Processes & Procedures Transcription
Season 1 Episode 11
This is a written Transcription for the episode: Making Processes Procedures Sexy
Full Written Transcript of The Episode
Matt Tompkins: Hello and welcome back to the Omaha podcast, where Omaha’s most successful entrepreneurs help you grow your business. I’m your host, Matt Tompkins of Two Brothers Creative, and I want you to imagine that you’re lying on the operating room table. But there is no checklist for anyone to follow.
The doctors start operating before the anesthesia. No one is wearing gloves. Some people wash their hands, some people didn’t, and no one knows not to leave a sponge in your body before they stitch you up. If they do, it sounds pretty terrifying, doesn’t it? Well, that is what you’re doing with your business if you don’t have processes and procedures. And that’s all processes and procedures. Are there a checklist for everyone to follow? On this episode of the podcast, Gwen Aspen is here to show us how processes and procedures work, how they reduce stress, anxiety, they maintain the quality of your services and are really the only way that you can scale your business. Just like Gwen, who as CEO of Anna Swim, has taken their company from inception to being the fourth fastest growing private company in Nebraska in less than six years.
On this episode of the Omaha podcast, we will make processes and procedures the sexiest part of your business. Is the Omaha podcast where Omaha. Successful entrepreneurs help your business grow. There are a lot of really cool aspects of being an entrepreneur and owning a business. I mean, you can set your own hours, you can do what you love for a living. You can make as much money as the effort you put into it. Those are like the sexy things, right, about being a business owner. And then there is the perhaps like, least sexy part of being a business owner. But it just so happens to be the most important. And, you know, yes, I understand it feels boring because it kind of is boring, but it is crucial if you want to scale your business, if you want to grow your business. And so that’s what we’re going to talk about today with the processes and procedures.
Gwenn Aspen: Queen Oh.
Matt Tompkins: Shit.
Gwenn Aspen: I don’t know if I want that title. It’s like resident business nerd Gwen Aspen, but but I.
Matt Tompkins: Well, at least I’m not calling him by the inaccurate like, abbreviation because earlier I was like I was labeling him pee and pee because I was just tired of writing processes and procedures over and over again. So I’m like paps. So you could have been the queen of Pee and Peas and that would have sounded like something totally different. They’re called sops, though.
Gwenn Aspen: As SOP, standard operating procedures is the common term in business for the processes and procedures.
Matt Tompkins: So today we’re going to make processes, procedures sexy, Not again, because I don’t think they ever were, but we’re going to make them sexy. Now, a little backstory on Gwen. So Gwen is the CEO of an Aquarium LLC, which was just not too long ago recognized this is what, the fourth fastest growing company in Nebraska. And then what were you in the whole we’re.
Gwenn Aspen: 612 in the United States, privately owned companies based on the INC 5000 list.
Matt Tompkins: That is it’s it’s incredible on its own. But then when you know a little bit about you and Jeremy, who is the CFO, also your spouse, Jeremy Aspen of Anna Kim, it’s really incredible when you see how little time you’ve gone from idea inception to where you are with those those those kind of stats or awards or progress that you’re making.
Gwenn Aspen: Right? Well, I would say it’s really all about my team. Like the team is the one. It’s their award, but they’re the ones who started.
Matt Tompkins: It, you know? I mean, it’s that I mean, it’s choosing the right people. I mean, there are a lot of things that go into it. How But how many years ago did you actually officially start?
Gwenn Aspen: In 2016? I stayed in the Marriott at Regency, which is and I stayed in there for like three days and wrote the initial processes and procedures, what we’re talking about today. And I didn’t leave the room that to the point where I got a wellness check by the hotel because they’re like, Are you alive? Are you in a safe place, lady, because you are not leaving this hotel room? But yeah, it started with those processes and procedures in June of 2016.
