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How Clear Processes Add Value, with Marie Mills, Clear Solutions, LLC

How Clear Processes Add Value, with Marie Mills, Clear Solutions, LLC

Marie Mills, Owner of Clear Solutions, LLC, is an experienced business process analyst, and she joined host Ed Mysogland to talk about the value of documenting processes for a business. Marie discussed the importance of clear and efficient processes...

Marie Mills, Owner of Clear Solutions, LLC, is an experienced business process analyst, and she joined host Ed Mysogland to talk about the value of documenting processes for a business. Marie discussed the importance of clear and efficient processes regardless of the industry or size of business. They also covered how to get started, why two weeks isn't enough time to create documentation, who should do it, the return on the investment, the impact on the sale of the business, and much more.

How To Sell a Business Podcast is produced and broadcast by the North Fulton Studio of Business RadioX® in Atlanta.

Clear Solutions, LLC

Whether you’re ready to scale, preparing to sell, or simply tired of putting out fires, clarifying your processes is key to success.

Clear Solutions works with you and your team to capture the knowledge and expertise that is key to running your business well. They show you how to shift from running your business out of your head to running it from clear and user-friendly instructions and information, written at the right level of detail.

Marie's method takes a structured approach to ensure your documentation and processes support you as your business grows and shifts. Most documentation efforts fail because they don’t include the framework to effectively build, manage, and maintain the work. Clear content is key and the framework will keep it going.

The process: Clear Solutions uses any existing documentation as the foundation. They focus on your top priority processes. They provide templates that will make the documents easy to find, easy to use, and easy to build upon. They transform your detailed knowledge and vision of how you want your business to run into clear instructions for everyone on your team.

As you work together, you can take on as much or little of the work as you want. They track the work and keep it moving forward.

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Marie Mills, Owner, Clear Solutions, LLC

Marie Mills has over 15 years of experience helping organizations capture and clarify their processes to create a shared understanding and improve efficiencies.

She has a passion for understanding the nuts and bolts of business operations. Launching two small businesses prior to starting Clear Solutions provided her with first-hand experience running a business and all the challenges that go with it.

As a business process analyst, Marie learned how to ask the right questions to understand the work at a detailed level. She worked with employees in a variety of roles, in small, medium, and large businesses, across different industries. She developed a practical approach to capturing the process details, in plain language, that worked every time.

Clear Solutions helps business owners succeed by freeing up their time for what they do best - running their business.


Ed Mysogland, Host of How To Sell a Business Podcast

The How To Sell a Business Podcast combines 30 years of exit planning, valuation, and exit execution working with business owners. Ed Mysogland has a mission and vision to help business owners understand the value of their business and what makes it salable. Most of the small business owner’s net worth is locked in the company; to unlock it, a business owner has to sell it. Unfortunately, the odds are against business owners that they won’t be able to sell their companies because they don’t know what creates a saleable asset.

Ed interviews battle-tested experts who help business owners prepare, build, preserve, and one-day transfer value with the sale of the business for maximum value.

How To Sell a Business Podcast is produced virtually from the North Fulton studio of Business RadioX® in Alpharetta.  The show can be found on all the major podcast apps and a full archive can be found here.

Ed is the Managing Partner of Indiana Business Advisors. He guides the development of the organization, its knowledge strategy, and the IBA initiative, which is to continue to be Indiana’s premier business brokerage by bringing investment-banker-caliber of transactional advisory services to small and mid-sized businesses. Over the last 29 years, Ed has been appraising and providing pre-sale consulting services for small and medium-size privately-held businesses as part of the brokerage process. He has worked with entrepreneurs of every pedigree and offers a unique insight into consulting with them toward a successful outcome.

Connect with Ed: LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook


Ed Mysogland  1:17  
I'm your host, Ed Mysogland. On today's podcast, I interview buyers, sellers, deal makers and other professional advisors about what creates value in a business and how that business is effectively sold at a premium value. On today's show, you have no idea how excited I am to have Murray mills of clear solutions. So like I said in the introduction, Murray helps businesses clarify improve and document processes in plain language. So the business can run consistently and efficiently. She'd been doing this for over 15 years and is prevented has provided this service through her own business clear solutions for the past six years. So, Marie, you're welcome to the show. It's great to have you. 

Marie Mills  2:47  
Thank you great to be here, Edie?

Ed Mysogland  2:50  

so I was I'm in it. I'm in this now with a situation where we have a team member that is leaving. And you know, I'm stuck. I have I know how to do her job, I have done her job. And I'm the guy and I'm and here I am what how fortuitous that you and I are talking. So.

