A stable business infrastructure ensures the proper coordination of all human resources, processes and other operational tools necessary to ensure manageable, profitable growth. Unfortunately, disorganization, inconsistency and task redundancy make up the Achilles’ heel of many offices and small businesses alike.
In order to enhance your company’s chances of longevity, it is important to first recognize its Achilles’ heels and turn them into Herculean strengths. This article, which originated as a white paper for a legal publication, explores three common Achilles’ heels of many small businesses: Quicksand Construction, Paperwork Inertia, and the Electronic Abyss. Specific strategies and tips are provided to convert these Achilles’ heels into the Herculean strengths of Concrete Construction, Paperwork Fluidity, and the Electronic Sanctuary.
Hercules and Achilles, two celebrated mythical Greek heroes, originated as half-god, half-human beings. However Hercules eventually attained eternal life via deification whereas Achilles remained mortal. What led to their diverse paths?
Despite Achilles’ education and training, he was vulnerable because of his heel (Achilles’ goddess mother immersed her son, with the exception of one of his heels, into the Styx River hoping to make him wholly god.) It was on this vulnerable point that he was slain. Hercules, while faced with many challenges and obstacles, chose a life of toil and labor and ultimately achieved immortality.
Every small-business owner starts off wanting to conquer challenges and face them head on, but some make it while others do not. The key is to manage your company for success and perpetuity, not short-term fire-fighting.
Let’s explore the first major element of creating business infrastructure:
Just as you would never construct a building on quicksand, the same should apply to building your business. Unfortunately, for most small-business owners the concept of business construction is abstract and therefore is much more difficult to visualize.
By creating a company organization chart that identifies not just the key players and their departments but their job tasks as well, you will have developed a concrete tool for structuring and managing your company. Strong businesses have a well-defined organizational infrastructure, regardless of the number of employees.
You can convert your company’s foundation from quicksand to concrete by following six simple steps:
- On a sheet of paper, write an exhaustive list of all job tasks that must be performed daily to keep your company running smoothly. This should include everything from returning phone calls to preparing payroll.
- Next, identify like job tasks. Then, on separate sheets of paper, write down the tasks that can be grouped together: scan receipts, enter information into QuickBooks, pay invoices, mail invoices, etc.
- Assign a department name to each group of tasks and write it at the top of each page. Although you may not think of your company in this manner, almost every business has the following types of “departments:” Legal, Accounting/Finance, Sales, Marketing, Operations, Human Resources, and Information Technology.
- Draw a line underneath the last job task per department page and think of who would be responsible for executing those tasks even if you do not have the staff or outside contractors currently in place. This step is key.
- Using your computer’s word processing program, type brief job descriptions for each employee or contractor you identified making sure to include those job tasks previously identified in Step 2.
- Last, assign a color to each department. Color association allows you as well as your existing and future staff members to quickly locate information. Choose colors that make sense to you and your staff. Because green is closely associated with money, it may not be a bad idea to assign green to any accounting or financial related information.
The end result should be the basis for your newly established organizational infrastructure. You can now use these departments and their associated colors to develop your company’s records management systems.
A well-defined organizational infrastructure will answer the following questions:
- What needs to be done and who will do it?
- How is my company organized into departments?
- Which job functions will be outsourced and which will be performed internally (full-time, part-time)?
Project time: Depending on the size of your company, you can complete this exercise in approximately a week if you devote about two to four hours per day until completion.
Got questions? Leave them in the comments section below. For more specific details on organizational infrastructure, check out these articles: How to Execute a Job Task Analysis in a Small Business and How to Create a Small Business Organizational Chart
Stay tuned for Part 2 of How to Create Small Business Infrastructure.