How to Document Your Business for Success
We've talked about a little bit of the low hanging fruit. My jam is streamlining and documenting, and making your business more efficient so that you're not, like I said, you don't want to be hiring out tasks that are super slow and not as crisp as they want to be. If you're hiring someone to sew the bag, you want the process to be so optimized so that when they do it you're making the most of their work per hour. And it's also real important that the person you hire understands the tasks really well. So we're gonna talk about how to document your business for success. This is gonna help you streamline your business, but also have the things you need to hand off tasks to other people. I'm a huge believer in making a business manual. Why? You can't grow your business if you're the one person machine and the only way anyone knows how to do something is to come ask you for help. You're gonna be working on something important, excuse me how do you want me to answer this email? Where are th...
e stickers? You need to make sure you are not the bottleneck for every single process that happens in your business. Even if you're not hiring someone yet, I really encourage you to start writing this stuff down, because the bigger your business gets, and the older your business gets, the more painful it is to oh, I have to write down six years of processes now? Compared to just doing them from the start. One benefit to writing these down is as you write them you'll start to find sticking points. As you're typing it out you're like whoa, you have to do all these steps? Maybe that's something I can fix. Putting things into writing improves your consistency and it's going to stop problems as you grow, because everyone's gonna be on the same page. Now, when you hire so-and-so they know what they need to do because you have it in a document. Like this one sentence statement, I really encourage you to start with a statement of your core values. What is your company? I don't just sell crochet patterns. I make crocheters, I grow baby little crocheters from their small non-crocheting selves in a fun, easy, and communal atmosphere. To me, that means there's really great photos. It's always really friendly. I can tell someone that sentence and anyone I talk to know what we're about. If I tell someone about that and you're a photographer or you're a layout person it needs to be easy. It needs to be fun. It needs to be approachable. This is what guides your whole business. And it guides my business decisions as well. So taking more than 30 seconds to think about your core values of your company, what it is you really sell, helps you go forward. I grabbed these examples from various Facebook pages. I work in the yarn industry so these are completely different blurbs from different Facebook pages for yarn stores. And you can just see by reading them, they're so different. Jennifer Knits is a fabulous retail yarn boutique in West Los Angeles providing excellent customer service, custom patterns and the best yarn in the world. WEBS - America's Yarn Store offers the most comprehensive selection of yarns, needles, books, patterns, and supplies for knitters, crocheters, and weavers. Knit New Haven is New Haven's hip home for spinners, knitters, crocheters, and yarnistas of all sorts. The Yarnery is a haven for those who love to knit, crochet, and weave. Premium yarns, patient teachers, varied classes, and a fantastic staff make this local yarn store the best in the Midwest. So a lot of beginning business owners tell me, I make purses, nothing different about me. So not true (laughter). You have a business because you have a different perspective. Is it geography? Is it the materials you use? Is it who you're approaching? Is it the most accessible? Is it the finest? There are all these, these are completely different. Even if you know nothing about yarn, you gotta feeling about how these places are really different because they use adjectives that give them their own demographic. That's what you want to start thinking of for your business. Do you use eco-friendly materials? Are you something for the career woman? Are you something for baby? You need to describe yourself so that it's driving your path forward. The nuts and bolts of a manual. All this stuff you're not supposed to lose. Your business license, your Employer Identification Number, your sales tax filing date, bank account numbers. You're not running a smooth business if these are under your bed. Where was that paper? When do I file my sales tax? This should be in a binder. A brand sheet which says your colors, your fonts. Having a folder that has all your different sized logos so that if you want to put a logo on something you have a low-resolution logo available. Your taglines, your mottos. Because otherwise how are you gonna decide what things to post? If you're placing an ad what font do you put on your ad? You need a documentation resource you turn to. What color are you gonna buy the pens in? Well, if you have colors that are associated with your brand that's a place you turn to to make quick decisions about your business. What color do you want your business card to be? Maybe it should match the rest of your stuff. Aeolidia has a really great example. They do brands for companies of a project and every company that they do, they have these items available for them. Your product, your company information about the owner, about the company. All your product descriptions, text, measurements, specifications, sales points. If a magazine emails you and is like, tell me about your company, do you want to spend two hours writing something right then or do you just want to have a little paragraph that you pull from your file that's already been read by a copywriter that a beautiful one paragraph description of what your company is. A lot of times, especially in the media world, if you can it go someone fast and beautiful then, you're gonna get in. If it takes you a week you might not get the story. So these things are super important. A social media toolkit that has passwords, account names, in a secure location of course. Hashtags to use, posting guidelines. So if you hire a social media expert, like my company is very a-political. We don't say things about, it doesn't matter if it's related to crocheting or not. I'm not posting something on Facebook that has anything to do with politics. If I hired someone to do my social media, that's something they need to know. So that is in the documentation. I'm writing about what my company is about, what our policies are. Shop policies. If you're selling a physical product, it's really important for you to know this about your business. Do you accept returns, exchanges? Do you ship internationally? Do you take custom orders? Do you take returns on those? Do you take money up front? Do you offer discounts? Do you have a rewards program? Because once you have these down, they're gonna get put everywhere. So if you have already thought about your shop policy, whether you accept returns or exchanges, now you go to make a new listing on your website, or Etsy, or whatever, and you just pull from your document and it's consistent across the entire website. So what you're doing by writing this all down in advance is saving