So I guess the first thing you know,

you have quite a niche. But can you tell us a little bit more about clear solutions, and just the organization how you work and where you're working? Yeah, you bet. So I work with a number of different companies, you know, big, small, different industries, that that's not really what industry they work in isn't really not that important. They could be making about 200,000 a year, they could be making over 20 million. All of those have been my clients, they might have zero employees, and they might have over 150 employees. Okay, so what they all have in common is they have some issues, they have some challenges running their business, that has to do with process that has to do with the lack of clear and efficient process. And, and that's where I come in, and that's where I help them.

Well, like I was saying, in my situation, I don't want to say I'm stuck. But but as a as a practitioner, I'm sitting here going I you know, this is not that big of a deal. But the more the more whether it be preparing for this podcast, or all the other things that I had to do today, I'm now focused on Alright, I got to think about this onboarding or hiring and then onboarding this person. And boy, wouldn't it be great if I had, you know, here's kind of the playbook on your position, and I don't I and I've been doing it for 30 years. And so I guess that's kind of where I want to start is in my alone.

Marie Mills  5:00  
You are definitely yeah, right, you're definitely not alone.

I have gotten a few panic calls from businesses that they like, hey, my person, my key person is leaving. They've been here five years, 10 years, 15 years. And they just gave two weeks notice. And they've always kept things running smoothly, and now they're leaving. And believe it or not, I don't actually know what they do. And that's in addition to the I have to hire, I have to onboard, I have to do all those things. And if you don't have a clear process, yeah, now, you know, it's like, it's a lot right. Now you have to think of the process as you need it. 

Ed Mysogland  5:38  
Yeah. And, and the funny thing is, you know, you don't think of you don't think of  the process complexity, until you start putting you start being empathetic to the next person. And you take for granted all of the all of the experience all the reps that you've had, either doing it or overseeing it, or whatever role you're playing. Now, all of a sudden, it's a different animal where someone coming in cold, you know, they have a working knowledge of the industry, but they don't they have no idea how to work in your environment. So so. So I know there wasn't a question there. I'm just, I'm crying on your shoulder, really. So one of the things that that we talked about, or we wanted to talk about the difference between process and procedure. So what's the difference?

Marie Mills  6:37  
Yeah, that's right. Great, great question. There's a lot of confusion around that. And I like to keep things simple whenever possible to avoid confusion. You know, I think technically, if you talk to people who are really into process, they'll say, well, a process is more general, it's higher level. And in a big company, it will cross multiple departments. And a procedure is more of the step by step instructions. So that with the work I do, I think keeping it simple is really the best approach. So I use the terms interchangeably, I'll say, process, procedure, and people talk about their SOPs, or their standard operating procedures, I'm like, yeah, it's all the same thing. We're all like, you know, define it, what is it, it's like you're following a series of steps to achieve a desired outcome. And that's, though, if you weren't following a process, or you didn't have a process, you would be working randomly, and just kind of doing it however, every single time. So the whole point is to have a set series of steps to desire to that desired outcome.

Ed Mysogland  7:41  
So I was I, I was forced to think about how I am going to do this, how am I going to, to, you know, I have options, I could, I could dump it into the other staff members kind of divide the roles. But, but you can't grow doing that. And, and, you know, we're, we're always constantly trying to grow our business. And, and by, you know, saying, Okay, we have a hole here, you know, we'll just kind of divide roles, because they, because it's the easy way, and they have an understanding of the process. So where I'm heading with this is from, from, from a development standpoint, because like I said, earlier, if I could just hand somebody, you know, this is the playbook. So how do I how do I do that? Because I was thinking about, alright, here's what I'll do. I'm gonna, I'm gonna strap on my, my dictation machine, and I'm just going to talk through this, and then I'm going to memorialize it. And I'm going to, you know, yeah, this is how you do it. I mean, so that, but I suspect that's probably not the way this whole thing goes.

Marie Mills  9:00  
It's not a bad, it's not a bad idea of how it goes. I mean, you do. Okay, so you start with finding out who understands how the job works, you know, like, whatever the individual tasks that's involved. And then for each task, each process, what do you need? What are you trying to do? And how do you do it, and then you need to write it down. Because it's not enough just to have it in your head. It doesn't work very well. It's too easy to have misunderstandings. So you write it down. So you could get your dictation machine on, and you could speak into it. And then you could have somebody just dictate it word for word. And that would be a good start. Right? And that's what I would call the brain dump. That's your initial brain dump. Okay, so first, you've identified what it is you're going to document and then you go to each piece and you do the initial brain dump of how it works. Now, the difference between how it's going to come out of your mouth and how easy it is for somebody else to read that and understand it, right that okay, that's the next step. You got to know organize it, you have to organize it so that you could hand that document to somebody. And with relatively little explanation from you, you want to provide some basic context, but relatively little explanation. Now they can read that and understand what is it they're trying to do? And how did they do it? And how do they know that they've done it correctly? In the end? Right. And so, when I work with companies, I mean, that's basically what I'm doing. I'm sitting down, and I'm saying, Okay, what is, what are the issues you're facing? And okay, so these processes aren't clear. Let's start talking about each process individually. Okay, and then let's get really clear on that until it's done. Okay.

