This is part 5 in my blog post series “From 0 to 10,000 customers”, documenting everything I did to grow my first eCommerce business. If you’re new here, take a look at the whole series or start with Part 1: How I started my eCommerce business.

There’s something about a slick internal process that turns my brain’s pleasure centre on. Beyond the pure pleasure of writing an internal process, documenting a task you do on auto-pilot gives clarity like nothing else.

If you can take what’s in your head onto paper or into the mind of someone else, you’ll make better decisions.

Better decisions = better business.

As unsexy as it is to talk about how to build an efficient business, it’s a part of business I strongly believe and actively partake in.

When I look at Trefiel’s success, the number of masks we sold and the customers retained were big factors. But the most important factor, for me at least, was our internal processes.

Our philosophy and execution on internal processes allowed us to outsource every aspect of the business and run it from different countries and time zones.

We based ourselves in beautiful Bali –

Then we moved to a completely different timezone –

I’m more proud that Trefiel was a well-oiled machine than I am that it retained 40% of its customers.

We built it that way from the start and ultimately, it allowed us to live a life that we dreamt of.

If you can build an efficient business,you've been successful.

If you’re anything like me, your head is full of ideas, problems, solutions, tasks and processes for simple jobs.

Lots and lots of processes.

You may have even memorised a dozen emails that you write, without stopping to put a process in place. This has been me on many occasions in my businesses. In fact, it’s something I’m working through right now as I write this.

There will come a time in your business and your life where there is no room in your day to add more tasks. But in order to grow your business, you need to shift some of what you do by:

  • Streamlining;
  • Delegating;
  • Automating; or
  • Removing it from your business.

That’s what we’re going to talk about in this post.

How to use internal processes to build an efficient business with Karen P’ng

In the last post, I spoke about how we launched a 4-mask range and the 3 most important aspects of a product launch. While we were working through this huge project, we were also rapidly expanding our team.

Within 3 months, we went from a team of two (myself and my assistant) to a team of eight.

  • My business partner quit his full-time job and came into the business full-time;
  • We hired a PR and influencer marketing manager;
  • Two more virtual assistants joined us to help with the rising swell of admin work;
  • Our incredible designer, who you’ll meet in a future post, brought our brand together; and
  • We welcomed a more strategy-focused marketer, Karen P’ng, into the team.

I’m sweating remembering what that period of Trefiel was like to live.

We didn’t have the internal structure to handle the rapid growth of our business, nor did we have clear processes for each member of the team. So when our business exploded, so too did everything inside the business.

Even when you build an efficient business,extreme growth can break the slickest processes.

It was hiring Karen, with her background in user experience and big business, that changed Trefiel in a profound way.

Not only did Karen have more strategy experience than anyone on the team had, she brought internal structure to our business in a much-needed way.

Having had such a profound impact on Trefiel, it was only natural to ask Karen to be a part of the ‘From 0 to 10,000 customers‘ series.

She’s going to teach you how you can build an efficient business by –

  • Improving your internal processes; and
  • Adding structure to your business.

Take it away, Karen!

Now you know how important it is to build an efficient business, we can talk about the specifics. Like when to start and what areas of the business to begin with.

When should you start to build an efficient business

Building an efficient business should start as soon as you launch your product.

Within a few months of starting Trefiel, we had made our first hire – a virtual assistant to help speed up my work. My reasoning for this was based off Tim Ferris4-Hour Work Week, which is a fantastic book on time management, prioritisation and productivity.

I followed his directions exactly and I wound up with one of the best employees I’ve ever had.

Win a copy of the 4-Hour Work Week

I return to this book every 6-12 months when I want to tighten up my business and life. If you haven’t already read this book, you must. As gimmicky as the title is, the information inside is rock solid.

I’m giving away 2 copies of the 4-Hour Work Week in August 2018.

To enter, leave me a comment on this post sharing one of the best processes you’ve put into place in your business and how it’s helped you.

Leave a comment

When is my business big enough to hire employees or write processes?

