SBX 16: Cut Down On Administrative Tasks And Focus On Growing Your Business

The Small Business Express

In the beginning stages of owning a small business, you’re going to be doing everything yourself. Sorry, that’s just the way it is.  As the owner, however, there are places where your time is better spent: things that please customers, things that grow the business today, or things that grow the business tomorrow.  Administration is a necessary evil of every business.  An evil which, unfortunately, doesn’t do any of the above.  It still needs to get done (and done correctly).

The goal is to create systems where it can be done quickly and, when the business is ready, can be done by others.  This episode is all about building that system.  It’s easy to get into a routine of lengthening work days and filling hours with things that don’t grow the business.  The administration of your business is arguably the most essential piece of your operations manual. No matter how new or how small you might be, owners that protect themselves in the administrative department give themselves a competitive advantage from Day 1.

In this episode of The Small Biz Express podcast we discuss:

  • Three simple action steps to create administrative systems that save time, streamline a process, and serve your customers.  (so “simple” that nearly nobody does them.  ugh!)
  • The four areas of your business where administrative stuff occurs regularly
  • Why the administrative piece of your operations manual has to be a living document
  • The power of a three bullet system and how NOT to rethink an entire process from scratch
  • Several processes that are total time sucks, including paying your bills
  • Policies versus guidelines (and why guidelines win every single time)

Action Steps from this episode:

  1. Create a List of All Your Admin Tasks.  Systems require documentation, so let’s start by making a list.  There’s more administrative stuff  than you think so be sure to list through every process.  What are the simplest things that you’re required to do to service your customers?  Be specific.  “Publish articles on my website,” “reply to comments,” and “make security backups”  is way better than “Run my website.”  (By the way, if you’re running WordPress, backing up your website is something that you should automate)

  2. Draw Up Step by Steps on How to Do Each Task.  This is the point where most people stop because they don’t feel like writing a text book.  Well if you don’t feel like writing it, nobody is going to feel like reading it.  So let’s make this super simple: three bullets per task.  Like we always say on The Invisible Boss, you can accomplish 80% of what you need to do with three, well thought out points.  Eventually these three bullets can become more detailed as you bring other people into the fold.  Even as solopreneur, having a step-by-step is really important so you can replicate an experience.  Side benefit: the more times you do something the same way, the faster you get at it.

  3. Put Guidelines in Place for Situations That Come Up Out of the Blue.  Policies are a dirty word, according to Gary (and Mike agrees).  It’s important to define your philosophies of handling certain things (like customers, content, finances, etc) because there are dozens of things that come up as an owner that you simply didn’t see coming.  And having philosophical guidelines in place means you can stay consistent with who you are as a company.  For example, if you compete on the basis of customer service and giving people an amazing experience once they purchase from you?  You better have guidelines in place for situations like customer complaints, refunds, defects, etc.  This doesn’t necessarily mean having the response scripted out, although you may go down that road some day. Tasks, bullets, and guidelines are a great start to a full blown admin system.

Links and Resources Discussed in this Episode

  1. More detail on creating an operations manual.  Here’s the big picture if you’re still not convinced that systems are the way to go.  (whaaaat?)  —

  2. Ryan’s Lee’s monthly subscription service.  A checklist service for all of your online marketing.  Very powerful for businesses that won’t to get the most traffic to their website.  —

  3. The ins-and-outs of outsourcing via a virtual assistant.  Great introductory writeup here by the Time Doctor himself.  —

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2 replies
  1. Rebecca Gibbs
    Rebecca Gibbs says:

    Great episode guys! Yes, I am a control freak, but I’ll admit, I really enjoy some of the admin work. But I still intend to pass off certain tasks as soon as I’m able to. My first one will be accounting because, while I love numbers, I know that is time consuming.

    Thanks to your episode on operation manuals, I am now drawing up a pyramid for what I want my first business project to look like down the road when I step out. Right now, it is a straight line.

    Me (owner)

    Because, though I legally own the bakery, it actually owns me because to get it up and running, I have to work FOR the bakery. But in my Pyramid for the future, I’m on top, the bakery is next, and then below that are the positions that will be handed off to others. That’s because, as I begin handing off various tasks, I’ll eventually reach the point that the bakery will work for me 🙂



    Financial Marketing

    Bakers, cake decorator, cashier

    It’s still a work in progress. I think making it like a pyramid helps me put things in order of importance too for what I need to find first. Some positions will be outsourced. Like accounting and marketing, while others will be actual employees, such as the bakers, cashier…

    So your operational manual episode helped me put the bakery in a perspective I had been struggling with, and this episode is helping me see which tasks I need to work on handing off first.

    Thanks guys! You’re the best.

  2. Mike Monroe
    Mike Monroe says:


    LOVE your pyramid. I think this is something every solo-preneur should do *before* they get big — spend time thinking, dreaming, and creating that hierarchy. It’s such an essential piece of vision. Which, of course, is not only important to get us out of bed but also for us to rally others to the cause.

    I didn’t figure this out till I was 6 years in the game. Then one day, on the advice of a colleague, I wrote my hierarchy out and put it on the wall of my office. I had NO IDEA who the people were that were going to fill those positions… heck, I didn’t even believe that I would be ABLE to fill all those positions… but you know what?

    From that day, every conversation I had about the organization changed. Every person stepping through my door was no longer just a person… they were a long-term partner. I started treating everyone like I was going to marry them (FIGURATIVELY, duh. Haha.) Now all of a sudden people were excited about the future, even if they didn’t end up staying long term.

    I think it’s one of the most essential things to building a talent pipeline. And not surprisingly? We went from one location in 2006. To 10 locations in 2008. This. Vision. Stuff. Works.

    Thank you for sharing yours with us. Love it. Gary, we should do an episode on (what Andy Stanley calls) “visioneering.”


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