Take the but out of your business

Updated: Apr 8, 2019


As a small business owner how many times have you uttered one of these phrases:

  • “You are correct, we usually do not offer refunds, but I wish you had consulted with me in this situation.”

  • “I know we always request a signed contract prior to starting a project, but in this instance we can overlook that requirement.”

  • “I know our SOP asks you to submit the weekly report by this time each week, but for the next month please submit it by this time.”


We are all guilty of pretending we have SOPs, standard processes and reliable procedures that are ALWAYS in place for our business, BUT that is not always the case. We all have the BUT situations, the exceptions that force us to veer off of our proven path, throw caution to the wind and make up the rules as we go along. Even though, as the business owner, you believe you are going the extra mile for your customer or your team you could be doing more harm than good.


Below are three ways your BUTS could be harming your business:


Creating a team unable to make autonomous decisions. - You create a support team to take tasks off of your plate and painstakingly create SOPs and checklists to allow them to work independently. You even choose people that like to take control of their tasks and “run with it.” You hopefully also choose team members that are conscientious about their work and always want to make sure they are doing the “right thing.” If these statements are correct, then imagine how frustrated and upset your staff will feel everytime they receive a “but” email or phone call from you. After enough of the “but” emails and going back to the customer or fellow team member to ask for forgiveness they will most likely decide that the SOP or checklist they have been asked to use is no longer valid and it is easier to run EVERY decision by you “just to make sure.” As your inbox fills up with the “just checking” emails you grow more frustrated and stressed trying to keep up and productivity slows down while everyone is waiting for your permission just to do their job.


Productivity slows down. - Creating “buts” in your business can lead to lower productivity. As mentioned above making exceptions can lead to your team members asking “permission” before making what should be simple decisions on behalf of your business. While they are waiting for your reply that task cannot be completed and the customer is waiting. Also, creating “buts” can lead your team members to overthink what should be automatic and routine decisions. For example, they know your SOP states that a refund will not be given after 30 days, but last time there was an exception made so they are not sure 100% how to move forward. They then make the decision to “think it over” or “table it for later” and set that particular case aside. They are now not moving forward, wasting time, and your customer is waiting. A task that could have been completed in 5 minutes can now take days.


Decrease in customer satisfaction. A lot of the “buts” we place in our business is to help our customer. We issue the refund even though it goes against our policy, we waive our rush fee even though the request was received in less than 24 hours, we begin work without a contract as to not delay the final product so how can this lead to a decrease in customer satisfaction? While we are placing “buts” in our business to assist this one customer we are now slowing down our productivity (increased wait times for other customers) making exceptions for this “special” customer (other customers can find out and feel slighted for not receiving this special treatment) and then this customer comes back for another favor and is turned down they can become frustrated with your wishy-washy business. Also, as your internal support team can become more frustrated and they can easily pass this along to your customers or in the worst case scenario they can decide to leave your business altogether.

We all have the BUT situations, the exceptions that force us to veer off of our proven path, throw caution to the wind and make up the rules as we go along. Even though, as the business owner, you believe you are going the extra mile for your customer or your team you could be doing more harm than good.

I know we all make these “buts” and exceptions with the best of intentions, but as you can see it can lead to negative repercussions for your business. Instead of creating “buts” in your business getting ahead of the issue can save you and your team a lot of headaches. When creating your SOPs and processes leave room for these exceptions and document them appropriately. For example, if your refund policy states that you do not offer a refund after 30 days add a bullet point after that advising your team member of any exceptions (i.e., customer had a recent death in the family, customer has been with your business over 1 year) and then direct them who to request the approval from to make this exception. Hopefully, as the business owner, this person is not you. Lastly, stand behind your team members decisions especially, if they followed your SOP. If you do not agree with your team’s decision the issue is not with them, but with your process. Instead of correcting your team member with a but email, correct your SOP and process.


If you have any questions on simplifying or standardizing the processes and procedures for your organization contact Harper Administrative Services today!

© 2018 by Harper Administrative Services, LLC

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