modifying your template as you go.
The biggest piece of advice I have is don't get stalled on having to have the perfect template/workflow so that you never get started. Get started, create a working document and then keep perfecting it as you go along.
Overall, these are the steps that you'll want to follow.
- Brain dump
- Plan and track all of your steps and processes
- Document your steps and processes
- Get someone to help you organize it
- Choose your software
- Test it and tweak
- Implement it
- Review and tweak.
It doesn't seem like much, but it's a lot of work. Remember, I've given you some ways throughout where you could outsource this.
But I do understand that getting started can be overwhelming. Blocking out the time can be difficult. If this is something that you are struggling with, you may find the accountability of working within a program with other people doing the same thing will be helpful.
Check out my business systems implementation program. It runs several times a year and I take in groups of 8-10 people at a time. We work through this!
- One hour a week, we block it out
- We sit down with your tasks and your steps and review them
- The next week you come back and have it completed
This really forces you to actually get the work done instead of having everything else take priority.
Hit me up in the comments if you've got any cool tips, hints, ideas, suggestions. I am always tweaking my systems and workflows, and I would love to hear if you've got any amazing ideas that will help me make my life faster as well.