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In his classic business book The E-Myth Revisited, Michael Gerber asserts that process is what differentiates successful companies from the also-rans. Gerber writes that franchises succeed because they have a clearly defined system or process for everything—hiring staff, invoicing, greeting customers, selling, performance reviews, coaching and much more.

Gerber goes on to argue that all business owners should build processes into their business as if they were creating a franchise, even if they have no intention whatsoever of franchising it. In other words the act of defining a process, documenting it, testing it, tweaking it, and coming up with a standard step-by-step methodology for everything in your business as if you were establishing a turn-key, franchisable process, will help your business succeed.

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The alternative to managing by processes is managing by the seat of your pants. This might work if you are brilliant, and the sole owner and employee in the business. But as soon as you have one employee and need something done when you aren’t there to supervise, you need a process. Otherwise, your customers will not get a consistent service level or experience with your company.

Most fast-food franchises are successful because of their unwaveringly predictable consistency, not because of their culinary delights. No matter where you go to a McDonald’s, you get exactly what you expect. The restaurant and washrooms are always clean. The employees always wear uniforms. The menu is the same, with perhaps a minor local variation. The hamburgers taste the same—no better and no worse. Employees all greet you exactly the same way and they always ask, “Would you like fries with that?” Think of the incredible efficiencies, performance measurements, and competitive advantages a company has when it has developed those processes and proven repeatedly —in thousands of locations—that it has mastered the best possible way to conduct its type of business.

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Process is one of the main reasons that franchises are so successful. Someone buying and running a franchise is significantly more likely to still be in business three years later compared with someone starting his or her own business in a similar field. Is the franchisee more intelligent, more passionate, or more committed to success than the non-franchised competitor? Probably not, but statistically the franchisee is much more likely to succeed and earn a better living.

Why the advantage? Because franchisors have developed business processes that enable their franchisees to succeed by stringently following the tried and true. They even have processes in place to make sure the franchisee follows the processes. They have developed best practices through trial and error and arrived at an approach that works. Not only does it work, but it works consistently. Franchisors have invested the time and money to make mistakes so their franchisees don’t have to.

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Assuming that you are not part of a franchise, you and your staff may have some heavy lifting to do to create a business that operates as if it were a franchise. Building documented processes for each part of your business will help you increase sales, reduce costs and expenses, hire the right employees, retain your best employees, partner with the right suppliers and distributors, and keep your customers coming back.

More important to you, a business that is run by systems rather than the day-to-day whims of individuals is easier to manage, easier to sell when you’re ready, and worth far more to a prospective buyer.

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How do you get started on this journey? Begin by asking yourself and your management team what I call the Systematic Process Question: In your opinion, what is the one most important part of our business that could benefit immediately from a systematic process that would assure consistently successful results?

Pick the most important one and turn it into a process. Then ask the question again and again until your business is franchisable. You’ll be glad you did.

Wayne Vanwyck is the founder and CEO of The Achievement Centre International in London, Ont. He is the creator of The Business Transition Coach Forum and the author of the best-selling books, Pure Selling and The Business Transition Crisis. He has been training and coaching business owners for the past 30 years.

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