What We Mean by Structure

In a recent post that discussed properly framing your business so the marketplace “gets it,” I reminded those of you in the administrative support business that structure is your friend.

It occurred to me, however, that some people might not understand what I mean by structure.

First, let me emphasize that creating structure is not about boxing you in. On the contrary!

Structure is about erecting a foundation in your business that will support solid weight and give you the space you need to move around.

It’s about establishing standards, policies and procedures.

It’s about systemizing, automating and streamlining those recurring and repetitive processes, workflows and tasks.

It’s about setting and managing proper expectations in clients and giving them parameters and boundaries.

It’s about communicating that information to them.

Structure brings order to chaos. It’s what organizes the disorganized and disjointed. It’s what preserves relationships.

Structure is what will allow you to roll with the punches and go with the flow caused by all the twists and unexpected turns that you WILL confront throughout the life of your business.

Structure is what will allow you to remain flexible and agile. It will prevent your “building” from crumbling to the ground when you encounter setbacks or are forced into detours or course corrections.

Structure is what will give you the time to develop your ideas and work on experiments, as well as the freedom to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Structure is what will allow you to take superior care of clients and do your best work for them.

It’s what will prevent burnout and overwhelm.

Just as importantly, structure is a comfort to clients.

It tells them that yours is an administrative support practice that is set up smartly to serve them and that you are in a committed, legitimate business.

It says that yours is not a fly-by-night operation and they won’t be putting their eggs in a basket that may disappear into thin air tomorrow.

It shows them that you take their interests seriously and have given careful consideration in setting up your business to serve them for the long-haul.

3 Responses

  1. T. Frostee says:

    At the first job I had out of college, as an admin assistant, structure was hardly ever mentioned without infra- in front of it. Really, I think bureaucracy gets a bad name for being “too rigid” or being “too stale” or losing sight of the “big picture” but there’s got to be a system for connecting the pieces. Otherwise the pieces fall apart.

    Let’s take something as simple as a phone call from a client. Seems easy to deal with, right, certainly we don’t need structure for that? Well, what are you gonna answer the call on? A phone, you say. If you’re not at home, who or what deals with the call? Ok, so I’ll get an iPhone or something for calls on the run. But now you’ve got two contact numbers floating around, what about that? Ok, you say, I’ll get a low cost voicemail and forwarding account with someone like gotvmail and assign my phones extensions. Done.

    But what if two clients call at once? What if you’re backed up with calls, how do you address inquiries — in order of job scope, in order of importance, in order of severity…? Who answers the calls directly? You personally? A secretary? A tech or virtual assistant?…

    I’ve said it before: there are NO simple actions in business. Trying to build a company without some infrastructure is building a house on sand.

  2. T, phone (and communication) policies and standards is a good example.

    For instance, in your business, you might set the standard that you don’t jump to immediately answer the phone every time it rings.

    And why would that be?

    Because interrupting your work and concentration is unproductive and causes you to lose time and focus. This, in turn, affects your work quality and timeliness. It’s not good for you and it’s not good for clients.

    So, given that you’ve decided on this standard in your practice, you then want to formalize policies and procedures around that standard. For example:

    1. You keep one business phone/number and that is the only number provide for the business. You don’t need clients sweating you at any given moment or chasing you around on your cell phone. That is simply TOO much accessibility and it will negatively impact your sanity and operations.

    2. You set formal business operating hours and you communicate those hours to clients on your website and in your Client Guide.

    3. You set and formalize communication policies and communicate those to clients as well. Examples include: Phone calls/appointments to speak directly must be scheduled in advance. All communication is conducted by email unless otherwise arranged. Work requests must be submitted by email. Email and other communications will be returned within 24-48 hours.

    See how you begin to have some formalization and organization in place around phones and communication? That’s what I mean about instilling structure (or infrastructure, same thing) in your business.

  3. Mini Mohan says:

    It is really great to bring in “Structure” into picture when we often tend to lose out on it. Your description on maintaining the structure and its necessities is very informative.

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