Standardising and automating processes are key to scaling your business.
When a business is small or young, it usually leans heavily on a small core team to keep everything running smoothly. But as headcount expands, revenues grow and complexity multiplies, a small team will struggle to keep its finger on the pulse. This isn’t a problem you can solve by throwing human resources at it—it’s one that demands a focus on systems and processes.
As Inc. blogger Jim Schleckser notes, systems are the key to scaling a business. Systems—meaning both automated computer systems and a systematised, documented way of working—help people in the business to perform at high levels. They mean that a company is less vulnerable to the loss of key team members and that it can grow without needing to add more superstar talent to its payroll.
The difference between growing and scaling
Before delving deeper, it’s worth clarifying the difference between growing and scaling. Scaling means growing a business rapidly and significantly without large increases to its cost base. It is possible to grow without scaling—but a business that does so might not grow profits as fast as it grows its revenues. Some businesses might be happy to follow a slower and steadier path to growth.
Those that wish to scale, however, will not want to grow overheads as fast as they grow their revenues. They will also not want to rely on a single-star performer in their software or sales team to drive performance. Systems come into the picture as a way to make high performance sustainable and repeatable as the business changes and as people come and go.
Schleckser cites the example of Mcdonald's, which experiences high churn rates of kitchen and front-of-house staff. The business has scaled its growth by creating systems and processes that enable employees to become productive in a matter of days. These systems mean that you get consistent service and product experience in any Mcdonald's outlet.
“Organise around business functions, not people. Build systems within each business function. Let systems run the business and people run the systems. People come and go but the systems remain constant.”
Michael Gerber, author of The E-Myth Revisited
Break it down, then automate it
A blog post fromBean Ninjas offers some advice about how to systematise a business. It recommends identifying bottlenecks and labour-intensive processes within your business, documenting the tasks that comprise them, and finding ways to optimise them via repeatable processes and workflows. From there, you can look for software tools to automate these tasks.
The technology you can use for automation ranges from robotic process automation tools that can handle basic tasks like data capture to function-specific software suites for automating marketing, payroll, operations and finance. These tools can save hours of manual work while improving accuracy and consistency in your processes.
The human element
"Systematisation doesn’t mean excluding human input from the business—instead, it frees people’s time to focus on strategy, growth and innovation. It can also improve employee morale and retention by allowing people to focus on meaningful work rather than repetitive tasks and processes. And perhaps most importantly, it enables you to grow fast without needing to grow expenses at an uncomfortable pace." Werner Herbst, General Manager, Enterprise Compute, Tarsus Distribution