Whether you realize it or not, as you’ve built your business over time, you’ve also been creating all the processes that run it. From how you deal with refunds to how your team follows up with leads, the way you accomplish goals in your company can be reduced to a series of steps.

Unfortunately, having these steps saved only in your head or in the memory of one of your employees leaves you and your business vulnerable. If you need to take a sick day or a family vacation, who will manage those processes when you’re gone? And if an employee decides to leave, how will you keep your business afloat without their know-how of the required daily tasks?

Just like raising a child, you hope that your business will one day be stable enough to run on its own – independent of you and your team’s specific knowledge. You probably got into the industry with the dream of a business that can withstand employee churn and family vacation time, giving you the freedom that comes with being a successful business owner. So how do you get to this sought-after freedom and stability?

Documenting your business processes is the key to achieving this. With properly documented tasks, processes and systems for every part of your business, you should be able to leave it in the hands of anyone qualified to perform those processes, knowing that it will continue to run successfully without you.

Retracing your steps seems counterintuitive and time-consuming

It might seem counterintuitive to spend hours writing out the processes you’ve already got down to a T, but the benefits will far outweigh this upfront set-up time. Not only will it eventually lead to more flexibility in your team and work schedule, it will also allow you to pinpoint areas for improvement and select processes for automation and scaling.

Starting from zero might sound a bit daunting, and Process Consultant Founder Ian James acknowledges that many small businesses feel that way — some even feel that it’s a waste of time — but “It’s only after the company grows that it begins to become clear that there is a real need for some documentation,” he says.

The best time to start is now

Fortunately, the processes of your business already exist, and documenting them is a fairly simple exercise that your whole team can work on. Whether you’re a one-person-show startup or a growing, multi-employee business, the first step is to determine which processes to begin with.

If you have an employee who is leaving or one who needs to be trained, a task that needs to be delegated or an area of your business that urgently needs improvement, these processes would be a great starting place for documenting. Simply write out each step for performing that process and make sure that if the documented process were handed to a new employee, he or she would be able to easily execute the task by following your guidelines.

Documentation is the foundation of success

The team at Intelivate examined why process documentation is critical for success, and concluded that it “becomes the blueprint of [a company’s] operations.” Lena Requist, Ontraport’s President, believes that making excuses for not documenting processes within your business will lead to poor outcomes when looking to scale.

“By creating processes that the team can use to get work done without counting on you to manage all of the ins and outs, you can create time for yourself to focus on the jobs that only you can do.”

– Landon Ray, Ontraport’s CEO and Founder

The benefits of documented processes

With so much riding on your business’s ability to document the processes behind the genius, starting to catalog every task performed in the office is the quickest path to future scaling and improvement. Keeping detailed records of your internal processes will allow you to:

  • Delegate the tasks that don’t require your specific skills and knowledge, freeing up time for you to work on more important areas of your business.
  • Scale the processes you have in place now to help your business — and your profits — grow.
  • Predict the outcomes of each process every time it’s performed so you can create consistent experiences for your employees and customers.
  • Locate areas of your business that can be improved with automation so your workforce can focus more on tasks that require human creativity and intelligence.
  • Measure the results of your processes more accurately so you can find areas for improvement.
  • Leave your business in the hands of employees when necessary, knowing that they have all the processes needed to keep the business afloat so you can take needed vacation and family time without the stress.

If you’re interested in using a detailed, step-by-step worksheet to assist you in the documentation of your processes, the Process Creator worksheet offers an easy-to-use, fill-in-the-blank template that allows you to catalog each internal business task and includes all the additional notes and tools necessary to complete the process.

About Aslan Williams
Aslan Williams grew up in a small, southern town, tailgating at football games and watching sunsets over the Mississippi Delta. Since leaving her southern roots four years ago, she has lived in five countries, practicing yoga, teaching English and honing her marketing skills at various International internships. Now, as a recent graduate from UCSB, Aslan is applying her degrees in Communication and English in her role as Content Engagement Coordinator at Ontraport.