Ed Mysogland  10:45  
So your role is one of scrutinizing the process, the clarity of the process? Is that is that first of all?

Marie Mills  10:54  
Yes, it is. And it's also capturing it, right? It's capturing it because many, many businesses do not have. They don't really have the processes written down, they come somebody comes in, they're trained, there might be a few notes here and there. But then they're just telling them, it's what I call, like, the oral tradition, right? You're just passing it down an oral tradition. And it's from my head, now it's in your head. And maybe you understood what I said, maybe you didn't, maybe you remembered everything I told you. Maybe you didn't probably you didn't write right now. Okay, and so then I'm helping them really capture all the details. And then, as we do it, you know, as we're capturing all the details, that initial brain dump is like, Okay, let's go through and organize this and say what, you know, where's the sequence? Where are the handoffs, you know, who else is involved in this? And how do you go from the beginning to the end? And what's the end and all that? Yeah, so it's the capturing and the clarifying and the organizing?

Ed Mysogland  11:55  
I get it. So is it fair? Like from a, from a, from who does this? You know, is it is it the business owner that documents it? Or, and and oversees it? Or do you say, you know, what, valued employee, I need your, I need your help here. You know, just in case you get run over by a bus, we need to figure out how to how to keep going. Is it fair to ask them to help or or to at this initial stage?

Marie Mills  12:26  
Yeah, absolutely. Because they are like the keepers of the knowledge, right? They're the ones that know how this works. Okay, so they're the subject matter experts. So now you've identified, you know, which processes you need to write down and who's the subject matter expert, and then you go talk to them, and you could start, it's a great thing to ask your people to write down what they do. And that is, again, a great start. The, it will only take you so far, because usually people who are really good at doing the work aren't necessarily really good at writing down what they do. Right? So not everybody's a great writer, not everybody is great at organizing information. And the other thing is the it's kind of counterintuitive, but the more you know, the more likely you are to leave a detail out. Right? Because all these assumptions, you know, we're, we're so used to doing this Oh, yeah, I forgot. You wouldn't know that. Oh, yeah. I forgot not everybody would know that. Right? So then the subject matter expert? Absolutely. They could start by writing it down. And then you want somebody who's more objective, who's not actually the expert to come in and read it, and then start saying, Well, wait a minute, what did you mean by this? And what does this acronym mean? And then that's, that's how you refine it. Yeah, sometimes that's the owner. And sometimes it's the person doing it. It's whoever's doing Yeah.

Ed Mysogland  13:58  
Yeah. I just I wonder how whether the employee feels threatened when, like, for me, you know, here, go here. Right, the playbook for how you do your job, just in case,

Marie Mills  14:15  
just in case and get it done within two weeks, if you don't mind. Yeah, I know, this comes up a lot. And so when I work, so when I work with a company, usually there's one main point person, it could be the owner, or it could be somebody else who's in charge of a division. And I work with them. So they're my primary liaison between me and all the people I'll talk to. And I first want to make sure that everybody understands why we're doing this. And it's not because we're going to go into then replace you or take away your job. And then when I work with them directly, I let them know that and, you know, it's not just saying we're doing this because we want to run more efficiently. It's real. they'd like showing, you know the advantages of doing it. It's like this should make your job easier. This will make it easier for somebody to fill in. If you want to go on vacation, this is going to make it easier for you to go on vacation. Because somebody else is going to know how to film for you, for

Ed Mysogland  15:16  
sure. Right? No, that's a great point.

Marie Mills  15:19  
Yeah. And it also, you know, when, uh, oftentimes when you get these employees, and they've been around for a long time, it's not, it's not so much to anyone say taken for granted. But people just like, they're used to that person really handling all this work. And then when you write it down, I've had managers and owners just go, oh, my gosh, I had no idea how valuable this employee is and how much they did. And the employee will say the same thing. I didn't realize I did so much. So it's really like this. You know, it record is like a way of recognizing all their hard work.

Ed Mysogland  15:57  
Yeah, let's, let's visit at my next review about just how valuable I am. Exactly. Oh, my great, right. Yeah, exactly. So how do you prioritize what I mean? Where do you start? I mean, I'm sitting here gone. Alright. For me, I'm going to say, alright, I started the money and work backwards, whatever gets me closest to being able to pay the bills is where I probably should start. So. So what's your is that right? Or no?

