Eliminate the Small Problems That Slow Business Growth

Establishing processes can help fix those minor — yet frustrating — mistakes that repeatedly occur.
Eliminate the Small Problems That Slow Business Growth
Mike Agugliaro

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It happened. Again.

Maybe a shared tool went missing. Maybe someone on your team dropped the ball and didn’t show up to a customer on time. Maybe your team had to make an unnecessary second trip to a customer’s house because of something they should have finished the first time.

As the owner of a plumbing business, you can probably make a large list of all the frustrating, annoying, challenging, and time-consuming problems you face daily. Your team may shrug them off as silly repeated errors, but they annoy you because you know they affect the customer, waste everyone’s time and cost your business money.

Even as you’re reading this, you can probably think of half a dozen or more problems, and you may even feel your blood boiling at the thought of how some of these business-impacting problems keep coming up again and again. Fortunately, there’s a way to solve them once and for all.

Start with this rule: If a problem happens more than once, it needs to be solved with a process.

A process is a step-by-step outlined sequence of actions that are completed in order, every time.

You unconsciously use processes in your business already. If you’re the first one to show up in the morning, you have a step-by-step sequence of actions to unlock the door, turn on the lights, make coffee, etc. Well, if you have problems, a written version of this will help eliminate those problems and keep all of your team on track.

What Are Processes?

Processes are just step-by-step sequences that are written down and available for everyone in your company. Even something as simple as a checklist or a flowchart can be a process. If your team keeps forgetting to do certain things when they leave the building on the weekend, create a checklist that they need to check off and sign, and post it by the door they’ll leave through. Or, if your team doesn’t deliver consistent high-level service to customers, create a step-by-step sequence they need to follow every time and make sure every plumber knows the process by heart (and has a copy in their truck).

Don’t get complicated with your processes. Keep it simple. Processes should be easy to access, easy to read, and easy to understand.

Why Do Processes Matter?

A process matters because your problems are not just small frustrations. They impact your business. Sure, your team might laugh it off as inconsequential, but you know it isn’t. Every time one of your team members has to return to a customer’s house to get them to sign the check, or every time one of your team members neglects to fill up a truck with fuel (which delays someone else from getting to a customer’s house on time), it adds up: hours of wasted time, thousands of dollars of missed opportunities, so much “bandwidth” used up to deal with these things that shouldn’t happen. They impact your business and you.

When to Create A Process

There’s a right time and a wrong time to create processes. Some companies create processes for everything up-front. However, this doesn’t always work because it forces a structure on something that might not be correct. It’s better to wait until you have a problem and then solve that problem with a process. Then you’ll create a process that is useful to your team and it will be easier to determine whether it’s solved the problem. Make the process accessible to the person who will need it, and keep a copy in your office to review and revisit occasionally to make sure it’s working.

Once created, make it the responsibility of the process user to update the process if necessary, should the process become incorrect or obsolete.

Process-Creating Tips and Ideas

Here’s how to solve every problem in your business with processes:

  • Build a culture that spots problems and understands their cost to the business and comes to you with a solution. (Don’t let people come to you with problems without also working on a solution.)
  • When you encounter a problem once, that’s fine. Problems happen. But if you encounter the same problem more than once, you need a system. Some plumbing business owners may try to avoid hearing about problems with a “head-in-the-sand” approach to management, but you should take a proactive approach and seek out problems. Setting aside 15 minutes a day to seek out problems and solve them with processes will have a huge impact on your day, since it will save you from having to put out as many fires throughout the day.
  • Not every problem looks like a problem. Sometimes your team has a workaround that they use for something, or sometimes your team doesn’t know it’s a problem. (Or sometimes your team doesn’t care). Engage with your team and watch how they work to see if you can build processes to make them more effective.
  • Don’t just create processes that eliminate the problem. Use your processes to push your company to a higher level. For example, if your team is failing to fuel up the trucks, don’t just build a process for refueling, think about the bigger picture and create a process to fuel up the trucks, wash them, and check the oil and washer fluid. You’ll not only solve the immediate problem but you’ll also proactively make other problems vanish.

For most people, the topic of processes is dull. But when you’re in the midst of a chaotic day in the plumbing business, and you’re frustrated by the money-wasting, time-wasting mistakes and missteps by your team, then a “dull” business sounds pretty good.

The next time you hear about an error, mistake, or frustration, and you want to slam your head against the wall because “it happened again,” ask yourself, “How can I create a process to solve this once and for all?”

About the Author
Mike Agugliaro is founder of CEO Warrior, a business consulting and mentoring firm, providing tested and proven methods to defeat the roadblocks that prevent small to mid-sized businesses from achieving their ultimate success. He has played a key role in building Gold Medal Services’ success, as co-owner of the company. For more information about CEO Warrior, visit www.CEOWARRIOR.com.


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