A Small Business Hack to Improve Your Efficiency
Small Business Hack:
What would it look like if you followed a customer through their purchase and use of your product or service? What would you learn? Where would you have made their life harder, more complicated, less efficient?
How about your internal processes? What would you see if you followed a team member around as she completed the key steps for a core process in your business?
Almost a decade ago a friend of mine who built a $5 billion business tasked me with this very exercise and the results of this simple small business hack were eye-popping.
Keep reading to find out what small business hack made such a difference for our business coaching clients!
I found out that I made my customers work way too hard to order business coaching services from my company, not to mention how complicated we made onboarding for a new business coaching client. We had one step in our onboarding process for a new client that required them to spend an hour filling out a detailed assessment tool before they could even schedule their first one-on-one coaching session with my team. YIKES!
And how about internally? Take the simple task of updating our client website. One of our internal processes had bloated to 27 steps to do this simple function. Was it any wonder that my staff was frustrated and overwhelmed and our growth was constrained.
This was a real wake-up call and I want you to apply the same small business hack to your company.
Step One: Map it out
Flow chart out the sequence of steps a prospect takes from his first serious step in your sales process through actually being a customer and getting your product or service. What happens after they buy? Map that out on paper too into a simple flowchart–box to box to box–of all the steps they went through and experienced in the course of their interaction with your company.
Once you’ve laid that process out visually, do the same thing from the perspective of your internal team. Follow them through the flow of what they do and where they go, step by step, as they produce or fulfill on your core product or service. With this raw information in hand, it’s time to move on to step two.
Step Two: Audit the Process
Gather together a small team of your key people in a conference room for ninety minutes to take a fresh look at the way you produce your core medical services. Put your two flowcharts up on the wall. Start with the customer-view flowchart, and ask the following questions:
- What jumps out at you as not making sense about this process?
- How could you reduce the number of steps in your overall process?
- How could you spend a little more money and get an exponential increase in production efficiency?
- What frictions are there in the process that are bogging everything else down? How could you streamline your process to remove or at least minimize these factors?
- What steps are missing that, if you added them to the process, would improve the efficiency, consistency, quality, or value of your product or service for your customers?
- What are your most expensive constraints to selling and producing at much higher volumes? Is it your physical space? Or a lack of key team? Or perhaps a lack of certain systems or automation? Identifying your most expensive constraints will give you clues about how to refine your core workflow to maximize around these constraints.
Now take a second pass at these questions, and this time, focus specifically on the “internal” flow diagram of how your team has to work to currently produce your product or service. After thirty to forty-five minutes of brainstorming ideas with your key team members, move on to step three.
Step Three: Pick Your “Sweet Spot(s)” to Implement improvements
Based on my experience coaching companies through this process, at this point you’ve got an overwhelming mass of ideas that you know you “should” do to improve your core flow. But let’s get real; there is simply no way you and your team can implement all these small business hacks at one time. In fact, doing so would be so disruptive to your current activities that your business would actually suffer.
Instead, go back over your list of possible process enhancements and flow fixes, and apply the “Low-Hanging Fruit” and “Home Run” filters. Go through the full list and ask yourself, “Is this a Low-Hanging Fruit?” In other words, is this idea easy to put into practice, and are you fairly certain it will work? If it is, mark that idea with an “LH” for Low-Hanging Fruit.
Then, do a second, separate pass and ask of each item on your list, “Is this a Home Run?” In other words, if it works, will it have a BIG impact on the efficiency, consistency, or quality of the way you produce your medical services? If the answer is yes, mark that item with an “HR.”
Now go back to your list and pull out all the items you’ve listed that are both Low-Hanging Fruit and Home Runs. These are your company’s core Sweet Spots. If you have a manageable number, which is rare, then you can jump to creating your execution mini plan.