Let’s talk about processes and why documenting them, analyzing them and optimizing them can make your business reach a whole new level!
CJ: Hello and welcome; today we have with us Andreas Jaeger from Business Process Consult. Andreas is a fellow Rise & Grind ambassador for Daymond John – The People’s Shark from ABC’s hit show Shark Tank and also the CEO of FUBU and other multi-million dollar companies. Today we will be discussing and learning about the importance of processes to take your business to the next level and also getting to know Andreas Jaeger! Andreas, can you tell us a little about you and your experience in building processes and optimizing business processes?
Andreas Jaeger: Hi so glad to be here! I would have to say I was building processes for much longer than I have actually been in IT (about 10 years now). I would say I fell in love with processes fairly early on in life, since I was always a science geek, and studied marine biology, both undergrad and grad school level. What always drew me into it was that there is most often a wrong and right way to do things and that often came down to what order you do things in.
When I was about 11 yrs old I started a small dog walking business in my apartment building in NYC. Right away there, each person I did this for had a specific way of wanting things done; mostly feed the dog before or after the walk, make sure that the water bowl was filled etc. As I got more into the sciences at a higher level, it became so obvious that you have to understand each step that you take and how they fit into the grand scheme of things.
My first IT job was doing SaaS support for an IBM product, and the second day in I was a little lost. Although all the people we very friendly, they all had their own thoughts on how things should be done, which order was best etc. My team lead who was very understanding let me take these things and compile a list, from which I then developed a process on how to make each support case flow more smoothly.
For the last 5 years I have helped 5 different start-ups develop their ops foundation, so literally designing their daily ops flows from top to bottom.
CJ: I know a lot of entrepreneurs that struggle especially when it comes to hiring new staff. I know I did the first time around. I had people on the payroll and I had no clue what they were meant to be doing; I just knew I needed help. How can setting up documented processes help with this important growth block for entrepreneurs?
Andreas Jaeger: Well, firstly it provides consistency, which I think is a huge factor to success.
Secondly, it saves a lot of time if you have a set process in place and follow it strictly.
Thirdly, it eliminates a lot of in house squabbling, because the processes are defined, and as a result in-housees’ roles are as well. No more fighting over “Well this is not my job, XXX should have done it!” etc.
It also smacks of professionalism. How, well your clients will know what to expect each and every time, there are no questions of “What are they doing now, what should I be expecting?” because if you have set processes in place they will always know what to expect and if you stick to the processes, you will always be able to deliver consistently.
Most people will be saying, well yeah, but ironically it is a major factor in many businesses I see every day…
CJ: So let’s say you are working on helping a business to start setting up their processes. For the sake of picking an area of focus, let’s say production, my business is media so our production involves first and most importantly planning for the right content etc. Would you work with me, the business owner and help me evaluate and organize my processes? How would we get started?
Andreas Jaeger: Absolutely, and I’d wager you would see the impact fairly immediately. What I would start with is your aqusition process first, what steps do you take to get a client or contributor interested in the first place; we would outline them and literally build the process flow. Then we could move on to what steps you take when you have acquired the client/contributor. Do you have them fill out a form of some sort with their needs/wants/desires, or how do you obtain the information needed to “make it happen”?
Next what do you do when you have that info, do you go hunting on google for relevant material that can enhance the project at hand, do you gather images/pics to use for the content? Then when you have all the relevant info, where do you start? All these things can be outlined and followed by you to reach your goal and maximize your time. Now form a client perspective, what is so beneficial is that you ca n literally show these processes to them and say “This is what I’m going to do for you”, and immediately they see the efforts you will be putting into their project, and have the ‘warm fuzzies’ that you know what you are doing.
CJ Deguara: So this would also help me delegate tasks and in a sense probably set up training for my team or new hires?
Andreas Jaeger: Without question, because once you have the processes defined, you will immediately be able to see what you can do, and what others can do. As for training, it expedites the whole thing, since not only do you know what needs to be done at each step of the way, but also since you have your operations processes defined, you already have something to give them as a reference. You eliminate the “Um, not sure what to do now” questions.
How I personally get started is have a sit down, virtual or in person, and begin to create a list of what needs to be done. Once you have that list, you separate each one, and then break them down step by step, and define what actual steps are done to reach the results you need.
CJ Deguara: I assume this also leads to opportunities for optimization; even the entrepreneur would be able to see their business more clearly? Do you find that you are able to make recommendations that save the entrepreneur time and money?
Andreas Jaeger: Yes it greatly helps clarify to the entrepreneur what all their business involves (and this can sometimes have an initial shock response), but the main idea is to streamline the business as a whole, saving that one wonderful commodity, TIME. Time that is freed up, is time they can spend to make more money, work with more clients etc.Its all about using one’s time in the best possible way.
CJ: As a Rise & Grind ambassador, I know we come across a lot of entrepreneurs looking for funding. How important do you think it is to investors for an entrepreneur to be able to show they have their processes in order and not only know their business but are able to share that with a potential investor. (Once an NDA is signed of course).