Marie Mills  16:24  
Yeah. Okay, so great. So oftentimes, there's many, many processes that need to be documented and improved. So you can start by looking at what is a priority for the business right now. Now, if you have an employee who's just k, who just gave two weeks notice, and there are key employee and, and there's a lot, that employee knows that maybe somebody else doesn't know? All right, that's a priority right there, that person's job. And then within that job, you know, to be perfectly honest, it two weeks is not enough time to document what somebody knows, right? So you're not going to be able to even capture everything that they know. So then you're going to say, what are those things that are, you know, if you walked away tomorrow, and nobody else knew, that could really cripple a business, or at least cost a lot of cause a lot of churn and scrambling to reinvent the wheel? Right? Those are the kinds of things and so I start by train, try to get an outline of what are the tasks that you do and what are the most important ones. And if you haven't, if you're not used to documenting processes, I also recommend, don't pick the easiest and don't pick the hardest Pick, pick something in between, right, it's start, start warming up to what this is going to take.

Ed Mysogland  17:49  
I know a lot like a lot of business ours that we're bumping into these days are are using loom and they're and and they just, you know, this is this is a video and and to me, I don't think it's any different than than the dictation illustration I used earlier. You still I mean, you can you can show me but somebody's got to document it. Somebody's has to, you know what I thought was super easy. As far as like procedural meaning not be for the next person, you can watch that video over and over and over again and kind of get the gist. But the finer points? I'm with you, I don't think that's a I don't think that's the best way to say it. I don't think that I like glue. I just don't think that for an SOP, you know that it may be great for you know, here's kind of an example, you know, at a high level of of how this works, but as a replacement for my my, my sop probably not. You're great.

Marie Mills  18:55  
I you know, I agree. I think video has its place like things that are highly visual, like, if you're going through a complicated software procedure, trying to write that line by line. That's not not easy to follow. But if you have a little video about that, that's good. But yeah, I mean, can't having context and having the outline of what you're doing is most helpful in most cases.

Ed Mysogland  19:21  
Well, you had earlier you had talked about capturing and clarifying the process. Can you talk a little bit about why, like, why that works so well.

Marie Mills  19:35  
Why it's so important to capture and clarify it. Yeah. Capture?

Ed Mysogland  19:39  
Yeah, I mean, but you have a I mean, the best part. So the best approach was capturing and clarifying the process is an iterative, iterative approach. Yeah. I'm just wondering what makes what makes that approach work so well. Yeah. I'm assuming this is not this is a is a living document that you're constantly once you get it down, you're constantly tweaking it and updating it, right?  

Marie Mills  20:07  
Yes. Right? Yes, that's a really good point. So it is, it's not a one and done. If your documentation, your process documentation is living documentation that needs to be updated as your business changes, and right and capturing it, initially, I found that an iterative process is really the most efficient way to go. Because there's usually more to it than you think when you go in to say, I'm going to document this, this is so easy, it's going to take me an hour, and then we'll do a review, and then it'll be done. And the reality is, again, going back to that kind of, you know, kind of the curse of excellency or whatever, where, you know, somebody knows it so well, you know, they write it down, they say, I think this is everything, and then somebody else reads it and go, Wait a minute, I don't quite understand this or this. And so the iterative approach is where you start with a brain dump. And then you have somebody else, review it and organize it, and then you go back, and let's review the draft. Okay, now, here's our questions. Now expand on it again, and you just keep doing that. And the key. The key point is that you walk away from it for a while, because you're going to come back to it with fresh eyes. And that's where the things that don't quite make sense. And don't, you know, aren't completely explained? That's where you're gonna catch that.

Ed Mysogland  21:33  
Oh, that I mean, that's great point. I guess the, this is a, this is a long term process, you know, that, and I and I, and for someone like me, that, you know, is scrambling now, you know, trying to document, you know, a 40 year old business and all the processes that we have have implemented over the years. That's a that's a big ask, and, and for people that are looking at selling their business, I mean, I mean, something's better than nothing. But at the same time, I don't think I don't think that you're going to see the value benefit by just throwing together a Google Doc and thinking that you're, you know, this is this is my sop. And oh, by the way, we wrote it a month ago. So, and that's kind of my next question is, I mean, how, from a value standpoint, I know, this is kind of a loaded question. I know from where I sit, that a business is more valuable that has documentable. You know, processes you you read it in, in Michael Gerber's E Myth, you know, the whole franchise world is, is, you know, they're about, about that they'll let the system be the expert, not the people. I mean, I want to ask you about value, but I'm not really certain about the how to ask the question, other than you've been to different businesses, you've, you've seen it, can you? Can you tell the difference? Pre and post implementation of, of this process? You know what I mean? Because I'm certain you work with them on a long term basis? I mean, can you get and I know, that was the longest question that I've ever heard. But, but, but you know, where I'm going with it, right?

