Business Systems

Checklist Guide


Business systems are how you run your company.

Business systems cover everything from marketing, sales and customer service, to people management, office administration and account management.

One of the main reasons many small business owners end up working excessively long hours is because they do not have effective business systems in place.

Lack of business systems is also a key barrier to effective business expansion and growth, and a significant factor in poor customer service.

Making the time to put effective business systems in place will be the most significant step you ever take to freeing up your time and ensuring your business is sustainable over the long term.


1. We have a clearly documented organisational chart which shows how everything in the business fits together.
Why is this item important?

The Organisation Chart maps out the components of your business by presenting all of the roles within your business structure, and the relationships between them. Being thorough with the creation of the Organisation Chart will paint a crystal clear picture about the real workload being performed by the owner and their team. When putting their Organisation Chart together for the first time business owners are often shocked at just how many times their own name appears. Sometimes, they even experience dismay if they are one of the many business owners who realises certain functions are not being addressed well (or at all) in their current operations.


From an operations management point of view, the Organisation Chart is the tool to use when setting up your business departments. This is the best approach because it will ground those departments in your actual daily practices. These business departments are the cornerstone of the structures you will use to facilitate lasting progress.


How can I tell if I meet this item in my business?

You either have an up to date Organisation Chart or you don’t! Having an old Organisation Chart is only marginally better than not having one at all. An old chart that doesn’t represent what is really happening in your business will confuse staff and prevent the operational clarity every business needs for strategic growth.


What do I need to do to meet this item?

An Organisational Chart can be created by categorising all business functions into three pillars:

  1. Sales & Marketing
  2. Operations
  3. Accounting & Finance

Then, the components of each pillar will be represented across three layers:

  1. Ownership
  2. Management
  3. In-house Functions

It can also be valuable to include a fourth layer to account for services that are outsourced to external suppliers. 

2. We have detailed operations manuals, task lists and instruction documentation covering all of the activities required for the effective day to day operations of our business, including rare and infrequent ones.

Without well documented business systems it’s only a matter of time before you:

  1. Burn your team out. You won’t be the only one who’s completely exhausted from working too long and too hard without the efficiency and satisfaction that comes from clean, clear workflows. You’ll also put more pressure on the people you’ve employed to help you.
  2. Max out your capacity for increase. There are only so many hours in the day. If you don’t have a plan to make the most of those hours, working effectively and productively, you simply limit the ability of your business to be successful and make a real difference.
  3. Put a limit on your vision. Investing the time to build your systems and processes will actually grant you the extra time you need to gain a more complete vision of what you want to achieve, then put plans in place to actually achieve that vision.
  4. Cap your business potential for making a positive social and financial impact. Waste and inefficiency will turn your business into a leaky boat that can’t function well or serve others properly. Both your profits and the difference you can make will plateau.
  5. Ultimately block all of the channels you need to sustain business growth. When you run out of time, your cash flow is leaking, your service is inconsistent, and your staff are burned out, your business will face the fatal consequences of not being able to grow.


How can I tell if I meet this item in my business?

Effective business process documentation will see you and your team creating detailed, step by step user guides which keep things all operations smoothly. You and your team will put systems before jobs in your business. Your dedication to providing excellent service and a fulfilling workplace will make creating, using and maintaining these resources your first business priority.


What do I need to do to meet this item?

Exactly how to create the process documentation for sustained business growth:

  1. Slow down! When you are doing the job, pause to take notice of every click and every action. Each one needs to be recorded
  2. Use screencast software like Loom or Snagit to record the steps of any computer based task before you go back to document
  3. Start at the start when writing up the steps. Make the task accessible by including logins and visual cues along the way
  4. Put yourself in the reader’s shoes. Ask yourself what they will see when they read your instructions
  5. Imagine the reader has no prior knowledge. Assuming they will “just know” is a rookie mistake that leaves people confused and error likely to occur
  6. Provide pictorial confirmation with steps and screenshots that show what the task looks like along the way
  7. Have another person test the completed instructions. The less competent your helper is the better to highlight the gaps
3. We use automated workflow scheduling and/or project management software to ensure that no steps in our business processes are missed, including rare and infrequent tasks.
Why is this item important?

