The main reason many people start a business is to have the life style they want for themselves and their families. To accomplish this, the business needs to produce enough time and money. The big challenge, however, is that the way most business produce money is by trading the time of the owner for the money. The trap: the more money the owner makes the less time they have. This problem usually starts right at the beginning when the owner decides that he/she would rather work for themselves rather for someone else. The image many of us have is that we will do to a large extent what we are already doing but will get all the profit because the boss will no longer be getting his “unearned” cut. Thus it is designed in from the very beginning that the owner will be trading dollars for hours.
To escape this challenge a business needs to do two things above the basic elements of business. First, they must systemize all aspects of the business so the expertise of the owner is not needed. Next, they must educate their staff so they learn the system correctly.
In working with businesses owners for over 15 years, I have experienced resistance to both of these steps. Being a seasoned professional in their fields, they often feel that employees should understand how to do the job and that, in fact, it is really just common sense. Also, when the owner takes time to train them to do a job, it is usually done “on the fly” without structure or written material. Then he/she gets frustrated when people don’t remember how to do the task and we say exasperatedly, “But I told them!” To gain perspective on this, let’s look at this situation from a perspective of high performing teams. One situation many of us understand is the NBA championship series. Imagine for a moment that it is the final game of the championship series. There are thirty seconds left and the Celtics have just moved ahead by one point. What happens next is very predictable the Lakers team calls a time out and goes over the finale play. The greatest basketball players in the world who have been studying and preparing for 20 years for this situation and they still go over the play one more time–not just orally but with the chalk board and diagrams to make sure that every player understands. If this is what we need to do with the best in the world to get high performance wouldn’t it make sense that we need to do it for everyone—especially those who have NOT been preparing for 20 years?
Here is the Plan:
Step One: Get every thing documented and written down. How is every step of the process done and in what order? This process needs to be complete and understandable. Once you have written it down do the process following the steps. Did you include everything? Was it understandable? Keep doing this until you have every step documented in written form–and with diagrams when possible. When you are satisfied that it is correct and complete, have someone else do the task by following the instructions. Have them note any place they were unclear and then work on clarifying it. Once this is done we move on to the second step: educating.
Step Two: The education process is an area that small business struggle with, because typically, the staffing is lean and the employees are not fully trained. The owner is too busy to train staff to insure that the job gets done correctly, thus creating a cycle of problems only he/she can handle. The best companies are usually the best trained companies. This is the area that will make or break the company.
To be successful, a company must develop a training culture both in the training of new hires and the continuing education of the senior staff. This should be from training manuals in a scheduled and consistent manner. Assign the most trusted team member to this task and figure out how to make it fun and relevant to the participants.
To have a properly trained staff that can handle the work day in a productive and predictable way is a major undertaking. It will take time energy and self control to see it through to the end, but when an owner succeeds, he might just make the equivalent of the NBA championship series but, more importantly, be will be on his way to having the time and money to live the life he wants for himself and his family.