Is there a routine or situation that regularly causes stress or frustration in your day? These frustrations can actually be a significant indicator that a bottleneck exists somewhere in your business processes and that should not be ignored.

When I first started running my Nando’s restaurant (many moons ago), not only did I have to continue to run my household, I also had to learn the ins and outs of owning a hospitality business, running a restaurant, learn all about, get qualified and certified in first aid, food safety, fire training etc. This put a major strain on my relationship with my husband and children, but I had asked that my husband gives me 3 months to immerse myself in the new business.

I was committed and willing to do what I had to so that I had everything under control by the time that three months had passed. Nando’s at that stage still had less than 10 stores in QLD only had some very basic systems in place for running the food side of a Nando’s business. I knew I had to quickly develop systems and train staff on how to follow them whilst I was not there. The three months preceding I continued to work seven days per week, and as many hours as it took. I’m proud to say, I stuck to my commitments that I had made to my husband around only taking three months out to wholly immerse myself in the business.

In 2009, during an annual marketing conference, Nando’s announced two things that struck something within me. The first was the ‘United Against Malaria” program, where we could all be involved in raising money for Malaria nets to be distributed in Africa and the second was the Nando’s Peri Program. The winner of the Peri Program (judged on the business operations and performance of each store) would win tickets to the World Cup in South Africa. I remember watching the powerpoint presentation, I looked sideways at my husband and thought to myself, “I’m taking you to the World Cup in South Africa”. I was so convinced this prize was mine, the other franchises didn’t stand a chance. The prize was broken down into quarterly prizes. I strategically won 3 of the 4 quarters. I had all of my staff motivated to win, we all wanted to be number 1 store in QLD and NT!

Consequently, I took my husband to the World Cup in South Africa in 2010. The program continued to run, there were a lot of staff changes and movement for the following year. I had all of our processes down pat and everything ran so smoothly that everyone just knew what needed to be done. Bringing in the new staff was a smooth transition as the systems were all there, they just needed to be followed.

At this point physically and mentally I was becoming drained. Although I always wanted to be the best at what I did, I also wanted to be the best wife and mother. An internal struggle I faced constantly. Not only that, my husband was immersed in his own business and launching a product, I was overseeing our new home being built, I lost someone very dear to me and my relationship with my extended family was in turmoil. I still went to work and fulfilled my commitments but my heart just wasn’t in my business anymore.

I soldiered on (as we all do) and I remember the surprise and shock I felt when they announced that I had won number 1 store in QLD and NT again for the second year running. The prize this time was to a destination of my choice, so I chose Europe and took my husband and children on the trip of a lifetime (with my in-laws and my mother, which is a whole nother story in itself which I don’t really need to get into.) At the time I had no idea how I had won again when my heart wasn’t even in it. Not long after this I sold the restaurant and took a few weeks off (was supposed to be months but let’s face it, I can’t sit still for long!)

During that time I reflected on so many things I had learned whilst running that particular business. This is when it dawned on me, I had created such seamless processes, routines and good habits that even though my heart was not in it, the habits and processes saw my businesses through to winning number 1 store for the 2nd year running without even trying. This is where having documented seamless document processes, routines and good habits certainly paid off!

So, my tip for you is to take time out to look for the typical signs of bottlenecks in your business and processes. Here are some of the indicators to look out for:

-backlogged work
-Missed deadlines
-people waiting
-stock not arriving on time
-unhappy customers
-Increased running costs
-stressed colleagues

Once identified, there are two clear ways to unblock the bottleneck,

1. Increase efficiency in the processes of
2. Decrease input into the steps or processes that cause the bottlenecks.

If I’m talking about processes, then it’s pretty important we understand what a process is and more importantly why we have them.

A process is a defined set of steps or tasks that you and your team use repeatedly to create your products and/or services, reach specific goals, or provide value to a customer or supplier.

When processes work well, they dramatically improve efficiencies, productivity, and ultimately customer satisfaction (and that’s what we’re all going for, right.) However, as mentioned earlier, processes that don’t work can cause frustration, double handling, delays, and ultimately financial losses.

Here are 5 quick tips you can use to improve your business processes so your business can also be number one:

1. Map out your process with the people who use them every day.
2. Analyse the steps of the process.
3. Redesign the process where you identify bottlenecks or gaps in missing steps or steps that can be improved.
4. Implement additional resources, tools or technologies that will increase efficiencies and automate the process
if possible.
5. Implement and communicate change and updated processes to all stakeholders.

Keep in mind, I’ve never created a process once and walk away. New goals, new technologies, industry changes and changes in your companies environment can all cause established processes to become inefficient or outdated.

One of the most important roles I perform as a business coach and mentor is to develop the person who I’m coaching. I do this by applying my knowledge, credibility, experience, and authority and develop a plan specifically for them and their business that helps them achieve their goals.

Processes are much like yourself in your business journey, something that will continually evolve. And, for them to be the most effective, you should periodically review them and find ways to improve them.

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