Andreas: VITAL, is the word that comes to mind. For an investor they want to know a lot of things before they give up their money. Where this comes in is two fold. One, have set processes, the investor can immediately make a decision as to whether that business owner/entrepreneur actually knows what they are talking about, and has a deep understanding of their own business. Secondly, they want to see efficiency, and that is one of the greatest benefits to have defined and documented processes. If you have these, you probably will not get stumped by any questions an investor may have.
CJ: That is an awesome consideration. I am going to throw out a few buzzwords & business productivity solutions out there. I know you have some serious experience on this front but I’m not looking for the technical side on productivity software. CRM, Marketing Automation, SaaS solutions for businesses, Invoicing software, Payroll processors etc. – How can having your processes setup before jumping into this tangled mess of solutions make finding the right software easier and also making sure it reduces workload as opposed to adds?
Andreas: In a nutshell, it will quickly help you eliminate solution that are not right for you/your business. With all the options out there deciding on the perfect software is a daunting task for anyone. DO a little research online to see which would “seem” to be the best fit, and then reach out to those companies. Believe me once you do their sales people will be quick to respond. When they DO, you already have your questions set up for you, since you can just go through your needs and simply ask “Can it do this?” or “How does your solution help me solve XXX problem”.
CJ: Excellent so it can also save time in testing software that would be incompatible with that particular businesses processes.?
Andreas: A lot of time, it truly helps you quickly see if there is a fit or not. This is where you have to take on the “buyer” mentality, don’t let the software dictate the process, find a software you can adapt to YOUR processes.
CJ: Of course, time + money, although many offer trials etc. On to another thing. The KPIs – key performance indicators; how does process help setup KPIs that can tell you if your business is suddenly going in the wrong direction? Does having processes actually mapped out help entrepreneurs catch issues early and how?
Andreas: One thing to always keep in mind is that processes are living things, and can, and should, be adapted from time to time. So, for example, if you are seeing performance go down in a certain area, with defined processes you can revamp them as needed: what is causing there to be an issue? Where in the grand scheme are the hold-ups, the inconsistencies? Once you have set processes in place, and here is the key, actually use them, then pinpointing problem areas becomes very simple.
As a result, tweaking them is less complicated and time-consuming. For example, if you realize something is taking way too long at one of the “steps”or something is always being missed, having those defined processes will allow you to see the who/what/where of the issue and address it, rather than having to scrap it all and start anew.
CJ: So in a way having the process set up helps us see the activities that we can measure and in turn optimize? It is my understanding that part of your process is first documenting what is going on, walking through with the entrepreneur what happens in the business. How are the processes visualized, what would we expect to see as a result of your efforts? Does it look like a process flow – walk me through the steps we would take.
Walk me through your process. What’s your Grind?
Andreas: It depends very much on what the business is, but a good general starting point is the defining of end goals: so I like to start with making that list. Depending on the situation, we can do this with simple paper/pen and create an outline, or if we want to get a tad fancier, I can build a Visio diagram. This results in what i personally refer to “The business at a glance”. And then the fun starts, well for me.
Each of the aforementioned goals has steps needed to reach them, and those need to be defined in as detailed a way as possible. Remember, this is a living document, there is room for error, so although this may seem daunting, it really isn’t. Rarely do business owner/entrepreneurs not have a fairly quick reaction when they actually see it written down; you can literally see the wheels turning, and more often or not you get a “Yeah, that could be better” reaction.
Its actually exciting when that happens. For them, it starts to free their minds of any constraints, for me it is just personally rewarding because I see the immediate benefit (as do they) in what I am doing for them. Once we have the groundwork laid out in this fashion, I can take over and do my thing which is optimizing the steps etc.
The end result is a master document that sits well with them, and if they have employees, vendors etc, something concrete they can provide a la “This is hows its done in MY business”
CJ: Ok, so I’m sold, I know I need your help. My budget is limited, my business is completely bootstrapped but I want to work on this piece by piece as time and budget allows. What are we looking in terms of expenses and can we work on one goal-process at a time? Can you also after the first consultation help me prioritize which process would probably give me the best return so I can afford more of your services?
Andreas: Initially, to have any business buy into what the benefits are, a simple free 15-30 minute consult is a good place to start, when it comes to small businesses. Those are usually a blitzkrieg type of meeting, where I gain a good understanding of the current situation, and the major pain points.
Once we agree that the value will be invaluable, we can work with you based on your budget, timelines, and immediate needs. I am open to working on one process at a time, or an all-encompassing project, that is usually charged a s a single sum to get it done.
Look, I’m a small business, I KNOW what budget constraints are, but the bottom line is that once you begin to optimize and implement, the benefits far outweigh the actual costs. I know that his is not always the common business mentality, but I really like to dig in deep and get personal. Their problems are my problems, their success is my success. One thing/goal/mentality I have in my own personal process is “Do not nitpick the clients”, I sure as heck would not like it if a vendor did that to me, and I will assuredly not do it to anyone else.
This interview was made possible due to us meeting as part of Daymond John’s Rise & Grind Ambassador program. If you get an opportunity to be part of something great, go for it! You won’t regret it.