3 Ways to Scale Operational Excellence

by Bob Wang, CPA, CA

3 min read

The key to scaling your business isn’t ever-increasing sales. It’s quality. Plain and simple.

Now, a few weeks ago, I published an article naming quality as the key to supercharging sales, and it is. But, sales only get business in the door. You’ve got to keep that business once it’s there. All the sales in the world won’t help you if you can’t deliver on your promises. And, guess what the secret is to keeping a customer? You guessed it – quality.

Quality product. Quality service. Quality experience. In short, operational excellence. Which brings us to the big question: How do you scale the level of quality and operational excellence within your own company?

  1. Prioritize it. If you want to establish a new standard of quality, and for that standard to become habit, the tone must come from the top. Quality must be a priority on your agenda and those of your managers and team leaders. This may require downgrading other tasks because if everything is a priority, nothing is. If you want your team focused on quality in the next quarter, they can’t be thinking about office cleanliness, tracking their hours, developing the website or other tasks that might distract them from the main goal. Focus on one initiative at a time, and don’t move on until you’ve nailed it.
  2. Get your people on board and buying in. In order for your new emphasis on quality to stick, you have to get buy-in from your staff. Don’t demand quality; instead, inspire quality by helping them understand why quality is important for them individually, as well as for the team. At Legacy Advantage, we have an awesome team of super ambitious bookkeepers. They want to win, so we help them define what winning means and to understand that being the best in the business means producing the highest quality files in the business. We train for quality, we equip for quality, we reward for quality (in fact, if an employee has a perfect record, they get 125 percent of their regular monthly bonus) and we hire/fire for quality because, at the end of the day, quality work is done by quality people who believe in the value of quality.
  3. Think like a manufacturer. In the 1900s, Toyota developed an impeccable operating system called the Toyota Manufacturing System (TMS), in order to compete with Detroit automakers. One of the key components of the TMS is the Andon system, which works like this. A cord hangs over each assembly aisle. When the station encounters a problem, the operator pulls the cord and a light on the Andon board lights up to signal the manager, who rushes over. If the problem is easily fixed, the manager fixes it. If the problem is not easily fixed, the entire production line stops. Extreme, right? Well, not really. If one process in the production line is faulty, production won’t run smoothly and the product will be flawed.

Professional services, such as bookkeeping, can apply a sort of “red flag mechanism,” too, that allows staff to raise a problem and prompts managers to stop, review, find the root cause and solve. Now, I’m personally not willing to stop our operations entirely, but problems can often be attributed to a lack of training or ownership, lax standard operating procedures or a simple miscommunication. Once you identify the problem, the remedy becomes apparent, and I don’t mind taking a moment from my day to train an associate or to clarify a few points with my team.

Change is hard. There’s no doubt about that. The emphasis on quality must come from the heart, from you – your leadership and your inspiration – and from a deep understanding of why it’s personally important to every single individual on the team. Otherwise, quality is just an additional burden that your associates will resent you for.

Show your staff that you appreciate their commitment to excellence by celebrating successes. When an associate improves the quality of their work, commend them in front of others. When the whole teams’ quality improves, go out for lunch or have a Wine O’clock Friday. By celebrating success, you will positively reinforce the habit of producing quality work, which will positively reinforce the quality (and eventually scale) of your business.

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