Automate, Delegate, Rejuvenate:
Systems and Processes Every Business Needs

Emma Bowdler | The Women's Accountant

Emma Bowdler

I’m a cheerleader for women and an accountant bursting with personality. 

Close your eyes (ok, well not *literally* because you need to keep reading), and picture: an entrepreneur.

Chances are they’re a go-getter. Creative, inspiring, brilliant, and with this undeniable forward momentum — always heading towards the next meeting, next brainstorm, next opportunity. But chances are that’s not all they’re heading towards…because that ‘go-getter’ is no-better at slowing down than an over-caffeinated squirrel in a nut factory.

Speaking of caffeine, that entrepreneur you’re picturing is also probably running on fumes; edging closer and closer to burnout, and they haven’t taken a holiday in gawd knows how long. Now, be honest — are you actually looking in the mirror?

Photo by Rishabh Dharmani on Unsplash

We absolutely get it — running a business can sometimes feel like you’re spinning plates on sticks. The entrepreneur life serves up a constant flurry of tasks, deadlines, and decisions, and for most of us, the idea of taking a break seems like a pipe dream. In fact, according to research by ondeck Australia, 1 in 3 small business owners take less than 2 weeks leave annually and 1 in 7 can’t remember the last time they took a holiday.

Now, we don’t mean to be presumptuous — but you got into business so that it worked for you, not the other way around, right?

The way we see it — the key to breaking up with the hamster wheel of hustle is good ol’ systems and processes, supported by solid boundaries and a healthy dose of delegation.

Let’s look at five ways you can have a bold business, and take a break too.

Let’s Put The ‘Tireless’ Entrepreneur Myth To Bed

Burnout isn’t just a buzzword; it’s recognised as an ‘occupational phenomenon’ by the World Health Organization (WHO), as a result of chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. You probably know the signs: energy depletion, isolation, lack of motivation, irritability, reduced efficiency — and for business owners, the impact can often be even more profound.

Without the option to take sick leave, hand a task over to someone else, or just ‘phone it in’ for a time — as business owners we can find ourselves in a relentless cycle of overwork, chasing our tail, and taking on an unhelpful ‘it’s easier if I just do it myself’ mentality that leads to long-term exhaustion and stifles growth.

“Running your own business comes with hidden costs most of us canʼt see — the emotional tax. From time taken away from family and friends to lack of sleep, small business leaders make big sacrifices to keep things afloat.”

 

— Joseph Lyons
Managing Director
of Xero Australia and Asia

Taxes We’re Not Interested In

We are certified tax fans (not to be confused with fans of the tax man), and wholeheartedly believe that paying tax is a good thing. It is how we ensure we have roads to drive on, hospitals to take care of us, recovery efforts after disaster, and even sporting grounds for us to freeze our bits off watching our kids on Saturday mornings. You know, the important things…but there are a few taxes that come with running a business that we are simply not gonna pay: the emotional ones.

A recent initiative from our friends at Xero asked business owners to submit an ‘emotional tax return’, tallying up the many emotional expenses of running their business. From time taken away from family and friends to lack of sleep, small business leaders make big sacrifices to keep things afloat, with Australians who run a small business say it causes stress (64%), takes time away from friends and family (63%), and impacts their health and wellbeing (66%). They are some big numbers.

But perhaps even more interestingly, more than 85% of those surveyed said they wouldnʼt have it any other way. Like many of you, we just love running our own business. It gives us the freedom and independence to live a life on our own terms, and contribute to the world in a way that aligns with our values. But that doesn’t mean we have to settle for less sleep, more stress and time away from the people who matter to us.

Photo by Arnel Hasanovic on Unsplash

So, how can we dial up all the great things about running a business, and mitigate the risk of burnout so that we can have regular holidays, achieve a more sustainable work-life blend, and maybe even one day sell the business and retire on a beach in Borneo?

Why Systems and Processes Matter

Systems and processes are the backbone of any sustainable and efficient business. Your trusty sidekicks — helping you streamline your operations and freeing up precious time, so you can focus on the things only you can do (a.k.a not invoicing, customer follow-ups, and social media scheduling). Yet before we dig into what well-oiled systems and processes look like, let’s get clear on what we’re actually talking about.

When we say ‘systems and processes’ in a business context, we’re referring to the ways you run your business. Systems are the tools and technologies, things like software applications and platforms, that automate and organise various tasks. Think: project management tools like Monday.com, accounting software like Xero, and CRM systems like Salesforce. These systems help automate those repetitive tasks, ensuring consistency and saving time.

Processes, on the other hand, are the step-by-step procedures and workflows that outline how tasks are performed. They provide clear guidelines on how to handle specific operations, from customer onboarding to product development, so that everyone in the business can follow the same standards, and you can maintain the  quality and consistency of your offering.

