Streamline Your Business with These Workflow Best Practices

#29 In this episode, we're discussing the importance of workflows for small business success. We'll cover the most important attributes of good workflows, and introduce several common workflow models. This is not a "how to" podcast for an operator. In fact, it's a "what to look for" episode for business leaders so you can quickly recognize if your team is on the right track or is in over their heads. If you're a small business leader looking to improve your team's efficiency and collaboration, then tune in to this episode to learn how to create clear and effective workflows.----------Hiring Secrets: How to find the right people who will take your business to the next level.I'm hosting a LIVE workshop and giving you my playbook for building world class teams.Learn my Hiring Secrets here ($49)More Resources:1) Agency Owners: here are some tools you need in your toolbox.2) Skills Matrix: Grab my favorite team management tool.3) Connect with me on LinkedIn (where I share more great content).

When I'm sitting down with team
members, one of my favorite

questions to ask them is this.
How do you know what you should

be doing next? Hello and welcome
to the sharp business growth

podcast. The podcast for business
leaders who want to create

profitable, scalable growth. I'm
your host deacon Bradley. And on

today's show. I want to be
talking about workflows. I'm an

operator. I'm an integrator. I
love all of that stuff, but

today, if you don't love that
stuff, I'm talking to you.

Because. Too often people who
aren't. I'm talking to visionary

CEOs are here, right? They don't
love workflows. They don't love

all that operational stuff. It's
not there. Their love language.

So to speak. And as a result.
It's kind of just, you know,

neglected in the organization or
they bring someone else in to do

it. But so often I am stepping
into organizations where it is

obvious that this has been
neglected and workflows are

absent. They're in disarray, it
is causing a lot of things to

bounce back onto that visionary
leader. And as an operator and as

an integrator, I take great
offense to that because my job.

Is really to help the visionary
actually be a visionary. That's

the role of the integrator in all
of this? That's the role of an

operator? And so what I want to
do today, It's just step through

at a really high level. What are
these characteristics? Like, what

is this supposed to look like?
What kinds of things can you, can

you put in place here and should
you be expecting to see. From

your side of the wall as somebody
who's not like the lead person

creating all this stuff because
you know what it's okay. It's

okay to not love this stuff like
that is why we all have different

gifts. And we're blessed with
different talents. All right. So.

No big deal. But it's also
important that you understand how

this should look so that you
don't wake up one day and think,

why am I. Struggling. Why are so
many things winding up on my

desk? And that's really what I
see happen really often. Is the

person who is put in that
operational chair. Whether,

whatever it is that you call
them, whether it's the

operational manager, whether it's
the COO, whether it's a project

manager, This individual who's in
that chair is not fully equipped

to understand all of this stuff
that they're setting up. And so

they just kind of set up their
one thing, but. The biggest

problem though. Is that that
individual may not understand.

How. How, uh, not good. It is to
have things wind up on the

visionary's desk. And that's kind
of, I guess the biggest problem

is just them not recognizing
those kinds of things. So. First

things first. I want to give some
examples, just really high level

of like, Workflow models. Okay.
Actually, you know what? Let's

start with attributes here.
Because if I'm going to describe

models, I want you to just be
able to see these attributes. In

the models. And so here are a few
attributes of like, alright, this

workflow. Is working. Number one.
Clarity. A good workflow should

be clear and easy to understand.
I should be able to step into

this as an outsider and say, Hey,
where, where are things in this

process? What needs to be done
next what's being worked on right

now. Have there been any failures
recently that need to be

addressed? Things like that. I
just had this conversation with,

uh, one of my partners teams
earlier today. It's kind of the

inspiration for this workflow,
which is this question that I, I,

I go in and I'm like, Hey, how do
you guys know what you should be

working on today? How do you know
what to work on next? And there

was a lot of head-scratching and
not people really didn't know.

And what that told me was. That
the way that they knew what to do

was by actually going to the CEO
and saying, Hey, What should I do

or worse waiting around for him
to tell them what to do and

that's not. Okay. So you need
clarity. The next thing that you

need is accountability. So a good
workflow should actually assign

responsibility for everything
that's in it. Everything that's

happening, you should be able to
look at a stage and know, okay.

