Like a lot of technicians who decided to take the plunge and go to work for themselves, I thought that all I would be doing all day every day would be fixing computers. I didn’t see any need for having anything written out. I was a one-man band, and I was sure that I could figure out anything that would come along. For the things I couldn’t figure out, I’d just “wing it”.
And “winging it” worked…for the most part. Sure things would be a bit disorganized and hectic every now and again, and maybe I’d hesitate a little when a client would ask a question that would catch me off guard, but at the end of the day each job got done and my customers were happy and my business kept growing. That’s all that really matters, right?
As it turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Stuck in a Rut
After a while I noticed that business began to slow down. There just seemed to be this mysterious “something” that kept getting in the way of further business growth.
I was still getting customers, but growth seemed to have plateaued, and I couldn’t figure out why. The company was paying for itself, but I was making very little money. I just knew that there had to be “something” that I was missing. Some key piece of the puzzle that I just wasn’t seeing.
This missing piece had to be what was holding me back, and I was bound and determined to figure out what it was. This was my livelihood and my future that we’re talking about, after all.
In Search of the Missing Piece
I began to dig for the answers. I read article after article, blog post after blog post, scouring various forums and message boards to see if I could figure out what other business owners were doing that I wasn’t.
During my research I stumbled onto a post in a group run by ACRBO (Association for Computer Repair Business Owners). It was about books that every computer repair business owner should read. On that list was “The E Myth Revisited” by Michael E. Gerber, as well as three or four other books. I figured that if what I learn from these books can help me get just one new customer, they’ll have more than paid for themselves.
I won’t lie, “The E Myth Revisited” wasn’t the first of my new books that I decided to read, in fact it sat on my desk for a month or two before I got around to even flipping through the pages, but once I started reading, I just couldn’t stop. Everything resonated with me and my situation, it was almost as if the author was peaking to me directly.
Finally, the pieces all fell into place.
SOP to the Rescue
Looking back, one of the biggest mistakes that I made when starting my computer repair business all those years ago was not having a set of written procedures to follow.
You see, it turns out that each time I would hesitate with a client, every time I had to “figure out” a solution, even through the very act of “winging it”, I was wasting time. Sure it was my time to waste, but when you go to work for yourself you have to remember that time is money, and time wasted is money lost.
In order to stop wasting so much time (and money) I needed to actually work on my business and become more organized. A good place to start would be putting some simple policies and procedures into place.
I got started by writing down everything that I did in the shop, from how I would greet my customers to how I would solve the various problems they bring in for me to fix. Every scenario that I had experienced or that I could imagine being possible was written down. Before too long I was able to organize all of it into my very own Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and fill a three-ring binder with the results.
A customer asks a difficult question? There’s a policy or procedure for that. A computer comes through the door that looks like it might require a creative solution to fix properly? No worries, there’s a policy or procedure for that too. Now instead of “winging it” I could just refer to my SOP. No more second-guessing myself or being uncertain whether or not I handled a situation properly. It really was like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders.
Reaping the Benefits
Ever since instituting a set of policies and procedures my time has been freed up so that I can actually focus on running and growing my computer business. With that extra focus, I have grown beyond being just a “one-man-band”, profits have increased, and everything is running like a well-oiled machine.
Looking back, it’s painfully obvious that not having written policies and procedures was seriously holding me and my business back.
Does your business have written standard operating procedures? Let me know why or why not in the comments.