The Problem Small Businesses Don’t Want to Admit
Every small business owner is an entrepreneur and a technician, but not everyone’s a manager.
Most people start a small business after working a job that involves ‘making’. Programming, graphic design, SEO, you name it – small business owners usually get their idea when they realize that they could be doing the same thing as they’re doing now and getting rid of their boss.
Motivated by the mythical entrepreneurial drive and true technical experts in their field, founders don’t realize that they can’t just get rid of the boss — they have to be the boss.
Being the boss involves management of time, people and money. While this can be possible if it’s your only responsibility, on top of everything else it will be overwhelming.
Unfortunately, in starting a small business, suddenly you have a boss again – your customers, the amount of hours in the day and your revenue.
This idea, from Michael E. Gerber‘s The E-Myth is key to understanding why small businesses face the problems they do, especially when growing fast.
Don’t worry: that’s where productivity tools come in.
Work Out Loud
Simple communication with your team is priceless, because you don’t want to have to tell everyone individually each time something gets done. Trello is great for things like this, I use it with my team at Process Street along with Slack, a chat app. My own checklist software and the other apps I mentioned all have common elements — whole-team communication.
The same thing that’s important for all relationships, communication is the key to a successful business. Human beings are notoriously poor at communicating everything that’s going on; how often have you accidentally thought something you meant to say out loud? Keeping everyone up to date with a task’s progress is essential and so is collaboration. I believe small businesses that have a great idea and a focused market can make it big as long as they coordinate themselves.
A recent blog post on Process Street talks about The Checklist Manifesto and how collaborative checklists can be used to make sure fewer avoidable mistakes slip through the net. Even surgeons, those whose job involves thinking on their feet and reacting to every new situation at light-speed, need checklists to cut the mistakes they make.
How is it possible to coordinate building a skyscraper with a large team of outsourced and in-house employees? A collaborative checklist and team communication is all it takes. After that, those who are the entrepreneurs, the technicians and the managers are all free to get on with their jobs and do what they do best — as long as they talk about it.
How to Track Your Core Business Processes
You can use collaborative processes for every aspect of your business-related efforts. Content promotion, hiring an intern and publishing visual content can all be tracked with the team, making it easy to break the task down into smaller chunks and distribute these among people with the right ability. That will get the task done way faster and all the progress will be right there for you to see. It’s all in the Process Street app, a powerful tool for workflow automation.
For project management, Trello is amazing. It’s a virtual board of rich-content sticky notes you use to create big-picture tasks, adding cards to each one detailing the smaller processes. One of the most useful aspects is its integration with Slack. When set up to do so it will tell your team on Slack when you make a change in Trello, making it a powerful tool for tracking progress.
Zapier, a tool compatible with Slack, Trello and Process Street, is an automation app that allows your web apps to communicate with each other, sending notifications and triggering processes so you don’t have to.
Maybe you can see a pattern emerging? Within the past year or two, web apps have gone from being browser-based versions of regular apps to being a cloud-based, one-stop solution.
Thanks to Zapier, Process Street activity now integrates with Slack. That way we can get Slack notifications when templates are created, checklists are assigned and tasks checked off. It comes with a link to the task and checklist so everyone concerned sees what they need to see.
Everything in one place, all wired up together, talking and notifying, making things simple.
Unless we feel like we’d like to make our job harder for ourselves because it isn’t challenging enough, we should use these newfangled machines (modern term) to our advantage. Someone else has already done the hard work, and many of these tools are available for free.
According to Pratik Dholakiya, miscommunication is one of the biggest productivity killers. A lack of clear direction is caused by a team working in silence, and, according to Dholakiya “could mean more than one person doing the same work, unknowingly, which is one of the big productivity killers. Sometimes unnecessary tasks are done. At other times, too much time is allocated to insignificant tasks. Each of these scenarios are productivity killers and represent a huge drain on an organization’s resources”.
Sometimes it’s difficult to coordinate your own workflow. When you’re scheduling around the needs of others, it can be impossible without proper planning.
When I write a blog post, I run a checklist to make sure it is up to scratch. The same goes for promotion and countless other things I do throughout the day.
I don’t have to remember every step as I work through it, I just run it afterwards to catch any errors. In doing so, it also functions as a teaching tool. I learn the steps and find my brain automating it for me as I go through. We could all stand to get better at our jobs, no matter what the method might be.
Whether you’re keeping track of your core business processes or managing large numbers of employees, checklists spot errors, coordinate teams and keep everything running smoothly. Checklists make you able to work like a machine while remaining human.
Sign up to Process Street right now to start managing your core business processes collaboratively.
Benjamin Brandall is a content marketer at Process Street, and runs Secret Cave on the side. Find him on Twitter here.