Shop Talk

Ask the Experts: Create systems and address the small-business details

David Washington
David Washington

Sustainable businesses do not come from a singular magical moment, but a system of interrelated activities, said David Washington, managing partner with Washington & Co., a Raleigh consulting firm that provides services to the federal government, higher education institutions and corporate entities.

Here is Washington’s edited advice on establishing systems in your business.

Clearly define success: Every system needs a purpose, which can be derived from the company’s goals.

Washington uses profit margins as an indicator of success. So his definition of success was exceeding the industry average by 10 percent. Clearly defining success helped him reduce redundancy and wasted time and materials, and ultimately exceed the industry average by more than 20 percent for the past three years.

Identify and coordinate activities: Entrepreneurs need to pay attention to details and understand that it’s important to do the nonglamorous tasks such as accounting, purchasing, payroll and other administrative activities.

Washington said some entrepreneurs will say things like “I am not a details guy,” or “Anybody can handle those details.”

Details are the lifeblood of a small business, Washington said. Entrepreneurs should use a weekly calendar to outline when certain activities need to be done.

Washington calls Fridays “Finance Fridays.” Each week, he devotes Friday mornings to dealing with finance issues. Routinely building the time into his schedule gives him time to focus on the monetary details of his company.

Review processes: Entrepreneurs need to ensure that the processes and systems they create are working.

As a way to review his company’s marketing plan, Washington tracked revenue sources back to their point of origin. He found that none of them had come from that year’s marketing efforts.

He stopped using those marketing projects, which helped his profit margins increase while time wasted decreased.