When there just aren’t enough hours in the day or you’re bored with repetitive tasks, what do you do?

If you’re a Drive Member, you call Louise Lee!

Louise has become the go-to person in our Tribe for advice on saving time, making work flow easily, dealing with repetitive tasks and much more.

She runs Saunders and Lee and works with many different businesses around the globe.

Louise describes what she’s good at as: Helping businesses scale by working out processes and systems. Software research and comparisons. Finding the best way for business owners to manage their work load and information. Finding solutions to business administration problems to make work flow better.

She also cooks a mean curry from scratch and enjoys feeding people, taking landscapesque photos, gardening and walking (she completed the Everest Basecamp trail).

Andy Boothman Can you tell us a bit about how you became such a whiz with systems and software? I’m not sure everyone in the group will be aware of your credentials – which I know to be stellar!

Louise Lee My job in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was where I discovered the benefit of processes and systems. These make it possible to pass work to other people and cuts down training time so that there are no bottlenecks. I’ve since used this knowledge to help both large and small businesses improve their workflow and productivity and become more profitable.

Helen Lindop It must have been fascinating to work in the House Of Commons! Why did you decide to start a business?

Louise Lee At the FCO I moved posts every 2-3 years and that meant I was always learning. Running my own business satisfies my desire to constantly learn. I was also sick of office politics and having to ask permission to go on holiday, go to the dentist and all that jazz.

Basic mistakes

Helen Lindop What’s the biggest mistake you see businesses making with processes and systems?

Louise Lee The biggest mistake I see is assumption. For example, if you’d never had a cup of tea and someone presented you with a cup, teabag, milk, kettle, water and sugar, would you know how to create the perfect cuppa?

Just because all the information/resources are there, doesn’t mean someone knows how YOU want it done. The easiest way to create a process is to use a screen recorder every time you do a task you know well and that way you don’t need extra time to create the resource – you’re already doing it anyway.

Helen Lindop If a business owner has very little in the way of processes and systems, e.g. they are running everything from their head and email inbox, what’s the first step?

Louise Lee There are two answers to this and it depends whether the business owner wants to scale their business and take on staff / outsource, or whether the business will always be them alone.

If you want to scale, then the first step is to make a note of all the tasks you perform. As you record this information, decide whether only you can perform the activity or whether someone else could do it or, perhaps it could be automated. You want to end up with a complete inventory of everything that sustains your business. Include all those activities you think only take 5 minutes. You don’t need to know who or how these tasks might get done if you don’t do them, you just need to know everything you do.

If the business will only ever be the business owner then I’d be asking them what is it about their current way of working that’s not working for them. If it’s information or email management I’ll show them slicker ways of managing both. If it’s project management / managing customers we can look at software to support them along with how they can better manage their clients.

Kathy Salaman I’m a real dummy when it comes to systems and stuff – most of this is way above my head. I’m just starting to get the hang of concepts such as ‘back office’ for my shop :-O What sort of streamlining systems would you recommend for a complete novice?

Louise Lee To begin with I wouldn’t worry about streamlining, I’d use the process I mention above and start with making a note of everything that needs to happen in your business to make it operate and then decide whether only you can do those things or whether it’s something that someone else can do.  Get it working well and then look at the next steps.

Getting started

Emma James What’s a good way of starting to document processes? Just get the information down into something like Word, or do you have favourite tools for this?

Louise Lee Always go with what works for you. Pen and paper, Word, spreadsheet, Asana, Trello. I usually start with pen and paper because at that point I’m not thinking about how the process works in a specific software. As you think about the process you should consider who else needs to be involved.

Emma James Do you have a checklist/process you follow when researching and trialling software? Any tips for quickly working out what isn’t going to work for you?

Louise Lee I start with a shopping list. What are the must haves that I need the software to do. Here’s an example for task/project management:  How to Choose Your Task Management Software

Emma James How do you work with clients on a day-to-day basis? And if someone was thinking of working with you, how should they prepare for this?

Louise Lee My clients fall into two categories. Those I work with on a continuous, real time, basis (I emphasise real time because I don’t allocate set hours for clients. My team and I work as though we’re their full time employees but of course we’re much more efficient because we’ve set up great systems and we don’t get distracted by office chat). The others are clients for whom I carry out project work.

Projects are just that. We talk about what needs to be different in their business and then I work out how we make it different and demonstrate a couple of ways to achieve it. I usually create dummy set ups in two different pieces of software and then create a video comparison.

For the day to day work we’ll agree clear areas of responsibility. This varies a little from business to business but the crux of it is that anything which doesn’t earn my client money is my responsibility to either do or manage.

Creating repeatable, teachable systems

Whether you’re preparing to work with me or with someone else, you need to create repeatable, teachable systems. Perhaps you’ve considered outsourcing or taking on team members but decided that no one would perform the activity like you. Or you worry that your customers won’t want to deal with someone else. Or it’ll take too long to explain how to do something and so you might as well do it yourself? Have you tried outsourcing but they didn’t “get” what you wanted or didn’t do it how you wanted? When you have teachable, repeatable processes these problems disappear.

A great way to get started is my free programme, 5 Steps to Scale Your Business & Increase Your Profits (https://courses.adminconsultantexperts.co.uk/courses/5-steps-increase-profits). It contains 5 short videos and some worksheets to help you prepare.

Software worth paying for

Emma James Do you think there’s a minimum amount/percentage that you’d advise be put aside for software solutions? I see a lot of people focusing on free, which can sometimes be fine, but sometimes paying a little bit will see huge benefits.

Louise Lee I probably spend quite a lot on software. If software means I can be working on something else and earning money then I think the software is worth it. Let’s do a quick tot up of some things I spend my money on:

Zapier

Asana

Finance

CRM/Email Marketing

Typeforms

Training programme Platform

Camtasia for recording and editing

Adobe

Calendly

Payment gateways

Canva

Zoom

By paying for all of these things they save me an inordinate amount of time.

Everything that’s free has limitations and I’ve spent far too much time trying to find work arounds in my business. By the time I’ve spent 4 hours trying to make a workaround work, I might as well have bought the product because I’d have had it set up and running and I could have moved on to fee paying work.

How much should you spend? How much value will the tool add to your business? For me software is like a carpenter’s toolbox. I could use a hand powered drill but I’ll plough through more work if I have a power tool.

Don’t be afraid of paying for software. Opt for a monthly plan and see how you get on with it. If you discover it’s not quite right, go back to the free plan and look for something that better fits your needs.

Andy Boothman Streamlining is always an issue that I come across. Businesses will have adapted a piece of software here and another there etc etc and they reach a point where it’s unproductive to be running separate systems. They sort of communicate but not that well, relying of further third party software to migrate content. When facing these kinds of dilemmas would you consult > direct > train and / or manage?

Louise Lee I hate to say it, but it depends. I’d first ask what needs to get done, what’s not working and who needs to be involved. My first thought would be to find one piece of software to do everything and test it for a while.

Would I consult, direct, train and or manage depends whether I’m the right gal for the job. Without knowing what’s involved I can’t answer that 🙂

Clear lines of responsibility help and to use the monkey analogy, who is responsible for feeding it? If no one is responsible the monkey dies. Everything needs to be allocated to someone.

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There are lots of other resources from Louise on this site including How to set up your business to be saleable (Part 1) – Drive, The Partnership Network

There are also many other great ideas on streamlining your business, and saving time and money on the Saunders and Lee blog. Follow Louise on Twitter @TheLouiseLee for more links.