Don’t repeat your mistakes

If you have been in business very long, you have run into problems in your small business. Whether those problems involve employees, or customers, or vendors, they can be distressing.

While it would be unreasonable to expect to eliminate every problem, too often the owner simply accepts problems and frustrations as a normal part of business. And so, little is done to address the cause of the problems that do occur.

I am a firm believer that we shouldn’t casually accept problems in our business. A problem indicates that a mistake was made, whether from simply not knowing better or outright negligence, a problem or undesired outcome is a sign that the wrong actions were taken.

If you address the actions that caused the problem–and develop a procedure to take different actions–you will be able to avoid a repeat. In other words, learn from your problems and mistakes so that you won’t repeat them.

Operations manuals: the “recipe book” for your small business

Would you try to bake a pie without a recipe? You could spend countless hours mixing ingredients trying to find the combination that produces a tasty pie. And in the end, you could wind up with a gooey mess that tastes nothing like what you intended.

The same thing can happen with your small business. Without operating policies and procedures, you and your employees can waste hours trying to complete a task, only to find that the results are not what you wanted. You can work conscientiously and diligently, only to discover that your “recipe” was wrong. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Consistent actions produce consistent results. Documented systems, processes, and procedures–when followed–create consistent actions. With operating systems and procedures, you can get consistent results–the results that you desire.

An operations manual is the “recipe book” for your small business. It provides step-by-step instructions for the tasks you and your employees perform. When the procedure is followed, the results are predictable. Just like following a recipe for a pie. Except a lot more is at stake with your business.

Many small business owners know that they should develop systems and processes for their business, but find the task overwhelming. They don’t know where to start, how to proceed, or how to develop procedures.

With procedures and processes in place–with your business systematized–your employees know what you expect and can deliver. Your customers will receive more consistent quality. And you can delegate, confident that your business will produce the results that you desire. It is a win- win- win.

If you wouldn’t try to bake a pie without a recipe, why would you want to run your business without an operations manual? No matter what type of small business you own–internet marketing, home based, service, real estate, contracting, manufacturing, retail–systems, processes, and procedures will help you consistently get the results that you desire.

Too many hours can be bad for your health

Working too many hours can be bad for your health, according to Denise Sanders. She writes about a report that found a link between overtime and depression.

Small business owners often wear many hats. You must do the books, build widgets, develop marketing materials, return phone calls, and manage employees. For the typical small business owner this can easily lead to a 60 hour work week.

While it is sometimes necessary to put in long hours to build your business, you must also balance our work load with sufficient time to relax and enjoy life. Otherwise you run the risk of working yourself into an early grave.

This can create a real problem for the small business owner. He often can’t afford to hire someone to perform needed tasks. If he doesn’t do them, they don’t get done.

There are several solutions to this problem. The first is to prioritize– identify what is really important. Some tasks may not be as important as they seem. The second solution is to delegate or outsource when possible. Have your vendor make deliveries, or hire a part-time bookkeeper. The third is better time management in the form of systems. As Denise writes, “If you have the right systems in place, you can limit the emergencies and still maintain an accessible environment, being more productive in the process.”

Systems can eliminate many of the emergencies that rob us of time and energy. The stress of constant crises can be overwhelming and debilitating. They interrupt our work, both physically and mentally.

Systems help us get consistent results. They provide us with clear guidelines for our actions. In a sense, they are like a railroad track– they keep us moving in the desired direction and keep us focused. But without systems we can easily lose direction, and wind up in the ditch. That’s not a pretty sight for a train or a business.

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