Matt Tompkins: That’s I mean, that’s incredible. I mean, that that’s a short amount of time to get to where you are today with the success of Anna Kim and we get to work together. And I actually I feel like being introduced to you because I knew your husband just through working radio and he’s involved in politics and usually he’s wrong about everything and I’m right. And so it works out well. But no, I’m kidding. But I met you when you started doing your bootstrap podcast, which is all about being an entrepreneur and the things you can learn from your experiences. And I feel fortunate because it was total fluke that we happened to meet. But I’ve learned so much from you as far as processes and procedures and like how to do things that I think most business owners, myself included, have never even thought of it. You don’t even think about it, and then you don’t do it because you don’t know you need to do it and you fail and you feel like, Oh, it’s me, I’m a failure. My business failed. And then you, you know, do what most people would do, which I think is why most businesses fail in the first few years and just give up because you don’t know what to do.
Gwenn Aspen: Yeah, well, okay, so here’s the reason why processes and procedures are so important to me is I don’t know if I would classify it as an anxiety disorder, but I may or may not be a super anxious person. And I am a people pleaser. I want my clients to be like, so happy, right?
Like all the time. And having an unhappy client is just the bane of my existence. And the only way that you can give up control and really grow your business is to make sure that people are following the steps to make for a successful client experience. Right. And the only way to do that is to write them down, because people notoriously forget things. And it’s not that the people are dumb if they forget to get forget something. Even doctors need checklists. Even pilots need checklists. I mean, if you don’t have a checklist in an operating room, you could have the best surgery ever and then be left with a sponge inside your stomach. Right.
Matt Tompkins: So it’s I think I listen to that podcast. Is I Dr. Death?
Gwenn Aspen: I think that’s like a real problem it’s happened Or are they like, take the wrong arm off, right? I mean, they’re real legitimate problems. So. So processes and procedures. I learned early on that that was the solution to my anxiety. So I think you have to kind of because it is boring to create them. I mean, I’m not going to lie. I remember I did a personality test or like, how much do you like your job test while I was writing, like in a very intense process and procedure moment in my business and my job satisfaction was like the lowest it could be. But I knew that if I did that work up front, then I would have I would get to do the things that I actually like to do in my business because I could hand off the things I don’t like and have them go successfully without any fire drills.
And that motivated me in my time of weakness when I was Saturday and I’m like chained to my desk to get these done. And you don’t like that moment and your friends are having fun, or your kids want you to do something and you’re like, No, I’m going to do these processes and procedures because it will allow me to get to what my ultimate goal is.
Matt Tompkins: Yeah, I mean, I mean, let’s let’s backtrack to the beginning because you’re right. I mean, the saying of like working on your business instead of in your business, this is how you do it. I mean, you can’t grow, you can’t scale unless you can get other people to do what do the tasks and still maintain the quality of work that you’re you’re putting out there. So you grow and get more customers and clients. But let’s start at the beginning. So you mentioned checklists like let’s just the very basic starting point. What is a process and what is a procedure? What’s the difference between the two?
Gwenn Aspen: Sure. Okay. A process is a group of procedures. So you’ll have a sales process, you’ll have an accounts receivable process, so you’ll break down the big things of your business, a marketing process into groups. And so when you are writing them down, you want to kind of like nest them so, so that they all kind of go together. But different procedures can be done by different people. So you might divide it by people and this is why you can get into like a process procedure.
Matt Tompkins: Rabbit hole.
Gwenn Aspen: Rabbit hole very quickly.
Matt Tompkins: You don’t go back.
Gwenn Aspen: So when you design them, you do kind of want to be thoughtful before you start writing them down on how you’re going to nest them. And if the software you’re using has enough nesting features to get your outline of procedures written down correctly. And so, I mean, the classic example is going to the bar. Like if you wanted to tell a team how to go to the bar to get a drink, to get a beer, what are the steps that they’d have to take to leave your office to go get the beer and write those down? And it’s funny, if you’re like doing one of those like corporate exercises.
Matt Tompkins: That was me leaving the bar, flash the car going by.
