The Process of Business

Tom Coffin smartPRENEUR Blog Series

Develop Your Team’s Path To Success.

Why are some companies wildly successful when others flail and can never seem to move ahead and grow?

   Process

Yes, it really is that simple. A series of steps designed to bring an action to a successful conclusion. Do you have processes in your business? In fact you do. Have you thought about why you do the actions you do and if there was a better way to accomplish the work that needs to get done? Sadly most would answer that question by lying to themselves. They would say “oh yea, I think about it.” But, thinking about one step out of thousands doesn’t really let you see the whole picture.

Where does your business process start?

  • Sales?
  • Advertising?
  • Training?
  • Education?
  • Service?

 As a Systems Integrator, I felt my business process started with the brands and products I assembled together to offer to my clients. We worked to define what worked, what had the best most demonstrable consumer friendly features, that we could make a good margin on and help us tell our systems integration story. 

We designed our sales process around the Sears & Roebuck method of Good, Better, Best. Having done hundreds maybe a thousand designs in many different sized houses and buildings, I felt we understood the common denominator. Usually the customer wants an easy to use home. One they can understand how to use without a lot of training. We identified 13 different disciplines or what we called sub-systems that were required to make a home a complete system. Now how do we make them work together and how do we price them so that different sized homes at different prices could get a complete system?

We mapped out the feature set for a specific type of house. We determined there were really three types of homes, builders, architects, and buyers we were dealing with. Very similar to creating Personas in marketing. So we developed these feature sets based upon how the different systems worked together. We used this storyboard in EVERY sales presentation. Essentially telling a story about our “ActivLink” (Yes, we even branded the system) Gold, Silver, and Bronze systems and what benefits they provided. Then we began to qualify the suspect and turn them into a prospect by narrowing in on which benefits were most important to them.

A typical meeting would end with a budget range and the last trial close of the meeting, “If we can come in within your budget with the benefits we discussed can I assume we’re going to work together”? 90% of the time the answer was yes.

I focused on the sales process from one of the companies I was involved in previously. We spent time and wrote out exactly how that process should work. It took time and thought and even some role playing. We worked on many of our processes this way. Even the programming process. Yes, even the programming process. When we thought out and analyzed all the homes we had done over the years and what “customized” programming we had done, we realized that even that has many common denominators that can be designed into a process that will make the client happy and get the programmers out of the house in a shorter time period. This allowed us to make money on our experience of knowing what most customers wanted versus just getting paid for the quantity of hours spent in the basement.

So where do you start mapping out your business process. In the “custom” industry my opinion for what it’s worth I’d map what I am going to sell, how am I going to present the user story, how will ensure each installation comes together as expected. I am a big believer that there is no custom business, that’s a hobby. A Systems Integrator takes proven products and processes and adapts them to the person and home/situation.

There are thousands of processes. Using Visio or a mind mapping software can help you write these processes out. One of our past CEDIA Presidents many years ago had a large boardroom where they presented to their prospects and they had their process on placards that spanned the walls around the room. They used their process to help them convince the prospect they were the best solution.

It doesn’t matter where you start, just start. Pick a spot that hurts. Generally, that part of your business probably hurts because of something else in the chain of processes is putting pressure on it somewhere down the line.

Go Forth and Process…Yes, Process.