Don't keep everything in your head and try to do things "off the cuff". Clearly define jobs descriptions, expectations and processes within your business - the principals, boundaries and guidelines that represent the company, its employees and its practices. Without these explicit words, a company can be easily taken advantage of, be distracted from its goals or simply get caught chasing its own tail all day.
Additionally, the real competitive edge in the next decade is knowledge and learning. Your team can only help you when they know and understand what the problems are - so share. . . everything. You'd be surprised where some of the best ideas come from.
Long term success in today's very competitive marketplace depends on many things, but two of the most critical elements are delivering consistency in your market promise (your product) and maximizing your most valuable assets - your employees. Both of those involve the implementation of writing guidelines, building systems and sharing everything with your employees.
Write guidelines. You might ask, "Why should I spend the time doing this when everyone in my company already knows what they are supposed to be doing?"
Because you can't afford not to.
I recently got that response from a client - not vocally, but I could read his body language - the rolling of the eyes. He has run a company for years where he hires specialists - already trained in the expertise that he needs. Surely there was nothing that he was going to provide them they didn't already know. Hire them, pay them and make sure they have what they need. And besides, I was asking an awful lot of him. It would take him a long time to write a operational handbook that gave his employees guidance on how he does things in his company. So, why should he?
The reason is simple. His customers, as well as almost every consumer out there, want to know what they are getting when they spend their hard earned money for his services. But that's not all. They want to know, each time they come back that they are going to get the same consistent level quality they got the first time. And just as important, they want to know that their friends and family, that they recommend you to, will receive the same consistent level of quality.
So, how do you make sure that each and every time your customers shop in your store, eat in your restaurant, hire you to perform the services you specialize in, they get what they were expecting - the exact same thing they got the last time they purchased from you? You got it - write guidelines and build systems.
Build systems. A system is, by definition, a group of interacting, interrelated, or interdependent elements forming a complex whole. Your business, no matter how large or how small is a system - a series of processes and people interacting to accomplish a mission - your company's mission. It's a system, whether you like it or not. The question then . . . is how well do you optimize your systems?
Building systems is about running your business "on purpose", not by luck. It's about following a few simple steps: Standardize, Measure, and Innovate (repeat forever).
- Standardize: The "systemization" process begins with making sure that everyone is doing the same thing, the same way - standardized. Everyone is using the same guidelines - whether those guidelines relate to creating your product, purchasing from suppliers, selling, managing, or cleaning the floors.
- Measure: Measuring comes down to quantitatively tracking what systems are working and which ones aren't working. It's taking an honest numerical (if possible) assessment of the current reality and comparing it exactly to what you want it to be.
- Innovate: The final step in the process (until it begins all over again) is innovation. Up to this point, you've standardized, and measured the outcomes, next, it's time to make improvements to the processes. It's time to answer the question as to whether or not you can improve the process, ever so slightly, and implement those changes.
Share Everything and Empower Your Team. As you begin to innovate, you will inevitably find that you don't have all the answers. You can't - simply because you can't be everywhere in your business all the time. The best source of innovation is often those closest to the problems - those on the front line, whether they're making the products, engaging with customers and suppliers or building your marketing plan. But these team members can't solve problems that they don't know or understand. So give them the number one tool that will give them the ability to help you - information.
The most powerful tool in today's business world, is an educated and empowered employee.