The idea of business scaling is critical to any company that wants to grow. But all too often, businesses are so caught up in engagement, channels, product offerings, marketing and branding, that they neglect a key part of any scaling effort: the back office, writes Minnaar Fourie, commercial director at King Price Insurance.
Make no mistake, all these things are critical – but they’re largely customer-centric. And meanwhile, back at the ranch, you’ve got archaic, manual processes cobbled together in key areas like financial management, human resources, process, and technology.
It’s not because business leaders don’t think the back office is unimportant. It’s just not as glamorous as engagement, customer experience and sales or production. But here’s the problem. When you have inefficiencies in your back office, you’re going to hit a bottleneck at some point that will stop the business as a whole from scaling effectively.
The obvious solution is to sort out the inefficiencies in your back-office processes. If only it were that easy. Once processes become embedded, they tend to take on a life of their own. They grow arms and legs, as it were. So when you want to fix something, it’s not just a matter of ‘stop doing that, and start doing this’. You have to improve gradually.
And that all starts with a mindset in a company that sees everybody wanting to contribute to these improvements. You want your staff to start critiquing your current processes by asking why. Why do I need to do it this way? Isn’t there a better way? To do this, though, you have to foster a culture and environment that empowers your people to ask these questions.
Culture of inquisitiveness
If you don’t make your people hungry to ask questions, all the solutions will come from the C-suite. And I think that’s a flawed approach. I want to create a culture of inquisitiveness in my team. I want people to feel safe to make suggestions.
The next step is to get a clear idea of what it is you’re trying to improve. You can only critique a process by breaking it down into its basic elements, and understanding what you want to achieve with the process. One of my team members recently created one of the best expense claim processes I’ve ever seen as a management consultant.
This person has no project management background or coding skills. But once she’d broken down the process flow, she created a simple app using a free tool, and has fixed what was once a royal pain for the entire team.
The point is that she wasn’t happy with the current process. So, she investigated solutions, mapped out the process on a piece of paper to understand what steps are involved, and then looked to see how we could use technology to mimic this workflow. The next step is to get it embedded across the entire business. I know for certain that it will change a lot of people’s lives.
A lot of people are tempted to simply throw tech at the problem. And yes, tech can improve efficiencies and service delivery. But it has to be applied to a well thought out business process. You have to know what business problem you’re solving, have a process that supports the solution, and then use the right tech to provide efficiency.
People, process, systems. That’s the holy trinity of thriving back office operations. But the most important part is your people. At King Price, one of our values is ‘Suit up, Superhero’ – which is all about bringing your best self to work every day. For me, part of that means being curious and inquisitive. The rest flows naturally from there. Now get out there and scale that business.