When you’re just beginning this whole running-a-business-thing, it’s easy to fall into the whole go-with-the-flow mindset.  You take things as they come, learn as you go, and hope for the best.  And for a while, this might actually work.

But eventually, it won’t.

Things will become harder to manage and more difficult to keep track of, and if you continue to go with the flow, you’ll find yourself flowing right off of a very tall building on the edge of a very high cliff into a very deep abyss.

Since falling from such great heights typically doesn’t end so well, we believe it’s incredibly important that people execute the 4 Ps of any good business – People, Process, Productivity, and Planning.  Previously, we touched on People and now it’s time to hit Process.

What does process mean to us?

To us, process is the difference between a correctly installed server and an incorrectly installed server.  It’s the difference between efficiency and downtime.  It’s the difference between saving money and losing money.  It’s the difference between retaining clients and losing clients.

Basically, it’s everything to an MSP.

When you build a thorough and legitimate process, you’re telling each of your employees exactly how things should be done.  There are no question marks, no experiments, and no what ifs.  Things happen as they should, when they should, and with whom they should.

However, a process is never done evolving, and as your business grows, so too should your processes.  Here’s a simple five-step strategy that will help you build and perfect effective processes for your MSP.

Create the recipe

Making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich may seem simple enough, but really, there are a thousand and one different ways to make one.  Each person does it a little differently – maybe the peanut butter is first, or maybe the jelly is.  Maybe you use a knife to spread your jelly, or maybe you use the bread to move things around.

The point is, something that seems simple, easy, and quick can play out in a variety of ways – and some of these ways may not be as efficient as others.  And imagine what the case would be if you were making something a little more involved like Teriyaki Chicken or Fettuccini Alfredo.

When you’re creating a process, think of it as an extremely detailed recipe… open the bag of bread, set the bag tie in a safe location, take out two bread slices, set both slices on a plate… and so on and so forth.  The more details you have, the less likely there is to be confusion, mistakes, and complications.

The process of creating a process should always necessitate a collaborative effort from those actively involved in the process you’re creating.  They know better than anyone what the steps look like.  So bust out a whiteboard and a pack of dry erase markers and get to processing.  After you’ve created your process recipe, everyone at the table should have buy-in, and there should be no assumptions, shortcuts, or glaring diagonal lines.

Build a flowchart

After you’ve created the actual process, plug all the pieces into a flowchart, and separate your flowchart vertically by people, automation, and process action.  This will provide you with a clear visual of the work involved and will show you whether or not your process is heavily reliant on the human element.

Plan to automate

The less reliant your processes are on human interactions, the more predictable and successful these processes will be.  Therefore, once you have a clear visual as to where all your pieces fit into the flowchart, find ways to push your pieces into automation.  Parts of this might be pretty obvious while others will require some time, planning, and investment.

Hold people accountable

Like mentioned earlier, everyone involved in the process should have buy-in.  In no way should they doubt the accuracy or efficiency of the processes you’ve worked together to establish.  And if this is the case, then you should have no problem holding your people accountable for following through with these processes.  Not only will you have an effective way to grade consistency and gauge work quality and success, but so will your employees.

In other words, there are no excuses.

Address failures as they come

Processes are ever-evolving.  They should change as your business changes, as your solutions change, as your employees and clients change, and as technology changes.  If employees are failing to implement processes properly, address these failures immediately.  Don’t wait to see if things will get better or justify failures by calling them flukes.  The more familiar you are with why a process fails (whether it only happens for one employee or for one client and whether it’s a one-time deal or a reoccurring issue), the more of an opportunity you have to improve your workflow.

After you discover what the root of the problem is, it might just be the matter of a simple training, or it could mean the complete overhaul and rework of a current process.  Whatever it is, identify the problem and take the proper steps to correct the situation.  Your business will only get better as a result.

If you’d like to learn more about the 4 Ps of any good business, you can watch this 1-hour webinar on the first 2 Ps – People and Process.  You can also review the six essential elements of People right here.