Marie Mills  23:42  
Yeah, it's an investment for sure. Right? It's an investment. And then how do you how does it pay off? You know, how, how soon can you get the payoff? So it? Obviously it depends on the situation. But I almost always see a payoff right away, because one of the biggest benefits to doing this, is that yes, yes, you have clear, documented processes. But you've also had the discussion, it generates a discussion that is so valuable, because people come in and they just do the work. And why did they do that? Well, I've always done it this way. And then when you sit down and say, Hey, I really want to make this clear and write this down. It generates a discussion about why do we do it that way? Why do we do it that way? And I'll tell you a story. True story. Okay, so I was working with a company, and I was documenting the receiving processes. And the guys telling me, okay, yeah, this packet comes in, we check it off data data, take the packing list, and then we walk over to counting and we put it in their inbox. Oh, what does the county do with it? Oh, I have no idea. That's just what I was told. So later, I go down to accounting and I said, Hey, you know, that packing list that receiving gives you what do you do with it? And they go, oh, yeah, I put it in the recycle bin. And they said, Well, why Okay, what why do you? Why do you think they give it to you like? Well, I don't know, that's just they always did. So I just let them do it. And so I said, Well, you know, we should talk, and we all got in the room and kind of talked about, and we all had a really good laugh. But that is that kind of thing. You know, that's a small thing. But you take that, and then you multiply it by all your different processes. Now you've got, like, time wasted, you know, energy wasted. Yeah. So

Ed Mysogland  25:29  
100% I, that's a great example. Because Same, same kind of thing. I mean, we were, yeah, we've been, if you came in our business, you would see the same thing. It was like, well, that's, that's how we do it. What do you mean? Yeah. Ignore the efficiency. This is just how we do it. And it's just the way it is. Well, and the funny thing is, I think, and I know, I'm asking you some questions that, that I, that we didn't really talk about, but like for the old, like, for the older folks, you know, the older sellers, let's take, you know, 6060 and up. I'm trying to figure out whether this, this is an easy process to sell them, or, or not, in automated because I we talked to a lot of business owners that are getting ready to sell and they're saying, Well, hey, what can I do in order to prepare and maximize value? And, and certainly this is on on the list. But at the same time, I'm not certain they they buy into it, maybe not? Maybe I'm wrong, but But I mean, the people you work with, based on age and sorry about you know, I'm kind of in that camp, you know, based on age, what's the how do you work through that? Yeah.

Marie Mills  27:03  
So I don't? Yeah, I don't know if it's so much about age or, or if it's just about kind of mindset about how the business runs. But I think one, you know, one thing I see, I've seen this several times, is that the owner manager says, yeah, yeah, this is what my people do. Well, guess what? That's not what their people do their people do something else. And they don't know that until it's written down. And so if you're preparing to sell your business, what comes to mind is that, you know, a couple of things is you want to know, you want to you want to be informed, you don't want to show up to sell your business and say, Oh, by the way, I had no idea. That's what we did. Right? That's, that's not gonna look good, right? Like, you want to know how your business is currently running. And my understanding of when you sell a business, isn't there some kind of transition period from the old owner to the new owner and training? Right? Okay, so how are you? What are you going to do just feel like 100 million phone calls from the, for your presses?

Ed Mysogland  28:14  
You know, what, that's a great example. And, and to be honest with you, one of the things that why a business owner would want to do this is that it lessens the amount of time they have to work with the buyer post sale. Because I mean, that could be a one to three year process. I mean, it takes time to transition the business. So, so having all of this knowledge out of people's heads onto paper, and then it becomes vetting the clarifying, like you said, clarifying the process. Do you understand how we operate, then then it's a bit it's a matter of getting out. So if I'm a business owner, like, Man, if I can, if I could reduce the amount of transition time? Yeah, this is a really good investment. That's a that's a great point. Yeah. Yeah, good.

Marie Mills  29:10  
Well, and it's also going to say that you might, you might need a business buyer who buys the business, and then they're saying, hey, how does this work? And you say, Well, this is how we do it. And they're like, Well, why did you Why do you do it that way? That doesn't seem to make much sense. And I don't know if you ever get into some debate about that. But if you have a written process, there's a credibility there. Right, you have taken the time to write this down and to vet it and to make sure this is a good way of doing the work. You know, then you have more credibility when you're in that transition phase and less debate.

