As a solopreneur or small business owner in the health and wellness industry, checking off each day's seemingly endless tasks—from lead generation to client onboarding to actual coaching to invoicing—is challenging enough; with the limited time you have, creating (or fine-tuning existing) systems and processes is likely at the bottom of your priority list.
And besides, aren't systems and processes more suited for large-scale companies (think: Google, McDonald’s, Amazon) with thousands or millions of employees? Answer: No.
Systems and processes are valuable to all businesses, no matter their size.
Done right, they could help you step away from the hassle of day-to-day menial tasks to focus on high-value activities that'll rapidly scale your business and revenue.
In this article, learn what systems and processes are, the specific benefits they may bring to your health and wellness business, and, most importantly, how, exactly, you should go about building—and implementing—effective, efficient systems and processes.
What Are “Systems and Processes”?
While systems and processes are often used interchangeably, they’re distinct concepts. To elaborate: A system is a set of processes, tools, people, and strategies that work together to solve a problem or achieve a business goal.
Take, for instance, your email marketing. Your system may look like this:
- Processes: Develop a content calendar, draft emails, and create automated sales funnels.
- Tools: A content calendar platform (e.g., Trello, CoSchedule, or Asana), word processor (e.g., Microsoft Word 365, Google Docs, or Apple Pages), email marketing service (e.g., ConvertKit, Drip, or Mailchimp)
- People: You (if you’re a solopreneur)
- Strategies: Your focus is on short, scannable email content to catch the reader's attention, so your key messages get read and remembered.
On the other hand, processes refer to all the steps you take to complete a task. For example, here are the steps you may take to develop an email content calendar:
- Research trending industry topics.
- Review commonly asked questions from clients.
- List eight email topics.
- Plug them into your content calendar platform, along with their publishing dates.
Bottom line? Any time you have a particular way of doing things in your business (e.g., client outreach), that, in itself, is a system. And chances are, you probably already have lots of systems set up and running in your business—without even realizing it.
Benefits of Systems and Processes for Businesses (When Done Right)
But here's the thing: Not all systems and processes help your business.
More specifically, some systems may be unnecessary, counterproductive, overly expensive, or too time-consuming—ultimately meaning you end up doing more but with less to show for it. As a result, you could eventually find yourself burned out, overwhelmed, and exhausted.
Compare that to effective, efficient systems that break down tasks into documented, repeatable, step-by-step processes that help you:
- Improve productivity: With everything laid out, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time you need something done, helping you do more in less time.
- Deliver a consistent experience: Say goodbye to forgetting about scheduling check-in sessions with clients or collecting payment. Well-documented systems and processes allow you to create consistent experiences for all potential and existing clients, driving client loyalty.
- Scale your business: There is often a direct correlation between the number of effective, efficient systems running in your business to the amount of time you have to spend on creating new products and services that cater to different customer segments (e.g., branching into online personal training as a Certified Personal Trainer), so you increase your revenue.
- Lower labor costs: Ready to start hiring (or already running a team)? Well-documented systems and processes help even new employees hit the ground running as they have a set, unambiguous way of doing things. This means you’ll spend less time (and money) training new employees, supervising their work, and requesting edits.
How to Create Systems and Processes That Work
To reiterate: When the right systems are in place, you’ll improve productivity, reduce stress, be better able to focus on revenue-generating work, and increase profit margins.
Now, the only question is: How exactly do you go about building the most streamlined, efficient, and effective systems and processes based on your business goals? There are four steps to it.
#1: Document Everything You Do
The first step is to document all the activities you do to run your business.
This could include tasks you do regularly (e.g., going on client discovery calls, publishing blog posts, sending out invoices) or a single activity you think you’ll likely repeat in the future (e.g., writing an e-book, offering free trials, or launching a new service offering).
Here's a tip: Instead of trying to recall everything you do for your business in one sitting, go about your day as usual for a week and make a note of everything you do. This way, you're less likely to forget something important.
To help add more structure to your systems, consider categorizing your activities in terms of business functions:
- Operations: These are activities you do that manage your business's "inner workings." Examples include business goal setting, email management, and personal website maintenance.
- Sales and marketing: These are activities you do to attract and convert clients. Examples include content marketing, automated sales funnels, and product launches.
- Finance: Everything to do with money, including invoicing clients, paying employees, and filing taxes.
