Know Your Process

Why are window sales pitches usually more than two hours long? Most people I know think a movie is too long if it goes much more than that. If movie stars, superheroes and Hollywood magic can’t keep us enthralled for much more than two hours, who really wants to listen to a sales pitch for that long?

For years I worked in the world of appointment setters, a commissioned sales team with a churn rate that was in the double digits and a constant need to sell, sell, sell. It was the industry standard way of selling replacement windows. Many people go into business for themselves after working for a boss for years and thinking they can do it better. That would have been my story too, except it was my company. When I walked away, I swore off doing the same thing again. I had to build a different kind of company and a different process.

There is a book that I highly recommend for anyone considering starting their own business, or even for those of you already own one. It’s “The E-Myth” by Michael Gerber (now, it’s “The E-Myth Revisited”). The “E” is for Entrepreneurial and the myth is that only special people can become successful at running their own business. Gerber talks a lot about process and to him, the model for any and all business should be similar to that of a franchise.

The secret to franchising is that you aren’t just buying a business, you are buying a business process. The secret to McDonalds is that the process of making a Big Mac is standardized and documented down to the nth degree. Gerber tells us to “Work on your business, not in your business.”

If you fell over dead tomorrow, could your company survive? Is there a manual outlining the process of doing what you do and how you do it? Have you thought about every single possible outcome and what to do to guarantee that you deliver as promised?

Process isn’t just an exercise in the predictable; process is what gives your business a competitive advantage. A friend told me about an episode on “This Old House” from the Bob Villa days, where they were in Los Angeles and met a plumber who had a huge step van as a work truck, stocked with everything he could possibly need for almost any job. All cataloged, inventoried and properly put away. It was a plumbing supply house on wheels. He did it, because even a short distance trip to a supply house wasn’t possible with LA’s famous traffic. His process gave him a competitive advantage.

In selling windows, I looked for the same advantage. Why waste my time or the customers time with a lengthy, drawn out sales process? I knew how much the windows would cost, with information I could gather in a phone call. By pre-qualifying my leads, I could spend more time working on my business, than working in it- because I built a business model based on “Relax, window quotes in 5 minutes.”

That’s process.