Ed Mysogland  29:45  
Well, it's funny you say that because there's some some guys that are buying up foundries and that and that's their thing that they are they are way into process and efficiency and and You know, retooling for lack of a better word, an antiquated industry. And they, and I mean, they're just killing it. Because just because of that, I mean, there is just a, you know, an antiquated way of doing things, and you start documenting that one works in one particular business, and you take that playbook and you put it on the next acquisition. You I mean, you're miles ahead, and your ROI is happening so much quicker. The one of the things that, and I would love to know it is, and I have no way of quantifying it is the increase in value. That if you, you know, there's not really, you know, in valuation, it's more about earnings and risk. And so, I'm trying to, you know, when you look at a franchise, all things being equal, I mean, you're buying, you're buying a process, I have to believe that by doing something like this, you are you are buying the business owners process, and, and that lowers the risk, and that increases your value I have that. Once you agree, I absolutely.

Marie Mills  31:22  
Yeah, absolutely. And again, you know, you so, so I'd like to let me talk a little bit more about the explicit benefits, you know, of doing this. And so, there are a lot of benefits. So I was trying to narrow it down and make it you know, easy to, easy to understand. So the first thing is you're creating when you document your processes, when you clarify them, you're creating a shared understanding in the business. So you don't have opposing points of view, or how of what you're doing and how it's supposed to get done. Right, you have you get everybody on the same page. And you also you create that transparency, right. So like I had said before, so the employees are more aware of what they're doing, the managers are more aware of what the employees are doing. So you have this shared understanding. And so I had this experience working with a business, and they were, their business had to do with event planning. And they had a long term employee in a salesperson, and she was great. And, you know, sales were coming in, there was no reason to question the process. But they wanted this documented, because she was leaving the company. And so I went to talk to her and document it, it turns out from the time they got the initial inquiry from a potential customer to when the deal was closed was about three months. And so I wrote this down and got it all organized, reviewed it with the owners, and they you know, their jaws just dropped three months, three months to close a sale, we want that sale closed in three weeks. Right? Sure. Okay, so there you go. So it's like that you have now you have a shared understanding, when it's written down, there's not like an assumption of how it's happening, you have the guidelines written up, this is how we want it to happen. So that's one main benefit. The other we've talked about a little bit, what you're kind of experiencing is dependence, or overload, or being overly dependent on a single employee. And that employee has knowledge that nobody else in the business knows, and this is a real risk. And sometimes, you can figure out what they know, pretty easily. And sometimes you cannot write it depends on how complex and and that is a problem. And in my story, there's about a company that did a lot of shipping. And then somebody retires. And two weeks later, the postage machine runs out of postage. And now you got three guys standing around the postage machine staring at it, trying to figure out because nobody knows how to refill the postage machine. Something really simple, right? But that's often it's much more complicated than that, right? I mean, you can find that on the you probably can find that on the internet, but Allah stuff you can. Either way, it's a waste of time. It's not a good

Ed Mysogland  34:29  
100%. And you know, and it's like you're in our shop, because just a couple of days ago, I was trying to figure out how to print out the how to print out the year end. Postage by person, you know, he spent one and I'm like, God, how do you do that? And you're and you're right, I'll bet I can't. I can't tell you how much how much time I spent monkeying with that silly thing

Marie Mills  34:58  
is It's Rocket Science right? Oh, it's just right. In this thing people think, well, it's so simple. I don't have time to write it down. But it's actually, if you don't know it, you don't know it takes time to figure it out.

Ed Mysogland  35:13  
Yeah. And at the same time, I mean, I look at it from, you know, you're talking about employees, I'm looking at business owners to what do you do, and, and we probably shouldn't minimize their role, because a lot of reasons the businesses don't sell is because they believe that the business is the owner. So if you have a, you know, if you can document the owners role, this is what I do every single day. Or this is, you know, there's there's certain, you know, duties that a business owner has on a regular basis, you know, that that, to me, will lessen the, the potential value penalty that the that the business owner may may incur. Yeah, so the, then the funny thing that, and I can hear the people talking is, you know, if this, you know, the, these process, if these processes are so important to the business, why is, you know, why don't I do this myself? Why, I mean, why don't? Why don't I take the time? I mean, I know that they're important. So what, what what advice do you have, you know, for those business owners that are, that are listening to this going, you know, they have, they actually have a point. And they and they want to dip their toe into into this world?

