Take a minute to picture the way your business works, suggests Carl Reader. I don’t expect any small business to envision a calm, relaxed image here – by nature small business owners are busy.

However, in my experience, many small businesses are so busy running the business and dealing with day-to-day “emergencies”, that any systems in place – if they even exist at all - are often ignored. Without robust systems, things can get missed, mixed up or lost – and chaos and disorganisation is bad for business.

Having efficient systems in place to deal with a given situation or event creates a better experience for customers, suppliers and you. The most successful businesses have systems that work together effectively. They’re busy, but their staff can deal with it, because there are systems in place to support them. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all. You will more than likely do things differently to another business - every business is different, and people work in different ways to reach their own goals. However, regardless of what your systems are, for the sake of your business (and your own stress levels!), it’s important to establish clear systems in your company to clarify the way you do things.

Review your business’s systems and procedures, and do this regularly.

I find monthly and annually works well. Use the monthly checks to ensure systems are being followed and are not out of date. Use your own insight and that of your staff to consider how systems could be improved to ensure that moving forwards, they’re relevant, useful and efficient. Longer term, view the bigger picture and look at systems in relation to one another. Do they link smoothly? Can you eradicate an inefficiency entirely by doing something a different way, or trying a different tool?

Work out what your business and customers want and need, and make sure the system takes you in that direction. Identify your business goals, and ensure what you do in your business aligns with them. Keep an eye on your competitors and other businesses - if you see something that works well, it can be good to “magpie” the best ideas for application in your own business, so long as they help you with your own goals. That said, DON’T adopt a system just because it worked for somebody else – they may have different goals, values and opportunities. Consider it carefully in relation to your own business, and make an informed judgement.

My next recommendation is to record your systems carefully. Document what you do in your business, and how you do it. This not only supports your team and gives peace of mind that something will be dealt with in a consistent and correct way, but it can also help safeguard you in emergencies or legal matters. By making you organised and efficient, you also become far more appealing to investors, too.

Finally – even with the best systems in place, don’t forget to make a back up plan. Never let a system rely wholly on one person to make them work. Emergencies happen, people fall ill, mistakes crop up. Remember - the most successful businesses are those that can keep calm and try Plan B!

Carl Reader is the author of The Start Up Coach, co-owner of