It is no secret that I love organization, so when I started organizing my business it came fairly naturally to me. Coupled with my desire to make things as easy and automatic as possible, creating business systems was actually fun. I realize that this is not the case with most anyone else. I enthusiastically recommend creating business systems and processes to every interior design business owner. And not because I think it is fun. Systems can help your business run smoother, more efficiently, and with minimal brain power. You may even have some unofficial systems running already without knowing it.
What is a business system?
A business system is simply a set way that your business executes a specific task. It can range from simple systems like how your business phone is answered (e.g. Thanks for calling XYZ Designs or XYZ Designs, Katy speaking) to much more complicated systems like how a client in onboarded.
The good news is that once you put in the time and effort to create and document the system you can then rely on it and have less administrative work making time for creativity and design!
Creating business systems is also invaluable when you have employees because you essentially are creating a operations manual. Employees are trained faster and they can feel more confident that they are following your systems.
Creating a business system
There are three phases to creating business systems: Aware - Document - Action. You first have to be Aware of the things in your business that could be systematized and streamlined, that is where steps 1 and 2 come in below. After you are aware of what you can create you need to Document the system to complete the task or solve the struggle in your business (step 3, 4, 5). Finally, you have to actually take action on the systems. It is a waste of time to create systems that you'll never use or refer to. Don't waste time. Start with a system or two and let it become habit before moving onto another system.
- Begin by keeping a list of the tasks that you do repeatedly. From smaller things like returning phone calls to larger items like the first interview with a prospective client.
- Write down the current biggest struggles/problems/issues in your business. Why are they happening? Could a business system help eliminate the problem?
- Now start tackling the list you created from step one and two. Write down all the steps that it takes to complete that task or take care of a recurring problem. Are there any steps that you could cut out or consolidate? Is this the most efficient way to complete the task?
- Document the task and put it in a binder, label the binder "business systems" or "operations manual"
- Keep tackling your list and adding to your binder as more tasks and solvable issues come up.
- Most important! Follow you the system you created. Stick to it. Don't deviate. Don't waver. This is how you run your business. It's cool if your system needs updating, revise that system and follow the new steps. But don't let your systems languish in a binder unused and forgotten.
Business system ideas
The options for business systems are really endless. Below are a few ideas to get you started. My advice is just to start with a couple and then keep adding. You can also go back and revise the system if something isn't working.
- Onboarding clients - what will you do on the first contact and after?
- Coffee/ lunch order preferences - who likes what?
- Returning phone calls and emails - who and when you'll return communications
- Client communications - how all emails, texts, calls from clients are documented
- Logging time billing - how and when time billing is logged
- Creating client binders - who, how, and when a client binder is created
- Qualifying clients - how are clients qualified?
- Project measurements and drawings - who, when, and how measurements are taken and drawings completed
- Item expediting - how often is an item followed up on and who is responsible
- Fabric receiving - how fabric orders are received and tagged
- Payments due - when and how invoices, proposals, and time billing payments are due and overdue