I’ll let you in a little secret. Having systems and processes for small business helps improve your productivity. Processes make it possible for small business owners to get a lot done because you aren’t constantly reinventing the wheel.
I didn’t have any documented small business processes when I started my business because the business was brand new. And everything I did was SO HARD.
Writing a blog post started with staring at a blank screen.
Starting a new project meant sitting down and thinking, “ok, what do I need to do?”
Figuring out what to share on social media was a constant time-suck.
All because I didn’t have systems and processes in place.
Once I started documenting my systems and processes and creating templates, everything became so much easier. I became more productive and less stressed because I (almost) always have a starting place. I never have to stare at a blank screen again, and I’m not reinventing the wheel every time I start a project.
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How to create systems and processes
First, a word of caution. Don’t drive yourself crazy by trying to create all your processes and systems at once. There’s an easier way.
Start by identifying your core business activities. Then the next time you start to do something critical for your business, take a moment to grab a piece of paper or open a separate document on your computer. As you perform the task, make a list of every step you take. Afterward, review the steps. Is there a better way to do this task? Should the steps be in a different order?
When I was documenting my process for writing blog posts, I realized that I wasted time going in and out of WordPress. So I grouped all the WordPress tasks together, and now my workflow is more efficient.
I also moved graphics creation to an earlier place in the process and made several other tweaks. So now, when I write a blog post, I don’t have to think about what to do next. Instead, I simply follow the steps in the process.
In this post, we’ll look at a few examples of systems and processes for small businesses. These are concepts that you may want to try in your own company.
When you start documenting, you’ll want to include all the steps in the business process. Also, make note of any tools or software needed. This is also a good opportunity to think about ways to automate or streamline your processes by using software or apps.
Set up systems for digital product creation
Creating products for your business can be a daunting task. But it doesn’t have to be. You can set up systems and processes to make the process easier for you and your team (if you have one).
Your systems should include all of the steps necessary to create a product, from idea generation to launch. By having a system in place, you’ll be able to create products more efficiently and effectively.
And don’t let the word “system” overwhelm you. Instead, think of these as checklists of all the steps and tools needed.
You may want to create checklists for:
- Topic and keyword research
- Writing or recording the digital product
- Formatting and editing
- Adding the product to your sales platform
- Creating sales pages
- Creating promotional materials
Make content creation easier with calendars and templates
If content marketing is part of your plan, then you will definitely want to use a content calendar. Creating a content calendar is an essential part of any content creation system.
By spending some time each month creating a content calendar, you can ensure that you always have topics to write about. A content calendar can also help you regularly publish blog posts (or podcasts or videos).
The best way to create a content calendar is to decide how often you want to publish content and then work backward from there. For example, if you’re going to publish a new blog post every week, you would need to plan out your content topics at least four weeks in advance.
I’m a huge fan of templates; they will make your life a lot easier. Having templates in place is also helpful. Look at the content you create regularly and make templates for each type.
For example, I have templates for blog posts, newsletters, e-books, and worksheets. Most of the formatting is taken care of, and I can start by filling in sections rather than staring at a blank screen.
Templates can also be a great way to improve the quality of your content. For example, if design isn’t your strong suit, you can purchase professionally-designed graphics templates to use for social media posts, blog graphics, etc.
Use systems to stay out of the social media black hole
A system is essential to keep from being sucked into the social media black hole.
For your systems, you should decide:
- How often do you want to post?
- Which platforms will you use?
- How much of your own content will you share vs. curating other people’s posts?
- How will you encourage engagement?
- When and how will you engage with others?
Systems allow you to batch content and get ahead of your schedule. By planning what you’re sharing in advance, you’ll get the work done faster.
A system to batch graphics is easy to set up and will make your workflow more efficient.
Create templates for your social media graphics. Have a standard style for each platform and create templates using your brand colors and fonts. You’ll find that you create graphics much faster when you only have to drop in a photo and change the text.
