Keep It In Your Head/You Might Lose It All

Leaders of some of the most successful private businesses have relied on their own instincts in creating the support processes every company requires. It’s the manager that eats up time sticking with old “we always did it this way” systems, who miss the opportunities that come with staying close to the core objectives of the entity.

As a business grows and leaders begin enjoying their success, they tend to become more insular in a way that preserves the status quo. This approach works well until it doesn’t. Often the business either out grows its systems, or the systems can’t compete with a newer way of doing business offered by a competitor. As the famous philosopher Mike Tyson once said, “everyone has a plan, until they get punched in the nose.”

After 20 years of consulting for business growth, fixing under-performers and making operational improvements, my work has exposed me to over 200 businesses of every type. Most of the day-to-day operational activities in many companies come as the result of ad hoc necessity. As these companies grow checks get lost, bills don’t go out on time, production schedules creep, vacations don’t get tracked, material orders lag, and invoices don’t get paid. In complacent business circumstances many of these challenges are never fully addressed.

The most urgent calls I get come from owners that may have just experienced some health or other course-changing event. They also come from a concerned family member worried about having to take the reins without knowing anything about how the entity is run, or if it is running effectively.

The calls generally go like this one: “I run what has become a very successful business. I realized after a sudden illness, that all the operational functions in my company are in my head, nothing is written. If someone else had to take over, they wouldn’t have a clue where to start and how to perpetuate what I created.”

The value of an Operations Manual used to memorialize every step in managing your business is undisputed. Everything from procedures for dispatching field technicians, collecting funds, balancing inventory, engineering new offerings, and building a responsive workforce are just a few examples of the complexity of even the smallest company.

A detailed Ops Manual is the small company GPS system for operating under control and perpetuating growth. Don’t let aging, family crisis or a health matter be the sucker punch to motivate action. The value of detailed process documentation is probably the most important assurance policy every business requires. Thinking of selling someday? Your Operations Manual is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to the sale price when it comes time to sell.

If you can’t let go, can’t afford to, or are tied to old methods, start by having an outsider take a look under the hood. Downloading a CEO and creating a versatile Ops Manual requires an experienced collaborator that comes to the matter with years of experience in companies just like yours. Consider the risks associated with your not being able to do what you do, then call me for a discussion on how to secure your operations.