Tamara Kemper (00:00):
And now let's take a step back and look at it from across the room and say, "Okay, how could we inject some delight for our clients?" So that we're actually living the thing we said we do in all of our marketing copy. Everything on our website says that we do this. Well let's make it true every single time for every single client and writing it down gives you the opportunity to do that intentionally.
Susan Boles (00:31):
You want to know the secret to scaling profitably and effectively? Don't we all? In reality, it's not much of a secret. It's just something that not a lot of companies decide to prioritize, but it's the one thing that I consistently see across the board make a difference in growing lean, resilient companies, it's something that can be a competitive advantage. Delight your clients and customers, help your team be more effective and increase your profitability. It's not necessarily sexy, but it makes a big impact. I'm Susan Boles and you're listening to Break the Ceiling, the show where we break down unconventional strategies you can use to save time, boost your profit and increase your operational capacity.
Susan Boles (01:17):
Have I built the suspense enough? Are you ready for me to let you in on the super secret sauce? Here you go. The secret to effectively and profitably scaling your business, build a solid process and then make sure it's documented. That's it. That's the whole secret. It's so simple, but it's so rarely executed. It's easy to procrastinate, to deprioritize, to get distracted with other more exciting projects, but having solid documented processes affects every area of your business ecosystem. It allows you to deliver better service to your clients, to onboard team members with ease, to deliver projects and services more profitably, to free up time for you and your team, to use software to automate tasks.
Susan Boles (02:06):
It really all comes down to your process. And my guest today is one of my favorite fellow process geeks, meet Tamara Kemper, the founder of The Process Mavens, where she helps CEOs get back time and peace of mind through systematizing and documenting their business. And we're going to geek out on process and documentation, how to build it, where to document your process and the giant return you can get out of investing in it.
Susan Boles (02:36):
Hey Tamara, thanks so much for being here.
Tamara Kemper (02:38):
Hey, thank you so much for having me, Susan. I'm happy to be here.
Susan Boles (02:42):
You are kind of a process guru. Talk to me a little bit about what it means to you to have processes in your business. We all know we're supposed to have them. We talk about them all the time, but what does that really mean to you?
Tamara Kemper (02:58):
For me, it means that everyone is clear on what they own in the business and that means not only the things that they do, but also the outcomes that they're supposed to be responsible for and that they know how to do those things. And so that may mean that you've just written everything down. It may mean that you've got some really amazing systems built that kind of make sure that you do them repeatedly and reliably the same way every time. But really it's just having that clarity of here's how we do things, here's who does what and here's what the outcomes are that drive us to our business' success.
Susan Boles (03:44):
I like that. That is a perfect definition. Getting solid processes kind of defined and documented, we both know it's a really important step to being able to scale your business, but it can also be very daunting and something that's really easy to postpone or put off or put on the back burner. From your work with clients, why do you think that is? What makes it so hard and so intimidating?
Tamara Kemper (04:08):
Oh, it's just never the most urgent thing. And so I'm sure everybody's heard of the Eisenhower matrix and the importance versus the urgent and it is so important, but it's never urgent because you can always just kind of hobble along with the way things are today. And so to really set aside time and dedicate it to really recording your processes. And by the way, it doesn't have to be written down. It could be video, it could be even audio, just talking through the processes. That takes time. It takes somebody to manage it and make sure it gets done. And it just always gets pushed to the end of the list because there will be an emergency that needs your attention today. It's just not ever processes.
Susan Boles (04:57):
And I think you're right. I think it's never urgent until it absolutely desperately is and they run up against this capacity wall or they have to hire somebody. And then all of a sudden it becomes this desperate emergency to try and get it done when really it's such a core foundational piece of being able to grow is having that process, having that documentation because that's really, that's the thing that allows you to actually scale is knowing what the process is so that you can duplicate it without having to reinvent the wheel every time and spend that time figuring out what the process is.
Tamara Kemper (05:36):
That's right. And I appreciate you correcting. I said it's never an emergency and you are absolutely right, until it is.
Susan Boles (05:43):
Until it absolutely is.
Tamara Kemper (05:44):
Because it will be.
Susan Boles (05:46):
Eventually it becomes that way.
