Process Management and Workflows 101Mar 11, 2021
In our previous post, we provided a very high level overview of processes and workflows, while touching on how they fit into the automation process. In this post, Brooklyn H. Brock, CFP®, CEPA®, ChFC®, CKA® of Ellevate Advisors, LLC will take a deeper dive into the processes management side of things. Check out her website here.
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Here’s what you should know and do before implementing workflows
Are workflows the right solution for your business right now? Workflows are a great next step for teams and businesses looking to scale. If you’re a solopreneur or a new business owner with only a few clients, it might not be worth your time until you figure out your processes and start hiring staff. If you’ve decided to commit to building workflows, here’s what you should know and do before getting started:
Identify Who You Serve
In order to create effective workflows, it’s important to fully understand who you serve. That means putting your client persona(s) in writing. Your client is the hero of the story your business is telling. You solve their problem. So you need to understand what the client needs, what they want, their pain points, how they spend their free time, etc. Get to know them like you know your best friend. Once you’ve done this, give each person on your team a copy. This will keep your ideal client top-of-mind while writing workflows to create the ideal client experience.
Simplify Your Solution
It’s hard to create workflows if you have a complex or confusing service model. Clarify your top 2-4 products or services. If you’re in a service business, map out your client service calendar. Your team needs to know exactly what your processes look like before they can write workflows. Once you get clarity on this, you can focus on creating workflows that provide the ultimate, on-brand client experience.
Brainstorm the workflows you want to create and how they fit together. Where does your prospective client workflow end and the new client onboarding begin? Getting your team’s input on this is hugely valuable. Ask your team what’s working and what could be improved. Keep an open mind.
As you start your workflow project, it’s important to share your vision of the end-goal with your team. Once everyone understands what you’re trying to accomplish, and what success looks like, they’ll commit to this project with you. I’ve even seen teams get passionate about workflows! It brings teams together and creates a culture of energy to change and achieve results. That's because workflows provide accountability, consistent processes, and an easier way to train each team member to work together. Most importantly, it unites the team around a common goal - serving your ideal customer. By leading your team to build workflows, you’re giving them the vision of what a quality, on-brand client experience looks like. Workflows are the tools to deliver that consistently. Who wouldn’t get excited about being part of a business that serves clients well and enjoys doing it?
Tips and tricks for establishing well-thought-out, efficient and consistent internal workflows
One secret to being a successful business owner is to get out of your own way. My team could actually run my business without me because of the workflows we’ve built. They don’t need me anymore! That signifies a truly valuable business, especially when you go to sell and retire one day. It also means your team has everything they need to do their job well every day, which makes for a happier, healthier team culture. Here are 5 tips for establishing well-thought-out, efficient and consistent internal workflows.
Clarify your organizational hierarchy
You don’t need to have the right people in the right seats, but you need to know how your team should be structured. Team members writing workflows need you to clearly define their job roles so they understand which workflows they use regularly, and how to assign workflow steps to other members of the team.
Each workflow should have an owner
The owner is responsible for building the workflow and updating it later on. Think of the workflow owner as a job role. For example, a workflow about updating customer profiles should be assigned to the Administrative Assistant instead of to Sally. This will allow Sally to move up in the company and hand over her old workflows to the new Administrative Assistant.
Set expectations for completion of the workflow project
Your team works best with clear instructions and deadlines. It usually takes a few months to get all the workflows written, so let your team know how many workflows you expect them to write each week, and how much time it should take. For example, I set the goal of writing 3 new workflows every week in less than 5 hours.
Create workflow on how to write & update workflows
As the workflows start getting used, there will be some obvious, immediate changes to implement. However, dropping everything to update workflows is a huge distraction. Each workflow owner should have a dedicated place to collect ideas for improvements. My team updates workflows once a year. We’ll save all our ideas and every summer we’ll each kick off the “Update Workflows” workflow. This ensures we’re all following the same process so our workflows look and behave the same.
Use workflows as a metric for employee fit
One of my clients spent a year working with a virtual assistant who was never able to effectively use workflows. Don’t wait a year to figure that out. As workflows become a standard for employee performance, they also become part of your team’s culture. Your team can tell when something is working or not, and the workflows make it easy to see exactly where things are going wrong.
As a leader, it’s crucial that you commit to this project! Once workflows are written, you can’t let yourself get distracted with a shiny new technology, or change your service model because you want to serve more customers. This will free up your time and attention to focus on your own job in the company. You can get back to doing what you love and trust that your team has the processes in place to run everything else.
Tips and tricks for establishing well-thought-out, efficient and consistent client workflows
One of my clients started writing workflows about a year ago. The more workflows we built, the more they wanted to build! During a call, they commented on how excited they were to see how much time the team would save once we finished writing all the workflows on our list. That’s when we had to have a hard conversation. Workflows don’t save time. Building workflows is actually a huge time commitment. The goal of workflows is consistent, quality processes to guide your team to produce a quality client experience every time. That is worth it. Your customers will LOVE you! Here are some tips and tricks for establishing well-thought-out, efficient and consistent client workflows.
Narrow down your tech stack and service options
For example, our team uses one online file storage system to collect documents from clients. Other technology tools have this capability, but we only ever ask clients to upload documents to the same place every time. Make it as easy as possible for customers to work with you.
Build checks and balances on anything client-facing in your workflows steps
For example, my team uses a lot of paperwork workflows. We’ve included a step for another team member to check each form for completeness and accuracy before sending it to the client.
Set a standard in all your workflows for how soon to follow up with clients
It’s another way to consistently service clients in a timely manner without micromanaging your team. That’s part of your company culture, your brand, and a great way to build client relationships based on trust.
My favorite part of bringing a workflow to life is using outcomes for more flexible client service! Outcomes give me options when completing workflow steps. If a client hasn’t gotten their form back to me, I can select the outcome to remind me to follow up with them next week. It provides me with flexibility but removes my all-too-human forgetfulness from the equation!
Client-facing workflow steps are an opportunity to make your service that much more personal and engaging. Once you have a process, you can customize it for your brand or per the team member! You can use TextExpander to create email templates with consistent, branded language, but also room for customization. Loom or BombBomb sync with your email system so you can send brief, branded videos to clients so they have your video to watch instead of reading another boring email.
You have a vision of the company you’re trying to build. It connects with a specific client and solves a specific problem. To make that business a reality, it’s important to learn that it’s okay to limit accepted payment methods, types of services, or any other feature of your business. You are building your ideal business. If you focus on that goal and how it serves your ideal customer, your ideal customers will seek you out and become raving fans. Workflows are a tool to provide that same quality service for every customer!
Special thanks to Brooklyn H. Brock, CFP®, CEPA®, ChFC®, CKA® of Ellevate Advisors, LLC for this post. She dove more into the practical establishment application of workflows / processes. The goal of this post was to help you establish an applicable outline for the workflows your existing (or budding) organization needs. Our next post will assume you’ve already laid the foundation and created some processes and workflows on paper. We will explore the exciting world of process management applications, how and why you should use them and where they fit into in terms of automation. See you next time!
Each of our forms includes a comprehensive video series on how to edit and use the form. For now, our forms are primarily used by Financial Advisors / Planners, Consultants and Attorneys. Purchasing the form will enable you to book a discounted Coaching Session with us to help you edit/modify the form for your specific needs if you need additional assistance.
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