yourself work later. If a new website, smirkapuss, comes up for selling your whatever you sell, you can be like oh no problem. Here's my product description and here's my folder with photos. Here's my return policy, bam. Or if you hire someone to upload everything, bam, you have it. It also, I just want to say, this kind of thing also helps you answering emails. So if someone, it's not uncommon, I get an email that says do you offer discounts? And I have a stock reply that's like, yep, my club members get a discount. That's the answer to your question. Those are answers you've thought of in depth, and you're not just off-the-cuff replying in a way that could be cranky or damaging to your brand. I encourage you to think about a standard operating timeline. For example, I ship orders every day. That's on my to-do list. Answer emails every day. Reply to social media every day. Write a blog post weekly. Back up your computer monthly. File your sales tax quarterly. Whatever the things that you need to do, the more you write it down and put it in your schedule, and make sure you're checking in, the more efficiently your business is gonna run, and you're not gonna be like, oh my gosh, what day is it? I was supposed to file my sales tax. When you look to hire someone you have a list of the things you want to do. So you can be upfront with yourself. Do you really feel like writing a blog post a week? Is it important that you write a blog post a week? If it is, do you want to pay someone to write a blog post a week? These are the questions that you want to be thinking about. I really encourage you to document all multi-step procedures. Here's how I print postage from my computer. So boring, right. You open the program, all menus, da-da-da. You use the default format. It's so boring. But the reason I have it written down is you may forget or you may want to hire someone else to do it and also if it's a task you don't do very often, I can't think how many times I think I don't need to write that down. It's not that hard. And then I go to do it again and I'm like, the last time I did it was four months ago. Where is that option? Where is that selection? So you're saving yourself time if you write it down, and it's helping you hire out people as well. A stock photos folder. I have a folder on my computer of all of my product and stock photos. So if I'm writing a blog post it's no big deal to just grab some pictures of beautiful yarn. I just have these stock photos. If someone emails me asking for an interview, I have my headshot. It's in the folder. I have my five best product photos. It's in the folder. So I am not wasting time hunting all the time whenever a new request comes along. I also have stock responses. I have snipits of text that I use in interviews for the "about me" my description of what I do. I have different ones depending on the job I'm doing. What my Creative Live blurb says about me is completely different from the one when I'm a knitting instructor. They're different blurbs. But I have them saved on my computer so I'm not re-writing, reinventing the wheel all the time. I also have email templates. So if there's questions that I get asked very frequently I have a template that I can use to reply to people. All of these things are about saving you time, and especially in regard to the email template or stock responses, if you were going to go down the path of hiring an email handler this is information you'd want to give them. You're showing them this is how I usually answer this kind of question and here's the text that you can use. Managing digital clutter. This is probably like a whole four hour thing. But consider how you use your files. A lot of us take photos and we label them May 2017, June 2017. Is that how you search for things or not? All of my product photos are in Documents, Photographs of Work, EyeProductPhotos. There's another one for goodies product photos. There's every single product photo in full and square format, titled, six millimeter full, six millimeter square, eight millimeter color square. It was annoying to do at the start, but now woo, I'm living the high life. If I need an eight millimeter square photo, bam, it takes me two seconds to find it. It is so much easier to do this now than after five years, and to go back and did I take that photo in June 2014 or not? So I really encourage you to keep things tidy. You'll also want to develop stock agreements that you use for people. Contracts that you use for freelancers. Non-disclosure agreements, non-compete clauses. If you're hiring people you're going to have agreements that you probably paid a lawyer to type up that you can reuse with changing the name, changing the date. These are all things that you can initially hire, but you don't want to hire someone every single time you're hiring a contractor. You want to hire someone to help you do it once, and then reusing it so we're saving money. Once you have all these things, put it to use. For example, Creative Live does this. They emailed me. I am doing a course. They sent me a template for what slides look like. It wasn't one person creating a new template for every instructor. They're a smooth moving machine. So I get a beautiful template that's already been edited, already has all the good stuff that I can use. So I'm a client of theirs and you want to do the same thing for your business. You put it all together once, and now you can keep using it. You want to share your business's philosophy. When you have a new client working with you you can send them a little PDF that's like here's the philosophy about my business. I believe in providing great illustration in a timely fashion and here's some examples of my portfolio. These are just things you can send out to multiple people as they work with you. You'll be able to easily share files in a Dropbox if they're organized. If they're not organized and they're with photos of your dog, it's really hard when you're working with a freelancer to weed through it. So there's that section on documenting. It's time consuming, but it really helps your business move smoothly so I encourage you to do it.
A couple of comments and questions from the internet. One of our students mentioned that sometimes a manual is also useful for yourself if it's something that you only do once a year. Something like that you don't have to figure out every year. You just forget it, correct?
Exactly, like taxes, oh my gosh, yeah. Even just the password for that website you use, if you use a preparing service, super helpful to document.
Any best practices for getting started on a brand identity package?
Oh, I don't know. I mean, I think it's always best to work with what you have. So even if you just paste your logo in, paste a couple of your favorite colors that you're using. Paste your favorite font. Put it all on one page and just look if it fits together. Because you mind find oh my gosh, those things don't even match. My logos purple, but I decided my favorite font color was orange, and now that I've put them all on one page they look kind of ridiculous together. So even just assembling the information for most people is the first step and then from beyond there you can decide whether you want to find a new font, whether you want to pick different colors and move from there.