Rules are the foundation of a functioning society. Whether it’s a school, church, shopping mall or global corporate headquarters, any gathering of groups of people needs some type of regulation in order to function. Even if you strive for a fully casual setup, chances are your business has at least a few rules that govern daily operations. These are known as core business practices.
Core business practices are the basic rules that govern an organization's day to day operations.
If you planned to hire a new employee, there would be basic business rules you’d likely communicate during the interview process. Candidates may ask what your operating hours are, for instance, or how many sick days employees get each year. Once you’ve hired the employee, you’ll immediately progress to a training process where you explain how you expect various activities to be handled from day to day. All of these make up your core business practices, and by conveying them to your team members, you can ensure you’re all on the same page.
In addition to communicating your core business practices when needed, you should also have them outlined in writing. This will come in handy if you ever need to refer to them for disciplinary reasons. You’ll also benefit from being able to share the documentation with every new employee rather than having to do in-depth training for everyone you hire. As your business grows, though, you’ll likely need to regularly revisit your core business practices, updating any documents and adding on to what you already have in place.
Having core business practices in place brings multiple benefits to your company. One is consistency, since these practices ensure that everyone in your organization handles things similarly. If you have a sales team, for instance, having core business practices that guide those employees on how they pitch your product to clients, where they drum up leads and how they log their activities in your database can be key to ensuring everyone works cohesively.
Core business practices can also be useful in managing your employees. Whether you have one employee or 1,000, you’ll find it beneficial to have policies in place that they can follow. Having core practices clearly outlined can also help your managers make sure they treat every employee consistently, avoiding accusations of favoritism. If there comes a time when you need to discipline or terminate an employee, your core business practices can be key to documenting what the employee is doing that runs counter to operational efficiency.
If you’re just starting to create your core practices, you can benefit from reading best practices examples. You’ll start by outlining your core business areas and looking at the various functions within those areas. Your bookkeeping and accounts payable practices, for instance, are very important core functions, and the processes attached to those activities may include how you handle incoming invoices, how you pay them, how you bill your own clients and what approvals are necessary before a payment can be made.
Core business practices can also refer to how communication is handled within your organization. If you have multiple layers of management, are lower-tier employees required to pass any communication up the chain through a supervisor, or can they go directly to the top? Employees should also know what the protocol is if there is ever a problem that needs a resolution, as well as how supervisors and other relevant personnel should resolve those issues.
One of the most effective ways to create core business processes that work is to put time into best practice research. You can easily access information on the operating practices of some of the biggest brands. Google’s work culture that includes massages, slides in the lobby and free food has been well publicized, for example, and many startups have attempted to emulate it. If you’re a tech company interested in attracting the younger demographic, setting up a similar culture may work for you, but you’ll want to adapt it to fit your own environment and budget. Instead of splurging on a lobby slide, an arcade game in the break room may be your perk of choice. You may not invest in free meals, but an occasional lunch or free snacks could be a similar way of showing appreciation.
However, when conducting your research, it’s important to note that not everyone’s best practices will work in your own environment. The goal is to come up with core business practices that match your own leadership style and the culture you’ve created for your employees. It’s important to research business practices in as many businesses as possible, even going outside your industry, and deciding from that what will be the best fit for your team.
As a business leader, you can communicate your core business practices by example. Your management practices are generally a reflection of your own values and goals, and your employees will learn this over time. Whether you’re the only manager or you have a full leadership team, it’s important to have practices in place to cover how you’ll ensure you have a fully engaged team that fits with the positive work culture you’re trying to create.
You should also have core business practices relating to how you communicate with your employees. Do you prefer a regularly scheduled staff meeting to bring everyone together, or will you stay in touch throughout the week using collaboration tools? You should also plan to address creating a team that works well together, which means having best practices in place to resolve the conflicts that will inevitably surface from time to time.
No business remains the same from one year to the next. As a leader, you’ll need the flexibility to adjust your practices as your team and clients change. If you’re merely changing your dress code or allowing employees to work from home one day a week, you likely can transition to the new business practice with minimal disruption. However, major changes to your core business practices can be difficult, especially if your team and client base have grown comfortable with the setup you’ve had in place from the beginning.
The biggest problem with a major overhaul of core business practices is that you’ve likely staffed your team with people who fit what you already have in place. You’ll need to make sure everyone is on board with the change to make it stick. If you see something that needs to be changed, instead of setting a mandate you can bring your team in and come up with ideas on operational changes you can make that will improve things.
No set of core business practices is complete without ensuring effectiveness. It’s important to make sure the standard operating procedures you’ve created are getting results. Analytics can help you monitor whether any changes reduce or increase sales or employee retention. However, the fastest way to determine if customers and employees are happy is to simply ask.
Part of your standard procedures should be to gather feedback on a consistent basis. Give employees the opportunity to anonymously offer suggestions or submit complaints on work conditions. Make sure your customers can freely submit suggestions as well. Most importantly, use this feedback to regularly revisit your practices, and make changes as necessary. If you are monitoring your websites, sales numbers and in-store transactions using analytics, mine that data to find ways you can improve.