#2: Break Down Each Activity
Once you have a list of activities (i.e., systems) your business needs to function, break down each one according to the process, tools, and people needed to complete it from start to finish:
- Process: The step-by-step sequence of actions
- Tools: The required devices, apps, or software you use
- People: The person (or people) in charge of each step of the process
- Strategies: The tactics, tips, or techniques you use
#3: Look for Ways to Improve Your Systems
Before you jump right into overhauling every system in your business, know this. You only want to transform a system if—and only if—it will give you a significant strategic advantage. So as you're evaluating potential tweaks, ask yourself:
- Will it provide a direct value to clients?
- Will it make things easier and more efficient for me (and my team)?
- Will it reduce costs?
- Will it increase revenue and/or profit margins?
If you aren’t going to hit one of those things, you should probably leave that system as is and focus your attention elsewhere.
But once you've identified a business system that's a good candidate for an overhaul, one of the most important things to do is determine where you're starting from (i.e., your baseline) and where you hope to end up.
This is where key performance indicators (KPIs)—like revenue, expenses, profit margins, sales conversions, and other financial ratios—come in.
How to Improve Your System
Then, with the desired outcomes or results you want, use the following framework to brainstorm ways to improve your system:
- Delete: What can you eliminate from the system because the processes, tools, people, or strategies are time-consuming, unnecessary, redundant, no longer relevant, or unproductive? For example, do you really need to pay for a premium accounting tool when you only use its most basic features (which you could easily get from another free tool)?
- Defer: Which aspects of the system could be helpful but don't really need to be part of the system right now? For example, upgrading to a pricier email marketing software that allows you access to features like pre-built automation workflows, split testing, performance reports, and SMS push notifications may sound like a good idea, but you’re unlikely to see positive (or reliable) results with a small subscriber count.
- Automate: What tasks can you automate using software, apps, or other tools? A 2017 McKinsey report on productivity and automation suggests about 60% of all occupations have at least 30% of constituent activities that could be automated. For instance, some of the best personal training apps and software programs can help you manage administrative tasks (e.g., client booking), payment processing, and clients' workout programs—all in one centralized location.
- Delegate: What tasks prevent you from making the most of your time, energy, skills, and expertise (e.g., chasing clients for payment)? What tasks do you dislike doing (e.g., individually combing through feedback forms)? These are often the tasks you should delegate or outsource to others (whenever possible).
- Consolidate: Is it possible to consolidate your tasks or batch them so that you can complete them faster? Combing through commonly asked questions on your social media posts could help give you plenty of ideas for potential blog post topics, for instance.
#4: Roll Out, Evaluate, and Refine
You’ve identified a business system that should be overhauled, defined your ideal outcome, and developed a plan to improve its processes. Now, it’s time to implement.
And while it may be tempting to think “mission accomplished” and pat yourself on the back for a job well done, once a new system is in place, you should take time to evaluate it. If you have a team, make sure they know your new business process isn't set in stone and you welcome honest feedback about the changes.
You and your team (where applicable) should think about the following questions:
- Did the new system solve a problem or reach a goal?
- How much improvement can be attributed to the new system?
- If there wasn’t any improvement, what was the cause? How can you remedy the situation or perhaps go back to the way things were?
Whenever necessary, go back to the drawing board and continue to tweak and refine your system.
And that's your first system overhaul. Now, don't forget to repeat the process with another system:
- Review your list of potential business systems.
- Select one with the maximum potential (e.g., most significant impact on your profit margins) and create the new system.
- Test the system in your business—and refine it to work out any bottlenecks, glitches, and hiccups.
- Repeat the process again.
#5: Store Your Business Systems Somewhere Safe
At this point, you will have documented at least a dozen systems that’ll help your business run like a well-oiled machine.
Imagine if you lost them because you wrote them on random sticky notes and scraps of paper. Beyond wasting your time, you could lose valuable information because you've forgotten your systems.
To prevent that disaster, you should document all systems—that means all processes, tools, people, and strategies—using organized, well-designed tools.
If you use more than one platform (e.g., you use Asana to store your process checklists), make sure you set up one central reference point with links to all other relevant documentation. Yes: That means you should consider using platforms that work well together.
Building the right systems to support your business can be incredibly helpful.
They allow you to run your operations smoothly and efficiently, freeing up precious time you could invest elsewhere.
While setting up new systems—and fine-tuning existing ones—takes time and effort, it’s all worth it when everything comes together to work for you.
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