How Independent Retirement Improved Its Operations With Effective Process Documentation for Growth
Eric Burnside is the vice president and director of business development at Independent Retirement, a family-owned and operated third-party administration firm in Portland, Oregon.
As a small business, one of the goals of the team at Independent Retirement was to double their client base over the next five years. Streamlining their business operations was a prerequisite to driving that growth. But the absence of well-documented business procedures was a hindrance to accomplishing that goal.
Eric and his team understood that they had to systematize their operations to scale the business. Determined to get it right, they engaged the services of Adi Klevit, a business process consultant. Adi introduced the team to SweetProcess, and guided them in documenting their business processes effectively toward achieving their goals.
In this case study, Eric and Adi talk about how SweetProcess has taken the organization closer to accomplishing its five-year growth plans.
About Independent Retirement
Independent Retirement is a family-owned and operated third-party administration firm based in Portland, Oregon. It provides comprehensive, white-glove administration, consulting, and plan design services for tax-qualified retirement plans.
Established in 2006, the organization helps its clients save money and achieve retirement readiness. Consisting of doers, thinkers, and helpers, the team is committed to giving its clients an active resource in retirement plan administration and provides extensive support to employer plan sponsors and participants.
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The Biggest Pain Points of Tribal Knowledge and Acquisition
The ability to transfer knowledge from one person to another is key for business longevity. Realizing that your business is built on tribal knowledge is a wake-up call that something is amiss.
What’s going to happen when the people with the knowledge are no longer in the organization?
“My mom grew up in this business. She’s been a practitioner for 35 years. She has a wealth of technical knowledge and I have nothing. I have the ability, energy, and drive to sell and connect with folks. But technically I don’t know how to do the work. So. . . I felt it was important for the firm to invest in documenting processes,” Eric says.
Business acquisition was another concern for Eric. He has plans of acquiring similar businesses in the future. Merging such businesses with Independent Retirement would be tedious without documented processes.
“If I had my processes documented, and I acquired a similar firm in scope and scale, I’d be at an advantage in rolling up that business into ours. Because we would have a way of doing things and we could teach people how we do things and we can assimilate the businesses more quickly,” he adds.
SweetProcess Came Highly Recommended
The team at Independent Retirement had a clear vision of what they wanted to achieve with their operations, and they were bent on getting it right. Instead of going about it themselves, they sought the guidance of an expert, Adi Klevit, to walk them through the process of acquiring an effective software application for streamlining their operations.
Based on her expertise in working with various workflow software, Adi recommended SweetProcess for the task.
“The first thing that we did was we identified the core processes in the business. What are the core processes that we need to address? For each core process, we identified the procedures that needed to be written to accomplish the training and consistency and make sure that knowledge was being transferred,” Adi says.
How SweetProcess Changed the Dynamics of Operations at Independent Retirement
The most effective workflow software applications have one thing in common—they are results-oriented. Although the team at Independent Retirement trusted Adi’s expert judgment in choosing SweetProcess for streamlining their operations, they still needed to see the software deliver on its promise.
Shortly after they rolled out SweetProcess, the results became visible. According to Eric, it’s been incredible.
“It’s been incredibly helpful to conceptualize the process of what we are doing—whether it’s a big task or small task. [We] go through the exercise of writing it down and putting it into words. It’s the same in the process of writing in general. You scrutinize as you go through the writing process and you reflect on how you are doing things to determine whether they make sense.”
Let’s look at some of the ways SweetProcess improved the operations at the organization.
1. Effective Process Documentation
Effective process documentation is one of the best ways to empower employees efficiently. The level of knowledge among team members may differ due to certain factors such as experience and expertise.
Some team members may not be able to perform certain tasks outside their jurisdiction, making them handicapped in such situations. With SweetProcess, Eric and his team were able to document their business processes effectively and empower the team to be more efficient.
“From 2006 up until 2021, before SweetProcess and before Adi, a lot of things were just institutional knowledge… Twenty-eighteen was a very vulnerable part of our business. We had 100% turnover in client-facing roles over 18 months. It was a complete disaster. It was a very difficult season of business, and that lived in my mind long enough to come to this place in late 2021 where we’re working with Adi and trying to mitigate that type of thing happening again,” Eric says.
2. Employee Training and Onboarding
Training and onboarding new employees are the responsibilities of an organization. Since the quality of the training and onboarding process reflects on the performance of the new hires, it’s important to make it very effective.
Conducting effective training and onboarding on time is challenging in the absence of the right tools. But SweetProcess makes it all easier with its custom training and onboarding features. Adi reveals that this is one of the highlights of using the system.
“The ability to underline the procedures as a task, which you can also use in training, that’s what we did. We assigned procedures and processes to a team and Eric gave them a due date and asked them to review it and give comments. There’s the function of writing comments in SweetProcess where you can comment directly on the procedure in SweetProcess,” Adi says.
That’s not all. SweetProcess also enables audiovisual learning opportunities, so new and established team members can be well-grounded in their tasks.
“The ability to embed videos and screenshots very easily, that’s very helpful as well, because then you can create procedures that are very easy to see, read, and refer to. It uses all the methods of learning whether it’s visuals or audio,” Adi further explains.
3. Document Versioning
The use and management of multiple versions of a document are very important in streamlining business operations. It enables team members to differentiate the different documents needed to execute related tasks. Since the documents are used for related tasks, there’s a tendency for employees to mix them up, causing setbacks in the operations.
According to Eric, versioning was one of the things that they wanted out of their process documentation system, and SweetProcess met that need.
Adi reiterates the ability to use SweetProcess to create different versions of a document.
“You know what changes were made, so it makes it very easy to see the changes and the edits from one time to another. You can see the difference. You don’t have to read the entire procedure—you can see what was edited or added,” Adi explains.
4. Manage Tasks
Operations move faster and better when team members are assigned different tasks based on their expertise instead of having everyone working on the same task. Effective task management promotes division of labor and increases productivity.
When tasks are not assigned, there’s a tendency for employees to perform overlapping tasks. This leads to a waste of time and resources.
SweetProcess allows leaders to manage tasks effectively by assigning specific tasks to team members and tracking their performance to completion. It offers real-time reporting that shows you how employees are interacting with assigned tasks.
“SweetProcess can assign procedures and processes to the different teams. It allows you to organize it in a very good way,” Adi points out.
Must-Know Advice for Streamlining Your Business Operations
Having collectively streamlined the operations at Independent Retirement, Eric and Adi share some nuggets on the best ways to streamline your operations.
For Adi, it’s about identifying the biggest pain points and areas with the highest return on investment.
“It’s really about identifying that place that’s the biggest bottleneck or the biggest pain point that, if you actually had well-documented processes and procedures, you would get the biggest return on investment,” Adi advises.
Speaking from his experience, Eric advises that you seek professional help to assist you with the process, especially as you have other business priorities to worry about. It makes you accountable and focused on the goal.
Do You Want to Scale Your Business?
The great work that Eric and Adi have done in streamlining the business operations at Independent Retirement started with Eric’s decision to change the organization’s narrative in operations. He wanted to position his business for the anticipated growth, and he implemented the right software, SweetProcess, to accomplish his goal.
Do you want to scale your business? Start the scaling process by signing up for a 14-day free trial of SweetProcess. There’s no pressure as no credit card is required. You stand to lose nothing.