That's deacon stage here. Hey,
that's, you know what, that's

over there in this stage,
justice, how has that stuff

going? He's accountable for all
of those things. So pick it on

justice today. Cause, uh, cause
he's not here. One. To admin

stuff is, uh, is not his favorite
thing, justice as a classic

visionary. Right. But that
doesn't mean that you can't build

accountability. Into this
process. So you need clarity. You

need accountability. You also
need. Flexibility. I was brought

into an organization. Last
summer. And their workflow had

probably about, you know, 15
different stages that something

went through. And we'll talk a
little bit about the model that

they used in the, in the next
section here, but. That workflow

was very inflexible. And so what
would happen is as. As things

like Ebdon flowed with demands,
they would pile up in these

bottlenecks and the process was
unable to adapt. And one of the

biggest reasons it was unable to
adapt is because. It was designed

in a way that created lots of
silos. So people kind of imagine

them. Um, imagine a really long.
Factory line, like maybe this is

a UN, uh, the Tesla factory,
right? And there's a guy who puts

the doors on the car. Probably a
robot, but let's just go with it

for this analogy. It was the guy
who puts the doors on the car.

Right. Uh, if things are backing
up. Before his process. Uh,

where, you know, maybe there's
an, another part that's put on

the car. Oh, that guy wouldn't
know or really care. Cause he

just kind of sat in his spot on
the line and he just put doors on

a car like that. That was it. And
so this workflow, if it's

inflexible. The car door guy
could never really get outside of

that and work on anything else,
because that's not really how

it's designed. You can't adjust
how the factory flows. And so. A

good workflow. When I work with
small businesses, it needs to

have some flexibility built in.
We don't know how things are

going to be going in a month or
two months, like things change.

Okay. And so you should build,
build a workflow. That can

account for that. And so if
you're noticing like consistent

pile ups of bottlenecks, And uh,
where one department is really

busy and another one has not
enough to do. That's a sign that

there's not enough flexibility.
In your workflow of, we need to

make some adjustments there.
Number four, a good workflow

should have great communication.
It should facilitate

communication amongst the people
who were working on it. When

there are handoffs from one thing
to the next. That should be a

communication step. When people
are working within a step,

whether it's for approval,
whether it's to make an

adjustment, like there needs to
be really good communication

involved there. And it, and no, I
do not mean everybody piling in a

slack channel and just having a
free for all. Like throwing

comments out. Right. Like that's
disorganized communication

because. It's involving all the
different stages of the workflow.

All have to look at that and see
what's going on. And then decide,

does this apply to me? No good
communication should be built

into the workflow in a way that
the people who are actually

involved in that step. That they
get the benefit of the

communication, but everyone else
who is not involved in that step

is not burdened by that
communication. So. Sometimes we

mess this up because of tools
like slack. And it's easy to just

be like, you know what. Put
everybody in a room and just

shout stuff out while you're
working. And. The accountability

part assumption built in there is
we all read everything and so we

know everything. And so we're
just constantly reading and

knowing and. Frankly being
confused and overwhelmed. So. Uh,

communication needs to be built
in. But, uh, but please don't

just throw everybody in a giant
room. And then cause as that

process grows and scales. It
will, it will scale exponentially

with complexity and noise rather
than actually scaling up in a

profitable, scalable way that
we're all hoping for. And lastly

your workflow should create
consistency. It shouldn't have a

consistent output and expected
output. The quality should be

there. The quantity should be
there. Those are the types of

things that you're looking for
when you're saying, Hey, am I

able to consistently create a
result? So, if you want a build a

profitable, scalable
organization, you need to be able

to predict how things are going,
whether that's bringing on new

team members. And creating some
outputs from them. Or if that's

doing some sort of big push where
you need. You know, At a certain

output at the other side of that,
you need that consistency or you

will really struggle to figure
out are we on pace? Did we hire

enough people? Are we going to
make our numbers? Uh, those types

of things. So those are the big
things that I'm looking for as

attributes of a good workflow.
Now I want to switch gears a

little bit and look at five
common models for workflows. Now,

this is the part where if you are
a visionary, if, if workflows and

operations is not your love
language, like that's great. I

just want you to hear these,
understand that they exist. They

are simple enough that you can
recognize them in your

organization. And this is one of
the places where I see either a

workflow missing that is easy to
spot and just, or I see the wrong

type of workflow applied. And. As
a business leader. One of your

key roles. Is to get the right
people on the bus. Get them in

the right seats on the bus. And
so what I'm talking about here,

what I want you to be listening
for is. The operator, the project

manager. The operations manager,
whatever that person is on your

team. But I want you to be
listening for is, is this person

in the right seat? Meaning, do
they see these things to do they

understand it? Are they capable
of recognizing these scenarios

and putting plans into place? No,
your job is not to fix them. It's

not to. To go teach them the same
stuff. Uh, it's really just to

recognize them. Cause we're
talking to business leaders on

this podcast. So I want you to be
able to see this stuff. The first

one. Is the base the most basic
workflow. It's a linear workflow.

