ASQ Featured On CEDF's Podcast
How do we use processes and systems to guide our business which depends on people and relationships? Listen to the Small Business As Usual episode 18-4, Processes and Systems podcast that we were featured in which our COO Caleb explains his approach. The Small Business As Usual podcasts are hosted by the Community Economic Development Fund [CEDF]. The podcast transcript has also been provided below.
Frederick: This is Small Business As Usual, a program about the art of operating small Enterprises in the issues faced by the owners. It's a presentation of the Community Economic Development Fund in Meriden, Connecticut.
I'm Frederick Well, a business advisor for CEDF clients. The Community Economic Development Fund is a nonprofit lender, providing financing to qualified small businesses in Connecticut that can't obtain Traditional Bank financing.
More about CDEF at the end of the program; this episode is about processes and systems. Every business needs to be organized, but small businesses are famous for just making it up as they go along. On one hand, this can lead to explosions of creativity that burst out of the minds of people that don't like to be bridal by too many policies and rules.
But for other types of organizations, this freestyle approach would bring ruin; what they need are processes, which are the conceptual steps for how to get work done. Process is fit into systems that include both the physical aspects of your business and the concepts that bring value to your customers.
You probably know there's an entire industry that revolves around helping primarily larger companies improve processes and systems, and the information age has brought special meaning to the terms, but how does a small business make use of these ideas to achieve efficiency without bogging down?
You can bring a great debate about the risks and advantages of being process-driven or people are driven. So I went looking for someone who's an expert on processes who happens to rely on them to run a business that's all about people.
Caleb: My name is Caleb Roseme, and my wife Samanta and I own a home care agency, Assured Quality Home Care. We specialize in helping the senior population age and grace in their home. We're located here North at 282 Franklin Street.
I've learned that processes and systems can be a great thing, and they can also be a bad thing. So some organizations are all process and systems-driven, and they neglect the actual people driving the process and the systems. So every processing and system needs to also take into account that you have employees, and they do need flexibility, and they also need to be able to impact those processing systems easily if they don't reflect or get in the way of accomplishing the tasks that they are doing.
And processes and systems are great because they can offer you a greater level of repeatability. So there are some places where a process and system can be negotiated, and there are other places where they probably can't be negotiated.
So if you're in McDonald's, you need to fry the French fries a certain way. There's no flexibility there. But if you're working as the cash register, you should have the flexibility in terms of how to greet a customer. So you should have some expectations in place that is a friendly greeting, and that you give that customer time to make an order. But you can't specify something like well; the customer has to make an order within five seconds. That's where you need flexibility within a process or system. But as I said, there are other areas where there should be no flexibility.
Frederick: When you have an organization that provides a service of caring for people, it seems inevitable that there might be collisions between the people-focused personalities of the caregivers and the process-driven disciplines that are required to ensure quality.
I wondered about this and the impact on the management of putting processes and systems in place as opposed to doing everything on the fly.
Caleb: Well, what happens is that you have to define what quality is; everybody's definition of quality is totally different.
So you consider high-quality care to include sitting and eating with the client. That's your quality standard. Somebody else may see that quality doesn't include sitting and eating meals with the client.
So, the conflict can be; if you're not really laying out the expectations they can't understand what you consider quality to be, and obviously, if a caregiver who's essentially your team member would see that there's a way to increase the level of quality of service a clients receiving, you should be open to hearing it, and applying it if that's so.
Systems give people a degree of flexibility if you build it that way. So not having systems and managing everything on the fly is going to drive you to the grave. It's going to cause a high-stress life, and you're going to find that, the more you grow, the worse your quality is going to be.
So if you are trying to really build and grow a lasting company, a company where people are receiving the same level of service or similar level of service regardless of where they're at or what caregiver is providing the care then, you need to have systems so that way they can receive the same level of service.
One example would be that we have a five-step start-up process for every shift. Every caregiver understands when they arrived in a client's home, that there are five tasks that they have to accomplish so that way they can understand what the care for the day involves and they can also communicate with any other caregivers so that way, the pertinent information is passed on to them.
So that means regardless of what client or what caregiver is involved. Those five steps will be accomplished and what that does for us is; that helps to ensure that the staff understands what they need to be doing and what the goals for that shift is.
I used to work at Electric Boat as a quality assurance engineer, and so part of my major responsibility for that job was to audit other companies. These companies would make material and send them to Electric Boat for installation on the submarines.
I didn't inspect materials; I inspected processes because the process will also determine whether or not the material you're getting is the right material. So I would spend time looking at a company's policies procedures and their processes for making material. And if that process was a good enough process, we would not only get one or two items correctly, we would get all of the items correctly.
And so that where that prepared me, and then I got into process engineering where it's all about developing processes to help ensure consistency and evaluating data to see whether or not you're getting what you're expecting and identifying other areas for improvement.
Frederick: I asked Caleb if his background as an industrial process engineer made it easier to devise systems at his company.
Caleb: Well, I would say yes and no; it's just like being a parent. It's easy to see other parents and tell them what they need to do. But when you become the parent, you know, all of a sudden you find yourself doing things that you were telling other parents not to do.
So the experience helped me understand, but also I do think that it helps us to be better structured. I feel that we can continue to improve on our level of structure. So yeah!
Frederick: Caleb and Samanta were forward-looking enough to realize that an outside expert could help them with the structure of their organization. I asked what the impact was on the continued development of their systems and processes.
Caleb: Anytime you have an outsider's looking in on your organization or business, it is a tremendous benefit to that, so they can give you an unbiased opinion. Now having somebody come and take a look at the structure of our organization was vital because, as a small business owner, we're so caught up with running left and right.
