In most businesses and self-employed situations, the focus is understandably on business development activities that positively impact the bottom line. This is particularly true for part-time and/or new businesses.
While this makes sense, it doesn’t mean you should ignore behind-the-scenes business administration tasks, such as setting policies. Policies that outline how you run various elements of your business, and why you do it that way, set boundaries and create a foundation for the business. Having policies like this can often be the difference between a good business and a great business.
Why Bother with Policies
I am sure there are many other areas of your business where you want to spend your time — marketing, networking, product development. But I’d make a case for carving out some time to focus on policies before revamping your website, kicking off a new marketing campaign or pitching a new client.
Ultimately, business policies can make it easier to handle issues as they come up in your business, help you make good decisions quickly, and allow you to focus on what’s most important — profit-generating activities. It may not be glamorous, but without a sturdy foundation in place, everything you build on top of it can be subject to collapse.
Along with setting the foundation, your policies can:
- Outline the boundaries of what is acceptable and what is not
- Tell your clients what you expect of them
- Make time off a reality
- Help you create a work/life balance
- Reduce the amount of time you spend managing your business every day
- Give you guidelines for interacting with your clients
What Policies to Set
The exact policies you set will depend on the type business you have and your business goals, but in general, here are some areas you may consider creating policies.
- Telephone Policies - What phone numbers will you share with your clients? When will you answer calls and return calls? Will you be available for calls as they come or require advanced scheduling?
- Working Hours – Will you have standard business hours? Will you work on weekends and holidays? What level of client support will you provide and when?
- Turnaround Time/Rush Work - How much advance notice do you require for your work? Will you take on “emergency” projects? Under what terms? Will you have an extra fee for last-minute work?
- Payment Policies – What is your invoicing schedule? What forms of payment do you accept? When is payment due and will you have late fees?
How to Set Policies
You probably have your guidelines for most of these areas in your head already, or at least an idea of how you want these items to be structured. The next step is getting your policies down on paper, and sharing them with current clients, future clients and any colleagues you may work with.
Some of the ways to make sure everyone you work with is on the same page with your policies is by:
- Including your policies in your contracts
- Providing a separate policy sheet in your client welcome packet
- Discussing your policies during meeting with clients when appropriate
- Sending reminders about your individual policies when an issue arises
How do you use business policies?
Do you have structured, written policies that you use to manage your business? How do they help you?
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