As published in No More Practice’s Reality Check on 3 April 2014.
Doing business more efficiently was the number one challenge identified in a survey of over 100 self-employed advice business we conducted at the end of 2013. Regardless of the size of the business, speciality, or annual turnover, this was unanimously the number one biggest issue advice businesses are facing today. It is no surprise. The rising cost of doing business is challenging and it is putting enormous pressure on margins and profitability.
I was recently consulting to a business who was struggling to keep their head above water. An already profitable business, whose biggest challenge was keeping up with the steady inflow of new ideal clients (a lovely problem to have, albeit, a problem).
Their immediate response was to recruit another staff member. Sound familiar? However, after delving a little deeper it was obvious they didn’t need another body on board. They needed a more efficient, streamlined and cost effective way of doing business.
What we did was put their end to end client engagement process on a ‘process diet’. The first step was to be clear on their dream clients and what constituted their compelling advice and service offer that their client valued. Underlying all of this was that they consistently deliver a remarkable experience to their clients.
With this in mind, the next step involved pulling each step in their engagement process apart and rebuilding it from scratch. The focus of this reengineering was to build a framework that everyone in the business could follow. It would ultimately reduce excess capacity, limit time wasting, avoid duplication, remove complication and develop ‘one’ flexible, efficient and effective way of doing business.
The devil is in the detail. The more granular they delved, the more benefits they extracted. It stretched their thinking to look at alternative ways of doing pretty much everything. It provided guidance around allocating activities to the most appropriate role, being clear on what needs to be done, how it should be done, the expected time frames for completion, service standards to adhere to and the criteria to monitor and track progress along the way.
The top ten changes that were used to beat the business bulge:
- Documenting the ideal way of doing business
- Using templates for all repeatable activities
- Leveraging technology to replace human tasks
- Providing electronic documents rather than printed ones
- Implementing technology to manage workflow and collect vital statistics / metrics
- Outsourcing (both locally and off shore) the repetitive and administrative tasks
- Renaming each step in the process using client friendly language
- Redirecting time to value adding and client facing activities
- Creating a culture of constant improvement
- Cult like focus on delivering client valued outcomes and an consistently awesome experience.
The combination of the above resulted in significant improvements across the board from a healthier bottom line to a happier and more rewarding workplace for staff and clients to enjoy.
Could your business do with a process diet to take it to the next level?