Systemizing Your Operations for Fun and Profit

Having one of the early “virtual companies” starting in the 1980s, I had to figure out a new way to do business selling products made just for us, after outsourcing all aspects of business except our core competencies (marketing and product development).

One effective tool was to systemize all of the tasks for running the company on a day-to-day basis, an Operations Manual. Document, measure, and track every single process involved in your business as if franchising it; every task should have its own chapter.

Processing the mail, placing orders, inventory releases, managing complaints, even answering the telephone; there’s a right way and a wrong way to do each, so bias performance towards the right way. Include the goal of the task, each step involved and in which order, how long it takes, what it looks like when done right, what to do if done wrong or there is an anomaly, etc. They are not hard and fast rules written in granite but subject to change over time in order to improve them.

When you hire someone just hand them the binder and say “that’s your job.” Since of course you only hire smart people, after 3 days they can do it as well as a long-time pro. When your business is task-oriented office stuff, this is invaluable. It’s like production process control as applied to service-based processes.

It also gives documented proof of incompetence by the employee in the event you have to let them go for screwing up. I never had to, because the binders made it unequivocal what was expected of them, what to do and how long it should take, but that was maybe 40% of the day. It was not a grueling atmosphere, regimenting their lives “by the binder.” We and they goofed off enough to make it a cool job. There was lunch for 2 hours while we ate at a great restaurant for someone’s birthday or whatever.

It was a chill af environment, and you got your job done without anyone micromanaging you or standing over your shoulder. Employees took more ownership of their tasks, and they were easy to cross-train in case someone was out for the day. Everyone could easily figure out how to do everyone else’s job, and tasks were delineated. All that made for happier, more productive employees.

Bonus: it makes it way easier to have satellite offices, or to sell franchises of your business model.

Double Bonus: it allows you personally to take more time away from the business since you know they know how to keep it running literally without you. I would sometimes be in bed for days with profound depression, and when I returned I found it was running better than when I left it.

Here is the list of responsibilities we used at HempNut, Inc.:

Written by Richard Rose.