Marie Mills  36:43  
Yeah, yeah. So it is, it is challenging for businesses to do this completely on their own. And so the first thing I say, Okay, first of all, I hear this, from pretty much every client I've ever had, they show up and they're embarrassed, I should have been able to do this myself, I should have been able to do it myself. It's like it's not. It's very straightforward, but it's not as easy as it looks. And so we've talked about, you know, not everybody is process oriented. Not everybody is really good at writing or organizing information. It takes time. People do not like doing it. Number one reason I hate writing processes, right? I love writing processes. That's why I'm in this business. But most people don't. And you don't know where to start. You don't know where to put it. So guess what? You write a process. You put it out there, they can't find it. you rewrite it. Now you got multiple versions? Now we're going to do Yeah, so it's not just the documentation. It's also there has to be a system for managing it. There has to be a system for managing it. Yeah. And it's, it is like, it's like a lot of things. It's, it's so beneficial when you do it. doesn't make it any easier to do it. Yeah.

Ed Mysogland  38:05  
So good. I'm sorry. Okay, so

Marie Mills  38:08  
I was gonna say, but I forgot the advice part. So yeah, right. What's the advice? You know, the, the thing is, it's like we talked about it, like it's not a one and done, it really needs to be a habit. And it needs to be a habit that's integrated into doing your everyday work. And so if you schedule if you have each one of your people schedule some time out every single week, and all you get to do during that time, is you work on your processes. Even if you don't make really fast headway. You're now creating this habit. And it gets people thinking about not just doing the work, but thinking about the work and starting to write it down.

Ed Mysogland  38:52  
Yeah, that is that part is that parts are is really good. And from the standpoint, if I'm a business owner, I'm sitting here going, how how do I? How do I do? When do I call Marie? And what do? Am I supposed to do this at myself and start here and then call her? Or am I supposed to the sheet is do you start? And you coach the whole process? How do you work?

Marie Mills  39:26  
Yeah, that's great. I am. So I would say if you if you have any questions like don't hesitate to call, right, because then. So we'll jump on a discovery call first. And the first thing I want to do is I want to make sure that the problem you're having really is process related. I actually have had somebody who wanted to hire me. And they're like, Yeah, this person is not doing the process. And it's like, Well, do you have a process? Yes. Did you train them on it? Yes. They just don't want to do it. Yes. Okay. That's not a process problem. That's, that's a performance problem right? Now. Okay. So now let's click verify that the problem really is that you don't have clear processes and not that you have them. But people aren't just aren't using them in. So, I, when I work with people, I can do all the writing, I can do some of the writing, I can coach you to do the writing, I can coach you through the whole process of writing your processes. So we you know, every engagement is customized, and it's individual, sure to your budget and to what you need and how willing and ready and interested you are in doing some of the work yourself. And if and it can vary. It doesn't have to be we decided that at the very beginning, we'll decide like, let's just jump in, document something together. Now you get a sense, you want to write more perfect. You don't want to write more perfect. I can work with any of that. Yeah,

Ed Mysogland  40:49  
I got it. So after. And one of the questions we were talking about is how to overcome resistance when someone doesn't want to adopt the new process, because this is this is the way we've always done it. And I can hear I can hear him, aside from just the sheer embarrassment that in doing this podcast and telling you all the things that are going wrong in my life. I mean, so I can hear our staff going, well, this is the way we've always done it. So how do we how do we overcome that?

Marie Mills  41:25  
Yeah, right. Okay. So there's when there's resistance, the first thing I always say is find out why. Because people always do things for a reason. Even if they don't think they do, they do it for a reason. Find out why they're why they are resistance, what is behind it. If it is, in fact, it's just we've always done it this way. And I kind of am a lazy person, and I don't really want to change or whatever. Alright, so that's one thing. And a way to deal with that is to really, you got to get people thinking like this is best for the business. And if it's good for the business, it's going to be good for you ultimately. So it's really, we're not asking you, we never want to ask you to do something just to do it a certain way, just because or because that's, you know, that's what I told you to do, there should be a good reason for why the process is being done a certain way. So try to get them on board by showing them that this is in their own benefit. Okay, it does this in their own interest to work efficiently. Now, let's say they, let's see, that's another reason. But there's some resistance. There's some reason they're not following the process. And I've had this happen. Again, you find out why. So I had a fellow and he was working in HR. And he was responsible for onboarding and terminating employees when they left the company, you know, terminating their access. And so we had this process to make sure that the access was shut down, and it wasn't happening. And I went back to this guy, and I said, Are you following the process? And he said, Yeah, is it will kind of watch you. Okay. And then I watched him, and I watched him skip a key step. Okay. So he was shy to admit that he wasn't following it. So I gotta find out. What's that about? And it turned out the way the process was written. He was sending an email to manager and saying, I need I need you to tell me what the termination date and date and time is. Okay, well, the manager in the managers worldview has better things to do with his time. So he was replying. And this is a cultural issue, right? This is like an internal cultural issue that you have to deal with. It's not You're not gonna solve it with the process, but you can so so I informed the right people, and they can deal with that in their own way. But what I ended up doing is we rewrote the process, so that he sends an email to the manager and he says, If I do not hear from you by such and such a date, I will assume the termination date and time is this and this. Now the responsibility is on the manager. Right. And that worked much better with that particular dynamic and that particular culture. Yeah, I'll always find out first, why they're resistant to it? Well,

