Episode 75: Business Process Development Steps With Chris Ronzio
What You Will Learn:
- Why process is crucial for helping business owners train others to take responsibility and strengthen the business
- Why it is important to learn how to “lead leaders” and distance yourself from the work that needs to be done
- Why the first step is taking stock of all the roles and responsibilities in your business and then determining what you want to delegate
- What actions to take to build a great, effective new employee onboarding and orientation process, and why that process should be one of the first you create
- How to set a new hire up for success and then automate the process so that new employees are quickly acquainted with your company, leadership, and processes
- Why a task that begins to feel tedious or monotonous is the perfect task to turn into an automated process
- Why automation isn’t about removing personal connections or dehumanizing your business but is about freeing up time and ensuring consistency
- How to avoid “freak out moments” by ensuring that every responsibility in your business has an owner and a backup owner
- Why implementing processes takes time and is in itself an ongoing process, and why you should set aside time to document your knowledge
- What best practices to follow to create and structure a process or standard operating procedure in your business
About Chris Ronzio:
Chris Ronzio is the founder and CEO of Trainual, a leading SaaS company helping businesses automate their onboarding and training by documenting every process, policy, and procedure in a simple system. Chris is a host of the Process Makes Perfect podcast, author of 100 Hacks To Improve Your Business, and an Inc. Magazine contributor with a column called The Process Playbook. With Trainual, Chris is on a mission to make small business easier by helping business leaders find the time to do more of what they love and providing a way to document and delegate what they do.
Elite Business Health Assessment: https://growwithelite.com/health
Listen to the podcast here
I’m thrilled to be able to introduce our guest. He and I have known each other for some time but only recently have I been able to hear him teach about what he knows and talk to other people about his expertise. I’m thrilled to bring him on. His name is Chris Ronzio. He is the Founder and CEO of Trainual, which is a company that specializes in helping business owners get clarity in their processes. They use a system. They have a platform to help people document their processes and train their team members on those core processes so that they can onboard and grow their team, but they also can keep their customer experience consistent and exceptional, and all the other benefits of having systems and processes documented and training your team. Welcome, Chris to the show.
Thanks for having me. It’s always great to see you.
In addition to being a Founder and CEO of a fast-growing technology company, I believe you’re an author. I know you have a podcast of your own. Let’s talk about that for a second. I’ll let you introduce those items yourself.
You have to be multi-threat these days, so producing content. My podcast is called Process Makes Perfect, for anyone who wants to check that out. The book 100 Hacks to Improve Your Business came out a few years ago. I’m working on the next book now. Stay tuned for tons of content to come.
I love that, Process Makes Perfect. We’ll use that as the transition point here to jump into our conversation. I think a lot of us, as seven-figure business owners, we’re breaking through that million-dollar mark. We’ve got a core team around us. We’re learning some things about being a leader and getting the knowledge that’s inside of us and moving it out to our teams, but many of us hold on to too much.
We’re like that age-old saying, “Reference to the bottleneck.” We are the bottleneck because we hold on to things and process make makes perfect. It’s a great way to describe the work that has to be done for a business owner to let go. They’ve got to create a process. They’ve got to document it so that it’s repeatable and trainable. Talk to us about why process makes perfect and the types of things you try to help people do.
It’s a fun play on words. Growing up, I played a lot of sports, mainly basketball. I remember my coach always saying, “Practice makes perfect. Show up for practice. Practice it at home. Take 1,000 free throws a week or whatever it was.” As an individual, when you’re trying to improve your skills, practice does make perfect. You spend 10,000 hours on something or whatever, you become an expert at what it is that you do.When you're trying to improve your skills, practice does make perfect. Click To Tweet
When you’re growing a business and you’re not wanting to be the one that generates all the revenue for the business, you have to get other people to generate revenue and do the other tasks in the business. The process is the thing that unlocks consistency. It’s the way that you replicate the perfection or close to perfection of how you did something, then hand it off to someone else so they can do it. I became obsessed with the process through my last few companies. Those are a fun play on words for the podcast.
