Process Is Freedom: Why Your Business Is Stuck and How To Get It Moving

ChelseaWilliams
By Chelsea Williams
Senior Copywriter
Oct 25 2023 read
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This article is the first in a four-part series inspired by the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) Model ® and the book “Process!” by Mike Paton and Lisa González. Read the rest of the series and share or discuss on LinkedIn.

A vehicle cannot complete a long road trip without every part, from the engine to the wheels, functioning optimally. At first, the ride is smooth. But over time, progress can slow as the car gets closer to needing a tuneup. You might ignore a “check engine” light or a slight squeak and keep going anyway, compensating in small ways to try to stay on track.

Your business is no different. It’s on the ultimate journey, and misalignment among team members will give rise to issues even if you don’t sense them right away. What’s going on under the hood can prevent you from maximizing profits in sneaky ways.

Enter: processes. And not just any, but ones that are clear, effective and rolled out with consistency. A well-designed process isn’t just bureaucratic paperwork or hoops to jump through. It’s a much-needed mechanic, offering clarity, enhancing efficiency and getting you back on the road to your goals.

How Service Businesses Stagnate

When you’re not selling products that people can touch and feel, you face a unique challenge. You have a deep need for the individual expertise your team brings to the table, but your clients expect all of those forms of expertise to come together in a cohesive offering.

Hence, it’s common to get into bad habits, especially the following.

  1. Over-relying on top performers. Your most reliable employees might be your MVPs, but they aren’t superhuman. At some point, they’ll be out sick, on vacation or needing to focus on more important strategic duties. Efficiency is likely to take a hit in those instances.
  2. Not defining workflows. It may seem like you’re being flexible and accommodating by letting your employees stay siloed by their own strengths, but it’s a nightmare for productivity, collaboration and scalability. 
  3. Avoiding technology. If you’re not using smart, automated technology to support your team and optimize everything from opportunity management to task assignments to billing, your client work will suffer and your forward progress may stall.

Engaging in these habits for any length of time can make it difficult to achieve operational efficiency and apply a business strategy. Think of it like putting off exercise: A couple of days or a week won’t make a huge difference, but procrastinate month after month and you’re on an entirely new track, losing progress and getting weaker. The thought of putting on your gym shoes again feels impossibly hard.

➡️ The best time to fix a problem is before it arises. Even if you don’t feel the inertia yet, paying attention to the above causes of stagnation can prevent it from creeping up on you.

The “Aha!” Moment

To be truly free as the owner or leader of a growing business, you must commit to a level of rigor, discipline and consistency that may seem contrary to the way you're hardwired.

- Mike Paton and Lisa González

In every frustrating circumstance, business or personal, there comes a moment when something has to shift. Most people arrive at this point so desperate for change that they make rash decisions. Your clients and employees deserve better. Instead of waiting for said panic moment, let this be your “aha” moment. 

We’ll look to the book “Process! How Discipline and Consistency Will Set You and Your Business Free” by Mike Paton and Lisa González for direction. Trained in the principles of the world-renowned EOS Model®, the authors put forth the not-so-radical idea that we naturally live by processes, yet often fail to see the need for them after founding a business.

Why Process Matters

When you’ve set them up correctly, processes run silently in the background. The goal is to get your business functioning like a machine, much like you do when you get up in the morning and go through the same set of steps to get your day started. 

First, process provides direction. You may have started your business with a rush of enthusiasm and ideas, but at some point, repetitive daily tasks took over. Setting up a process for each of those essential but time-consuming tasks can relieve burnout and fire up your momentum again.

Process is also about discipline. Paton and González point out that discipline is, ironically, what makes us feel free. Thus, consistent systems are not just optional add-ons — they’re key components that give you the space and time to innovate and apply your team’s skills to growth-oriented work.

Most importantly, developing processes for your business is a way of insulating it from volatile market dynamics. The world can change overnight, and having some predictability behind the scenes gives you a significant advantage. Your clients will stick with you — and keep coming back — for that sense of stability, and stakeholders will come to trust you.

The Illusion of Bureaucracy

The word “process” often brings to mind bureaucratic nightmares: days spent sitting in a waiting room or filling out endless forms. In reality, processes set benchmarks, reduce errors and eliminate costly confusion.

At the foundation of the EOS Model® is the idea that a well-designed process is the antithesis of red tape. It speeds things up instead of adding complexity. Essentially, processes are well-oiled gears that set you up for a smooth ride.

➡️ Don’t believe this? It’s probably because the processes you’re thinking of are the ones that don’t work. We’ve all had to do things that feel utterly ridiculous because they result in duplication of efforts or miscommunication. Instead, try to access examples of when a well-designed system has saved you time, frustration or money — when a formerly paper-based application became digital or a team assigned duties to move more quickly. Emulate these simple but effective processes in your business.

A Reliable Jump-Start 

A process is not a cage. It’s a ladder. The better your process, the higher you can climb.

- Mike Paton and Lisa González

Far from confining, processes help you break free from where you’ve been standing for some time. Consider what’s possible when you get those gears turning:

  • Scaling becomes a reality. You may not be looking to scale right now, but if you decide to someday, processes can act as a replicable framework. They can be applied no matter how large your business gets. If you refine them over time, you’ll be able to maintain the same standard of quality and efficiency whether you serve ten clients or ten thousand. 
  • Profitability gets a major boost. Don’t underestimate the power of processes to positively impact your bottom line. With fewer redundancies and inefficiencies, you can cut costs and enhance productivity. The consistent, high-quality service these processes support may even help you command better pricing in the market. 
  • Employees feel empowered. A clear process acts as a guide for your team members. They get clarity about roles and responsibilities, plus an understanding of of the broader system in which they operate. As a result, you’ll see them make more informed decisions and become confidently autonomous. Processes also reduce ambiguity, which can cause turnover and be dangerous to company culture if it’s not kept in check.
 

Real-Life Turnarounds

Painful as it can be to commit to new processes, there’s plenty of evidence that they work, especially in pivotal moments. 

  • The founder of LeapIT was drowning in everyday tasks and unable to expand the business’s reach — until he adopted Accelo and started using project templates, automating domain renewals and standardizing to reduce the 43 steps the team went through to onboard a new client. The result? A 50% increase in productivity!
  • At web development firm Comit Developers, client work was disjointed. There was no system for connecting sales to projects, tracking time attached to billable rates or managing retainers. Accelo offered the power and flexibility to create and automate processes that saved the team approximately 350 hours per year and allowed them to smoothly acquire a division of another company.

 

 

Putting Process Into Practice

Convinced that more or better processes are what your service business needs? Next up in this EOS-inspired series, we’ll dive deep into the steps for developing an iterative workflow creation process to align with this aim.

Keep up with this series and share your thoughts or questions about getting over a business hump on LinkedIn.

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About the Author

ChelseaWilliams

Chelsea Williams is Senior Copywriter at Accelo, where she shares unique insights with service professionals and tells user stories via blogs, eBooks, industry reports and more. She has over 15 years of B2B and B2C writing experience — primarily in tech, sales, education and healthcare. Chelsea is an AWAI-certified Master Copywriter trained in brand storytelling and microcopy.

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