And a linear workflow, a simple,
essentially is a sequential

process. Every step follows on
the previous step in the process.

And so you think about like the
Tesla assembly line. I mentioned

earlier, like that's a linear
workflow for the most part,

right. The cars literally go down
the assembly line. I mentioned

this earlier. Uh, a marketing
agency that I worked with that at

the end of their output was this
giant amount of copy and

automations and stuff, kind of
all assembled. And do a package,

but it was done in a very linear
fashion or you're creating ideas.

You're writing. Copy. Then
there's graphics and there's

editing and it's like, it went
through this very linear. Steps

of the process. The team I was
talking to earlier today, it was

a linear process. Uh, it was a
content team also making, uh,

like videos and stuff like that.
It's a very linear process. You

record the video, you edit the
video, you publish the video.

That's a linear process. The next
model is a parallel workflow. And

in a parallel workflow, there are
things that are happening at the

same time. To pull this off. You
really need a project manager

orchestrating all of this stuff.
With a linear workflow. You can,

you can get away without having
one. You can set something up in

a project management system, but
even as simple as notion or

Trello. That's going to help you
get a linear workflow done. So I

love linear workflows when they
can be applied in a small

business. Because nobody really
has to manage the whole thing.

And a parallel workflow. There
are different people working on

different things all at the same
time, that's going to take a

little bit more orchestration,
but we're bigger things. It can

help you get things done. A
little bit faster. It can help

you get things done. Bringing in
different types of talents and

teams. And so it's an important
one to understand and recognize

too. The third model is a
circular workflow. And this is

one that I would see a lot in an
advertising agency because a

circular workflow is where things
are. Are done again and again and

again. So when you launch ads,
for example, The work is just

beginning. You are continually
going in. Looking at the

performance. Making a decision.
And then deciding do I create new

ads? Do I adjust a budget?
Something like that, but this

process has to happen over and
over. And if you don't have a

circular workflow process that
helps people remember understand

this question of what should I do
next? What am I doing now?

Without that, what you'll get is
them just kind of scurrying

around from station to station,
looking at stuff. And it's a

little bit of chaos. It's a
little bit of a hit or miss. And

then kind of going back to
attributes of a good workflow.

The thing that I would expect to
be lacking there is the

consistency. So I would probably
Nazi consistency. In an

environment where there. Needs to
be a circular workflow. But one

doesn't exist. This next one is a
little bit fuzzier and I don't

use it quite as often, but I do
deploy it sometimes. It's a

hierarchical workflow. And in a
hierarchal, har hierarchical

workflow is difficult to say. Is
essentially tasks have levels of

importance. And so. Anytime you
are encountering something where

there is there's too much to be
done. It can be helpful to add

this concept of a hierarchical
workflow into it. And because

this can be a little bit
confusing. I'm actually going to

go to something really simple to
explain it. One of my favorite

restaurants in the entire world.
Chick-fil-A. Now Chick-fil-A has

a really, I mean, these, these,
this is a well-run organization

from top to bottom. And if we go
into an actual restaurant, you

will see a hierarchical workflow
taking place. And what that means

is essentially people understand
the team members on the team

understand the level of
importance of different tasks.

And so. There is a long line of
customers. People there are

making food, they're taking
customer orders and they're

getting that food out to
customers. That is what they're

doing all the time. Right. It
seems pretty obvious. Like, you

know, what, what else would you
do at a restaurant? Right. Great

Deegan cool point. But what's
more interesting is when things

aren't busy and this is where the
hierarchical part comes in, that

you can see if you go to a
Chick-fil-A when it's less busy,

there's not as many people in
line. Those employees they're

still there. But more
interestingly, they still know

exactly what to do to move the
business forward. And so when

it's less busy, you will see
fewer people making food, fewer

people, delivering food, fewer
people, taking customer orders.