Hiring employees

I think hiring a virtual assistant early is smart. It’s a small expense and an investment into you and your business. Not only will it allow you to do more, it’ll show you whether you’re a good leader. It will also help you decide if you even want to build a team.

Taking a small step to reduce the amount of admin you do will have a huge effect on your business (and your sanity).

Personally, my virtual assistant is my right-hand woman and I wouldn’t be able to do half of what I do without her.

Perks of having a remote team – you can visit them in their home country and write it off as a business expense

Writing processes

Let’s say you don’t feel comfortable hiring this early in your business. Investing into your processes is still going to help you see a big difference in:

  • The amount of work you can do; and
  • The impact you have on your business.

Let’s look at the menial tasks you do like answering the same customer service enquiries, again and again. If you can shift what’s in your head onto paper, you won’t have to think as you do that work.

It’s a small action, taking less than 20 minutes to do, but it cut minutes off each email and your time spent on the task overall.

Small inefficiencies like this add up for a solo business owner. If you can identify as many of these as possible and find ways to make them easier, faster or disappear entirely, you’ll build an efficient business.

What areas of the business benefit most from internal processes?

There are two areas where internal processes will have a large impact on your business –

  • Administrative work; and
  • Marketing strategy work.

Let’s dive into each of those.

How to streamline the admin inside your business

Rather than give you irrelevant concepts, I want to share how I recognise opportunities to build an efficient business.

My process for identifying areas of your business to streamline

  1. Get to the point where you have no time to think and you’re stressed. Note: If you’re smarter than me, you’ll skip this step.
  2. Create a list of every admin task you do in a normal week.
  3. Categorise each task into one of four groups – streamline, delegate, automate, remove.
  4. Then choose a few tasks from each group and dedicate a few hours a week to improving your processes.

Then, I would prioritise your tasks like this –

  1. Tasks that you can remove or automate should be your first choice.
  2. After that, writing processes to streamline or delegate should be next.

Wasting time isn't something you can afford to do.

Prioritise your projects and grow your business with my simple framework that I use to build an efficient (and profitable) business.

Read the post

How to add structure to the marketing strategy behind your business

You must take your marketing strategy away from platform creation, to document creation. This means not creating any marketing communications in the platform that it’ll be deployed on.

Adding this layer to your business will give you the ability to step back from a marketing campaign and clearly think about:

  1. What you want to achieve; and
  2. How you’re going to achieve that.

It will also give you more consistency across channels, which we’ll talk about more in a future post.

From a practical perspective, I want to share some of the templates Karen brought into Trefiel. These templates were part of how we built an efficient business and I know you’ll put them to good use in your business.

Add structure & process to your marketing strategy

Download the templates Karen & I developed for Trefiel, to deploy more in-depth, complex and successful campaigns than ever before.

Download the templates

This is only the beginning of what you can do with templates and documentation inside your business.

Download these, adjust them, use them. Then, look for other ways that you can use processes and templates to build an efficient business.

Let’s pause here

I want to wrap up this post by mentioning that like all good things, standard operating procedures need moderation.

Documentation for documentation’s sake is not a good investment of your resources.

You making this investment into your business is going to fundamentally change the way you do business. It’s really important that with the investment in your internal processes, you also invest in identifying what’s worth documenting and what isn’t.

One of the advantages of being asmall business is your agility.

You can move, adjust and pivot quickly. If you add unnecessary bloat and structure, you’ll find it difficult to do what small businesses do well.

Learning how to identify what’s worth investing into will take some trial and error, but giving this as much priority as the actual creation of processes is critical to your success.

If you’re looking at your business wondering what you can systemise beyond admin and strategy, defining roles and responsibilities is a great place to begin.

Even if it’s only you in the business, it will help you to understand what skill sets you’re missing and how to hire for those. It will also help you onboard employees when you do hire, making it clear who does what.

This was something we didn’t do in Trefiel.

In the end, it was one of the most critical mistakes we made internally and with our hiring of team members.

But more on that in the next post.

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There are 13 posts planned out – from starting an eCommerce business to influencer marketing, brandingwholesalehiringfiring, customer retention, shipping and the mistakes I made while growing my own eCommerce business.