As I think about growing a business, as a seven-figure business leader, our audience is thinking, “How do I grow this?” Necessarily, the only way to grow is one hire at a time. In order to enable that hiring process to go well, we have to do this process to make perfect work. Where do people get hung up? We talked a little bit about why they might be hesitant to do that. I’d like for you to expand on that. You see this all the time. Why don’t we as business owners do the work of documenting process?
First, I’ll talk about the transition from a six-figure to a seven-figure business. For anyone who’s tuning in and has already crested above that seven-figure mark, you’ve probably figured out that you can’t do everything by yourself. You have some team if you’ve gotten to seven fingers. Maybe you’re managing individuals still. You’re managing individual contributors. The big lesson you have to learn is how to manage managers, how to lead leaders, and how to build structure in the business for every department and let those departments grow independently of your involvement.
The further that you distance yourself from the work that’s being done, the more room your company has to grow. The hardest part of going from 6 to 7 to 8 figures is learning those lessons of how I go from doing everything myself, to having a team that does things, to having teams of teams that do things. It’s a hard thing to learn.
As you’re going through this process, you probably have some success with handing off the things in your business you don’t want to do. A lot of us start with ourselves or with a few people. Maybe from the beginning, you’re like, “I’m not going to do my accounting. I’m going to hire someone good at that. I’ve got a contractor or whatever it is.”
You might offload some things that you don’t want to do or that you’re not good at. The hardest thing people struggle with is that they may develop client relationships. They may be the best at some service or the technician that started this business because they have produced something so perfectly themselves that customers want. The hardest thing is to step out of doing something that you’re great at to enable other people to do that service so that you can get some leverage in your business and grow without putting in a ton more time. That’s where you need processes.
It’s especially hard because there’s a dopamine hit. You are so good at it. You’re like, “Look at me, I’m good at this.” It feels awesome to do that thing and now I’m letting go of something I love so that others can do it. There’s more than one reason that it’s hard to let go. You’re right. At least in my opinion, the key to scale is being able to enable others to take what you once did. If you don’t have a consistent way of doing that, then it’s going to be hectic and clunky.
For some people, I’m sure there are all different types of businesses tuning in, but if you’ve ever been to a salon, you know that there can be a master stylist and the stylist that takes the walk-ins. For most businesses, there’s this spectrum of services whereas you grow in your own business, you start doing the work that is the higher level work. Even if you’re still attached to the work, you’re trying to do this stuff that produces the most revenue or the most profit.
You want to initially get other people to do anything on the menu like, “Don’t work the busy nights at the restaurant. You take Fridays and Saturdays, or be the one that handles walk-ins and you handle people with the appointments.” There’s always some entry-level way to start introducing other people who do the work, but then it’s hard to get yourself entirely out of it. Maybe you don’t want to. Maybe you love doing what you’re doing so much that you decide intentionally, “I’m going to spend 1 or 2 days a week doing this craft because I love it. It’s R&D for me. I’m learning. I’m getting ideas.” That’s fine, but the important part is to be intentional about what I want out of this business.
Now we established that this is necessary work. Where can people get started? Thinking about organizing work, documenting processes, and making it transferable to others, whether it’s through a system like Trainual or some other way. What are the first steps that people need to take to be able to get this going?
It sounds daunting if you’ve ever been to a webinar or read some book and people say, “You need process. You need standard operating procedures.” You think about this project as something you want to accomplish all at once. You’re like, “This quarter, my business is getting SOPs.” Everybody has had those light bulb moments where it’s like, “I’m going to knock it out.” The reality is that this is something you do over time for the business. You’re going to reevaluate this all the time.
What you want to document and what you create a process for is what you want to delegate. It’s the thing that you want to train someone else to do. The first step is to take inventory of your business now and figure out what everyone does here. What are all the roles in my business? What are all the responsibilities in the business? Where are things shifting a bit? What do I want to come off my plate? When I meet with my direct reports, what are the things that they don’t want to do anymore?Take inventory of your business today and figure out what everyone does. Click To Tweet
You start to highlight these areas of the business that are the shifting points. That’s where your opportunity is. It’s the stuff that you want off your plate or your direct reports want off their plate that you need to start crafting training for. That’s what you should document first. It’s not that you need to document everything in the entire business. It’s that you need to document things that you have a reason to document. It’s the stuff that you want to give instruction on and want to create a process on. That’s the first piece. Take the macro view of who does what around here, and what things are likely to transfer so that we make sure they’re written down clearly.
