Entrepreneurs pride themselves on being scrappy, able to change on a moment’s notice.  When you work with a small core group of people (and the competition is huge), this is an obvious advantage: you can iterate faster and there’s less red tape to cut through to get stuff done.

Having been through several start-ups myself, though, there is definitely an advantage to having routines.  Routines can make sense out of the daily chaos that can happen in a start-up.  It can make others familiar with the way decisions are made.  Routines also often form the backbone of communication, making it useful for making sure everyone is in the loop.

Sometimes, it takes two computers to communicate.  (Photo Credit: mh.xbhd.org)

I want to stress that routines are different than your average process: they usually occur as a result of teamwork (not mandated from above), they are as flexible to change as anything else in a small business (provided everyone understands that change), and if they’re not helpful, they should be axed.

A few examples of routines that I’ve found useful in the past:

  • Employee emails before major product updates.  This ensures that everyone in the company knows what’s going on before the customer does.  There’s nothing worse than being the only guy on the team “not in the know” about what you’re selling.
  • Stand-up meetings.  When fast approaching a deadline, it’s sometimes good to get everyone in a room, IM box, or phone line to do a quick “stand-up” meeting.  Literally, this lasts less than 5 minutes and should be done at the beginning of the day. Items to discuss is usually the work that must be done by end of business day.
  • The checklist.  I love lists (why else would I start Fellowstream), and going over checklists before a major event has saved my bacon more than once.  If you have a task with multiple parts, write them all down, and check them off your (digital) list as you go.
What routines have you used that have worked?  Have not worked?  Keep the discussion rolling.
-Deborah Fike

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