How Maxwell Counters Attained Consistency in Performance by Organizing Workflow
Last Updated on September 21, 2020 by Owen McGab Enaohwo
General Manager at Maxwell Counters, Austin Maxwell, was keen on enhancing employee efficiency by making provisions for documented processes to guide them through their day-to-day activities. But that was not sufficient. The documents were either inaccessible or not up to date. It became apparent that they needed better systems in place. Austin gives us an account of how they streamlined their processes with SweetProcess. But before then, let us get an overview of the company.
About Maxwell Counters
Founded in 1981, Maxwell Counters specializes in the fabrication, installation, and replacement of countertops—offering custom surfacing products for residential and commercial applications.
Committed to satisfying their clients, the organization prioritizes quality and using durable products for projects. Its team of experts works closely with clients to get an idea of their specific needs and expectations, and then channels that information into delivering personalized services.
A lineup of their services includes the installation and replacement of solid surface countertops, laminate countertops, quartz countertops, natural wood/butcher’s block surfaces natural stone, and butcher block, for commercial and residential applications such as countertops, backsplashes, fireplace surrounds, windowsills, tub decks, etc.
Based in Illinois, Maxwell Counters currently has 35 full-time employees.
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The Constant Struggle to be Productive
In an effort to smoothen its operations, Maxwell Counters required its employees to write down steps of assigned business procedures on paper. The papers were joined to a binder that they carried around for work. In addition to this, the company also documented processes in Microsoft Word documents saved on their network folder. All of these were targeted toward improving their performance.
But their expectations were cut short.
“It took too long to find things, and then at a point in time when you wanted to update the procedures, you never knew how many copies were flying around and where they were at,” Austin laments.
The sheets of papers in the binder would fall apart, and the documents on the computer folder were not readily accessible. Employees were always looking for documents or asking questions. It was just difficult to get things done.
The Skepticism About Signing Up for SweetProcess
When your typical workday is all about answering numerous employee questions and helping them find documents, there is hardly time to be productive.
This was Austin’s dilemma. He went on Google to find a solution. After several searches for standard operating procedures software, he found SweetProcess. He came across similar software, but according to him, SweetProcess stood out.
“I just did a Google search for online SOP websites or software and then I narrowed it down to five or so, kept getting it down and I finally decided on SweetProcess.”
Due to his unpleasant experience with documenting processes in their organization, he was skeptical about it.
“I was just frustrated at how we had spent so much time on documenting procedures already and I didn’t know that having it on the internet was going to solve anything.”
Nonetheless, he was willing to give SweetProcess the benefit of the doubt. After consulting other managers in the company, they agreed to try the system.
How SweetProcess Corrected Misconceptions about Documenting Business Processes in the Organization
Inconsistency begs many questions about an organization’s competence. For a company that installs and replaces counters, the quality was non-negotiable. They needed a system that would guarantee replicated results. This was a major factor in their decision to systematize their operations.
“Inconsistent quality, unclear direction as far as what is acceptable standards for the company. In addition to just wanting to be able to work on other problems other than the same questions that we were getting every day as to how to do a certain process.”
SweetProcess was very helpful in the following ways:
1. Documenting and updating business processes
There is a limit to what you can do using manual tools such as paper binders and Word documents to streamline your business processes. As painful as it may sound, such processes may not be useful because they are not well-grounded.
“If I try to put a number to the amount of time we wasted, which was almost all the time because no one referred to them, it would be in thousands of dollars.”
Employees are eager to use documents that give them the help that they need. Providing this help begins with documenting the processes properly.
Simplicity is key.
Complex processes are anything but helpful. Sometimes, they add to the confusion.
“It was tough to make sure everyone was up-to-date on the procedures when it was either printed out or buried in some network folder.”
The documents were created on blank slates without the necessary tools to simplify them. And with new updates being made to the actual processes, they were hardly timely. Updating them was as good as writing new processes from scratch.
With SweetProcess, they were able to simplify their documentation with a variety of tools at their disposal. In addition to texts, they could also use images and videos to visualize complex procedures, showing employees how to execute them.
2. Employee training and learning
Employees cannot perform tasks when they are clueless about them. Training is needed to bring them up to speed. After training, they are expected to be able to get things done themselves.
But that is not always the case.
There is a tendency for new employees to keep asking questions about what to do and how to do them. This is an indication that something is missing. If you do not identify the missing puzzle and fix it, the problem lingers.
“If someone asked any manager how to do something, that was a trigger for us to make sure that it’s either already in SweetProcess or we just had notebooks or lists on our phones of these other procedures we needed to create in SweetProcess when things like that occurred.”
This was not always the case. He was constantly training and babysitting employees.
“When someone asked me how to do something, I’d have to answer or try to find it on the network folder or try to find the binder but now I’m able to, instead of walking them through everything, just say: did you look it up in SweetProcess?”
3. Reference guide for operations
Employees turn to others for direction when they lack sufficient knowledge of doing things. Although this is a better alternative to going ahead to do things incorrectly, it is not ideal.
Work is great when everyone knows what to do and does it accordingly. And in the event that they do not know what to do, it helps to have a go-to resource to get all the needed information.
Austin explains that this has helped the organization to be consistent.
“The best result has just been consistency, being able to point people toward one website and make sure that they know that’s where they need to go for questions on anything. So it’s really eliminated a lot of repetitive questioning that really wasn’t adding value.”
A go-to resource also helps them to keep business moving when employees are either indisposed or take up new positions.
“It’s made it pretty clear and it’s also helped in the event someone calls in sick we know what was assigned to them, what their duties were, and what we need to check in their absence.”
Your Decision to Make
Solving a problem begins with the acknowledgment of its existence and a willingness to find a solution. Maxwell Counters acknowledged that their manual processes hindered employee efficiency, and they sought out a solution to create better systems. You know your business better than anyone else. Are your processes effective? If you have any doubts about that, sign up for a 14-day free trial of SweetProcess to fix it.