7 Lessons I learned from building, growing and selling my IT business | Lesson 5: Document and Systematize All Processes

If you were to talk to any CEO/entrepreneur/manager/Executive that has been able to scale his or her business, most of them will tell you the secret of their success in one word: consistency.  Nothing can be fine-tuned until it’s first consistent.  How do you become consistent?  Process.  How do you develop processes?  Document and systematize everything.  Boooring!  I know, this isn’t a sexy topic at all.  But, stay with me.

I was recently interviewed on this subject by my friend Mike Michalowicz for his Profit First Podcast: Click Here or listen below.

In my last post, Ruthless Productivity, I talked about the daily game of Whac-A-Mole that was daily life for me for too long.  If you are worn out and completely exhausted from running your business, please keep reading.  If you are even mildly frustrated, please keep reading.

In the beginning, I was like most other small IT providers.  I was a one-man-band doing everything.  Sales, marketing, support, project management, etc., etc.  I had a ‘way’ of doing things.  I had everything documented… in my head.  Bad idea!   I realized that, as I tried to grow, I had to pass along the knowledge of how to do things to others.  Otherwise, I would be stuck doing everything forever.  If you haven’t figured it out, you can’t do everything and grow.  So, stop trying. It’s pretty difficult to share everything in your head.  (My head is a scary place.  My wife can attest to this.)

In 2009, I attended a workshop at Sparkspace, an offsite retreat center here in Columbus, owned by my friend Mark Henson.  (This place is awesome by the way.  If you are ever in Columbus, you have to check it out!)  I was introduced to EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System).  Being an IT company, I worked with Operating Systems on computers all day, so I was naturally intrigued by an Operating System for my business.  I immediately bought the book where this concept originated, Traction: Get A Grip On Your Business by Gino Wickman.

When I got to Chapter 7, The Process Component, I started to see a light at the end of the tunnel.  (I was hoping it wasn’t the headlight of an oncoming train.)  “This component is the most neglected one, often taken for granted and undervalued by entrepreneurs and leaders. Yet the successful ones see what process can do for them.  By not giving this component your full attention, it’s costing you money, time, efficiency, and control.”  Like most type A personalities, I’m a control freak.  How about you?  If you are reading this, I’ll bet you are.

I was like countless business owners that complain about their lack of control or freedom, and yet, in the same breath, discount the value of process.  I was determined to change this.

A typical organization operates through six to 10 core processes.  How these processes work together is a unique system, your “Way”.  To systematize your organization through your core processes, you must take two major steps.

  1. You have to document the core processes
  2. You have to ensure that they are followed by all

I know what you are thinking right now.  “How the hell am I going to get all this done?  I just don’t have time.”  That’s exactly what I was thinking too.  But, how do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time. (No, I’m not recommending you go kill a real elephant.  I don’t want to be accused of that.)

Don’t try to tackle them all at the same time.  Paralysis by analysis will set in quickly, and you’ll end up doing nothing.

Start with ONE process, then move on to the next.  This will take time and effort, so buckle your chin strap.  Nothing great comes easy.

I started with Sales.  (Big surprise since I like sales.)  I broke down how I wanted the Sales Process to go, and documented it on paper.  I then input this process as a Track in ConnectWise, our PSA tool.  (Geek for Customer Management System)  I now had a documented, repeatable process.  This led to consistent sales.  Remember the opening paragraph.  “Nothing can be fine-tuned until it’s first consistent.  How do you become consistent?  Process.”  (Yes, another light bulb moment for me.)

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I did this perfectly.  That would be a bold faced lie.  It was a struggle to put it mildly.  However, I never stopped working at it.  By strengthening the process component, I was able to gain more control.  By taking control, I learned to get better.  That’s what we all want, right?

Thanks for staying with me on this one.  There is way more on this topic for sure. Lesson 6 will cover Focus All Your Attention on your TOP clients.  I’ll give away how I created Raving Fans and had most of my clients for nearly a decade, which is kind of unheard of in the IT industry.

As always, I welcome any thoughts or comments below.  If you found it useful, please share with a friend or colleague.  Until next time….

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