I have a current client who has to date, refused to use any task management software. After several traumatic years barely surviving the stressful chaos of failing to centralise their operations management, they’ve battened down the hatches on all fronts. Despite reaching out for help, they’re incredibly resistant to change. Now, I will guide them to a new day of effective operations management. But the lesson here is from first hand experience. Even your most diligent efforts to document and organise your business processes cannot tell people exactly when each task needs to be done. It’s one thing to have task instructions. It’s another entirely to create resource retrieval systems with task management software to activate consistent flow.


How can I tell if I meet this item in my business?

Pause to reflect on how you and your team members know what to do, when to do it, and how to do it well. If tasks are managed by memory, sticky notes, calendar reminders, email tasks, verbal instruction, memos and urgent crisis calls, you have poorly managed processes.


If your work is driven by automated systems which consistently update you and your team with the day’s requirements, you’re on the right track. If you and your team can retrieve information about any area of the business from a well organised filing system, you’re doing better again. If your company keeps these systems up to date with finely tuned maintenance routines, you’re really on a winner! The ultimate is when all these elements work in concert to turn your business into a well oiled machine that can not only run without you, but thrive.


What do I need to do to meet this item?

There are five phases you can lead your business through to create stable, reliable operational systems that run like clockwork:

Phase 1: Structures: Start the development of your systems with your organisation chart to establish your business departments. Then map out your business processes to identify operational bottlenecks.

Phase 2: Roles: Identify the specific roles required to achieve core business functions. Team members might work across multiple roles, so clarify business roles as distinct from those performing them.

Phase 3: Document: Create records of how things are done at work. Develop a centralised bank of task instructions using written documents and videos to support staff in meeting the requirements of their roles. Use task management software to bring tasks to life every day.

Phase 4: Accountability: Set up standards of performance for every member of your team, including yourself. Track your progress against these standards, and offer both support and rewards where warranted.

Phase 5: Maintenance: Keep your systems up to date with maintenance routines that are documented, scheduled and reviewed regularly for correction and improvements.

4. We have a centralised electronic resource library (e.g. Google Drive, Dropbox or an Intranet) where all of our business documentation is filed for easy access
Why is this item important?

Regardless of niche, industry or size, one of the first things that needs to be done when cleaning out the operational systems of every business is a comprehensive filing overhaul. It’s like waving a magic wand when people are shown how to collate all of their resources and files into one central place where things are easy to find. Studies show that 17% of workplace productivity is lost simply from people wasting time looking for the things they need to work. Bringing all the stuff out of people’s emails, desktops, sticky notes, filing cabinet, voice memos and cloud storage into one well organised space often redeems 10-15hrs of lost work time each week. But the best bit is seeing stress replaced with calm, confusion replaced with confidence, and output levels soar!


How can I tell if I meet this item in my business?

Take a look at your work desk, your computer desktop, your phone messages, inbox, notebook, social media messages, and the bottom of your work bag. Do you have resources, information or files tucked away “in a safe place” there? Are you working from information stored in your head? Do you or your team members have to ask questions to know what to do at work? Would anyone else be able to replace you if you were unwell or holidaying? How would the business fare if the worst happened to you? If these questions are ringing alarm bells for you, read on …


If you have a clean, clear workspace and all your business resources can be found in one centralised resource retrieval system you are all systems go! You know you’re on a winner when your files are in the cloud and organised into business department folders. You will know you’ve arrived as a business leader when one of your staff asks you how to do something at work, and you simply direct them to a process management resource stored in that system.


What do I need to do to meet this item?

Use your Organisation Chart to set up your resource retrieval system in your online platform of choice, then begin moving house. Each folder is like a room where different types of resources will be stored. You will likely have a ‘room’ for Finance files, another ‘room’ for Marketing, and another for Team Care. Every business is unique, so every filing system is different.