Tamara Kemper (05:46):
And maybe that emergency maybe it really is an emergency or maybe it's, oh my gosh, I need to scale and we need to do it right now because we need to get to that next level. That is an emergency in some cases. Thank you. You are correct.
Susan Boles (06:03):
Yeah. Frequently I see that with clients or with people that I'm talking to is that they have this real drive to grow and they don't see that the thing that is actually holding them back from being able to do that is having a process. That lack of process is the thing that means that every member of their team is at capacity, that they have such a hard time finding somebody to come join the team. Once they have somebody on the team, it's so hard to get them up to speed fast enough. And so over and over again, I see this is really the bottleneck that most people run into and don't realize that that's what they're running into.
Tamara Kemper (06:45):
That's right. Yep. And when you're not doing it on purpose, then who knows what the actual things that are happening in your business are so that that's a whole nother story.
Susan Boles (06:54):
Yes, totally. Talk to me a little bit about what kind of well documented, well defined process looks like and how is that different for maybe a one to three person team or a solopreneur versus somebody with a larger team?
Tamara Kemper (07:13):
Well, so I actually would think about it even a little bit differently than that. I think about it in terms of how many people do a particular role. And the reason that a small business with one or two people you might think about it differently is because there's only one person doing each thing usually, or one person doing lots of things. And so in those cases, the thing you're going to document is really just, I think of it as an insurance policy. It's a way to make sure that if something happens to you or if you need help, or if you need to hire quickly, you already have a plan for how these things get done. Now of course, along with that comes by writing it down, by documenting it, you're going to make the process better. You're going to make the experience better for your clients so everybody wins. It's all a win-win beautiful thing.
Tamara Kemper (08:04):
But for those types of roles where there's maybe one person doing the thing, I always am a proponent of just doing a video. Pop on loom.com, even open up a Zoom meeting and just have yourself be in there. You can even close your camera if you don't want your face to be on there and share your screen and just pretend someone is sitting next to you and talk them through it. Talk them through what you do, talk them through what the purpose of the thing you're about to show them is and just step by step, do it. And if you run into a problem, explain what happened and how you fixed it because guess what? That's probably going to happen when they're faced with that process themselves. And then all you need to do is catalog it.
Tamara Kemper (08:46):
That might look like popping open a Google sheet and just putting those links in with a quick description of each one. Might be a Google doc. It might be a Word doc, whatever it needs to be, but just something simple. Don't overthink it and just make it part of your daily process that maybe you do one, just record a video every day. Just one video and you'll get through it. On the other hand, if you have a role in your business where there are lots of people that do that role and you need to be able to make sure that everyone's doing it reliably and consistently and that the experience for your clients or your customers is consistent, those are the cases we're actually talking a bit more about training. Training and documentation are a little bit different.
Tamara Kemper (09:31):
If I know that I'm going to need to hire a lot of people in a particular role, I want to make sure that that onboarding experience, that that training experience is consistent each and every time. And so I'm going to be starting with the end in mind. I'm going to be thinking about what are all of the different competencies that this role needs to have if I'm going to allow them to be on their own, if I'm going to allow them to kind of do the job unsupervised. And then you work backward from that. Okay so how would I know if they were able to do those things? Okay so if I know that they're able to do those things, because now I've assessed them or I've got some checklist or I've got some test that they have to take or some things they have to demonstrate, now I start to build the content and that might look like an online course.
Tamara Kemper (10:19):
We love to use Trainual as one of our partners that we build a lot of our online courses. There's a ton of systems out there you can build. This is where you're starting to invest in a more robust training program.
Susan Boles (10:32):
I like that. Say that we've spent the time to document our process and we've either made videos or created a more formalized process. How does that having that process, that very defined, solid, reliable process, change the effectiveness of your team?
Tamara Kemper (10:59):
Well, I think that the biggest thing is if you really are bringing people on at a regular basis, or even just if you have that multiple people doing that role, it's going to give everybody confidence in this is the way we do things here. And it also then makes sure that you're continually improving that and you're continually updating that. Or you should be anyway, I guess not everybody does. That should absolutely be a piece of it. You can't ever basically be done documenting or developing training. You have to do it forever because your business will change. And so you need to go back and have somebody who's responsible for keeping those things updated. But I find that it really helps businesses get to their goals more effectively because now they don't have to sit there and babysit a new hire. They don't have to wonder what is happening with their frontline employees. They are designing that intentionally. They're designing it on purpose and they're making sure that everybody has the same training and the same resources for doing it the way that the business owner intends.