Gwenn Aspen: You act like an idiot. Like, Oh, you didn’t write that I had to turn the car on and that. Anyway, so you want to make them detailed enough that someone can follow. But here’s the thing that most entrepreneurs struggle with is that you create a business. It’s literally your baby. You’ve put your blood, sweat and tears in this, and then you’re going to ask somebody that you don’t know that well, maybe you interviewed them for an hour, maybe a few hours, and you’re like, Here’s my baby, take care of it, and don’t screw up.
Matt Tompkins: Because I just as good a job as I do.
Gwenn Aspen: Right?
Matt Tompkins: That’s what we want.
Gwenn Aspen: People can’t do that. So they end up getting very stuck in not being able to delegate. But if you write good processes and procedures, you won’t get stuck there. And then and so it allows you to grow. So and then the training process. So let’s say the first person, let’s say your new IT business in the first person you hire is a total dud and it doesn’t work out. And now you have the business you were working, you’ve like have clients now you don’t have enough people, you’re freaking out and somehow you have to train someone very quickly to do the the job. Again, if you have a list of what that person did, you can cut that time that you’re training them in half in a third almost. I mean, I’ve gotten training down for some positions that was three months, originally down to two weeks because the training documents were so good. And it’s not because they were good on the front end.
Like a lot of this is is trial and error. But the real thing to make your business grow without like these huge peaks and valleys of success and failure, working normal hours and then having to work like 120 hours because somebody quit or whatever the case may be, to keep things steady is always be keeping up the processes and procedures because it’s one thing to create them, but it’s just like your closet. If you’re going to, you make your closet beautiful, you color code it, you put the hangers the same way, but then as soon as you make it pretty, you start just throwing things on the ground and like, not caring.
Matt Tompkins: I put all my clothes on the ground, but it’s just I think that’s just an issue with me.
Gwenn Aspen: No, it’s not. It’s like everything.
Matt Tompkins: But you’re right. I think you can start to like in the procedure, like you mentioned, is basically. A checklist. That’s what a simple way to describe it. You probably make checklists every day. I do. I make a checklist to do list. Here’s my to do list, and then I’ll write things down that I already finished that I could just cross it off because it feels so good to cross things off my list. But in all seriousness, yeah, if you’re doing something that you’re going to do again and again and again, it makes no sense to try and keep it all in your head. Just write it down. And I put this off and I’m a good example. I think of I think a lot of business owners. I was like, I’m, I have this. It’s all about me and like my unique skill sets. And so I can do this at this quality level and I’m just going to do it.
And if I’m not the one doing it, it just can’t get done. And it got to a point where I couldn’t manage all the workload myself, had to bring some somebody on and you know, how do I tell them? How do I get that? So there was a lot of frustration.
Gwenn Aspen: Like and how.
Matt Tompkins: Anxious.
Gwenn Aspen: And stressful was it in that moment in time?
Matt Tompkins: Yeah, you have mistakes and like a client calls you and says, Oh my, like you misspelled my name, How do you misspell my name? And it was, well, I didn’t clarify a procedure for that employee for checks and for things like that. So, you know, we want to get naturally, we want to blame the employee, but it’s really our fault. And we have to we have to, I think, accept that it is if somebody screws up at your company most I would assume most of the time it is related to something you have done or you have set in place or or something that you haven’t done. So so we talked about what the difference is between processes and procedures. Let’s talk about what types of improvements. When you put these processes and procedures in place, can business owners expect like what type of I mean, growth scale? I mean, are they are there limitations with doing it versus not doing it?
Gwenn Aspen: No. I mean, if you look at any super mature company, they all use processes and procedures and they have a quality control department that ensures they’re being used. I mean, every corporation that’s successful has this. So as a small company, you’re just doing the best practices. You’ve got to have this done.