Maybe to go along with that, I’ve heard you talk about recently that in some areas of the business, there may be performance disparities. You have team members like a sales rep who’s doing it well and other sales reps who don’t do it as well. Those are probably areas where we could consider up-leveling the team by understanding what process works.
These are some of the things you create training for. As I said, because you’re trying to delegate them. You’re shifting who does them and you want to make sure it’s a clean handoff. Other things are things that you’re looking for consistency. Maybe you have multiple people doing the same thing. A lot of businesses will have sales reps and there will be a huge disparity between your top-performing rep and your bottom-performing rep.
It may not be their fault. It may be something that as a business, you can control and guide by understanding what’s the difference. How do they do it? How does person A do it and how does person B do it? These are the big opportunities in a business. If you’ve got something in your company that you’re a bottleneck for and you’re trying to hand it off to someone else, that would be the first reason to write things down. The second reason is if there’s an area of your business where there’s inconsistency, either inconsistency of how it’s being done person to person or inconsistency from customer to customer. That’s where you want to dig in and refine, “Here’s the way to do it.”
One of the things that most of our listeners will be involved in doing is hiring new people. I know training is this thing in our minds where I know I need to put together better orientation, onboarding, on-ramping, or some way of getting new team members up to speed quickly about the business, our market, our customers, or whatever it is that we think makes for a good start experience for our team. Yet, it easily gets put off. We say, “I need somebody now. Put somebody in and run.” We want people to get it and go. What best practices or thoughts do you have for our audience about how to begin the process of building a good onboarding experience for team members?
At an early stage of business, your focus is on customer experience. You’re trying to create consistency for your customers so that the way that you perform your service or deliver your product is the same every time. Your process focus tends to be external. As your business grows and you hire more people, the process more and more focuses internally on your employee experience. The thing that every new employee goes through is an orientation and a basic understanding of your business.
Onboarding orientation is what we recommend as one of the first places you start documenting and creating training for your business because you’re memorializing something that applies to every single person in the company. When a person first starts at your business, it can take them a few hours or a few days. For some companies, it takes a few months to ramp up and understand everything that they need to know about your role. Sometimes it takes a few years to hear all the backstories and feel like you’re part of the culture at the business.
What you can do is invest in that front-end and make people feel welcome and educated about the business, which is some simple effort to document the basics of your company. What I always recommend is to start with a simple welcome. If you’re planning to hire someone, you can document a one-time record of a welcome to the business that you send every new person. It can be a simple video of you saying, “I’m so glad you’re here. You made it through our hiring process. We can’t wait for you to meet the team.” This is something that you’d be doing individually for every new person. Why not do it consistently? Why not record something that you can use over and over again?
The next thing would be what’s the history behind the business. Maybe this is something you cover in your interviews and talking to people. As humans, we have this natural interest in how this company started, why this company started, what did you do before you started this company, or where you used to work if you’re one of the leaders here.
By writing that down and by telling that story, you’re giving people the background context that makes them excited like, “This company has evolved a lot since the beginning.” It sets the expectation that you’re going places. You’re doing great things because you’ve already done great things. Documenting that story is fun. You might even throw in pictures of your first office or of the early team, and these little artifacts as if you’re walking through this virtual museum with someone. Take the time to document your history.
You want to tell the story about where you’re going. This is your mission and your vision. Brett, it’s all the stuff you focus on, like your core values. It’s like your secret sauce. What makes you who you are as a business? A lot of people have seen these culture decks floating around. It’s that sort of thing. Write down what makes you special. What are your values? What’s the mission that you’re after? What is your vision, your BEHAG, or whatever it is? Write that down. Teach it to people consistently. You want to teach them about your team and the general overview of your business from start to finish. How do we get customers? How do we serve them? What products and services do we sell?
For a lot of businesses, you may have messaging or branding that you want everybody to understand company-wide and your elevator pitch. Who are your people? Who’s the leadership team? Things like that. You want to set someone up with all of the basics about your company. The great thing is you know all this stuff. It’s super easy to write it down because it takes you to write it down.
