Going from a small team to a large team has its benefits. We have more people to accomplish all that we’ve wanted to do. The downfall? We were so busy building features that we didn’t take the time to build out systems and processes as we scaled.
With a team of just a few, there were always fires to be put out and features to be built. We’re a technology company, and changes in our field happen fast. In the past, I’ve talked at length about how we made changes quickly. But that came at a cost. Although we knew what processes needed to be created, at the end of a very long work day, there was simply no time to implement them.
An Automated Process
As an example, if at any point you want a backup file of your information, all you need to do is press a button and we will automatically email you your backup at midnight. It’s an automated process. However, for a long time when a customer would press that button, we would get a notice in a Slack channel (our internal messaging system), and I’d go and put together the files manually. At that point, I just didn’t have time to automate the system. Now if you press that button, I don’t get an alert, and I don’t have to stop what I’m doing mid-thought to email it to you. But that automated process took time to build out, and time is incredibly precious when we’re focused on meeting our customers’ immediate needs.
When we brought on several more heads in July, I tried to get everything out of my head into clear, functioning processes and tools. (We’re not there yet but it’s a lot better than it was!) I could have just told anyone on the team how I did something and assumed that they’d then know and could pick it up too. It’s really easy to do that. Don’t fall into that trap! They’ll tell the next person how they do it, and so on. You’ve created tribal knowledge. But what happens when the process or system needs to change? It isn’t documented anywhere and lives in different people’s heads. Worse than that, everyone probably remembers things a little differently.
My advice? Don’t take for granted how much specific knowledge is in your head! It’s important to document most processes, from how you interact with your customers to how you do your billing and everything else in between. You’ve no doubt tailored your company’s processes to be what you’ve found works best for you. You can’t just hire new folks and expect them to know how to do something. Showing them what you do is great. But again, that’s just transferring the knowledge from you to the next person. And then someone has to do it again for the next new person.
Write it Down!
Consider something as easy as writing it down. A short stream of conscious document can quickly turn into a ‘how to’ document later on. Or pull out your phone and take a video of what you’re doing – how you do a test, how you answer a phone call, anything! It doesn’t have to be perfect, but anything is better than nothing!
It might seem silly, but six months down the road when you have that next unusual scenario that’s really hard to teach the new folks, you’ll have a short video or document that shows them how to handle it instead of you having to tell them.
Think about how nice it is to build a team that knows where to find answers to their questions, and those answers don’t always have to come from you. That’s more time for you to work on your business instead of in it!