Know your ABCDs: Your Most Important Startup Business Processes
The challenge of running a startup is often compared to sitting in front of a wall full of television screens, each displaying a different channel, while having attention deficit disorder. How do you know what to focus on? How do you know what’s important? How do you know when things are going wrong, and when things are going well? How can you make sure you’re constantly steering your entrepreneurial ship towards your business goals without waking up six months later and realizing that the boat has drifted miles off course? Even more importantly, how can you steer the ship while simultaneously iterating the business goals and pivot if need be based on market feedback. And of course, do all this with the leanest, most efficient team and minimal budget? It would seem to be an impossibility.
The Key: Focus on Your Most Important Processes
Given the seemingly intractable problem of having a huge pile of things to do, lots of incoming and often conflicting data, and limited resources, the most important thing that a startup team can do is to identify their most critical business processes and focus only on those. Let’s dissect this sentence a bit to gain some clarity:
- Business process – For a startup, a business process are the set of things you do to accomplish some goal of the business. The important thing here is that a business process does not need to be tied to a specific product or service. It’s something you do, not the end result of that thing. The business process could involve making something, selling something, supporting customers, building critical mass — whatever the most important, core levers of the business are.
- Most Critical – There are potentially hundreds, if not thousands, of business processes in a startup, depending on how fine grained you want to get about it. But what we care about here are the most critical, big-idea (“coarse grained”) processes that are make-or-break for the company.
- Focus – Once you’ve identified the most important business processes, ask yourself: if you only had to focus on those processes, could you ensure your business’ success? If not, are you missing a process? Are any of the processes not necessary for guaranteeing business success? If so, then eliminate it from the critical process list.
Bizelo’s A,B,C, and D Processes
In the case of Bizelo, we have four critical business processes we focus on. To make them easy to remember and identify, we call them our “A, B, C, and D” processes:
- Application / “Gap” identification – Bizelo’s core business revolves around finding the gaps that small businesses need solved and building apps to solve those problems as simply as possible. As such, it only makes sense that one of our most important processes is the process for identifying these gaps and determining what the applicable and appropriate solution is to fill the identified gaps.
- Building the Mini-App – Once a gap has been identified, the next most important Bizelo process is to actually build the mini-app. Over time, we expect to spend less and less time doing our “B” process for each identified gap from our “A” process.
- Customer Acquisition – Of course, simply identifying the mini-apps to be built and building them is not enough to sustain our business. We must also find and acquire our customers. In other words, sales and marketing. This is our “C” process.
- Delighting the Customer – But getting customers is not enough to maintain a healthy, growing business. We also need to keep our customers, and to do that, we need to provide excellent customer support, documentation, and guidance to delight our customers. This is our “D” process.
If we are effective with each of our A, B, C, and D processes, we will be able to grow our business. Otherwise, we’ll either miss doing something important or be chasing one process or another without making any progress.
What About the Ancillary, But Still Necessary, Business Processes?
Anyone who has run a business before knows that even your most critical business processes are not the only processes in the business. In fact, even if you focus exclusively on your most critical processes, ignoring every other process in the business is quite perilous. The trick is to minimize the amount of time and focus these other, necessary business processes take. Examples of these other necessary, but not critical (in our case), processes include:
- Managing the finances
- Courting business partners
- Hiring & Contracting
- Public relations
- Participating in the startup community / ecosystem
So, what are your most important, critical business processes? If you haven’t yet figured it out, perhaps now is your chance!