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Are you working in your business, or are you working on your business?
When you’re working in your business, you’re answering phone calls from parents at 5 in the morning, chasing after your staff to complete their tasks, and checking in with your team on your days off to make sure everything is okay.
These activities don’t make your children’s business grow… but it makes it go. This is normal and expected when you’re just starting out your business.
When you’re working on your business, you’re giving your staff autonomy to run the day to day of your business, brainstorming new, fun ways to teach your students, and looking for new markets and locations to expand. So how do you get from rowing your boat to captaining it?
Want to grow your business? You need a process map.
We drew a business process map at Prospect Gymnastics to outline all the activities required to keep it running. Process mapping is a really valuable tool to get you to a place where you’re ready to start delegating. By doing this exercise, you should be able to:
- Understand all the tasks and subtasks required to run your business,
- Find opportunities to reduce inefficiencies and assign responsibilities to your staff, and
- Help you communicate to your staff how their responsibilities contribute to keeping the business running.
As we go through this exercise, we should be asking ourselves these questions:
- What are the core activities of my business?
- What tasks are required to complete these core activities?
- Who is responsible for what task?
- How do we keep everyone accountable?
What are the core activities of your business?
Let’s start high level and consider what are the core activities of your business. For most children’s activities programs, the goal is to run classes for students – but what core activities are required for you to be able to run classes?
When we sat down to map out the core activities for Prospect Gymnastics, we identified a few core activities required to run classes, and then grouped them in three high level buckets:
- Prepare Facility (have somewhere to teach students)
- Sign Up Students (have students to teach)
- Market classes to parents
- Customer sales
- Teach Students (actually teach the students!)
- Hire and train staff
- Class management
Then we added “Executive Management” at the top as a catch-all for all other tasks that didn’t fall under the other core activities. This is what our high level map looked like:
What tasks are required to complete these core activities?
Now comes the fun part – let’s break down our core activities into tasks.
1. Gather your team for 2-3 hours.
Schedule a few hours of uninterrupted time for you and the key players of your team to brainstorm together with markers and post-it notes.
You’ll get the most value out of this exercise if you complete it with your team. Approach this step with an open mind – the goal here is to identify the gaps between your expectations as the business owner and the reality of what actually happens day to day.
You may find that there are tasks you expect your staff to be doing, but they aren’t, or you may find that your staff are doing things to fill in gaps in your instructions – that’s ok! That’s why we’re going through this exercise.
2. Have everyone write down their tasks.
For 15-20 minutes, have everyone fill in as many post-it notes as they can with the tasks that they are responsible for. Each post-it note should have three key pieces of information:
- A description of the task (i.e. Schedule make-up classes)
- The name of the person(s) responsible (i.e. Ventrice)
- When / how often is this task performed (i.e. “As needed”)
You may not remember everything or get it all down in time, but that’s ok! Take note of what tasks come to mind first – you might want to ask yourself what makes your staff focus on these task the most? It may reflect what they consider the key responsibilities of their job, or it may reflect the areas that stress them out the most. Take note of this for your delegation conversations down the road.
3. Draw your swim lanes.
On a whiteboard, or on a clear space on the ground, outline a row for each key player on your team. You can use job titles or their actual names. If you’re still trying to figure out job titles, you may want to use responsibility areas instead. These are your swim lanes! The idea here is that everyone swims in their own lane and owns the responsibilities in their lane so there is no confusion.
At Prospect Gymnastics, we defined four roles: administrator, facility manager, head coach, and coaches. Our swim lanes looked a little bit like this:
4. Organize your tasks within your swim lanes.
Pick a core activity to map onto your swim lane diagram. (We started with Facility Management.) Sort through all of your post-it notes and pick out the ones that are related to this core activity and lay them out along your swim lanes chronologically.
What needs to be done, and by whom, in order to complete this core activity? Look for dependencies – what does your staff need to complete their tasks?
Below is what our Facility Management swim lanes looked like during this exercise. Some things to note:
- We started at the very beginning with rent and utilities: you have to have a facility in order to manage it!
- Some tasks were one-off or monthly tasks and we assumed others were performed daily or as-needed.
- We used used dotted lines to show direct dependencies. For example, a coach can’t setup equipment for her class until the equipment is checked and maintained.
Repeat this step for each of your core activities.
5. Begin refining your processes.
Once you’ve organized all your post-its into swim lanes, step back, take a look at the whole picture, and start refining.
Talk through the narrative of each activity chronologically – are there any missing steps or dependencies that make it hard for a task to be completed? Write up a new post-it note and add it to a swim lane!
Are there tasks that your staff wrote down but don’t fit anywhere? Stop and assess what the value of that task is. If it’s an unnecessary step, can you remove it? If not, is there a higher level core activity that if fits into that you forgot to identify? Does it maybe fit in as an Executive Management task that is required to keep the business running?
Who is responsible for which task?
Once you’re satisfied that you have an accurate picture of all the tasks required to run your business, take a look at the names assigned to each task. Do the responsibility assignments make sense? Some questions to ask yourself and your team:
- Are there any bottlenecks, areas where tasks get stuck and stop other tasks from being completed?
- Which team members are over capacity, doing more work than they can handle? Are any team members under capacity?
- What tasks are split between multiple team members that can be grouped together as one larger task?
- Are there big tasks that may make sense to be split into smaller tasks and shared?
- Is the time required to complete a task proportionate to the amount of value added to the business? Is there a faster/cheaper way to complete a task by reassigning the responsibility?
- Do you need to hire more staff? Are there tasks that can be outsourced?
Add, remove, rewrite, and reassign tasks until your swim lanes make sense to your team!
How do you keep everyone accountable on a day to day basis?
Now that you have your process map with swim lanes that your team has helped you refine, you can start writing job lists for all your key players. Job lists can take a lot of different forms – you may prefer a binder of paper checklists, or a digital option like Trello or Asana – but the key is to find a format that the entire team can easily use and commit to keeping updated.
For each key player, they should have a list of tasks and subtasks that they can check off, with clear criteria about what qualifies a task as successfully completed. For example, if the task is to Clean the Bathroom, then you might set up a task that recurs 3 times a day and looks like this each time:
- Task: Clean the bathroom (12pm, 4pm, 9pm)
- Scrub the toilet bowl
- Wipe down the toilet seat
- Refill the toilet paper
- Wipe down the sink
- Refill the soap dispenser
- Refill the paper towels
- Empty the trash bins
Write and go over these job lists with the staff member who owns the responsibility so you can make sure that you share the same understanding of what is required for a task to be completed successfully.
Write Down All Your New Processes And Share With Your Team
Once you’re happy with your process maps and job lists, you should record them somewhere that you can revisit and edit easily. I like using Google Slides or Powerpoint. This is a living, breathing document and you should be revisiting it every now and again to make sure it reflects staffing changes, program changes, or business model changes.
Build Your Process Map. Build Your Business.
If this feels like a BIG task, that’s because it is! But once you go through it the first time, you’ll have this document that will scale with you as your business grows. Take a couple of weeks to go through this process mapping exercise if necessary.
If you need additional help, you can download a copy of the first process map we did for Prospect Gymnastics below. You can also feel free to reach out to me for help! Let me know if you have any process mapping or general small business questions in the comments below.