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Flexibility and agility are key attributes for small businesses looking to establish a competitive foothold and to quickly make adjustments when faced with new challenges and opportunities.

But they also need to have structure and processes in place so they can run efficiently enough to support day-to-day operations and growth.

It may seem strange to have operational processes without major infrastructure or enough people to justify them. But without processes, the danger is that a small company will be run on the fly or by the seat of its pants, rather than having a well-defined way to conduct business.

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Business processes not only provide a company and its employees with structure, they also make it easier and more productive to deal with customers, suppliers, partners and investors because there are prescribed ways of doing things. From personal experience, the creation of business processes has made it easier to market and sell services to potential customers because they can see how projects work, as well as the deliverables.

When a new customer comes on board, these processes provide transparency, they help to establish expectations and a healthy supplier-customer dynamic. They make it clear what's going to happen and what customers will receive to meet their goals and needs.

Creating processes takes time and effort – it forces you to scrutinize how you do business and the steps involved. The upside is valuable insight and information about how to do business better or differently.

So how does a company start to create processes?

One approach is to divide a business into "buckets." For example, they could be sales, different services or products, and customer service. The goal is to document how each part of the business unfolds in a granular way.

A key consideration is to not shy away from providing too many details. It is better to have too much information than not enough. If a process needs to be edited or shortened, the benefit is that it can force you to focus on the most important components.

Rather than looking at processes as being bureaucratic or something only for large companies to implement, small businesses should see them as pillars that support operations and growth.

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Special to The Globe and Mail

Mark Evans is the principal with ME Consulting, a communications and marketing strategic consultancy that works with startups and fast-growing companies. Mark has worked with four startups – Blanketware, b5Media, PlanetEye and Sysomos. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. Mark is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh, meshmarketing and meshwest conferences.

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