Often we ignore process because we think it makes us "uncreative," when that is the furthest from the truth. We will explore efficiencies that have to be considered and planned for.
- Efficiency isn't a dirty word. Often we ignore the concept of process because we think it makes us uncreative. Nothing could be further from the truth, though. In fact, when we have processes, systems, and templates in place, it increases your productivity, profitability, happiness in the workplace, and even the clarity of your brand. You may have heard the old adage, "If you're not growing, you're dying." Many people quit growth with size, especially when it comes to people and sales. And while that answer may work for some, I think of growth in terms of how you understand your business, the current business climate, and where you need to go.
If the world has shown us anything in the last few years, it's that things are going to continue to move and move fast. Our ability to adapt and stay true to what we are really great at will partly determine our future. Over the last 20 plus years, I've seen many great firms grow and then close. I've also seen firms that work hard to understand the business they're in and learn how to apply their core beliefs and skills to the market in front of them. The one reality that is most precious for any business is time. And being as precious as it is, I'm not sure why some of us resist figuring out how to preserve as much time as possible in the form of process.
Process gives you the ability to be consistent, reduce mistakes, have data points as checks and balances, and be able to estimate how much time something will or won't take. When I was planning to start my current firm over 16 years ago, I gained perspective from having worked at several different types of firms. I worked at a start-up, small and large agency, and a midsize in-house firm. Having been exposed to a variety of process, I had a great sampling of what worked and what didn't. When I decided to go on my own, I wanted to have as much process as possible worked out so I could maximize my time in creating and running the business.
I started by identifying the areas that were the greatest time suck, or could be systemized from a communication standpoint. The areas that I discovered could benefit from the most process or systems are: Server setup and archiving process. I know, there's nothing more boring. This reduced trying to find that certain file or the current version of the project and helped us set parameters to properly save and archive assets. Email communication. We all spend too much time already on email, and we wanted to reduce email time by prewriting the major types of emails we needed to write and then just customize certain areas.
Next, we created a step-by-step approach for our working process. We wanted to develop steps and checks and balances in our workflow to reduce lost time and mistakes. Approval process. We streamlined the way we get our projects approved internally and with clients. And we created a system of what records we needed to keep in order to properly protect ourselves and have clear communication. Estimating, invoices, and accounts payable process. This is never an enjoyable process, except when that check is going into the bank. We needed a process that made sure we gathered all key details and the various approvals along the way so we could protect the one thing that is key in a service business: Cash flow.
Work samples and case study process. We didn't want to be rushing every time a new pitch came our way or when we were updating our site and marketing tools. So we developed a process where we quarterly updated all of our assets to better tell our story with the most current projects. New business process. This is one of the biggest items that gets the most neglected when we get busy. We are constantly working on approving our daily, weekly, and monthly client touchpoints in development. This only happens when there's process. Take some time to think through where your biggest areas of wasted time are.
This could be something as simple as finding assets to projects, to larger communication issues, like client follow-up. Think through this carefully. You could start by looking at your client list, asking your team, and reflecting on last year's biggest headaches.
- What does your company do well? What does it not do so well?
- How and where to grow
- Identifying opportunities
- Developing a culture of growth
- Promoting your business
- Building your advertising team