First Person: The Value of Small Business Systems

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This was a very expensive lesson for our small business in south Texas. At the time of this experience, I was the vice president of sales and marketing thus I was responsible for our sales efforts throughout the company, including our new business in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico.

Our small business had the unique opportunity to expand our computer sales and service operations into that part of Mexico. It was only three hours from McAllen Texas, about half of it on Mexico's new toll road, the autopista. We were already doing computer and printer maintenance in Reynosa, Matamoros and Nuevo Laredo. Our main customer had plants in Monterrey too so this gave us a base from which to operate.

Opened New Office without Systems

Our problem in opening this new office is that we lacked any position guides, procedures manual, and process flowcharts. There were no manuals for the various jobs people did in our company and no checklists. In other words, we had no systems. Everyone was flying by the seat of his or her pants.

Costs from Not Having Systems in Place First

Naturally, this cost us a lot of unnecessary mistakes as well as poor quality while our people were figuring out what to do on their own. The costs of having no systems became really apparently when our small business' owners decided we needed to send our head buyer to Monterrey to train someone there. Lacking any systems, she was forced to train as things came up.

Adding to our training expense was the fact that we had no one as knowledgeable as she was now at our home office. This meant that she was constantly on the phone to McAllen or to vendors in the United States to handle things there too. We had our buyer's travel expenses stretch out for additional days plus her international phone calls. Thirdly, we suffered lots of errors from people largely untrained in McAllen.

Benefits of Systems for Small Businesses

There are so many benefits to installing systems in your small business.

- They make training easier and faster

- Instill more confidence in your new hires

- Increase job satisfaction

- Improve quality.

- Then in unique situations like opening a new office, they can also save you a lot of money on travel and phone bills by minimizing the time needed to get that office up and running.

What You Need for Good Systems

At a minimum, you need the following:

- Manuals that include pictures of properly filled out forms or finished products

- Checklists

- Flowcharts for each job

- Position descriptions or task lists

While we lacked systems in sales and marketing and all other departments in the company, watching what happened to our head buyer showed how much we needed systems. Lacking them increased our small business' costs big time and extended the time our head buyer was out of country. To improve your quality, employees' job satisfaction and minimize your costs, start now to put systems in place in your small business too.

*Note: This was written by a Yahoo! contributor. Do you have a personal finance story that you'd like to share? Sign up with the Yahoo! Contributor Network to start publishing your own finance articles.

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