Just like a blueprint is created as a plan for a construction project, procedures are the backbone of any business. It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting out or you’ve been in business for twenty plus years like I have, you find procedures are what makes any business function on a day-to-day basis. Giving direction to both you and your employees.
When I first started out, I really didn’t have any procedures in place. However, I had worked in accounting firms enough to know where to start. But when I hired my first employee, I had no way of showing them how I needed anything done because I had never written down the steps. I know every time I start working on a tax return the first thing I do, is pull the prior year return. That was how I was taught, and it works to ensure I’m not missing important documents such as a K1 from a partnership or the W2 from a prior job. The problem was, I had never written down those steps; it was all in my head; so, teaching somebody else was difficult. I found that I had the same problem when it came to reconciling bank statements or preparing a sales tax return.
Now why didn’t I write any of those procedures down, well to be honest I knew what the procedures were, and I just did it. When I was working for some of the big firms, they never had any of the procedures written down either, in fact not a single business I worked for outside of restaurants and convenience stores I worked in during college had any of the procedures actually written down. it was sort of expected that whoever was training you would teach you then monitor to make sure that you would follow through. Essentially you were learning how your trainer did things not how the company preferred things to be done. that meant that every tax preparer in the office had a different procedure, some were faster than others because they had discovered guidelines for themselves of how they proceeded through the preparation of the tax return.
Now this is not unique to just accounting firms, most businesses do not have procedures written down. when I was in college, I worked for Circle K. we had exact closing procedures that we had to follow so the person taking the next shift was not repeating your work, but instead, had their own list of things to do. I never really realized how important those procedures were for a business. if everyone makes up their own way of doing it then there’s no way to train somebody to come and take that position over.
Everything that is repeated more than once a year should have a written procedure to follow. This is important not only for daily events to be completed correctly but to ensure monthly activities or even yearly activities such as inventory counts are done the same way every time and steps are not missed.
I’m going to use a cash register as an example. At the beginning and end of every shift the drawer needs to be counted. This should be done by the person responsible for that drawer. One of the fastest and easiest ways to do it is to start with your pennies and work your way up. Stack all the pennies in groups of 10 count them up put him back in the register continue until you know exactly how much is in that register. At the end of the day, you do the same leaving the starting amount in the drawer and taking the rest to the bank. But there are other steps in between such as making sure the amount taken to the bank matches what the register shows as sales for the day. The key is to make sure a step is not missed especially if you are interrupted in the middle, so you don’t have to start over at the beginning.
The next couple of posts, will be on how to create and track your procedures. I would like to challenge you to choose something in your business that needs to have a procedure written out for it – something that could benefit from drafting a blueprint. I’m writing our procedures for training so if you would like someone to go through it and see if they can follow your steps, I would be happy to help.