Susan Boles (12:12):
Yeah. And I think the piece that I think often gets missed is when folks are procrastinating creating the documentation or creating the tools, or putting this off, pushing it down the to do list, we often spend more time thinking about doing it than any of this actually takes. But the piece that is missing is that I think the return on the investment of spending your time on documenting these processes is that it's one, I've seen it work as a great recruiting tool. It increases retention of employees because they come in, they feel very confident about what they're supposed to do, what their role is. We've all been in that job where we showed up and for the first three weeks, we were just sitting around waiting for them to get us our computer access and doing nothing and feeling useless and feeling like you're not a contributing member of the team.
Susan Boles (13:21):
And I think when you spend the time to document the process, to have a solid employee onboarding process, that really goes a long way to one, making them much more effective, much faster. They know how to do their job a whole lot faster than they would if you just kind of threw them in there and they had to figure it out on their own. But it also means they're going to stick around longer because they're happier. People who understand what is expected of them, I think are so much happier in what they're doing overall.
Tamara Kemper (13:56):
Well and I can't agree with you more. I think every little thing we do in our business speaks volumes about what we believe, what our company culture is about. And so if you in your company culture, your core values have anywhere in there something about caring or humans or team, or anything that's about people connection, there is nothing that says, I care about my team, more than a really thoughtful employee onboarding or really thoughtful training or documentation. Because it's basically saying, "We did this really hard, not urgent thing, because we care about you. We care about you feeling productive, about you feeling like you're competent and you know what to do." And I just think that that's actually something I care about a whole lot is just making sure that people's core values and the things they really care about from a culture standpoint are reflected in their documentation and in their trainings. And so just having it at all is a huge, huge way to show that.
Susan Boles (15:02):
Yeah, I like that because I think a lot of people who tend to, who genuinely care about their team, kind of stop at well, I want to pay them well. That's the thing that they are focused on. And not to say that that's not also an important part of the pie, but this consciously spending time to make sure that they feel valued and they feel like you've spent time considering how to bring them on carefully and that you're living that part of really caring about your people. I love that point. It just takes it to the next level. And I have seen so many organizations where maybe they weren't paying the highest salaries, but because it was such a great place to work because they genuinely cared about their people, nobody left.
Tamara Kemper (15:57):
Yep. Yep. And I think too, it doesn't mean that you're using those processes or using those training. I think something that some people worry about is, well, if I'm dictating everything, I'm just taking the human element out. And I totally disagree with that because when you are clear about what you want your team to do and the ways that are important. So yeah, maybe you don't write every little thing down for every single role because you do want to leave room for the human parts of your business, but giving them that framework and giving them the expectation, that is such a gift. That is such a gift. Let's take away the guesswork of how to be successful in this role and then empower them to innovate and then empower your team to make it better. But give them the basics to get started so that they can take that and run with it.
Susan Boles (16:53):
Yes. I love that.
Susan Boles (16:57):
Now what? That's the question I hear from a lot of service based business owners. Maybe you've been asking yourself, "Now what?" too. You've built your business from the ground up and your business works, but maybe it's not growing. You keep bumping into a ceiling on how many clients you can take on and maybe how much money you can make. And maybe now you're even wondering if your business has staying power. You might be keenly aware of how small challenges could easily balloon into big problems as the market and the economy change. I help entrepreneurs decide how to take action so they can build more resilient business. That's primed for growth. I combine strategic thinking with a background in business finance data and operations, to see the patterns that have your business bumping against a growth ceiling. I'll show you exactly what you can do to break through and make more money, all while making sure the foundation under your business is strong.