The the key, though, is utilizing them. So so let’s say you write your processes and procedures and this is a real world. So probably the first time you write something, part of it’s not going to make sense or it’s not going to be perfect. You’re going to forget something that’s just the real world. So then you have an employee who who’s who’s doing the task, who you’ve said, okay, you’ve read these make sense. I’ve trained you, they still screw up. So you have to have some process in your company where that’s documented. Like the screw up is like, Hello, you screwed up, and then somebody at your company has to go, Hey, you screwed up.
Here’s the procedure. What step did you not understand? And go back to the procedure. Fix it if it doesn’t make sense, Retrain. And then and then say, okay, so now you. Now that you know the procedure, now that you’re trained on it, like I expect this to results from this procedure. And then if somebody can’t get it right, then you’re like, hey, we went over this. We went back to the procedure three times. You can read it to do the job. I don’t think you’re right for this job. So it also makes the management of people, which is a huge pain.
Matt Tompkins: Point, accountability.
Gwenn Aspen: The accountability and the management of people. So much easier. Like I like to be nice, I like to be liked to a fault. And so I don’t like giving that negative feedback. But if it’s just the facts, Jack, like, Hey, I wrote this down, this is how you follow it. This is the goal. You didn’t mean it. You didn’t do what I was you were supposed to do. Like it’s a self firing, really. They like self fired themselves.
Matt Tompkins: It works with employees, I feel like. I mean, would you say this is correct? You can’t really you’re going to hit a ceiling and you’re going to, I think, personally be unhappy, frustrated with your business at some point, perhaps to the point of failing if you don’t have processes and procedures in place, would you say that’s accurate?
Gwenn Aspen: Yes. And I think like whenever you start a business, if you’re brand new to this, you’re a new manager, right? You don’t know what you’re doing. Like we’re all just kind of flying by the seat of our pants when we’re starting new business. The first step is clarity. Processes and procedures provide clarity.
If you provide clarity to your employees on what the expectation is and how to do it, you’re like halfway there, right? And so if you start there and you’re really clear about what’s expected, you’re going to get better results and then you’re going to be able to sleep better at night, which is really, like I said, I guess I always go back to my anxiety.
The sleeping better, the lack of anxiety is what, when, when you can calmly look at your business and you feel like it’s under control, then you can truly be the visionary, which is why you started the company in the first place. And you can really make your dreams of why you’re doing all this hard stuff and working on weekends and all that that is required when you start a business, then you can see it really moving forward. But it starts with this boring, predictable, tedious process.
Matt Tompkins: And I would also add this to that as far as the benefits, because we’re talking a lot about when you have employees, when you’re growing and you’re scaling, let’s say. You are just an entrepreneur, a business owner, and it’s just you. And maybe it’s always going to be you.
I can tell you just from personal experience, this will help you immediately. So an example of this. So when we when we are creating a new podcast for one of our clients and we create this podcast, there’s like, I don’t know, 60, 50, 60 platforms you have to be on. There’s different sized graphics and artwork and all these different elements and things you need to know how to do. And so I was just going through it and I noticed like I was just going through it by memory. And then I noticed that there were times where, Oh shoot, I didn’t link up this thing,
I missed this thing. And so one day I said, All right, I have to do this. I might as well just write down every step that I do. And it instantly, like, relieved all the stress and frustration from doing that because I didn’t have to have that anxiety of am I forgetting something.
Gwenn Aspen: That mental.
Matt Tompkins: Load. And then I mean, I just updated this about a week ago because there was a few new resources I wanted to add for checking different feeds and things like that. So yeah, it’s like it’s turned into, I think, a 35 step process or procedure, but it is so helpful because I don’t have to remember it. I can just open it up. It has the links to where I need to go, which we’ll talk about the software and programs people can use in a second that have that as well. It’s just it’s extraordinary how quickly it will improve your personal life, whether you have employees or don’t.
