Introduction: Work flow is a set of processes, rules or steps that direct, organize and moves the production of the service or product. How a product goes from start to finish in the production line must be specific, reviewed routinely, and improved as automation and technology is improved, as changes need to be made and to increase profitability. There are workflow processes for the entire business and workflow process for individual parts of that process. A business is a system of systems.
In the service industry the product is the service. Work flow processes are examined in how effectively and efficiently the services are being carried out in support of the mission of the business. And even though the process in a service industry does not use a conveyer belt as in manufacturing, it can be compared with manufacturing in many ways. What the service industry must be careful about is defining the product as a customer. Just as a dish soap company process is about the production of the dish soap and not production of the customer who purchases it, the service industry must be about bringing the best service in the area. Customer surveys can be used to help evaluate the services but it is not the customer being evaluated it will be the service. There is no control over customers. The only control a business owner has, is over the way he services that customer. In light of that, a service industry has to know and understand how their services work together and separately, the results those services bring, and how to manipulate them, improve them and evaluate them.
A. Work flow in the fitness industry is based in what the center or the boutique owner offers. The work flow of a fitness business is the process of offering, selling, and carrying out the work involved in maintaining the service. People are definitely involved, important and necessary, but the owner has to focus on the how he gets his services perfected, provided, and marketed.
For example, before any customer is part of the picture, a fitness business owner must establish what he will offer, how it will be tailored or prepared for the customer's benefit, how he will brand and market that service, carry it out and sustain the integrity and need for his service. This process might be seen as circular. If the service is not sustainable then the owner must review the offerings, the production of it and how it is marketed. A business owner must always search for what it is that is stopping the flow toward sells that support the growth of the business. There are many ways this might be looked at or processed but at this point it will be defined as a circular flow.
When the process, the work flow or the system is put in a visual way, it is possible to observe how the work flow of the fitness business might look. You define the needs for services in your locale, make decisions on what programs to offer, design the programs, market them and bring in income and customer satisfaction. The reason it is circular is because the clients or members coming into the business often determine what you decide to change. If there is a breakdown in one place it may signal a breakdown in another. For example, if you find your sales are down, you take another look at the marketing, program design, programs offered and the fit of those programs to the community needs. Each part of this process depends on every other part. If you are making a good profit and your customer surveys are coming back with good ratings then you are probably meeting the needs of the community, and offering good and well-designed programs with effective marketing. If customer surveys come back with good ratings but your profits are down, then you have to back up and examine the marketing and other avenues of need. What you are doing is great, yet you are missing profit for some reason. Figure it out. If you are offering senior adult programs in a community full of young families, this work flow examination will call your attention to that.
There are many work flow processes that take place in any business. Another one is that in which the day to day business happens. In other words, what is the flow of getting the consumer in the door, into a program, paying for that program and connected and committed to that program? In a large center the staff at the front desk will be the first line of communication with the customer. Their job will be to communicate what the center offers, to listen and understand what the customer is looking for, to clearly describe the programs and fees, times and schedules, to get their name, e-mail, phone number and address. The customer may make the contact by phone, e-mail or in person. The front desk personnel are responsible for bringing each person into a positive discussion, making them feel comfortable, important and have the ability to find a program to fit them and their schedule. If there is no program that fits their need, it needs to be communicated to the owner for consideration.
Once this is accomplished the front desk person can sign the person up for a program, class or merely membership in the gym, possibly introduce them to a personal trainer and give them a tour of the facility. This is the point that can make or break a good business. If you think the person at the front desk is not the most important person in your business, you are wrong. IF this person is able to do well, your business will grow with a good reputation. If they are good they will "make the sale." The front desk person will sign them up, get their fees, and give them a schedule. A personal trainer will then follow up to offer personal services and special classes. When the person comes into the center to work out, they should be met with enthusiasm, shown around again if needed and steered toward a trainer, if they seem to be unaware of what to do. The personal trainer can then talk to them about their personal goals and recommend a program for beginners in the gym. If there is no such program, then meeting the need of one person goes unfulfilled and can break the system or process. Look at a flow chart for the process of signing up a new member.