We never really had a chance to take a look at how we're structuring ourselves as we're growing, and just simply adding people into your office isn't gonna solve your issues. As a matter of fact, it typically magnifies those issues if you don't have the proper structure in place.
And so, having this individual come and work with our organization; what it's done for us is, it's allowed us to have more structure in terms of how we go about doing our day-to-day businesses.
Everyone understands their roles more clearly and how they fit into the overall picture of how the agency functions and they're also able to see and quick glance how decisions are made in the agency.
So, it provides a great deal of clarity and it has tremendously freed up myself as well as my wife who is the CEO to focus on other projects and also focus on what the values we bring to this organization.
Frederick: In the past, the stereotype was that in large Industries, there wasn't much information passed down to the factory floor. It was on a need-to-know basis.
Home Care is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the nation's economy, but the frontline employees providing that care typically don't have high levels of academic education.
Still, it can be vitally important for everyone to understand the big picture. I ask Caleb how he accomplishes this.
Caleb: People buy-in when they understand how they fit in the overall scheme of things. So if you're asking someone to accomplish a task in a certain manner or report information to you a certain way and they don't know why they're doing it that way, then they won't be as committed to nor will they take it as serious in regards to why you want things in a certain way.
But once they're able to see the overall picture and why they're giving you information or they are performing a certain task in a certain manner, what happens is; that's where you get the buy-in.
It's tremendous in regards to the way that you no longer fighting with individuals; instead, they're working with you. Everyone's involved with the overall picture. And even if they don't need to see it every day, but allowing them to see the overall picture makes them feel as if they are part of it and they're not just another cog or another person in the wheel in the organization.
So a perfect example would be clocking in; our caregivers have to clock in when they arrived at the client's house. They know that we know that they're at the client's house. So in the past, we had an issue with caregivers who would arrive, and the client would be there, and they just start to chat with the client, and they forget the clock in, or the clock in 15, 20, 30 minutes later.
And then also the caregivers would leave and forget the clock out when it was time to leave, and we had been wrestling with them to clock in on a timely manner as soon as they arrive, go right for the phone, clock-in, make sure you clock out.
We were struggling to get cooperation in that, so we ended up having an all-hands meeting, and it was during the all-hands meeting; we explained to them how not clocking in and clocking out affected the scheduler because now this person is spending time chasing the caregivers to know the exact time that they arrived at the client's house.
Because they do look at the bills, and how it affected the bills also where clients were oftentimes coming back and contesting a bill saying; they don't remember If the caregiver coming in at the time that it stays in the bill or the caregiver leaving at the time that they stated.
But obviously, if it was done using the client's home phone, there's no room for contest. So once the caregiver has understood the importance of clocking in and out in regards to their paychecks be incorrect and not delayed, the client's bills being correct and also how it made the scheduler's job tremendously easier; because she was no longer chasing people to clock in and out they started to do that.
And it's; I would say at the very least, it's free of our scheduler and I an hour and a half each day just because the caregiver is buying into that room.
Frederick: Some businesses relying on written documentation to accomplish compliance with processes. There are others were training is much more customarily done on a show-and-tell basis. I ask Caleb how they manage the compliance effort and what the impact of government regulation is in an industry that has plenty of it.
Caleb: Obviously, writing down the process is great because it's now documented in you can refer back to it. You can give it to someone if you're not there. They can go to it. But if you're not able to write it down, I mean all of these tests I'm going to talk about it even better when you do them all.
So writing down is one aspect, but if you can't write down, then you should already have built-in limitations into your system that forces people to do things that you would like them to do.
So one example of that could be if you require certain information about a client to be inputted into the system, you make it so that, if there's no values in those fields a person cannot proceed with inputting the client into the system.
So that's an actual built-in way of forcing people to do things that concern you being compliant or just making the way you do business flow. Written down checklists, if you can, is great and then also having designated subject matter experts within your office, that can mentor coach and train other individuals in regards to how things are done.
I think if you're trying to run a business and you're trying to get your best return on investment, you're not going to let regulations drive your actions, but instead, the thought of having a business that runs better delivers better service and consistently delivers better service is here for the long haul.
I think that should be the motivation. Then thing about regulations is sometimes, they're good, and sometimes they make absolutely no sense. So a regulation is something that you don't have a choice. You just have to do that.
Otherwise, you can't be in business; now the companies that go beyond regulation are the companies that strive and excel because now they're going and they're implementing things that allow them to be a company that adds value in the market and a company that are recognized for their greatness or how they do things so well.
Frederick: Many thanks to Caleb Roseme for explaining how he is using processes and systems to build his Home Care Organization. You can learn more about Assured Quality Home Care at asqhomecare.com.
Thanks to Phocion Roots, and Band Rest for our music. Our theme is My Orchestral Movement of 1932.
Small Business As Usual, is presented by the Community Economic Development Fund a nonprofit organization which provides enterprises in Connecticut with term loans, lines of credit, and commercial mortgages when they can't control additional bank financing.
For the fifth year in a row, where Connecticut stop SBA microlender, we make business term loans at very nominal interest rates, as small as a few thousand dollars in larger business loans to from a pool of loan capital provided by many of the state's leading Banks.
There are Geographic and income qualification requirements for the borrowers; you can find out more about all of this at cedf.com, and this episode of Small Business As Usual is available there.
It's number 18-4.
So Caleb, what's it like having your wife as the CEO of the company?
Caleb: It can be a great thing, and can also be quite challenging.