It’s like you’re writing your own biography. You have to take the time to record a couple of videos, pull a couple of pictures, and record this little thing. You use it over and over again. The most consistent thing we hear from our customers is, “I had a new person start and their feedback at the end of day one was like, ‘I’ve never known a company this well on the first day. This is so cool. I’m so excited to be here.’” That’s what you want from your new hires.
We have businesses from all walks of life and all industries. Our common denominator in our world is seven-figure business owners, with a $1 million to $10 million range. They could be any industry or any business model. What we all have in common aside from those seven-figure business challenges that we often talk about is that we love leverage. Every business owner loves leverage.
If you can invest in something at a modest level and have it pay off over and over again over time, why wouldn’t we do more of this? We put off this stuff. We procrastinate because it seems so big or we don’t have time. It never stacks up to this high level of importance to do some of this document or to record a simple video or write a few things that could be used again and again every time a team member joins. I’m trying to reinforce in our audience’s minds that the stuff Chris is talking about is low investment and higher ROI activity. This is what business owners live for and yet, we don’t do it often.
You want to start where you have the highest ROI. You’re not going to write this stuff down and put all the time into it if there’s never going to be a use for it. There’s no need to do that, but if you find yourself having the same conversation 100 times, you’re probably sick of having that conversation. A lot of us business owners have this internal awareness of doing something over and over. It starts to feel like a job. Whenever that happens you’re like, “I’ve done this 10 times, 20 times, or 30 times.” If it feels monotonous, that’s your signal to not do the thing anymore. When you’re changing it every time and you’re tweaking it. You’re trying to get better at it and you’re invigorated by making it better, then you’re still in R&D mode. You’re still trying to perfect this thing.
If you get off the phone with somebody after having the same conversation for the tenth time and you’re like, “I’d be fine if I never have to have that conversation for the eleventh time,” that’s when you know you want to write this down or you want to systematize it. There are people that we can have on our teams that are on the opposite side of the spectrum, they love the repetition and the consistency of maintaining that system. It can be a great thing for everyone. That’s when you could save yourself a ton of time and you could stop repeating yourself.
I love that very practical tip. If you see this pattern starting to happen, that’s your signal. Go document that thing or hire somebody else to do it but document it so that it can be done without you involved. Something you said triggered a thought for me. When you say something or do something 100 times, that might be a signal that it’s time to document that.
All of us get that when it comes to customer acquisition. I come from a marketing automation background. If you were sending the same email or having the same communication with people over and over again, that’s when we can use the power of a system of automated something to go and take care of a lot of that communication. Not the stuff that requires interaction or engagement, but the stuff that’s like the same education over and over again. Why wouldn’t we use those same principles internally with our employee experience as you said?
It gives you superpowers. The point isn’t to automate everything in the world so that it’s this total robotic experience and no one talks to people anymore. The point is to give yourself leverage so that you can do more. You have more capacity by automating messages. You don’t have to type this every time. Let’s cue it up in the system where it’s automated. By automating 75% of your onboarding information, you’re leaving yourself the fun stuff.Give yourself leverage so you can do more. Click To Tweet
I still do a kickoff with every cohort of new hires that we bring on, but I don’t spend four days teaching them everything. They go through a lot in the system by themselves and I spend 30 minutes doing a fun presentation because I love that. I don’t want to get rid of that. That’s what it’s about. It’s like getting rid of the stuff, systematizing the stuff that you don’t want to do over and over again, and keeping what you do.
Neither one of us would advocate outsourcing leadership or outsourcing connection to your people to a system. That’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about outsourcing a job that doesn’t need a lot of personal touch. A lot of it is information but we want it to be consistent, then we can still add our personal thing to the mix. We’re not looking to remove you completely from the picture as a leader. We want you to be part of it. Why not leverage a great tool or system to help you make it great and minimize the amount of time that you have to have for higher-impact activity?
It’s important. We do ads all over the place. Sometimes we get people commenting on the ads to say, “You’re trying to eliminate people or remove people from the equation.” It’s not that at all. It’s that you’re trying to elevate people. If there’s something that can be trained or a responsibility that can be passed down to the new hires or something like that, it freezes somebody else up to tackle more challenging and more exciting higher ROI-type activities. That empowers people to progress in their careers. You’ve got to think of training across the board as an investment in your team. You’re not trying to dehumanize the business. It’s the reverse. You’re trying to empower people to grow and tackle the things that they need to use their minds for.
