Thursday, February 06, 2014

How to Improve Your Efficiency, Make your Business work for you and Turn into a System

I have just finished a business book called "The E-Myth Revisited" by Michael Gerber, a fascinating if not slightly too American book on how to get a business working for you and not vice versa. I should start this article by saying that this is not a sales pitch and I have no financial interest in the book!

Mr Gerber is keen to get people in business to stop and think about what they are doing. His key advice is to view your enterprise as a potential franchise and try to get it working like this as quickly as possible. In this way you can either prepare the company for sale, work out where you need to recruit staff or streamline processes and make the whole operation more efficient. He seems to be using some of the Six SIgma techniques that I am sure practice managers are starting to become aware of these days.

Firstly take a look at yourself and your business. Why are you working? What are you working for? Does your current job or company give you the scope to achieve your aims? If not, why not?

Secondly, draw up an Organisation Chart. Write out all the different roles you have within the business. For example, most smaller law firms will probably find that within their firm there are the following posts: Accounts Manager, Accounts Clerk, Receptionist, PA, Secretary, Marketing Manager, Business Development Manager, Sales Director, Solicitor, Paralegal, IT Director, Office Cleaner, Maintenance Fitter, Purchasing Officer, Supply Chain Manager. Naturally most sole practitioners will undertake all of the above apart from the secretary post!

Once you have written out the chart, work out how much you and your colleagues should be doing for each role and what scope there is either to outsource or employ other staff. How many hours are you spending in each position? Is there scope to reduce your hours in those positions that are non-profitable?

Finally have a look at your systems. Do you have systems in place that enable completely untrained and inexperienced employees to run certain sections of your business without any involvement from you or other managers? For example, does the receptionist work to a system of processing each telephone call in the same way. If they are booking a new appointment do they go through a process of handling queries or concerns - eg car parking when visiting the offices, avoiding too much talk on price and more on quality, taking down the source of the referral, know enough about your operations to be able to answer any initial queries - for example which fee earner will be dealing with the client from the outset? If not, can all of this be put into a protocol (borrowing an overused term from the TV series 24) and adhered to every time a new call is made? Is there a system for ensuring that clients are only kept waiting on the phone for a maximum of 3 minutes before a receptionist guarantees a call back. Do you have an online system in place to enable clients to log in and check progress on their case?

Once everything has been transformed into procedures and systems you can take more of a development role than a hands on role. Mr Gerber talks about changing lives by using this technique. Looking at my current workload and trying to think about going through this process I have to say it is probably a question of considerably changing a very strong mindset!

Jonathan Fagan is a solicitor, qualified recruitment consultant and Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment. His LinkedIn profile can be viewed here - www.linkedin.com/in/jbfagan

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