In this work flow chart, you can easily see what the expectations of the staff are. There are many processes and systems within a business. Each part of the business must have a defined system. It defines the expectation of each employee, the routine for them to follow and a way to evaluate exactly what can be done to improve the business. Each circle in this chart should have a process of its own.
B. Work flow for the freelancer: For the freelancer, the systems are a bit different. The process for a freelancing professional trainer who has no employees might look something like the following chart. However, each of the three parts of this cycle will have its own process.
This is the overall workflow for the business. To evaluate and keep a business healthy, the workflow of each piece must be defined. Take marketing, for example; Marketing involves creation of materials both hard copy and digital, getting involved with the community, offering some free classes at events, making connections with other industries in the area, networking with other personal trainers and consistently searching for new ways to meet needs, keep the business healthy, and have fun. Your clients will more readily re-sign up for your classes if you offer them something they can't get anywhere else. Fill their needs, offer an array of possibilities and give clients a reason to keep coming back to you.
You might see that the system of enrolling clients is more like gears. The clients come in and turn the wheel with their needs. The needs turn the wheels of your programs, which in turn satisfy the clients and which will keep clients coming to your door as well as income into your bank account.
It's difficult to define a system with a destination because each part of any business is connected to and affects every other part. And again each gear will have its own processes.
Creating your systems, your work flow charts will not just define your business, your vision, the way your work, it also helps you evaluate each part, gives a clear picture to share with your employees, and keeps you focused on the goals of the business. This is not an option it you want a successful business. It is a requirement. As the owner, you cannot keep the way things work "in your head." You have to put it down in a concrete format where you can explain it, share it and get input on it. If you don't do this, communication falters. People think they know what you want but may not.
C. Various work flow organizational charts: If you have Microsoft word or another program you will find the charts located there under "insert." It is so important for you to understand the importance of workflow often called distribution, and it is so important that you see your work as a cycle where your service affects you client growth. To know, be informed and evaluate your systems in order to retain clients and income and continually spiral upward, you have to have a system. Using charts and graphs is the most effective way. They are visuals of what is happening in all parts of your business no matter how large or small it is. The more employees you have, the more systems must be in place. The systems also define job descriptions effectively. You can even use systems in your home with your families to show children how the interaction of each person affects the others. Here are a few more cyclical charts.
The last chart is a matrix that might be used when putting all systems together to show the entire workings of your business with each system off-setting the entire business system as a whole.
Plotting out your systems is another way to show a possible investor that you are organized, understand systems in a business and the work flow processes that keep the business moving forward.
D. Conclusion and Assignment: In this article you have been introduced to the systems and process of your business work flow. Though the work flow in many businesses looks a lot alike, and they might be, the inner workings or the detailed systems of each part is where the real action is. Using the work flow approach to evaluation of your business can be quite effective, if you have set up your systems in the way you chose to work and the charts actually reflect the true work of your business. This is another way to catch yourself cutting corners on the initial processes that you set up. When you determine a work flow, it should be because research has proven it is the best way to do work in your business. Then if you don't follow that, your chances of success are low.
For the serious business owner in freelancing or otherwise, setting up your business systems in this way is the soundest approach for working toward success. Again, it defines your business, each job in your business, how the different jobs relate and depend upon each other, where you are getting bogged down, stumbling, and where you are doing well. It will make your ups and downs easy to pinpoint and know exactly where to make changes, if necessary.
Your assignment for this article:
1. Develop a work flow chart that defines the system for your business as a whole.
2. Develop a work flow chart for each part of the business you have envisioned.
3. Show these to someone who is in the business and listen to their comments.
As with everything in your business, these charts will always remain works in progress that can be changed, modified or thrown out to begin again.
Quality control of the services your business provides from the initial contact to the follow up after a program is completed requires you to gain information. You have to "inspect" the services you provide. This should be done in more than one way to be effective. You should have a variety of checkpoints to examine.One will be the customer survey and you can use, with short and long forms for various programs that you feature. You will also need to have each staff member do a self-assessment, which will tell you much about how they view their own work. You also need to have an overall staff survey that might show breakdowns in communication and when you do develop this, you need to disallow use of anyone's names or any accusations. Make sure your staff supply facts and examples of things they can see might be improved. Have individual conferences when you evaluate them, yourself, and the business.
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