You triggered a thought again. I heard you talk about this. We have both seen this in business owners where a key team member leaves the business. There’s this freaked-out moment by us as business owners. We’re like, “Everything’s going to crumble because that key person left.” We’re not trying to eliminate the need for people. We’re trying to maintain delivery. We’re trying to make sure that things are consistent and in place. We’re not trying to replace human touch or human anything. Talk about that freaked-out moment that business owners have when people leave and how to avoid that.
Every seven-finger business owner has had this happen. Everyone had someone leave or someone turn over. Think about that moment when they come to you and they sit down. You don’t know what the meeting is going to be about, and then they’re like, “As much as I love this place, I have to put in my notice. Whatever circumstances in my life, this opportunity came up.” They put in their notice
Whatever else they say, you’re not even paying attention because your mind goes immediately to “I got to figure out everything that they do. I don’t even know how they do that thing because they’ve been doing it for two years. We started doing all these new things that I’d never even done before in the business. Please, for the next two weeks, drop everything else. All I want you to do is write down how to do the things that you do. All I want you to do is help me find and train that next person. We’re posting the job today. Can you please stay on for 3 or 4 weeks? Can I pay you as a contractor so that I can still call you in a few weeks?”
That’s what we do because we haven’t done a great job at backup planning. One of the things you can do in your business to avoid those freak-out moments is as you map out all of your roles and your responsibilities, make sure that every responsibility in the business has an owner and a backup owner or someone that has been trained as a backup for that person.
Worst-case scenario, if someone has a medical emergency or something and they don’t show up one day and you don’t get your two weeks’ notice, at least you, can have somebody else to go to. That’s important. When you’re a small business, you don’t have the luxury of backup planning and having insurance for everything. As you start to put the patchwork in place and grow seven figures and pushing eight figures, that’s when you need to think about that insurance.
Chris, you see people struggling and knowing that it’s a good idea to get the process, documentation, and training in place, and it’s starting to happen. What is the biggest key to going from it’s a good idea to now it’s starting to happen. Behaviorally, what does it look like on a business owner’s calendar? How do they get this going? Do they get somebody on their team to help them.? Do they block out X number of hours a week? How do they go from good ideas to we’re making progress?
The biggest thing is you just need to structure out all of your roles responsibilities and the highest priority things to document. As I said at the beginning, this isn’t something that you’re going to have 100% of the business documented. A few weeks, this isn’t like one person’s job for the whole company because the knowledge of the business is spread across everyone in the business.
In the beginning, where you can make the most progress is to get everyone around the table and brainstorm what are all the people’s positions, roles, and responsibilities. This is something you can do in an hour or two. If you’re working with us or if you’re using our system, this is something you can do with one of our customer success managers, just guiding you through this or the dozens of templates that we have.
The first step is to create that structure. Once you have the structure and you know what your business digitally looks like, then you can decide, “These are the top five priority processes that we want to dial in because this is where we’re training people a lot. This will save us a ton of time or this is where there’s a bunch of inconsistency in the business. We could save a lot or make a lot by getting this right.” You find those high-priority areas, and then you block and tackle.
You might have five different people that are assigned to document those five different processes. What I would say is, first, don’t put some unreal expectation on yourself that this is going to happen immediately overnight. What can happen quickly is that structure. That’s where I would say to start. It’s who does what and what do we need to get done first?
Both of us know if we see that as needing to all happen by a certain period of time, we might get overwhelmed. Just get started. Block some time out on a regular basis, one piece at a time. You don’t have to have a masterpiece done before it can be unveiled. Every little piece that you do along the way here is valuable and can be used in the future.
I have a friend who texted me and she said that she had blocked off a day on her calendar as her Trainual day. I thought it was so cool. You put the time on the calendar and you sit down. You download the business from your head. If I could fast forward ten years, my vision for the company would be that Apple comes out with something like a USB-to-brain connection that you can plug into the computer.
Who needs voice recognition when you can get thought recognition?