Those people are now doing less.
Crucial tasks. They are cleaning

tables. They are taking the trash
out. They were doing all these

sorts of things that keep the
restaurant up and running and

make it clean and hospitable to
the guests that are coming in.

That's a good example of a
hierarchical workflow. When I.

Step into an organization and
there are individuals. In this

process, whether there's a
process or not. Who are

completely overwhelmed and there.
You know, can't get all their

stuff done. Uh, hierarchical
workflow is the tool that I put

in place as fast as possible. And
that's really about.

Understanding, what is. Critical
mission, critical tasks. What are

less mission-critical tasks.
Okay. Let's make sure everybody

understands that. So that there
aren't people standing in line or

getting cold food. Uh, while all
the tables are clean, right.

Let's just help. I understand
those things. And so that can

help with throughput. Help with
consistency. Uh, and help.

Understand everything that needs
to be done. The last workflow

model that I use a lot in small
businesses is really agile. Now

I'm going to spare you. My, my
long soapbox on why I actually

don't like agile. If you don't
know, I actually come from a

software development background.
I spent the first decade of my

career in. Very fast paced, very
small, high accountability,

software startups. It was a lot
of fun, learned a lot about agile

and some other methodologies
they're just by experiencing

them. And. Again, I think as a
concept, it's great. The part I'm

going to teach you here is great
and important. You'll immediately

get it. Uh, but yeah, I'm going
to spare you my long diatribe on

why I would not actually
implement this. If I were running

a software business. But an agile
workshop, well is essentially

designed to be. Flexible. It
emphasizes collaboration,

experimentation, continuous
development. And that is why it

thrives in a software
environment. Think of it like

this. And an agile workflow. We
work in sprints. Whether that's

one week or one month, whatever
it is is not important. But

during that sprint. We have a
small set of tasks and we are

focused on finishing those,
getting them all over the line.

And then at the end of that,
we're actually going to replan

the next sprint. So that's where
the agile name and concept comes

from. It is because as an
organization, if you need to

switch directions, change things
up. It helps because you know

that in two weeks, Or however
long your sprint is. You are

going to sit down again with your
team and plan the next two weeks.

So you can very quickly switch.
Focuses of the company of the

team all at once, because this is
just part of your DNA. So while I

wouldn't go out and learn the
agile methodology or try to apply

it specifically, I think it can
be helpful as a leader to

recognize. When you're running a
project or when your team is

taking on a project where there
is a little bit more uncertainty,

you have to create something.
Maybe it's something really big

and you can't totally get your
arms around it right now. Uh, you

don't want to try to plan out the
entire thing all at once at the

beginning, because of all the
unknowns. Um, this is where an

agile workflow can come in and
just knowing like, all right.

Here's what I would X here's how
I'd expect us to work. We're

going to take the first 10 steps.
Then we're going to get back

together and play in the next 10
steps. So if I'm a leader,

Sitting in a chair. Looking at my
organization wondering like,

where's the consistency, where's
the accountability, you know,

what's missing here. I hope I've
given you some tools to be able

to recognize where some of these,
these different things should be

playing a role in your
organization. If those things are

there. Hey, fantastic. Go high
five, your integrator operator,

whatever it is. Do you call him?
And if they're missing, Then now

you have some conversation
starters to start asking

questions and the number one
question. That I would start

with. Is this. How does your team
know what to do next? How do you

know what to be working on?
Thanks for joining me on the

sharp business. Go podcast. Uh,
it's been a little while since

I've been recording, I've been
fighting some major room echo.

Hopefully you couldn't hear it in
this room. Got some acoustic

tiles on order. Because I want to
be recording more of these. And

also. Probably going to be doing
more shorter episodes because

that frankly takes. A lot of the
planning out of it. That has been

holding me back. Gordon with a
lot of projects lately, a lot of

partnerships. A lot of new stuff
going on and that's kind of taken

me away, but I miss you guys. I
love being here. I love recording

this show. I love the feedback I
get. Do you have any questions on

this episode or if there's an
operations related topic? Around

creating a profitable, scalable
business that you want to hear.

I'd love to have an email. Hit me
up. Hello. Deacon Bradley. Dot

com. I'll see you next time.

Streamline Your Business with These Workflow Best Practices
Broadcast by