Susan Boles (17:55):
I have a few new client openings for my quarterly or monthly advisory packages. When you work with me, I'll examine your financial reports to spot opportunities. We'll talk about where you're feeling friction and discover ways you can reclaim your time and attention. We'll dig into how to scale your operations without sacrificing quality so you can increase your capacity and make more money. Each action you take will be informed by strategic financial insight and data driven operational planning. The result, you'll feel wildly capable and in control and you'll finally break through that ceiling. Ready to learn more about working with me as your business advisor? Go to scale spark.co/adviser.
Susan Boles (18:45):
Let's shift a little bit and talk about how that solid documented process impacts the client experience. Tell me a little bit about that.
Tamara Kemper (18:57):
I have found again and again, it is almost like magic that when you get a team in a room, so if you pull together let's say three different cross-functional employees, so representing different teams and you sit them down and you go, "Okay, we're going to lock ourselves in this room for an hour and we're going to map out, or we're going to write down or whatever it is, we're going to figure out what this process is and what it should be." It is almost like magic that you will find at least two, three ways to make it better, right then and there. Because just having those people in the room and having that conversation that they normally wouldn't have because they'd just be in it, they'd be doing it. First of all, lets them hear each other's perspectives on each other's pain points.
Tamara Kemper (19:47):
When you've got one person that maybe is dealing directly with the customer or the client, that person is hearing the direct needs of the customer or client. And the person who's two steps removed, might not be hearing those things. Now you've got a dialogue going about what the concerns are and what the problems are and we can come into an agreement about what the process should be. Now I've already just by writing it down, I've made it better and hopefully you've set the intention that we're going to make it work better, but not just for us internally, we're going to make this work better for our clients. And so it's like I said, it's magic. You just write it down and the process gets better. And then you start to find ways to make it better.
Susan Boles (20:29):
Yeah, I think for me, I'm a huge fan of process as a competitive advantage, as a client delight aspect, because there's this kind of quality to somebody who is making a sale who knows that they have a solid process. They know they are going to deliver on this because they've defined the process. And they've said, "These are the steps. We continue to evolve this process. We make it better but we know that every single client that goes through this process has the same experience. We know that no balls are going to get dropped. We know that there aren't going to be missed deadlines. We know that we have a solid view over how this project is going. We know where to troubleshoot issues." And I think that can play out in so many ways in the sales process and in the experience overall of working with you.
Tamara Kemper (21:26):
You bet. Yep. And I will add to that too, that just like we talked before about if your values include something about humans and connection, that you should be reflecting that in your business operations. Well, if you've got some kind of value and I hope you do, about excellence or delight, as you said, for your clients, well, if you don't know what the process is or how you want it to be, you can't inject those moments of delight because there is no consistent way.
Tamara Kemper (22:01):
And when you have a clear way to do it, maybe you just start by just, let's just write down what it is today. It's not perfect and we don't love it, but let's get clear on what it is. And now let's take a step back and look at it from across the room and say, "Okay, how could we inject some delight for our clients so that we're actually living the thing we said we do in all of our marketing copy, in everything on our website says that we do this. Well, let's make it true every single time for every single client." And writing it down gives you the opportunity to do that intentionally.
Susan Boles (22:39):
I like that. What other parts of the business have you seen where having that solid process makes a difference? Have you seen financial impacts or software choices, ability to scale, resilience? What have you seen be impacted by this kind of key tool of getting your processes down?
Tamara Kemper (23:04):
Yeah. Well, so I can give you an example. One of my clients, they had a really kind of haphazard way of hiring and onboarding a very key role in their business. They have lots of this role. It really is their frontline employee that works with their clients. And the people who were doing the hiring and who were doing the onboarding were very knowledgeable, very, very good at what they did, but everybody was doing it differently. And so what we were able to do was to define out, here is what we want the experience to be. We were able to then implement some software to automate about half of it. Now they weren't chasing applicants for documents anymore, photo IDs and all that junk that they were getting that all sent to them. That took away a big ton of the work that they had to do.
Tamara Kemper (24:01):
Now we're reducing the employee time on stuff that they really don't need to be spending their time on. And then we were able to take that all the way through creating a better and more aligned caregiver training that really just makes the caregivers feel, that's the that's the frontline employee. Makes them feel like, wow, this is the kind of place I want to work. This is I feel prepared. I feel equipped. And just like you were saying, they really feel like they're able to be productive right away and effective right away. It was kind of all those different pieces together. Getting efficiency on their time, getting all of the data that they need related to the applicants in one place and then making sure that the way that they're bringing people on and the way that they're training them is effective and giving them the outcome as a business that they need from that employee.
