Recently in a FastTrac training cohort, we were exploring how process optimization and workflow systems help with profitability, support workplace safety and efficiency. We had an excellent question from an entrepreneur who has just started a wholesale business: “How do I start creating workflow systems for my business?”
This article focuses on the who, what, when, where, why and how of creating workflow systems. I hope that it will spark your interest to create or revisit your own workflow systems.
Let’s start with the what and the why:
Workflow systems describe how the work flows from beginning to end, who touches it, what happens to it, and how you will know it is complete. You are likely to need documented workflow systems in all functional areas of your business.
It’s important to have a system in place to ensure a consistent quality product or service for your customers. You’ll also benefit from the efficiency and cost/time savings. For instance, using a checklist in any business can make sure that steps or ingredients are not overlooked. This can reduce wasted time and materials.
So, where do you start?
The first step is to identify your key operating system. There are seven key operational systems that make up the business’s everyday workflow: Receiving Orders, Billing and Collections, Accounting Functions, Customer Service, Distribution and Order Fulfillment, Technology, and Product Production. Start by focusing on one operating system such as accounting.
Then detail the recurring tasks or processes that are required and document the steps, standards and performance metrics.
Using Accounting as an example, look at the accounts payable process and take note of the series of tasks and processes that includes inputting bills, making vendor payments, making credit card payments, setting up automatic deductions, and printing payable reports as individual procedures in the process.
Then you can see the relationship between the identified procedure (Making Vendor Payments) and its detailed tasks. Although simplified, this is the step-by-step approach of solid operations documentation.
Be sure to involve those who are most closely related to the process or system. Invite your team members or outside resources to help you detail steps, create checklists, quality controls and standards for tasks and processes.
Finally, you will want to test and constantly improve your workflow systems. The acid test for any system is: “Can another person follow the written policy or process without having someone tell them what to do?” Using this test, you will quickly notice any small steps you may have overlooked in your system.
Now that you’ve got a fresh look at creating workflow systems, where can you create a system or make improvements to an existing system? I challenge you to focus on just one system each month.
Why are workflow systems important to you? Reply back or book a free call with me to start a conversation.