Ed Mysogland  44:15  
to be honest with you, I would first see that or I would assume that there's a certain level of being threatened, threatened that someone's going to find out that, you know, that there's greater throughput, you know, greater, you know, I could be doing more. Yeah, yeah. You know, and, yeah, I could see that.

Marie Mills  44:41  
Okay. Yeah, that's more of a performance issue. But yeah, and I mean, you it is threatening, even when there's nothing bad to discover it is a little bit unsettling to your employees when someone comes in. It takes a really competent employee for somebody to come in from The outside and say, Hey, tell me everything you do, I'm gonna write it down. Right, and then we'll all know that, you know that you said it, and this is the way you work. And I think you just have to be very gentle with people and very supportive and make sure that everybody understands this is for the sake of efficiency and clarity.

Ed Mysogland  45:16  
Yeah, and I think that you as a business, you have to, you have to probably have the communication and culture dynamics down, you know, at because I was trying to formulate my, one of my last questions of, you know, from a timing standpoint, you know, you can't, you know, throwing this on somebody, I think puts them in a defensive position, you know, but if you if you work on the culture and, and communication and, and, you know, what are the some of the problems, you know, here's a solution that we can, collectively will benefit all of us. And if we can document our, our, our work, because someone leaves, oh, by the way, Joe, you're the guy, that's, that's going to backfill all, you know, all of the responsibilities that you're that, you know, the outgoing employee has done. Thank

Marie Mills  46:13  
you. Yeah, it can't be right, it can happen. I mean, I think that you just have to be very transparent as to the reasons of why you're doing this. Right. And to really help the employee know, and I had a brilliant thought there, it flew away out of my head, maybe it will come back, but that maybe not no, yeah. Well, I know what it's okay. I know what I was gonna say. Yeah. So it does help, it does help. This is another reason why you might want to bring in somebody from the outside, I have worked with dynamics where the manager employee dynamic is not good. And you know what the manager will say, I need to know what this person does. And I don't want to ask, it's not gonna go well, if I ask, they may not even tell me the whole sheet, I want you to ask. Now the employee knows that I've been hired by the manager or by the owner. But if I approach it neutrally, which I'm always going to, because my job is to show up and to understand it's not to judge right, that's, that's not going to happen when I'm working there. Okay, now, employees are much more willing and able to open up and talk to me, because I am a neutral person, and I am an interested person, and I'm not going to judge them.

Ed Mysogland  47:29  
I got Well, I appreciate you going a little over talking to me. And one of the at the end of every episode, I always ask, what's the one piece of advice that you could give listeners that would have the greatest impact on their business for you? What would that be?

No, I would say if you don't wait for your employees to give two weeks notice, start now. Start next week. Don't wait January. Yeah, to jam that's me. Did I know it is? I know you want to hear it is? That is the thing, though. Yeah. Don't wait.

Okay. So where can we find you? And you do work all across the country? Right?

Marie Mills  48:12  
I work all across the country. I do. Oh, my I don't know if I mentioned earlier, I do all my work on Zoom. I don't I do not need to be on site. I do I have a process that works. Virtual virtually. Yeah.

Ed Mysogland  48:25  
So what's the best way we can connect with you?

Marie Mills  48:27  
So I have website clear solutions by I'm on LinkedIn love, I would love to link in with anybody who wants to Lincoln.

Ed Mysogland  48:37  
Well, we will have every way that someone can possibly get in touch with you on in the show notes on the website and on your favorite podcast player. So, Marie, I gotta tell you, I, I know there's different businesses that you see that are niched, and I gotta tell you, you have one fascinating business I am and to be honest with you, I how I wish I would have known you so much sooner than now. So I appreciate your time what I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation.

Marie Mills  49:16  
Me too. Thank you so much for having me on your show.

Transcribed by

Marie MillsProfile Photo

Marie Mills

Owner, Clear Solutions, LLC

Marie Mills, Owner of Clear Solutions, LLC, is an experienced business process analyst, and she joined host Ed Mysogland to talk about the value of documenting processes for a business. Marie discussed the importance of clear and efficient processes regardless of the industry or size of business. They also covered how to get started, why two weeks isn't enough time to create documentation, who should do it, the return on the investment, the impact on the sale of the business, and much more.