Gwenn Aspen: And it’s not just the mental load, it’s also your personal efficiency. So obviously energy levels of a human being vary from day to night and week to week. And if you’re exhausted, been working like a dog, starting a business and it’s, you know, 11:00 at night, but you’ve got to get your accounting or invoicing done or whatever. If you have a list, it makes that project way easier. And also it prevents people from procrastinating because it’s so it can make you so anxious to do something that you hate doing. But if you have the list and it makes it that much easier, you’re going to invoice on the right day, which is something that creates sophistication and that your clients will appreciate. As an example, when you said you would do it and it will make you more professional immediately.
Matt Tompkins: This is is literally, I think, the secret ingredient. You know, when you talk about growing a business and building even. But we’re surprised sometimes we don’t feel bad. I guess what I’m saying, if you never thought of this and this is kind of like, wow, an aha moment, I need to do this. Because I remember Wendy had a woman that works with Wendy, was getting frustrated missing all these things.
And I just simply suggested to her, you should write down a list, a checklist, the start of every day, or better yet, do it the night before. So you get up, you’re ready to go. She started doing it and like a couple of weeks later, she was like, Oh my God, this is like transformed my day, just simply having a checklist. So imagine for just daily task, imagine what that could do when you apply it to your entire business. So let’s I want to help people with specifics here. The down and dirty. So first thing, how do you create a process or procedure?
Gwenn Aspen: So, I mean, I’ve always started my businesses without any loans. We’ve never been debt people. So I just start them on Google like you’ll want to maybe upgrade, but you can start it on a Google doc. I mean, with hyper, I.
Matt Tompkins: Still use those here. So yeah, yeah.
Gwenn Aspen: You don’t need to go crazy if you’re just getting started. So I’ve started all my businesses, processes and procedures on a Google doc. Now the nesting feature in Google isn’t as good, isn’t that good? And it gets cumbersome and you can’t do some of the fancier functions of some of the the other softwares. There’s like process st I use suite process, which for me was a price point that seemed manageable and did what I needed it to do.
Matt Tompkins: And one thing I would add that because suite process is what we’re implement, we’re putting our Google Docs in to suite process. One nice thing about these apps, I guess process probably does this too. You can download it on your phone and it has a it’s a literal thing.
You have to check the box when you’ve completed the steps. So even if you have people working remotely like we have video shoots and stuff like that, they still can pull it up on their phone and they see the list and the order and they have to select it. So if something goes wrong, you know, so there’s no excuse. It can go anywhere with you.
Gwenn Aspen: Yes, I like that functionality and it will like keep that particular list. Like for, for instance, suite process, you can start the procedure and it gives you a checklist and you close it and then you have a record of what the time it was done and the order of things were done and you have some record of what happened. The other good thing about those softwares is if someone changes it, then you have you can go back to the original. S
o one of the issues is the companies grow is that everyone in their mom thinks that they can just change a procedure and you go back and you’re like, That’s not what I wrote. And as an owner, there were reasons that you wrote certain things and sure, people didn’t like it or. They didn’t understand the reason behind it. So then they go change it, which is why as a business grows, I think sooner rather than later, quality control. Some element of quality control needs to be there. So you have one person who changes the procedures or there’s a process or procedure to change your procedures.
Matt Tompkins: That’s like that’s like total nerd dom right there. That’s like breaking the fourth wall, you know, high level geekdom there. I love it.
Gwenn Aspen: And that quality control process prevents your annual meeting from having the we call them rocks. But like your quarterly goal, the first one and most of my company is the first and January, we’re like, well, we have to redo our processes of procedures entirely this year because everybody screwed them up over the year. And so you don’t have that rework like Groundhog Day moment every year if you have some of that quality control involved.
Matt Tompkins: And I think to get started because it can, it does feel overwhelming and it is a little bit tedious and it is, you know, can be it’s not the exciting, sexy thing, but it is crucial to your happiness. It is crucial to de-stressing, which is a big issue, having anxiety and then growing your business, which is the end goal. But if you’re overwhelmed, just get started by simply step one. Start writing things down that you’re doing.
