How to Review Your Operations
Audit your processes to keep your company–and your vision–on track.
Are you headed in the right direction? Taking stock of your operations at key times, whether semi-annually or quarterly, will tell you and help you course correct, if necessary. Business coach, operations expert and We Optimize Work founder Domonique Townsend returned to our small business webinar series to talk to our community about honestly assessing your current status and moving forward. “The way that you run your business reflects what you think is possible for your business,” she said. Townsend shared her GROW flow framework to help business owners do just that. The acronym GROW stands for goals, review operations, why, what, when and who.
When business owners find they’re off track, it may very well be because they haven’t looked at their goals in some time. When your goals are out of sight, Townsend explained, it opens you up to distraction, comparing yourself (unhelpfully) to other companies and working beyond your capacity. She recommended founders state goals as:
- their business’ intention or mission +
- their aim, or the particular thing they want to accomplish +
- the unique thing they bring to their industry
This format makes it easy to verify whether every goal aligns with the vision you had when you first started your company.
Look back at the “aim” part of your goal from the previous step and compare it to where you would like your business to be. For example, have you still not made the retail partnership you’d hoped to this year? If so, what has gotten in the way of your meeting this goal? And then, ask yourself what not having reached the goal expressed in the aim means for your business. Maybe you’re missing significant revenue without retail pickup. Townsend acknowledges these are really tough questions for an entrepreneur, but that’s OK. “When you take a reality capture of where you are, I highly encourage you to remove shame, guilt, regret, ‘what-ifs– remove all of those things [and] be honest yourself,” she advised. The answers will put your priorities into perspective, fast.
Townsend defined a business’ operations as, broadly, its people, processes, prices and performance.
At this stage of the GROW flow, “people” refers to your customers and how they feel about your product or service. Does their feedback align with your intention?
Review your output to see how much it costs to produce your goods or services, looking at everything from freight to packaging to the fees you pay contractors. Take into consideration how much this all costs you in time as well.
Start by asking yourself, what works well in my business? It’s a big question, especially for solopreneurs doing it all themselves. “Treat it as if you’re different people within the process flow,” Townsend recommended. For example, in your capacity as a marketing department of one, how do you succeed? What about in your capacity as a distribution center?
Entrepreneurs are so often strapped for time, and that will be even more obvious as you review how your processes perform for you. Townsend recommends refining them by asking, “Is this contributing to the goal of what I want the experience for the customers to be? What are they saying? What are those tweaks that I need to make within the process, and that can help me…narrow focus?”
You may also find that where you are outside of your business–whether caring for aging parents or managing your own health–may mean that you need to dial things down a bit. But that doesn’t mean missing out on opportunity or revenue. “Look at your capacity and say, ‘how can I have an impact within this season when I feel that my time is limited? And how do I align some of these processes and actions to help me reach those goals?’” Carefully reviewing your processes is ultimately about taking control and asserting your confidence, even if it means slowing down. Townsend reminded attendees that it’s important to take “one step at a time, at your own pace.”
Why, what, when, who
The final portion of Townsend’s GROW flow framework combines both assessment and laying out plans for addressing the things uncovered during the assessment process.
Evaluate your own strengths as a founder as well as any team members’ attributes using these questions as a guide:
- What are my strengths? Areas of opportunity?
- What roles do I play in my processes?
- What roles do my team or resources play?
The answers to these questions will help you hone in on why things happen the way they do in your organization.
What steps do you need to take to “fill the gap”, or go from where you are to completing a goal? Identify this by laying your processes and goals side by side to see exactly what needs to change and what you can continue. Keep in mind that adding or subtracting things to your operations is all about the customer. Remove the non-value adds, or things that don’t matter to your customer (according to them) or don’t bring in revenue. Layer in the things they’re asking for, and that you can reasonably deliver.
Careful operations assessment can help you account for broader challenges as well. Find that you’re facing supply chain delays? You may have to reduce your offering in order to meet your larger goals.
Give yourself deadlines for even the smallest steps in your review and planning processes.This keeps you accountable and makes things a little more manageable. Consider finding a fellow entrepreneur to be an accountability partner.
Engage your team. Keep asking how you can all collaborate on reaching your goals so that responsibilities are clear. Your team, Townsend, stressed, could be a project management tool just as it can be the graphic designer you work with. The who in this case can also be the people that share advice. It’s key to have advisors or peers who can be resources. “We’re unique in what we’re seeking to do, but we do not have to do that alone,” she emphasized.
A comprehensive operations review goes into a lot of detail, which can make it daunting. But it’s essential–and it’s essential that you, as the founder, do it yourself. This is one thing you don’t want to outsource for efficiency.
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