Can your business sustain operations without you? If it can’t, then you may need to look at the following areas to make your business less reliant upon you while being more effective at delivering that you offer. The more your business can operate with and without you, the more stable and valuable it will be to you and others for the long term.
1. Image: Do you have graphics standards concerning your corporate positioning tagline, logo brand and colors? Have you defined what is acceptable usage including complimentary font styles and logo configurations in your marketing and communications? Have you established approved formats and templates for all aspects of internal and external communications organized for easy access?
2. Offerings: Have you defined and documented your approach or process to delivering your products and services so that they can be consistently produced? Are you the only one who can provide certain aspects of your offerings? Are there aspects of what you do that could be documented in a way that will allow others to do it consistently and with the same quality deliverable? Even with a highly customized solution, you still have a specific way you go about getting to that solution. Document it.
3. Customers: Do customers feel as though they must talk to you to get the answers they need? If this is the case, then you may need to put some systems or procedures into place so that others in your company can be of service to your customers in your absence to keep things flowing. How do you track and document status of orders or projects? What systems and documentation of work flow do you have in place so that customers are being served more efficiently and effectively as a result?
4. Employees: Do you have job descriptions, policies and procedures that clearly communicate how employees are to do their jobs and work within your company? Do employees have reference to how to do their jobs or to guide others in how to do the work that needs to be done? Have you documented orientation procedures and any ongoing or repeated internal training? My rule of thumb is if there is anything that is being done more than once, it is worthy of documenting.
5. Operations: Do you have an operations and procedures manual documenting all the various functions of your business from accounting to project management and production to internal and external communications? The more reference you have for how you do what you do in your business, the easier it is going to be for employees, especially new ones or contracted ones, to do their jobs well. It also enables leadership to stay focused on bigger picture visioning and strategic initiatives for the company, versus having to be continually available for day-to-day functional aspects of the business.
A sustainable business is like a well-oiled machine. It appears to operate almost effortlessly with all of its parts working systematically together. Achieving sustainable systems that work for your business and in serving your customers better than competitors makes your business attractive on multiple levels. It is an investment-worthy business. And if it is a business with sustainable growth combined with sustainable systems, processes, standards, and procedures, opportunities including licensing, franchising, IPOs or attractive M&As can be more likely of a reality.
Sherré DeMao is author of the nationally acclaimed books, 50 Marketing Secrets of Growth Companies in Down Economic Times, www.50marketingsecrets.com, and Me, Myself & Inc., www.memyselfandinc.com, Her column seeks to help business owners build and grow sustainable enterprises and businesses with economic value and preference in the marketplace.