Basic Business Process

Owners outline their top-level routines. October 25, 2006

I was wondering if some of you would take me through your general process, in as much detail as you wish, from sales to build to install to invoice.

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor H:
Invoice for deposit.
Order enough material to start job.
Begin work.
Invoice for progress payment.
Order balance of material to complete job.
Deliver or deliver and install.
COD invoice final bill.

I discovered years ago that folks like to use small business as banks. We are not! Whether it be contractors or private homeowners, they think we can do their jobs without money and make us jump through hoops doing back flips holding our breath hoping to get paid.

From contributor V:
Contributor H's process is the same as mine. I would also note that if they can't make the mid payment in a timely manner, I let them know that the project will be stopped and added in at the end of all scheduled work whenever they get around to making that payment.

From contributor B:
I am getting a 50% deposit up front and that has always covered all materials. I collect the balance upon install. I don't have a formal invoice document yet for such purposes. I believe I should have one to provide the customer a receipt as well as maybe some guidance for warranty or other information. Anyone have an example they are willing to share?

From contributor S:
1 - Executive: Create and modify all procedures to constantly grow business to be more efficient and profitable by evaluating information and feedback from finished projects.

2 - Marketing: Create a system that most efficiently target markets your best possible potential clients. Use a system that pre-qualifies clients so sales does not spend wasted time on people who will never buy. (Greatest profit potential)

3 - Sales: Further pre-qualify potential clients by asking questions. Once qualified, quickly turn around proposal and follow up to close the sale. Gather all information necessary to process a job before taking money and starting timeframe to finish project.

4 - Layout: Take all information gathered by sales. Double check field dimensions and generate all necessary paperwork to go to shop floor so no decision making whatsoever is needed by parts processors.

5 - Project Management: Take all gathered information to process a project. Order materials and create a timeline and delegate work to process order through completion.

6 - Office management: Accounts receivable/payable. Organize schedules for management. Customer contact. File all paperwork for efficiency.

7 - Sheetgood: Step by step processing of sheetgoods based on shop layout. Label parts based on system.

8 - Solid Wood: Step by step processing of solid woods based on shop layout. Label parts based on system.

9 - Preassemble: Assemble parts that need to be before finishing based on your system and needs.

10 - Sanding: Sand and prep all parts based on your system.

11 - Finish: Finish all parts based on your system.

12 - Final assembly: Assemble all parts based on what is best to assemble in shop or on site.

13 - Delivery/Installation: Based on your system.

14 - Collect data and review information to pass along to executive decision maker.


Each process has individual goals and a framework with subgoals and paperwork/checklists to most efficiently process a project. You can never have too much paperwork. Well, almost never. Create a system so information flows through employees and processes with no need for any person to ask the previous person any questions. It is a never ending process of getting better at everything. It will take time (we are not even close to 100% there yet, but have seen massive improvements in the past few years). Work on creating standards for what you know best, which more than likely is the processing part of project. Reverse engineer from install back up to sales. This will create the time you need to work on executive, marketing, education, etc. As time goes by and you become more efficient and make more money, invest business profits to upgrade machinery and layout.

No matter how custom your shop is, you must standardize as much as possible. This is the only way to make money. Not having standards and flying by the seat of your pants constantly is a sure fire way to live and work in mediocrity. It is also a recipe for failure. Make all decisions based on long term goals. Do not make the mistake of pinching pennies in both time invested and money spent up front. The more you invest earlier, the more it will pay off as time goes by. I know you just asked for basic process, but I felt it was very important to show the reasoning behind it.