People & Process

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Good people, good product and bad process results in poor business. Good people, bad product and bad process results in a weak business.

Have you ever come across organizations where the people seem to have the same culture of talking and seemingly are always glad to work for the company? Have you also heard people talk about the service or product that a company renders, and you can pick a few things about how the service is delivered?

Large corporates, and increasingly medium enterprises, are realizing the importance of two key components of business to support their main reason for existence which is their product/ service. The two main components are people and process. Product (service) is the WHAT, People is the WHO and Process is the HOW.

Every entrepreneur, even the one working from home offering virtual services, must answer these three questions adequately if they will make a success of their enterprise. No matter what you are doing as a service to your clients or selling as a product, people and process remain a constant. Our reference to product also includes services rendered.

  • Good people, good product and bad process = poor business.
  • Good people, bad product and bad process = a weak business.
  • Good process, bad people and good product = a frustrating business.

If all three are bad, that is a business looking to fail sooner rather than later. Good people, good product and good process results in a profitable and sustainable business.

With that foundation established it is also important to note that a good working environment is not just about the aesthetics. It is also significantly about how comfortable and convenient it is for a team member to deliver on expectations on the background of a working and efficient business process.

The housekeeping team cannot be efficient in cleaning rooms at a hotel if the hotel does not have prescribed check out times for the residential guests. Similarly, a yard manager in an automobile workshop cannot serve customers efficiently if there is no set way of checking in and releasing cars. Entrepreneurs must get acquainted with the issues around people and process to grow the business to a new level. As your partner in growing the business, we encourage you to evaluate your people and process against the concepts shared and also take the time to build on them.

Process must be convenient for both customer and employee

Every profit-oriented company focuses on the best way of getting the money from the customers’ wallet without them feeling cornered or shortchanged. The process involved must of essence be convenient to the customer, protective of the business interests and fulfilling to the employee in the execution of his tasks. Truthfully that balance is a challenge to achieve but it is also an opportunity to be creative and have continuous improvement programs in the company.

While some improvements would call for money injection, others do not necessarily require money. For instance, if you are selling a product that requires after sales support, it is a process improvement to make sure the sales team introduce the customer to the after sales team so that when they need support, they know who to talk to directly. From the point of purchase, the customer knows who to contact in case of a challenge. With such improvements we find people being more efficient in their roles and the process of feedback will be working quite well.

Process is dynamic and should be managed through frequent reviews

A growing business must not be caught in the trap of doing things the same old way they are used to. The challenge that a hospital which was established in 1980 faced back then are not the challenges they encounter today. Similarly a fast food restaurant of the 1990s must evolve to the changing culture of the society. While our parents were comfortable cooking for us during our birthdays, our children want to have their birthdays hosted in a restaurant or with junk food. Adopting to the societal changes also means that business processes must change otherwise staff will find it hard to deliver on their roles. Staff members are also part of the community that the organization operates in and they must be involved in the review of the business processes. Some companies have been known to constitute focus groups from within their own employees when it comes to developing new products or new channels of delivering a service.

SMEs and startups must recognize that employees represent the customer base they are serving, and they should involve them in the business process review. Yes, the business owner is a leader, but he has neither all the answers nor a monopoly over the ideas that will make the business a success. I worked in an organization where they took too long to change their product and sales process. Despite the fact that they had a brilliant sales team, their inability to adjust to the market demands caused a

departure of some staff members and the staff that replaced them were burnt out in the first few months. To date, the firm is still struggling as it lost market share and acceptance of product by the customers and people has reduced. Their biggest failure was not listening to their staff who interacted with customers frequently and also their inability to have a process that would be acceptable by the mass customers.

Conventional business practices must be adjusted to the business and lifestyle of the environment

Comfortable employees are an asset to hold onto and most of the time they will retain their loyalty with an employer who is seemingly interested in their lives. In years gone by, it would be unheard of to have an employee engage in a business which would be perceived to be competing, complementing or supplementing that of his/ her employer. For example, it would be deemed wrong to have an employee run a workshop to rehabilitate old trucks whose model is the same as those new ones sold by the employer. The politics of the day would have it that the employee might steal clients and spare parts to support his business. Unscrupulous employees can do that and by all means that should be declared wrong; but what if the employee with this side business is at 58 years old and his passion is trucks and he does not steal or redirect customers and all he is doing is guaranteeing his passion past the retirement age?

In such situations, employers need to consider how such a loyal employee can continue supporting their brand after retirement if he so chooses. If one has a franchise-able business, they need to consider the possibility of franchising through their employees. For example, if you run a bakery that is excellent for cakes and pastries, and you have good employees who can open their own bakeries in rural areas where there is potential, why not franchise to them and thereby you earn franchise income and royalties and the employee is able to be self-employed? There is no loss and simply put you will be empowering people to live their dreams. We must change from the conventional modes of operating businesses.

As we conclude this article, we would like to point out that when it comes to setting up a business, there are many factors to consider and if the process and people elements are not as well thought out as the products and/ or services, then one is setting grounds for a false start. Good people are made, rarely are they found ready to be cherry picked. Similarly, good processes are made and maintained. They can be copied on the surface, but not in the minute details.

A few truths that every entrepreneur will be faced with at one time or another include:

  1. Sometimes there will be hard decisions to make about your team. Square pegs cannot be efficient in round holes and vice versa. Sometimes you will be forced to let go of people who do not add value to your business and are not willing to change with your business.
  2. Sometimes you might need to change your product because it is simply not good for the customer. Just because it is good for you and your family, the large consumer base may have a different opinion of what they want from you and you must change it if you are going to make your business grow.
  3. Just because you are entrepreneurial does not mean you have a monopoly of ideas and solutions for the challenges that are presented to and by your business. You must be willing to change some modes of actions, you must be willing to listen to your people and you must be willing to receive constructive criticism from your customers, suppliers and business partners.
  4. As an entrepreneur you must be willing to learn from others in the industry for the betterment of your people and business in its entirety. If putting a telephone number at the back of a delivery truck works for the competition, why would it not work for you? If giving customers a relief car while theirs is in the garage works for the competition, it should also work for you. Do not be afraid of what competition is doing nor of implementing what you see working for them.
  5. It’s always about the people. Even in increase of business, do not neglect to grow with the people who make your business successful. Appreciating the staff and the customers even in the smallest of gestures is still an unforgettable experience. Remembering the wedding anniversary of your staff member or a birthday for his family members with a card says to them that you care and value them.

For more insights to help with the dynamic issues around human relations we recommend the book “The Toyota Product Development System: Integrating People, Process and Technology” James M. Morgan, Jeffrey K. Liker

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