Why Most SMEs Don’t Have Proper Processes in Place

Before we start, what is a business system? The online dictionary says the following: A methodical procedure or process that is used as a delivery mechanism for providing specific goods or services to customers. The point that I would like to make is that most SMEs do not have proper processes in place, and I have been asking myself, “Why not?”.

Most people start a business because they have a particular passion or skill, not because they want to put processes in place (with the exception of business consultants and people like me). You start a plumbing business because you’re a good plumber, not because you want to put processes in place. Processes are often far down the list of people’s priorities, especially the small business owner. Here are a few reasons why.

1. People start off small. When you’re starting a business and it is only you working, processes are not really necessary. You know what you’re doing, you know what needs to get done, and there is nothing that a good smart phone and laptop can’t handle. Self employed people are often driven by what needs to be done, if the client calls, drop what you’re doing and do what is now a priority. At this stage, processes are not vital, but they still help. Good processes will make you more efficient, and therefore less stressed and busy. Until you start employing someone, people don’t see the need for good processes and therefore ignore them, even though now is the best time to get them into place. Right at the beginning, you may not know what the best process is to use, this takes time to develop. Once you have enough experience, before you employ anyone, is the best time to implement processes. You can then use and test them yourself, and when your new staff member joins, they have a clear (and tested) procedure to work to.

2. Business owners are too busy. If you have progressed from a one man band to a business which employs staff, you will all of a sudden find yourself busy. You need to make sure that everyone is doing what they need to be doing, and you need to make sure that there is enough business to keep them all busy. In theory, you should have more time on your hands now that you have the help, but it doesn’t always work out like that. Even if you wanted to put processes in place now, the idea of the magnitude of changing the way you do things and retraining the staff, sounds exhausting. The temptation is to leave things as they are. This is now a catch 22 situation. If you put processes in place, you’ll all be less busy and more organised, but you’re too busy (without the processes) to put processes in place. If only you had done it when you had the time (which is the ballad of the business owner).

3. Your staff won’t do it for themselves. When I worked for someone else before starting Spreadsheet Solutions, I used to create my own processes, but I am not like ‘normal’ people. Most staff members will do what they’re told. They may have ideas and ways of doing things, but if they do take the initiative, it will only be to benefit themselves. You need processes that will keep the overall business in mind, thus making the entire business more efficient. If you leave the processes up to your staff, at best, they will look after themselves. This will cause everyone to be ‘singing from a different hymn sheet’, which is no good for a company.

4. The bigger your business gets, the harder it is. The more staff you get, and the more projects you have on the go, the harder it gets to change processes. It is not impossible, large companies have pulled it off, but it does require much effort. When you have 5 staff members, it is fairly easy to change the processes, and get them on board. If you have 200 personnel, you can imagine that getting them all on the same wavelength can be quite the task. This is why I said that once you have the business figured out (to a point), before you start employing staff (or soon afterwards), is the best time to put proper, tested processes in place.

5. It is too expensive. Processes nowadays usually go hand in hand with computer software. We all like to know exactly what is going on in our business, and computers provide us with all of the statistics and much needed reports. We now face a dilemma, do we buy business software off the shelf, and squeeze our business into its parameters? Do we get custom business software made at an often exorbitant rate, or do we just go without it and fumble along doing everything manually? Large businesses can often afford the price of custom made business software, and they realise the advantages of being organised and having good processes. This is why they spend hundreds of thousands of Pounds on custom software. This gives them the edge, which SMEs do not have. This is why I started Spreadsheet Solutions.

Spreadsheet Solutions uses Excel to create custom business software for small and medium sized businesses (and large if required). It is much easier to create software using Excel, than to write it from scratch, and Excel can usually handle the work load of a small or medium business. This makes it ideal for affordable, custom business software. Is it as robust as (correctly programmed) custom made written software? Probably not, but it is considerably cheaper. It is also very versatile, adding to an Excel spreadsheet is usually fairly easy. The problem with this is that people underestimate Excel. They limit Excel to what they use it for (lists, databases and simple formulas), but in the hands of someone like myself, I can make it into a vital business tool.

If you would like to implement or improve your business processes, please take a look at what we can offer you and then contact me. Take a look at our website for ideas and inspiration. Once you have an idea of what you want, or if you would like to get some advice of what would be best for you, please contact me.

All the best for your business.

Richard Sumner

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