Business Is Like Baking: Processes and systems are keys to scaling your business

By Matt Firestone | Oct 15, 2021




Increased profits, productivity and accountability are common business expectations. Business owners and managers build a team of hard-working industry all-stars, yet they never seem to win the big game and achieve the owner’s goals for the company. If goals are not met, management rolls up its proverbial sleeves and gets to work. Remember the saying, “If you want it done right, do it yourself.” This DIY mentality is the number one reason a company’s growth and success gets stifled. To successfully scale your business, you need to leverage other people’s time so you are free to focus on the high-value company tasks.

We only have so much capacity—whether it be time, energy or the ability to juggle multiple tasks and wear many hats. To truly grow and scale a business we need to leverage others’ capacities. Once we have unlocked this door, the sky is the limit.

Many authors have written about designing processes and systems to expand your business effectively. Some have even developed entire programs with workshops, business coaches and online support communities. I have picked up plenty of good ideas in these books, but I have also found, in many cases, they are presented as a one-size-fits-all solution.

In my own experience, developing systems and defining processes can be pretty straightforward. One misconception we experience with our clients is that they feel every step needs to be in writing as part of a process. This mindset makes the documenting processes overwhelming and sets an organization up for failure. Defining the desired outcome and creating boundaries for employees to work within allows for employee ownership and accountability for the outcomes.

Let’s step away from our desks and into the kitchen for a moment. Imagine your favorite cookies that someone else makes. Now think, how could you go about baking those same cookies? I would go right to the recipe book.

Baking is a simple process, much like you have in your business. You have a list of ingredients, or resources, available to you. You have a set of instructions and steps in the process. But most importantly, you have the desired outcome—in this example, a fresh batch of warm cookies (snickerdoodles, in my case).

As the baker, we still have some flexibility in how we make the cookies. Maybe you like to gather all your ingredients and set them on the counter before you begin, or perhaps you would rather find them as you need them.

Some of us may mix the ingredients by hand, while others will use an electric mixer. Regardless of the exact method, if we all follow the same recipe, we should have the same cookies at the end. The recipe is only our guide, similar to how your business processes should be developed.

You are probably asking, “Is this guy nuts? He thinks running my multimillion-dollar business is like baking cookies?” I know as well as you do that running a business is a bit more complex than baking. However, breaking it down into smaller, more manageable bites is not that hard. Let’s look at a typical construction company.

How would you divide up the tasks you complete in a typical day, week or month to grow and scale your business? From a contractor standpoint, I would probably say your time is spent on project management, estimating, accounting and running the business.

Next, look at all of the tasks and determine which of them you could delegate to someone else. These are the tasks that you should focus on developing processes around. Remember, we are trying to leverage other people to free you up to do the company’s high-value tasks that only you can do.

As you consider the various processes within your business, think about the outcome you want from someone else doing the tasks you used to do. When they finish their work, what does the completed task look like? What resources will they need? Who is accountable for which tasks or actions? Is there a deadline to meet or timeline to follow?

Jot down the answers to these questions as you would if you were giving someone your favorite cookie recipe. Once you have the recipe (process) and proper bakers (employees), then you can focus efforts on selling cookies instead of spending all your time in the kitchen baking them yourself.

About The Author

FIRESTONE, a former contractor, is the owner of Firestone Consulting Group. He can be reached at [email protected].

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