Must-have systems: Website maintenance and security
I cannot stress this strongly enough. You must have systems in place to keep your site updated and secure. If you’re using WordPress, you want to make sure it’s updated regularly (including your plug-ins!).
You’ll also want to make sure that you regularly back up your site.
I use the free Updraft plug-in to back up my site daily, and it automatically sends the backup to my Dropbox account. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to restore my website and have been so thankful to have that daily backup.
Automate your sales funnels with email marketing systems
An email autoresponder is like having a sales force work for you so that your products are always in front of your leads. Setting up an email autoresponder system is easy to do. It can be done with most email service providers, such as ConvertKit.
An autoresponder is a sequence of emails that goes out on a predetermined schedule. The emails are written to engage your audience and pull readers further into your funnel. An autoresponder sequence will typically have 5 to 7 emails. It should have a combination of high-value content and specific calls to action.
All you need to provide is your product information and the sequence of emails you want to send. The autoresponder will take care of the rest, sending out a series of emails at predetermined times to your leads.
This system allows you to keep in touch with your leads and encourage them to buy from you. In addition, you can provide valuable content and information, as well as special offers and deals, all without having to lift a finger.
If you’re not using an email autoresponder system, you’re missing out on a valuable system that can help you increase sales and grow your business.
Other systems and processes you will want to document:
In addition to the systems we’ve already talked about, you may want to have systems in place for:
- Dealing with customers
- Business planning
- Affiliate marketing
- Affiliate management (including payout processes)
- Filing taxes
Pull it all together in a company operations manual
Once you start creating systems, processes, and templates, you’ll want to keep them all organized. A company operations manual is where you collect all the reference material you need to keep your business running.
You may think you don’t need an operations manual if you are a solopreneur with no team. Trust me on this. You’ll get more done faster when you are not looking all over the place for your systems documentation.
You can keep your company operations manual in Evernote, One Note, Google Keep, Google Drive, Asana, Trello, on a private Google Site, or even on paper. However, if you use more than one platform, make sure you set up one central reference point with links to all the other relevant documentation.
For example, all my process checklists are stored in Asana as templates so that I can copy them each time I repeat a process. My content templates are created in Microsoft Word and stored in Dropbox. But my Operations Manual is in Evernote and includes links to everything.
In addition to your systems, processes, and templates, your operations manual should also include:
- Vision and mission statements
- Domain names that you own, along with renewal dates
- Web hosting data
- Legal information (licenses, permits, etc.)
- Client contact info or a link to your customer relationship management (CRM) system
- Style guide
- Financial information (bank accounts, credit cards, etc.)
- A list of all the software programs that you use
- Anything else necessary to running your business
Systems Set You Up for Outsourcing
Outsourcing to a virtual assistant can make it easier for those that want to focus on growing their business. A virtual assistant can help with customer service, social media, and bookkeeping tasks. This allows you to focus on tasks that will help you grow your business.
But you need to have those systems in place first.
Systems and procedures can help you run your online business more efficiently. When you have all your processes documented, you can make fewer decisions, making you less likely to experience decision fatigue. As a result, you’ll set yourself up for success and avoid burnout.
Q. How do you create a process?
A. To create a process, you first need to document the steps required to complete the task. Once you have all the actions recorded, you can create a checklist or template to make it easier to complete the task.
Q. What are some common business processes?
A. Some common business processes include social media, content creation, email marketing, customer service, and bookkeeping.
Q. Can systems help me if I’m not good at marketing?
A. Yes! Systems can be especially helpful for tasks that don’t come naturally to you. Having documented procedures allow you to focus on tasks that will help you grow your business.
Q. Do I need to document every process in my business?
A. Not every process needs to be documented. Still, you should have a reference point that includes links to all the relevant documentation. This can be kept in Evernote, One Note, Google Keep, Google Drive, Asana, Trello, on a private Google Site, or even on paper.
Q. What if I don’t want to outsource?
A. That’s fine! Systems can still help you run your online business more efficiently.
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