It’s like all the stuff you know. When I was consulting, sometimes it’s easier to have a third party ask you those questions to get what you know out of your head. Another little trick that you can use is to pair people up in the business and have them interview each other about their roles. If you take someone from a totally different department, they are going to have no idea how to do that thing. You can’t take anything for granted. They’re going to ask all these newbies questions because they know nothing about the topic. That’s a great way to document.
That’s a very practical tip. I’m thinking it through and I don’t know if it works in an audio format. I’ll throw it out there and you can shoot it down. I know there are some best practices in terms of structure. If you’re trying to think through how to capture the essential parts of a process. Do you have anything we could do verbally here around a simple structure for capturing processes?
We have a ton of this content on our website Trainual.com if you can’t learn as well through audio. The basics of any process or any standard operating procedure is first, what is this thing? What do you call it? How would you refer to it internally? Give it a name. The next thing is who owns this? By owns it, I mean who do you go to for questions and who created this? Even if there are multiple people doing it in your business, who owns that this is being done correctly? Everything should have an owner.
Next, everything should have the tools you need to complete it. For in-person-type tasks or projects, there might be physical tools that you need to have in your bag when you go to a job site. For computer-based things, there might be passwords, websites, logins, or these sorts of things that you need or software tools. Explain all the tools that you need.
Next would be the frequency. How often does this happen? It could be some things you want done at 4:00 PM on Fridays every week. My at-home standard operating procedures are like, “Take the trash out on Wednesday. If you miss it, I’m going to be mad at you.” That’s my wife’s standard operating procedure. Everything has a frequency. When is this and how often does this need to be done?
Next, you should point out how long this takes to do so that people know, “Am I being expected to do five of these an hour or ten of these an hour? Does this take twenty minutes? Does this take all day?” They’ve got some frame of context for what good looks like in the business. The next piece of this is the background. Your why is important to the business. It’s unbelievable to me how many people are given a task and don’t even know why they’re doing the thing.
It’s like you’re walking the envelope from here to here and you don’t even know what’s in the envelope or what it does. Telling somebody what the context of the task is can help them make great ideas that are going to benefit the business. If they don’t know that what’s in the envelope is the award notification for this thing, maybe they would never think, “They sit next to the person that goes and picks up that envelope on the other side of the office. Why don’t they just hand it to them?”
Process improvements come when you understand the context of the business. Write down why is this thing important. The last and the most obvious piece is how you do this thing. Those are your step-by-step. Steps can be written as text. It can be a screen recording of something you’re doing on a computer. It can be a video like a webcam to explain something. It can be screenshots or photographs of something outside. However, you want to explain it. What are the steps and how do you do it? That’s the DNA of a process.
You went the extra mile in describing that whole thing. I knew you knew it. I just didn’t know if it would go well via audio. You did a fantastic job. As we wrap this up, I probably should have done a better job on the front end introducing you. I think they can acknowledge now or recognize that we have somebody who’s a process expert, but he also is a small business owner just like you. Chris gets you.
If you’re tuning in to this, Chris gets you. He is a seven-figure business owner. He has been a business owner multiple times. He knows this transition from entrepreneur to CEO. From my advantage, I’ve seen him go through that very capably. It doesn’t mean he hasn’t learned lessons like the rest of us. He is doing it. He’s not just somebody telling you a theory. He’s practiced this and done it. I’ve seen him doing it very well as he scales his business. I recommend that all of you take a serious look at what Chris does. Check out Trainual.com. Chris, if people want to connect with you, what is the best way for them to reach out on social media or learn more about you or your company, and how Trainual might be able to help them?
You mentioned Trainual is a great place for all the business side of it. For me, I hang out most on LinkedIn and Instagram, so just @ChrisRonzio. If you look me up there, send me any questions. I love talking to people and answering questions there.
Thanks again for joining us on our show, Chris. You’re a great business owner but you’re also out there helping a lot of other businesses. We love having guests like you on the show.
Please keep tuning in, share, rate, and like. Make sure other seven-figure business owners know where they can come to get help from people like Chris. We will keep bringing you great guests and great content as you are looking to scale your seven-figure business. Bye for now.
- Process Makes Perfect
- 100 Hacks to Improve Your Business
- LinkedIn – Chris Ronzio
- @ChrisRonzio – Instagram
Want to listen to more? View all episodes here >