Do you find that you spend a great deal of time solving problems and putting out fires? If that’s the case, your business may lack clear lines of responsibility and accountability. And in the terms of the perennial roadblocks to business growth, that falls into the third category: Organization.
In part 2 of this series on entrepreneurial obstacles to success, we explored people problems—a huge and often hidden stressor in most organizations.
In this article, we explore Organization issues in your business. This is the third fundamental roadblock to business growth.
The Five Roadblocks to Growth
Do you have any of the following issues happening in your business?
- Frequent complaints and breakdowns in customer service.
- Trouble reliably delivering your product or service.
- You spend a great deal of time solving problems and putting out fires.
- It feels like you do nothing but react instead of plan your next steps.
If so, then you may have a combination of People problems (see #2 above) and/or Organization problems. Usually these go hand-in-hand, and it may take some time to sort out the differences.
Having an Organization problem means that your business processes—the way your company does things—may lack clear lines of responsibility and accountability.
In other words, there may be many mission-critical things that are actually nobody’s job. They get done thanks to some enterprising members of your staff picking up the slack.
But more often than not, these “hand-off points” are places where information and necessary tasks fall through the cracks.
Calamity and Breakdown
This happened to me in one of my early stages of business growth. My revenues had reached $3 million and we had about 35 employees. Then one day, calamities and breakdowns began multiplying on a daily basis.
At the time I remember feeling like I was being punished for something. No matter how hard I tried to fix things, I still spent most of my time putting out fires and apologizing profusely to our clients. I didn’t know what had hit me.
Eventually, I reached out and found a consultant to help me get sorted out. Thankfully, our consultant showed me how to solve the problem.
Our consultant (Ken) came in and listened to what we were experiencing. He spent a day interviewing the key staff—and one person from each department.
The next day, he sat me down and explained that we had a number of breaks in the flow of information and responsibility. It was time to do a process map.
Ken brought in a roll of white paper (this was 1989 before the internet and the cool technology we now have). He spread it out on our longest conference table. For the rest of the day several of us began to map out (in pencil) every single step in the business.
Creating A Process Map
We started from the minute a client contacted us all the way through to the final bill and follow-up call. Each step was also designated by its responsible party. If we didn’t know who was directly responsible we put a question mark.
Eight hours later, we had finished the whole thing. Ken took a red marker and began drawing circles around the question marks. All in all, we identified 50+ points at which critical information or responsibility for a task had no definite responsible party.
He said, “Good job everyone! Tomorrow we will come in and fix this.” Which is what happened.
We determined at every point who needed to be responsible and what they should be doing. We then trained everyone and implemented these changes. The staff was very positive about this because they had been seeking clarity all along.
Within a month, things were running 99% smoothly. We never looked back. But we had to revamp the map every few years to keep up with our growth.
Why You Need to Define Your Processes
It’s important for you to spend time putting together a workflow or process map of your business. Where do all the mission-critical handoffs occur? Who is responsible — when and where?
Your business process map will help you identify all of the stages that are critical to reliably deliver your product or service. In some cases, the revelations that come from creating a map of your business may mean you need total reorganization.
But the truth is, you need to define your processes to operate efficiently. Without well-defined processes, your operation will keep manifesting breakdowns at key points in the delivery of your product or service.
Do you struggle with securing new business? If so, you might enjoy part 4 in our series on the 5 fundamental roadblocks to business growth: The Fourth Roadblock To Growing A Successful Business.