Susan Boles (25:01):
I love that you brought up using software to automate part of this so that the people, the human people, are spending their time more on things that are more valuable. They're not doing low value things like collecting photo IDs or grabbing information from clients, or my favorite one is setting up new client folders.
Tamara Kemper (25:26):
That's so fun.
Susan Boles (25:27):
The people on the staff are doing things that only humans can do and the software is doing things that are low value that don't need to be done by a human. There's no decision to be made, it's just the same rote task over and over, but you really can't utilize the software until you're clear on what the process should be. And by virtue of using a software, you end up increasing your efficiency. You can move faster through the process, but you can also save money because you're not paying a human being to do something that a human being doesn't necessarily need to be doing. And your human beings can be doing things like serving more clients because client interaction is something that's really difficult to turn automated.
Susan Boles (26:19):
Certain parts you can automate like onboarding email sequences and that kind of thing but that human experience, that high touch kind of experience that a lot of clients or companies are going for is kind of impossible without humans. But having humans spend their time doing things that humans don't need to be doing is really one of those pieces of the pie that allows you to scale. Like we were talking about at the beginning, the end results is, these are the tools that you can implement that you can scale with, but you can't do them because you can't tell a software what to do until you know what the process is.
Tamara Kemper (26:59):
That's right. I was just smiling and nodding through all of that and I basically feel like maybe we share part of a brain because that was my thinking.
Susan Boles (27:05):
I think we do.
Tamara Kemper (27:05):
Yes. I agree with all of the things you said and with an exclamation point. Yeah. There's no reason to put your stuff through creating client files or stuff. That's just.
Susan Boles (27:21):
Zapier is your friend.
Tamara Kemper (27:22):
It's pain. It's just mean and cruel. Don't do it.
Susan Boles (27:28):
So many business owners, because we get kind of sold this bill of goods that hire a VA and they'll take everything off your plate, ends up not being very true for very many people because they hire a VA, they don't have a process, they don't know what the process is. They don't know what it should be. Then they get disappointed that their VA isn't doing what they want their VA to do, but they haven't clearly communicated what those expectations are. And they also are using a VA to do things that is maybe not the best use of their time either.
Tamara Kemper (28:01):
Yep. And I'm so glad you brought up because that is a thing I've seen so many times that people bring on somebody, a number two, a VA or an operations manager or somebody like that to kind of figure it all out. That person needs to figure it all out. Well, maybe they can, but that delicate balance between figuring some things out before you bring them on and also hiring the right person who actually has the ability to be innovative with process and to put those things in place. that's a tricky scenario, I guess, is what I want to say. That if you're expecting to hire a VA and pay the least amount possible for said VA, and you want them to figure out all your processes, you are going to be sorely disappointed.
Susan Boles (28:55):
Yeah, that's not going to work.
Tamara Kemper (28:57):
It's not going to work out.
Susan Boles (28:58):
It never does.
Tamara Kemper (28:59):
No. But so many people do it.
Susan Boles (29:02):
Because that's what we get told. Oh, you're overwhelmed. Oh, you're too busy. Hire a VA and it'll be magical. And it's not. It can be.
Tamara Kemper (29:11):
It can be if you do it right.
Susan Boles (29:12):
You can pay the lower price if you have a excellent process and you have some clear expectations and they know what to follow, or it can work out if you're willing to pay top dollar and you hire somebody with lots of experience who understands business operations intimately and is excited about learning your business and helping you to find what that is.
Tamara Kemper (29:32):
Can't have both.
Susan Boles (29:33):
But you can't pay nothing.
Tamara Kemper (29:34):
You can't have it both ways.
Susan Boles (29:35):
And get high level operations strategy. That's just not how it works.
Tamara Kemper (29:39):
That's right. That's right. You got to pick your poison.
Susan Boles (29:44):
Is there anything that you think we should talk about around process or systems that we haven't really touched on yet?
Tamara Kemper (29:57):
Well, I could talk about process and systems all day, so it's really hard for me to just pick one.