If you have a task that you do all the time, just write it down. Just write it down. In a word, doc, a Google doc on a pad of paper. But that’s the first step, you know, and chip away at it that way because I think we’re at that point now where we have all these procedures we’ve been putting together over the last three months or so in Google Docs and organizing them. And then the next step will be transferring that to a platform. And so if you look at it that way, it is manageable. I mean, this is how totally organize your business.
Gwenn Aspen: It really or or like let’s say you’re an entrepreneur and you just hate one particular task. Start with that task. Yeah, because then you can stop doing that. I mean, if you became an entrepreneur because you want to design your life, you want to design your work, think about what you hate doing, get rid of it, get it off your plate, and then you like your job more and you have more energy to keep being the visionary. So either start with the thing that you hate the most or the easiest thing to get off your plate so that you could grow your business. Or maybe not do.
Matt Tompkins: That or not do. Yeah. Just, you know, sell your business at some point, right?
Gwenn Aspen: Oh, and that’s the thing. If you want to sell your business, you literally it’s worth nothing unless you have processes and procedures. It’s worth nothing.
Matt Tompkins: I mean, it’s crucial to scaling it, selling it. You know, you should we’ll talk about the build to sell kind of strategy on the on the podcast here on another episode. But you should build a sell even if you’re never going to sell because it’s just a way to organize your business and structure it to make it the most efficient, the most profitable, and allow you, like you said, to do what you actually set out to do in the first place. Be the visionary, call the shots and control your schedule. All those things I mentioned early on.
Gwenn Aspen: Right. And just one other thing, Like if you’re a one person shop and you don’t really want employees, there’s still things that can happen. Like you get sick or, you know, in your business needs to run to get you through that moment. If you have everything written down, even if you don’t like having employees, you can at least get temp workers to do your job, keep you afloat while you do what you need to do to manage a crisis or a health issue. So if you are concerned about security or your livelihood and if you lay awake worrying about those things, this is another way that you can get better rest and.
Matt Tompkins: Know it is. I had that happen. I had that happen in my first year. I was out. I think it was a COVID. I got right at the beginning, beginning of some year, and it was I was out. I couldn’t go. I literally couldn’t go. And even though I felt fine, I couldn’t go. And so I was connecting remotely to the, you know, the studio, trying to walk, you know, this employee through this who didn’t really know what they were doing. And it had a huge impact on the end product. In product was kind of a disaster because it was just little things that that person didn’t know to do. And it, you know, essentially I’m first, you’re mad at them, but then when you no pun intended, you process that event, you realize, no, this is me not planning ahead. This was me not putting together my processes and procedures. So in the show notes, we’re going to include all of Gwen’s favorite processes and procedures website.
Gwenn Aspen: It’s going to be a really popular show.
Matt Tompkins: Back how Gwen was like Miss October and the Processes and Procedures magazine. It’s just, you know, and it only shows pictures of the processes, by the way. So. Yeah, but, but yeah, we’ll have that in the show notes so people can just click a link, they can check out Sweet Process, Process Street and then also that book traction you alluded to.
Gwenn Aspen: My God.
Matt Tompkins: Which we use as well. I mean, that’s a it’s a really I mean it’s probably the best tool for a business to implement as far as a strategy and organic. Zation and structure, including processes, procedures. We’ll have a link to that in the show notes as well. But Gwen, thank you so much for coming on and educating us, letting.
Gwenn Aspen: Me nerd out with you on your show. I appreciate it.
Matt Tompkins: That’s all we do here. We’re a bunch of nerds, so you’re welcome anytime. Thanks again for joining us here today on the Omaha podcast. Subscribe, subscribe, subscribe. I mean, really, you only have to subscribe once and then you’re good. You don’t have to do it three times, but subscribe so that you never miss an episode. And if you would like some of the helpful resources that we talked about in this episode about processes and procedures, we have links in the show notes, or you can reach out to us directly on the podcast. Also in the show notes, email contact information is there for you. Hot Pockets. Where? Omaha. Successful entrepreneurs help your business grow.