In every business, each department folder or ‘room’ will need spaces created to store things. These subfolders are like cupboards. For example, your Marketing folder might have a ‘cupboard’ for Social Media, another for PR, and another for Advertising. Each cupboard then will have subfolders like shelves. So for example, you would create a subfolder ‘shelf’ for Facebook and another for LinkedIn.


There will be some folders you can build in advance, and others you build as you move in. This is perfectly ok. The point is to set up the structure as best you can and start moving in. Type up scribbled notes, scanned documents, file audio recordings and drag and drop everything you already have electronically. Get it all in where it belongs, deleting copies and avoiding duplicates as you go.


5. Ongoing maintenance of business process documentation is included in the job descriptions and responsibilities of all staff
Why is this item important?

The development and maintenance of your business process documentation is the vital tool that every business owner needs to take their business from growth through to scaling, and even through to sale. It almost goes without saying then, that process management is most effective when every member of the team contributes wholeheartedly to this core business function.


Your team are the ones with their hands on the work every day, so they should make sure those tasks are written up accurately and clearly. This allows them to develop a sense of ownership and responsibility for the work that they’re doing. Your staff need to know they play a key part in managing their business department workload. This approach also creates the additional benefit of liberating you as the owner from the task, so you can strategically lead from the front with clarity and intention.


Putting all of the expectations of every business role in writing sets the bar high from the outset and has everyone on the same page right from the start. Every team member needs to understand they are responsible for maintaining current process documentation, and developing new processes to keep driving business growth. Setting this up in the job description leaves no room for confusion.


How can I tell if I meet this item in my business?

Like your company Organisation Chart, you either have this item in your job descriptions or you don’t. This might be the perfect time for you to review your position agreements, or possibly even create them! For more information onsetting up your staffing documentation, download this free resource:


What do I need to do to meet this item?

A gift for you today: Insert this section below into the position description of every member of your staff, then meet with your team to discuss how this will impact their work in your company.


Create and maintain Process Documentation:

Contribute to the maintenance and accuracy of detailed workplace instruction manuals for use by all team members. Create documented procedures where needed, correct errors in current documentation where identified, and/ notify the relevant supervisor or team member to make the correction where appropriate.


6. All our business process documentation is reviewed at least once a year and whenever a change occurs (e.g. new technology or new processes) to ensure it is always accurate and up to date.
Why is this item important?

Every thriving business has a core dedication to developing and maintaining systems which enable them to keep their company promises. They understand that perfecting their systems will allow them to consistently provide the highest levels of value to their team, their customers, and members of their business community. They understand that the most sustainable pathway towards lasting growth is found in making their business systems the number one priority.

 Letting your process management resources slip out of date has several detrimental effects:

  1. It wastes the time and money spent on creating the resources in the first place
  2. It sends a message to the team that process management is not a company priority
  3. It creates more confusion and wasted time than not having the documentation at all. When the steps in your process management resources lead your staff up the garden path, they will understandably become frustrated, stressed and potentially resentful.

Happy staff enjoy a culture which puts process management at the centre of their routine work.


How can I tell if I meet this item in my business?

Companies who manage their process documentation well empower their team members to make ongoing corrections to all documentation to keep their systems up to date. Where this is not viable, there are well established practices (that are actually followed) to pass on the need for corrections to a responsible officer or team leader. They also have annual routines well documented and scheduled to ensure maintenance work is done regularly.


What do I need to do to meet this item?

Schedule the maintenance of your documentation at least annually, putting each department on rotation so all of the maintenance work doesn’t come up in one go. Then make steps like these to guide you or your team leader through the process of keeping your resources up to date:

  1. Read every document, or watch every video entirely
  2. Test every link to ensure they all still work
  3. Check if the content is still aligned with the company vision and mission
  4. Look for spelling, grammar, punctuation and formatting errors
  5. Make as many corrections as you can yourself
  6. Corrections should be left for your supervisor if you:
    1. Are unsure about the item
    2. Don’t know how to make the correction
    3. Have concerns, advice or feedback about the content
  7. If there are no corrections required after the first review, email your Manager for their approval to finalise the review

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