Let me ask you a question – what do you do when someone emails you asking for more information about your services. Think about it for a few seconds, and then write it down. What does that process look like to you? Do you send them pricing right away, or do you ask to meet them first before giving out your rates? Now, say they want to meet with you – how do you go about setting up that meeting? Where is it? What do you talk about? And then there’s the follow up. You haven’t heard back from them in two weeks – what do you do now?
Anyone who offers services should be able to answer these questions, but why? Why is it so important to be able to understand your workflow? By answering these questions, you are able to:
- Evaluate each step of the process and understand WHY you do things the way you do.
- Determine if your process works for you by evaluating how efficient each step is when dealing with a particular service or problem.
- Eventually automate them to the point that someone else can handle the process for you.
I used to work in documentation for a software development company, which means that I had to write down and keep track of ALL of our process. With software development, these processes were fairly clear cut – stakeholder input, concept, task breakdown, creation of program, quality analysis, and release (it’s a rough process overview, but you get the picture). Each step had a specific criteria that we needed to address, and we did each item before the next. Working this way creates efficiency, transparency, and make fixing problems much easier.
There’s no reason why you can’t apply this thought process to the workflows of your own company. Even if you never realized it, you have a lot of processes that you work through! For example:
- What do you do with a client after you book them?
- How do you go about coordinating other vendors for your clients?
- How do you prepare for your wedding days?
- How do you follow up with a client after their wedding?
For every process that your company has, writing down the workflow is essential. So, how do you do that?
- Find a program that works best for you. Some may prefer Evernote or just a Google or Word document. I like using Smartsheet to list out all tasks and parts of a process since I have the ability to use templates and can create new documents for each project.
- Write down a rough version of your process as you remember it – try not to do this while you are in the middle of the process (that’s a later step). List them in steps so that you can easily pinpoint what item goes where. For example, the first three steps that I would write down when documenting my inquiry process would be:
- When I get an inquiry from a client, I send them a canned response thanking them for getting in contact with me. I include a PDF description of services (along with my starting rates) and ask them if they are interested in setting up an initial consultation.
- At our initial consultation, which happens at our studio in Santa Barbara, we go over the following subjects: relationship history, wedding concept and ideas, and services they are interested in.
- After our initial consultation, I put together a proposal with all of the services that they may be interested in, along with a price estimate and a breakdown of costs.
- Take a step back from that version of your process and write another version as you work through it. This will make you more aware of HOW you handle a process, and force you to write down what actually happens.
- Compare the two lists. Are they similar, or are you skipping steps when dealing with a project? Remember that neither version is correct – your final workflow will tend to be a combination of the two.
- Look at your second version of the workflow – what worked in that project, and what didn’t? Did the client respond to your proposal, or did they never answer you back? By evaluating each step of the process, you can adjust tasks and steps as necessary.
- Create a final version of this workflow – subtasks for each process are great! Try and be as detailed as possible. For example, my workflow for signing a client would be as follows:
- Upon notification that a client is interested in moving forward, send them a link to fill out their Client Information.
- Once they have sent in their information, send them the necessary documents to proceed:
- Upon receiving the deposit and finalized agreement, email them a welcome.
- Send client gift via Bottega Louie.
- At the next project, do your workflow exactly as written. How well did it work out for you? Are there any steps that need to be updated or removed? EVERY TIME YOU WORK THROUGH A PROCESS, evaluate each step according to your documented workflow. If something needs to be changed, make sure you address it right then and there.
By automating your workflows, you will get through them faster and more efficiently. You will also have the opportunity to evaluate what works for you, and what doesn’t. And when the time comes? I like documenting everything I do so that I can delegate later on!