How’s your memory?

I have the memory of a flip flop (that’s a thong for my Aussie readers but a thong in British English is an item of underwear so stand by for maximum confusion). I remember preparing for interview questions “What’s your worst point?” “I have a terrible memory … which is why I take excellent notes and ensure that everything is properly documented.”

I talk a lot about having systems in your business to improve efficiency and the simplest system is often a checklist. These were great when I was trying to run my first business around two small children as I was always able to pick up again reasonably quickly after interruptions “Mum, J’s dangling from the blind cord” (fortunately it was by his ankle and not his neck!).

I recently stayed at a Premier Inn. I’m happy to mention them by name as their service is usually excellent. But on this occasion the bin in my room had not been emptied before I arrived. A simple checklist before the cleaners left the room would have avoided this oversight.

Checklists are also good for having a replicable process to save reinventing the wheel each time. Especially for things in your business that don’t happen all the time. We have detailed processes for completing accounts and tax returns, for onboarding clients, and for regular marketing work. In an ideal world we’d have a written process for everything but I run a small business with limited resources. For less frequent work we just rely on a quick checklist

I recommend Michael Gerber’s E-Myth revisited for ideas on how to systemise your business (and of course, our own course and coaching 😉)

Process thinking

As you know I really believe in the power of systems for running a an efficient and rewarding business. But what does that mean?

I’m visiting clients at the moment so I had a hotel breakfast buffet. For some reason they had decided to put the plates in the middle of the two hotplates of food. This meant that

  1. They weren’t where everybody expected them at the end
  2. People had to join the queue in the middle
  3. People had to cross over to get from the food on one side of the central queue to the food on the other side
  4. It was all slightly chaotic and much slower than it needed to be

Another common example is the chaos at the tea/coffee table at events. The first thing somebody needs is a cup so these should be at the end. Tea drinkers need somewhere to put their teabag before they add milk (for the non-tea drinkers, tea is a chemical reaction and adding milk too soon cools the drink and quenches the reaction 😊 ) so they need a spare bowl/bin for the teabag packet near the milk. Getting everything laid out in the right order helps to avoid bottle necks. Moving the table away from the wall can allow people to get their drinks from both sides of the table.

When we first started using Receipt Bank (now Dext) software for processing invoices back in 2013 there was a delay between scanning invoices and the OCR process of around an hour. Our bookkeepers were used to working on one client at a time and complained that they had to wait for the software. So we changed the process to scanning all the invoices for all the clients first to allow time for the first client’s invoices to be ready.

This is the sort of thing that a business coach can often see straight away when observing your business from the outside. Quite often there are quick fixes that can make a huge difference for little effort. Generally the big wins require longer projects and a little more planning