Susan Boles (30:03):
Tamara Kemper (30:04):
Yeah, it's real fun. Yeah. I think one of the things that I would want to talk a little bit about is I think it's really important to zoom in on the individual processes and as I said before, just take a little bit a day or a little bit a week and just kind of make incremental progress. But I don't want to miss the opportunity to also stress the importance of the leaders of the company and particularly the CEO first or in conjunction defining what success looks like within the year, within a quarter, within three years, whatever length of time is important right now. And then making sure that the people that are responsible for each of the key areas of your business are clear on that. And also are clear on what they are expected to do inside that same timeframe that will make it happen.
Tamara Kemper (31:11):
And so for example, if you have a sales leader or a sales rep or however large your company is and that person doesn't understand that you're building type of business A and they think you're building something completely different, they may be documenting processes that are taking the business or their department in a slightly different way than you actually want to go. It's okay to just get started. And I want to be careful to not say you have to do things in this very formulaic way. First, you do this and then you do this because actually the biggest and most important step is to just get started. Just start. But there is a really wonderful opportunity to as you're documenting processes and maybe doing it in sort of a scrappy incremental way, also be making sure that you are aligning the vision and the goals and the objectives of your company and communicating those frequently and having them measurable and clear. It all goes together.
Susan Boles (32:15):
Oh, I love that. Because I really, I don't think we can ever over communicate on our vision as business owners to our team. We always think we're being super clear and we think we've said exactly what needs to happen. And so often that's not true. And the person that you're trying to communicate with is not on the same page and they're trying to meet your expectations, but you weren't necessarily clear about them or they changed in your head and you forgot to tell people that they changed.
Tamara Kemper (32:49):
Or you think you only need to tell, I'm sorry, I didn't. Or you think you only need to tell the two people and there's five people in your company or 10 people in your company because you see some of the other people as not needing to know that information. I find that a lot where people are like, "Well, they don't need to know that." Yes, they do, because they are representing your company. And if you have a vision that you are building a elite brand or a luxury brand and they don't know that, well, they may not be behaving in that way with your clients. You need to let everyone know. And the level of detail that everyone needs will vary, of course, depending on their role. But everybody should know generally where the company is headed.
Susan Boles (33:38):
Yeah. There's no benefit to keeping people in the dark on any of this because everything in your business is connected. Every decision that you make is going to affect another part and probably all the other parts of your business. And so I think your point is an excellent one that making sure everybody is on board with that vision and every part of your team, every part of your business reflects that I think is just such a strong point. I think that's a perfect place to wrap up on. Where can our listeners find you if they want to connect and learn more about what you do?
Tamara Kemper (34:19):
I am found at theprocessmavens.com. That's my website. And I'm on LinkedIn a fair bit so you can find me, Tamara Kemper, I'm the only one that I've found on there. I'm sure there's another one out there. But I'll be the only one going on and on about processes.
Susan Boles (34:36):
Right, yeah, you're easy to find.
Tamara Kemper (34:38):
It won't be hard.
Susan Boles (34:40):
Awesome. Well, thank you so much for being here and thank you for sharing your expertise and geeking out with me a little bit on process today.
Tamara Kemper (34:48):
I was really looking forward to it and it did not disappoint. Thank you for having me.
Susan Boles (34:54):
Investing time and attention in building your processes can be the thing that can help you break through growth ceilings, increase your profitability, allow you to automate parts of your business or retain team members. If your business is an ecosystem with all the parts being interconnected, then your processes define how they're connected. They're the thing that allows everything to flow through your business seamlessly. The process defines the life cycle of the ecosystem. Your processes are literally how you do business so it's worth actually taking a little bit of time to define what that looks like so you can communicate that to your clients, to your team, and sometimes just remind yourself.
Susan Boles (35:40):
Next week, I'm talking to Melanie Richards about how your software choices impact your ecosystem and how your decisions in the rest of your ecosystem drive what the best software choices are for your business. Hit subscribe on your favorite podcast player so you don't miss it. Break the Ceiling is produced by Yellow House Media. Our production coordinator is Sean McMullin. This episode is edited by Marty Seefeldtwith with production assistance by Kristin Runvik.