Now you know what they are, it’s pretty clear why they’re important: if they’re well-documented, solid systems and processes reduce reliance on any one individual, they make tasks easier to delegate, and they help you scale by reducing stress and opening doors to innovation and growth.

Side Benefit of Good Systems and Processes

Besides making your day-to-day life easier — one other huge benefit of having solid systems and processes in place is that they make your business more saleable.

Much like walking into a bakery where every cake is baked to perfection, not because of a master chef’s constant oversight, but because of precise, repeatable recipes and reliable equipment. That’s what a well-oiled business looks like to potential buyers: one where new owners can step in and hit the ground running, confident that quality and productivity will be maintained.

Automate, Delegate, Rejuvenate - Systems and Processes Every Business Needs | The Women's Accountant

Buyers love a business that offers a seamless transition. With documented processes and automated systems, they see a low-risk investment that’s primed for growth. And not only does this reliability and scalability enhance the appeal of your business but also boost its market value, making it as irresistible as that second (or third) cupcake.

Even for sole traders, having clear processes in place can facilitate a smooth transition if you decide to step back or sell the business. So, you can go ahead and build those systems, and document those processes, knowing that you’re investing in a business that everyone wants a slice of!

Systems and Processes
Your Business Needs Pronto

As women, as mothers, and as business owners who take 6+ weeks off a year, it’s time to lift the lid and show you what systems and processes we’re rolling with so you too can take a much-needed break and create a business by design with freedom as the bottom line.

Here are our five essential systems and processes, including some hot tips on how to automate them and our recommended software after many years of running, scaling and selling businesses…

1. Accounting and Financial Management

Surprise, surprise — the accountants started with a financial management system. But seriously, good luck running a business without any moolah! A really good accounting and financial management system not only streamlines your operations but also provides a solid foundation for making strategic business decisions. And automating as much as you can reduces the potential for human error, saves time, and gives a clear view of your financial health at all times.

At its core, this system needs to include some sort of dashboard — a central hub that offers a quick view of your business’s financial status with key metrics such as cash flow, account balances, outstanding invoices, upcoming bills, and any other key performance indicators.

Depending on the size and complexity of your business, your accounting and financial management system should have an invoicing feature, which allows you to create, customise, and send invoices. It should also be handy at payroll, budgeting and forecasting, bank reconciliation, and integrate with the other elements of your business like your CRM (which we’ll get to shortly!).

⚙️ Recommended Tool:

Xero — accounting software ideal for small businesses and sole traders.

🔁 Automation Tips:

  • Invoicing: Set up recurring invoices for regular clients and automated payment reminders to ensure you get paid on time.
  • Expense Tracking: Set up rules so that Xero automatically categorises and tracks expenses by linking your bank accounts and credit cards.
  • Payroll: Automate payroll calculations, tax withholdings, and direct deposits to ensure employees are paid accurately and on time.

2. Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

Kind of like having a personal assistant who never sleeps, a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system keeps track of all your customer or client interactions and data in one central hub. Think of it as the ultimate Rolodex, a CRM helps you streamline your sales process and increase your personalisation so every customer feels like a VIP with timely follow-ups and tailored messages.

Plus, it’s your secret weapon for customer retention, allowing you to anticipate needs and solve issues before they arise. With powerful data analytics, you’ll have insights at your fingertips to make smarter decisions and spot growth opportunities.

⚙️ Recommended Tools:

 Salesforce or HubSpot

🔁 Automation Tips:

  • Lead Nurture: Set up automated email campaigns that keep people engaged and moving down the sales funnel (because you’re actually helping solve their problems).
  • Follow-Up Reminders: Use automated reminders to follow up with leads and customers, making sure you stay top-of-mind and build lasting relationships.
  • Data Entry: Ditch the tedious data entry by integrating your CRM with email marketing platforms and e-commerce systems, reducing manual work and cutting down on errors.

3. Project Management

Project management systems are a great way to organise your work, assign tasks, set deadlines, and track progress. It also provides a centralised location for all project-related information, making collaboration as smooth as peanut butter (the non-chunky kind, obvs).

Most project management software also has built-in communication features which makes it so much easier for you to discuss projects, share files, and provide updates across the team or with your clients, which reduces the need for endless email threads and meetings (hallelujah), and boosts accountability and transparency.

⚙️ Recommended Tools:

Monday.com, Trello or Asana

🔁 Automation Tips:

  • Task Assignments: Automate task assignments based on project workflows, ensuring tasks are delegated to the right team members at the right time.
  • Deadline Reminders: Set up automated reminders for upcoming deadlines to keep projects on track.
  • Recurring Tasks: Automate recurring tasks and project templates to save time on setting up similar projects in the future.

4. Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

We love a Standard Operating Procedure or ‘SOP’, which is essentially a set of clear, step-by-step instructions for the things you do every day (week or month). SOPs help ensure consistency and quality, regardless of who is performing the task, and they make tche process of onboarding new or temporary team members a helluva lot easier too.

Our hot tip is to start by listing all the tasks you perform regularly, and then just break down each task into step-by-step instructions. Document by using digital tools like Monday.com, Trello or whatever you’re rolling with to help organise and share these SOPs with your team.

⚙️ Recommended Tools:

Notion or Monday.com

🔁 Automation Tips:

  • Customer Support: You can create automated workflows for handling customer support inquiries, and automations for acknowledging and assigning their inquiry to ensure timely and efficient resolution of any issues.
  • Version Control: Automate version control to keep track of updates and changes to SOPs, ensuring everyone has access to the latest procedures.
  • Training Modules: Integrate SOPs with learning management systems (LMS) to automate training and onboarding processes for new employees.

5. Marketing Automation

In many ways, a marketing system and process drives your brand’s visibility, engagement, and growth. At its core, this system includes ways to nurture leads and keep your audience engaged, maintain a steady and consistent presence, as well as analytics that track performance and provide actionable insights.

Thankfully, we live in a pretty magical age when it comes to marketing automation tools, designed to help us carry out the more mundane tasks like email campaigns and social media posting, so we can save our energy and creativity for things like showing up on Instagram stories or running live webinars.

⚙️ Recommended Tools:

ActiveCampaign for email; Sked Social for social media scheduling

🔁 Automation Tips:

  • Email Campaigns: Set up automated email sequences to ‘welcome’ and nurture leads, onboard new customers, and re-engage inactive subscribers.
  • Social Media Scheduling: Use tools to schedule and automate social media posts, so you can get into the comments and engage in live time.
  • Analytics and Reporting: Schedule automated reports to track the performance of your marketing campaigns, so you can keep refining and improving your strategies.

At a minimum, these five systems and processes can help you create a more resilient business without you having to constantly *do* everything, giving you the freedom to take holidays and enjoy a well-deserved break without everything falling apart.

👉 And Don’t Forget This

One crucial lesson we’ve learned the hard way when it comes to business systems and processes is how they all ‘talk’ to each other. When you’re designing an app stack, it’s so important that they integrate smoothly with each other — otherwise you might find yourself manually entering data across multiple platforms, touching the same tasks more than once (no thank you! it’s a ‘touch it once’ policy around here), and ultimately wasting valuable time and effort.

We love tools like Zapier, which has been a total game-changer in this regard, acting kinda like the glue that connects different applications and automates workflows between them. It saves us so much time and reduces manual effort, but it also ensures that our systems are more strategic, targeted, and efficient, which ultimately drives better results.

Testing, Testing, 1-2-3

Of course, articles like this make running a business without you at the helm sound sahhhh easy. Yeah no. We all know that sometimes it takes more work (or at least a different kinda work), in order to work less. So, here’s our final hot tip before you hit that sweet, sweet ‘out of office’ and jet off on your six-week vacay: test the system.

Kinda like trying that dress on with those shoes and that necklace before the event, it’s a good idea to see how well (or not well) your business runs without you, before you actually put on the ‘OOO’. Start by taking a few short breaks, like a long weekend or a mid-week escape, and get curious about how your business operates without you.

Did any tasks fall through the cracks? Were decisions made without your input? This is your chance to identify any areas for improvement or bottlenecks in your systems and processes. Gather feedback from your team and make the necessary tweaks to ensure everything runs like clockwork.

For sole traders, while it might not be that the actual *work* is getting done without you, you can always set up systems and processes to allow you to take more regular breaks. Are your invoicing and payment reminders going out on time? Is your CRM effectively managing customer follow-ups? How well are your marketing automations working to keep your social media and email campaigns running smoothly? Doing a trial run can give you the confidence that your business can still tick along without you.

Reclaim Your Time and
Build a Business By Design

Taking a break isn’t a luxury; it is a fundamental part of running a sustainable and successful business. In fact, the most productive and high-achieving business owners we know are those who take their rest and recharge as seriously as they take their bottom line. Perhaps even more seriously.

With a mix of automation, SOPs, and sophisticated systems and processes, it is absolutely possible for you to reclaim your time, kiss goodbye to burnout, and improve the efficiency (and saleability) of your business. And if you need a hand, you know who to call (and it’s not Ghostbusters)…

Introducing:

The Bold Business Blueprint

Get support to design excellent systems and processes with our shiny new Bold Business Blueprint offering! Ignite your business and work sustainably on your business, not just in it:

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