How to Catastrophe-Proof Your Business

Hi guys. Diane here.

I was just thinking about a client that I finished up a project for earlier this week and something they said stuck with me. During our initial discussions, he mentioned that one of his major pain points were his team dropping balls left and right in his business.

His support team has some processes outlined – and work was certainly being accomplished – but many things were still falling through the cracks: in particular, onboarding and delivery for a massive client was a mess. Plus, important clients were not getting the products that they were being promised, and so their overall experience was just not up to standard.

In short, he was frustrated with his team members. No one was taking ownership of the situation and his managers would sometimes disappear and be out of contact with him for days at a time. And, predictably, my client just does not have the time to run around and chase down these managers to find out what’s going on.

So, he was mostly pushing forward. Up until that massive client decided to terminate their contract. At that point, he realized that this could not go on.

That’s when we started to work together. He badly wanted to fix the situation so he called me in to dissect the problems.

Truth be told, there are a lot of situations like this without our businesses where things go off the rails and a client or contract is lost – all because processes are not as tight as they should be. It’s really rather common.

Are you following the process correctly?

When I come across a situation like this, the first thing I do is try to trace where the team initially fell off. Were they following the process correctly? Or, is the process itself flawed? Did they not know what they were responsible for – or are they not a good fit for this job?

And, in my experience, it’s more commonly a combination of the first two issues where the process is flawed or it isn’t well-documented. It’s also possible that they don’t know what they’re responsible for and what the standards are overall.

More often than not, people want to do a good job for you. And a lot of recent HR studies have shown that issues within a business that actually stem from employees cause only about 5% of company issues.

So you have to think about that another 95% of the time and ask where things are going off the tracks? Other things influence how well your team ultimately does because they generally want to do a good job for you.

The process to catastrophe-proof your business

So the first thing I do is take a step back and try and find out where they’re going off the rails. Because you know what? As business owners, this is not your fault. We’re all busy and guilty of doing a little bit of a drive-by delegation. Plus with so many processes and things happening in our business, it’s really easy for us to say lump two or three different steps into a single procedural step that we document.

But this is what creates confusion for our teams. It isn’t really ingrained in us to clearly set our expectations, i.e., to define our expectations. We may be internally expecting that they’ll perform well, but that’s not a good expectation because it doesn’t give the other person objectives: clearly outlined ways to measure performance.

There might be a difference between their standard for “well” and yours. And it’s in that uncertainty where we see a lot of processes fail, where clients are lost, and where the frustration begins.

So, think back to how much of the process was completed. If they were following a process you assigned/created to get those products to your client, how much of it was delivered? What were the steps that they went through at each step? Was it too standard… was it not to standard?

Those are all things that you need to outline so that you can figure out where you need to add steps, where to add guidelines, where you need to remove steps, etc. Maybe you forgot to outline everything and are just sending them emails saying, “Oh… I need you to do this. And this. And this.”

And if that’s the case, take a look at the emails. Did you give them the necessary information for the task? Because if you did, you’d be best served to standardize the format so that you can constantly send those kinds of emails without too much effort. That would be the first step to solving issues in your business if you’re not satisfied with the work that your team is doing.

The second thing that you need to do is to directly address the issue with your team; update them on what’s happened and reset the whole process with them.

A lot of times when we go into these situations, we simply don’t say anything. The team knows something bad has happened… they know you’re not happy, and as a result, they walk on eggshells for a while and are afraid to ask questions.

Communicate with your team

It goes without saying, but that’s not a good collaborative environment: your team has a lot of vital data for you about their processes. For example, a lot of processes that we outline might seem instantaneous, one-step processes; I can just create the label and it will be printed and shipped within minutes.

For your team, however, that might not be the case. They might be running into issues that you don’t even know about. So, address the problem directly and ask them what’s been going on.

Ask them where the process can improve and where they’re stumbling – this is the vital data that will help you tighten up your processes and steer clear of huge issues along the way. The only way to access this data though is to have an open line of communication with your team.

Now that the standard is set, the process behind it is solid and clear and your team is well aware of it. That is how your catastrophe-proof your business and you prevent problems from cropping up in the future, whether client-based, project-based, or anything else that could have an adverse effect on your bottom line.

Drop me a line and let me know your thoughts – I’m happy to chat with you about how we can catastrophe-proof of your business.

Until next time,

Diane

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