One of my mentors, an executive of LJ Hooker, once told me that the aim of any entrepreneur was to make themselves redundant. Say what!?
What she meant was that your aim in business should be to give the business enough life of its own that it runs without you physically being there. A business that’s profits are 100% reliant on your time is a business doomed to fail. Obviously, one way of getting by this is creating leveraged income streams. Another way is to hire staff.
But before you even think about that, you need to create systems and processes. You already have these systems and processes (maybe not perfect or the most efficient ones yet) but you most likely haven’t actually written these down. Before you dive into this blog post, take out a piece of paper and pen and write down all the aspects of your business that you are currently doing. Now imagine if you had to hire somebody to take over that particular element of business – would you be able to hand them over a quick how-to with everything you expect them to do (because they sure as hell won’t do it the way you do it)? Haven’t done that? Well, it’s time to start writing these processes down – and making them as efficient, a.k.a streamlined, as possible. The very act of writing how you currently do these areas of business will help highlight room for improvement. Here are 10 areas of your business to streamline to help you get started:
We all know by now how much I rate Xero, which I talked about here and here. It’s the best tool I’ve come across to streamline all accounting, bookkeeping and general ‘know-where-your-dollars-at’ thinking. The good thing with Xero is that the written process for it will be pretty straight forward. Basically you will need to identify what kind of expenses go under which categories (e.g. Consulting, Advertising etc) so that your records are consistent.
If you need help with setting up Xero and using it effectively, check out the Simply Xero program by Ramai MacDonald. I highly recommend it.
There’s no secret email can eat up a lot of your time. The best way to streamline it is to simply find a method that enables you to use it as efficiently as possible, in the shortest time as possible.
For example, you may like to employ the ‘Calm Inbox’ method, which is to only check your email once in the morning and once in the evening (or before you wrap up work). It means no distractions and no checking in on emails for the full day.
Others swear by avoiding email in the morning. Their argument is that email puts you in a reactive mindset. Simply put, you put other’s goals ahead of your own and your priorities may become clouded.
There isn’t a one-size fits all when it comes to email, but I think we can agree with this: turn the notifications off. On your phone and on your desktop. Ensure that you are not constantly bombarded with alerts of new emails coming through.
The other thing to think about email is how you respond to customers and potential customers, which I will talk about in more depth below. Another thing to think about is automated email sequences, but that’s a post for another day.
As in, scheduling meetings and appointments and all that jazz. Short of getting a PA/VA to do that for you, it’s best to create a system for your scheduling. Consider what regular appointments or meetings you have and bookmark large chunks of time in your calendar for these. Let’s say for example you spend some time networking, you might like to block out every Tuesday for networking. That way when an opportunity comes up, you can organise to meet on that Tuesday. Creating designated ‘theme chunks’ of time can help you not only schedule better, but be more proficient as you will be in the zone.
Another thing to consider is apps that may be able to do the scheduling for you. If you are a coach, consider using Satori. I have just started to use this for my own coaching and it’s saving a lot of time and emails.
4. Content Marketing
Content marketing, all the incredible free content such as blogging, is super valuable and super time-consuming. The key is to be consistent, therefore there needs to be a system in place to ensure you are consistently providing exceptional value. A good starting point is to create a Content Marketing Strategy (you can use my template here). If you plan on getting other people on board to help you with your content marketing, then this is super important.
The next part of content marketing is the actual creation of the content. How do you best ‘create’? That’s your system – work it in and make it a priority. I personally like to do things in big chunks. I can write up to 10,000 words in a day, which is approximately 10-15 blog posts. But if I had to write a post every week, I’d really struggle. It’s the zone thing I was talking about above – once you’re on a roll, the words just flow.
When do you bring your big PR guns out? What sources do you go to? What emails do you write? What’s in your PR kit? There’s a lot to think about PR and you will save a lot of time if you have a written process to refer to. If PR is totally foreign to you, consider hiring a PR guru to set up your system and PR kit.
6. Order processing
This is for both virtual and physical products. If you sell something virtual, you don’t want to have to email each purchaser the product right? So use a system and web program that will do it automatically for you. For example, e-junkie for ebooks.
In terms of physical, what do you do from the moment someone orders to the time they receive the parcel? Can you do it quicker? Cheaper? How do you ensure your orders don’t get confused or lost? All things to think about and all things to include in your order processing guidelines.
7. Social Media
Much like content marketing, we need to be consistent with our social media use. It’s an important messenger of our brand. How do you decide which photos to use? How do you decide when to post? How do you best utilise your stats? An example process for managing your social media would be to have a regular check in with your stats (Iconosquare for Instagram and Insights for Facebook) every Monday to determine the scheduling of your posts for the week ahead.
The second part of social media is content creation. You may like to tie this into Content Marketing instead or keep it separate in your social media process. What rules do you have for the kind of content you post on social media? Is there a way you can generate large amounts of content in more efficient ways?
8. Team communications
Meetings, email, phone calls, coffee dates. Do you waste time communicating with your team? I absolutely hate team meetings. We’ve been having meetings for the development of the Nook Co co-working space and honestly, every single time I’m quietly complaining inside thinking how much of a waste of time it is.
If you have a team around you, or use consultants regularly, how can you ensure that the method of your communication is effective and efficient? There’s some great tools out there, including Slack.
Another thing to think about would be the values you have as a team. I don’t yet have a team around me but I know the first thing I would do would be to ensure that every member of my team were honest with each other. Honesty is a very important value to me and I can’t imagine a team running effectively without that honesty. When creating your team communication processes, include expectations and values.
This is one area that I am currently working on streamlining. I have been manually sending invoices to my clients (to save me $$ in Xero) but it’s hard to keep track of. Satori will definitely help with managing my coaching client’s invoices, but I will still need to keep track of all others, such as my freelancing and speaking.
The other area is paying invoices. How do you manage them so that you keep track of them?
10. Customer Service
An important area to streamline, but also a difficult one. Customer service is extremely important (it’s my current obsession) but truth be told, it can become overwhelming and time consuming.
How do you currently talk to your customers and potential customers? Every day, I receive messages in my email (between 2-3 accounts), Facebook page messages, Facebook group comments, private Facebook messages, Twitter messages and even Instagram messages. The influx can be overwhelming but making sure I’ve actually responded to them all is just as overwhelming. To overcome that, I make it a priority to schedule in Customer Service time: I respond to as many messages as I can twice a day. It’s a work in progress.
But in writing my process for customer service, I’ve realised I have some pretty strict guidelines coming into 2016. For example, all messages to be responded to within 24 hours during business days. To make this efficient, I have drafted some ‘common responses’ to refer to (though by habit I tweak them and personalise them even further) but having the ‘cheat sheet’ to refer to has really helped reduced the time I spend on responding.
Another area of customer service may be the things you do when you get a new client or customer. What’s your protocol for newbies? I have completely overhauled mine, with all my upcoming ‘Trailblazer in Demand’ clients to receive physical Success Folders and a generous welcome email series. Plus a few surprises along the way.
What about when you finish working with a client? Or some of your most loyal, loving tribe members? Do you give rewards? In all, your customer service process needs to be highly detailed with the singular focus of maximising your client/customer’s experience in way that is time and energy-efficient for you.
So, what do you think? Ready to streamline? Share your thoughts below on what area you feel you need to streamline first