I recently returned from a vacation in Paris. I’ve been in business more than 15 years and during this time, I have made it a point to take off during the last two weeks of December, plus to take at least two serious vacations per year. In the last 5 years, since my son has gotten a bit older, it has become three per year. I do two family vacations and one “mommytime” vacation, usually to an international destination. This year’s “me time” trip was to France. Like many who visit Paris, which I have been to several times, I finally stood in line at the Louvre to view the famous painting – The Mona Lisa. The portrait of Mona Lisa is by Leonardo da Vinci and was painted between 1503 and 1506. It has become one of the world’s most famous works of art, with 20,000 visitors who come to admire and photograph her daily.
As I stood in the incredibly long line waiting for my turn to gaze at this marvel, of course it made me think of how amazing it was that this piece of art has been a star attraction of this museum and this country all these years. It occurred to me that it’s not about the Mona Lisa painting, because so many people will never be able to come here. It’s about the Mona Lisa poster. If you would like to go on a scheduled vacation from your small business, you must build a business that can run without you. In order to do that, you must focus on your business operations. You need to create your Mona Lisa poster, so that you can go and actually unplug, and your small business will not fall apart. As a reformed workaholic, I know how hard it is to really unplug from your business, but your employees, family and all your personal relationships need you to have an opportunity to recharge and think about something other than your business. Here are my three tips for operationalizing your small business.
Track your daily processes: Start by tracking your activities for a week. Make categories of tasks that need to occur daily, weekly, monthly and yearly. Think through stuff like: How do you keep your pipeline filled and service clients? How do proposals get done? How does paper get on and off of your desk? When do you write checks and pay vendors? How are expense reports handled? Make a list of your daily tasks, especially the ones you do fulfilling your client’s orders. Then, have your employees write down their daily tasks. It is critical that you track workflow in your business. It keeps your company’s success, quality control and productivity uniform.
Design internal processes: Your business will never scale unless you have good internal processes. You can have the best services and products, but if your workflow is not in order as your business grows, you will make many expensive mistakes and your customers will not have a consistent experience. It will also be nearly impossible to delegate and bring on new employees. As a business owner your goal should be to figure out how to make money without every dollar touching your personal hand.
Good internal processes should be:
For example, how you pay vendors is critical to managing cash flow. Do you just pay invoices as they come in, or do you have a policy such as a “pay when paid” system – or do you pay vendors once a month on the first. If you just pay invoices when they send invoices, you could be financing your clients, and you can’t afford to do that. If you don’t develop a system now, what will you do when your business gets larger and it’s not a few vendors each month, but over a hundred? You need a set system for how vendors get paid. You should aim to future proof your internal processes. Look for a software solution help future proof any repetitive tasks.
Develop checklists: Checklists enables multiple people who are performing the same task, to do it in a consistent way and keep your brand promise. Developing a checklist is a good exercise for you as a business owner, too. Getting the task list out of your head will enable you to utilize a virtual assistant or employee to help you. Start with an outline of steps, then add more detail as needed.
Eventually, this will become the company playbook and it will free you to go on vacation and sleep well knowing everything is running like you are there.
I would love to hear about your great vacation plans once you get all of your processes in place.