If you’re planning to scale up your trades business – employ more people, accept more work, and in turn, make more profit – it’s likely you’ll need to review and revise your current systems. Continuous improvement is the backbone of every extraordinary business.
In this article, guest blogger Andy Smith, an experienced trade business owner and co-founder of Lifestyle Tradie, outlines 5 tips to help grow your trade business by creating more efficient systems.
What systems do you have in place?
A system is a set of tools and processes which, when used as designed, delivers an efficient way of completing tasks and projects. Systems can be manual, involving the use of paper, physical filing cabinets, and job boards; or fully automated, such as AroFlo’s cloud-based job management system.
Ideally, you would review your existing systems every six months. You would also review job functions and assess if any new tasks, employees or projects have been added that require a whole new set of systems. If you’ve shelved this review process for a while now because it’s in the too-hard basket, it may be time to try again.
When you scale up your business without the right systems in place, any niggling issues and challenges you’ve been ignoring will only multiply. Here’s how to go about streamlining your systems in preparation for growth.
1: Commit to improvement and innovation
Aim for both improvement and innovation to increase efficiencies, leverage your time, streamline your practices, maintain business longevity, and maximise cash flow.
There are differences between the two:
1. When you improve your system, you are:
- making it better
- making small, incremental changes to the existing flow
- usually working with a short timeframe, with low risk.
2. When you innovate your system, you are:
- creating a new system through originality and invention
- starting from a clean slate, and changing the way you do things
- working with a longer timeframe.
Not all improvements are innovations, but most innovations are improvements. Innovation creates a unique outcome – a breakthrough that will distinguish you from your competitors.
2: Select a system to improve/innovate
In preparing to scale up your business, start with either:
Is there a system your team asks most questions about? Perhaps your way of completing particular tasks has changed, and it’s not reflected in the current system.
Are there any tasks crucial to your business’s performance, yet constantly vulnerable to errors? Reduce the risk of errors now by updating these systems immediately.
3: Review current system steps
Physically perform the system. As you complete the activities within the system, consider the following as you analyse each step:
- Relevance – Is this task, or are these activities in the task, still relevant?
- Efficiency – Is this the best and most efficient process?
- Currency – Are the platforms – hardware or software – we use still required in the system?
- Order – Is this the best order in which to complete the tasks?
- Complementary tools – Are related resources, e.g. checklists, videos, still helpful?
- Duplication – Are any tasks performed by two different roles in the system?
- Simplification – Can complex activities be simplified?
- Language – Could the use of words be better or clearer?
- Upgrade – Will any platform upgrade impact the system?
4: Record and store the systems
Document the way you do things, and store the documentation in a central point for easy reference by your team.
Consider drafting a flowchart to describe the system. You’ll need to test and re-test the flowchart to come up with a final version, which you can build in a program such as LucidChart or Microsoft Visio.
Your flowchart needs to have the following key features:
- Name of function, task and project
Give the system a descriptive name based on what the system is for. For example, Tradesman Manage Quotes.
Specific symbolism is used for flowcharts. This symbolism ensures that flowcharts remain simple to read and are deciphered in the same way by all readers.
- Flow lines
Flow lines indicate the direction or flow of action. This shows the reader the next steps to take, as they work through the flow chart.
5: Communicate the system
To give your new and improved system the best chance of success, make sure your team knows about it. Communicate any system changes, conduct training on the new system, and remind them how it can be accessed.
Your growing trade business will operate like a well-oiled machine with the right systems. It is the only way you’ll get off the tools and enjoy the freedom you set out to achieve when you first went out on your own.
Written by Andy Smith Co-founder, Lifestyle Tradie
Lifestyle Tradie is an award-winning education program and community for trade business owners who want to make more profit and fast-track financial freedom.