How do you organize your business? How do you stay on top of all the moving parts?
As you can imagine this is a vast question. The key elements are to be able to pay attention in 4 different ways simultaneously:
1. Diffuse Focus: You must keep an open mind to give you a global vision of what is happening within and outside of your business. This means keeping up with industry news but also knowing what is going on outside of your normal frame of reference. Keeping this global vision helps you take better mid & long term strategic decisions without being overwhelmed by daily pressure.
2. Narrow Focus: You must keep a very narrowly focused set of priorities and short term action points based on your mid & long term strategies. Having a precise laser focus of activities helps increase day to day performance and return on investment. This is the way to grow in a lean way as well as to manage employees successfully. Having a clear narrow focus is the key to get things done.
3. External Focus: Being able to take distance from your business and taking unemotional decisions helps you take the right strategic decisions. You must be able to step away from your baby and do what is best for the business rather than holding on to the past. It is easy to become to attached to certain aspects of our business that is detrimental to the well being of the business. Taking an external focus helps you get distance and take the right decisions.
4. Immersed Focus: By being in touch with your personal vision, values and goals, your business becomes more than simply a cash cow. Knowing why you believe that your business adds value to the world and communicating it with your employees gives a meaning to their work. The best way to inspire others and to keep motivated through the difficulties of running one's own business is to be in touch with the meaning of what you do.
If you can pay attention to your business in these 4 different ways simultaneously, you will stay on top of all the moving parts.
This means you will be able to simultaneously understand what is going on in your industry at a macro-level, as well as how to manage employees, deal with customers, keep track of finances, and update your strategies to maximise success.
I've been a project manager for 4 years and I have organized several businesses. From my experience, the best way to organize your business and stay on top of all the moving parts is simply to create systems. Write down every single process (or have your employees do it) and keep them updated.
Having processes your business will be efficient and you will save time and money (would you spend 2 hours writing down a process that will save you 10 hours of work every week?)
You will be able to:
- Track performance of all departments/employees
- Identify and eliminate repetitive tasks and bottlenecks
- Cut costs by eliminating or optimizing ineffective parts of your processes (those that don't give you a solid ROI)
- Manage risk: for example, having clear return policies on ecommerce will reduce refunds. Having contracts or work agreements will reduce the risk of being unprotected by providers or former employees.
Some of the processes you should create are:
- Customer Services
- Lead generation / Customer acquisition
There are also a number of tools (both free and paid) that you can use to organize your business. For example, using project management tools you will reduce the amount of emails that your team will have to send in order to communicate with each other. This means saving time.
It's difficult to be more precise without knowing what kind of business we're talking about. But systematizing and creating processes is very easy and highly effective in all cases.
Feel free to schedule a call for follow up questions.
One way is to have a systematic approach to your business process. I have an almost turn-key process that utilizes several useful tools.
One good tool to look at is a CRM - Customer Relationship Management tool. There are free tools out there to assist. I use Streak.com which ties my email to a CRM database - which tracks customers moving from leads, sales, and prospects.
Another tool that is critical is your marketing campaign tool (tool you keep your customer contact information, and email your marketing campaigns, promotions, etc). I use mailchimp.com -- but there are lots of other similar tools.
I also use hootsuite.com to schedule and manage my social media blasts.
If you are interested in an online course that I am developing that outlines this systematic approach, send me your email - and I'll send you the link. Or give me a call for a one-on-one discussion.
Solutions depend on type, size and scale/complexity of project to be managed.
One secret is to decentralise decision making based on financial implications so that folks on the ground can manage most issues and you can look at the minimum critical parts.
Kick start a project with your entire team and get a buy in on the timelines and make everyone understand that if a timeline is slipping on any activity it must be red flagged in real time as information. No red flag means timelines are being met.
While team will be evaluated on meeting schedules any project is a TEAM WORK including customer and so if a member is evaluated based on slippages then they will not raise the red flags. Team must understand that red flag is to get help and not indicator of their competence.
Schedule regular periodic meetings/conf calls which would be predecided as a schedule for whole duration of project and discuss only status/timeline situation. Any slippages/problems should be taken offline for discussions with specific persons rather than waste everyones time.
For large projects with high complexity there are software like Pro M available which can automate the process greatly.
While these suggestions may sound simplistic truth is that project management falters because all the stakeholders are not on the same page and many tend to get overwhelmed with complex plans where simple plans work.
These are all good answers. I will give you my simple answer. If you are running an early stage business and the details are getting out of your control, your focus is too broad. Narrow your product offering and target market, systematize the solution, eliminate the variations that cause the confusion.
Cristina hit on a very important point. What is not recorded and monitored gets out of control. I say...the two things you need to do is:
1. Hire a good project manager. This person should keep a all projects, steps, benchmarks, and anticipated completion dates in an excell spreadsheet. Get a weekly update of what everybody is doing and have a weekly progress meeting with key plays. Call them out on deadlines for projects. Make your expectations clear. Adjust as needed. The project manager does not necessarily have to be a high priced employee. Organizational skills are key here.
2. Do not personally do anything that someone else can do as well or better. It is hard to see the moving parts if you are too involved in little stuff. Leave the details to others whenever possible and inspect what you expect.
Michael T. Irvin
"Get To The Top Without The Slop"