Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Processes a business should have in place BEFORE they are accepting customers

When you are starting a new business, it is an extremely exciting time and everyone tends to get anxious to get their first client or customer!  While all businesses certainly need clients/customers to become profitable, there are a few things you should make sure you have a procedure and policy in place for before you accept that first customer.

1.  Intake
What procedures do you have in place for intake?  If you are a restaurant or coffee shop, do you have an ordering system?  A system to identify the customer with the order placed?  If you are a housekeeping company, do you have a system to track your customers once you have accepted them as a customer?

Ensuring that you have a system to log your customers and their orders or services you provide for them, allows you to start off with a great impression and look professional.  Aside from that it, and more importantly, perhaps, it allows you to ensure you will comply with all local, state and federal laws.  Make sure your system tracks the amount charged to each customer and the amount paid by each customer (think taxes!).  Make sure your system, if appropriate, provides for a contract between the customer and your business; this helps to reduce any possibility of disagreement or dissatisfaction as well as reduce the possibility of litigation.

2. Payments
How do you accept payments?  Checks, money order, cash, credit cards?  Credit cards may be a great option for your customers but ensure you understand the rules and regulations surrounding credit cards to ensure you are not violating any of those.  For example, for attorneys, if you accept a credit card for a retainer, you need to ensure that the fee charged by the credit card company is not taken out of that retainer (unless agreed in an engagement contract like we mentioned above).  You have to ensure you comply with certifications in accepting credit cards and provide a system to record those charges.

3. Standards of Operation
How are you going to operate once you have a client, or two, or twenty?  How often are you expected to interact with that client and on what basis?  Have you communicated that expectation to your client?  Have you set up a process to remind you when you need to have those communications?  Trust me on this one, you will think at the beginning that you can remember to call your client every two weeks.  But soon, your business will be up and running and so busy that you can't possibly remember everything without a good calendaring system in place.

4. Closing Procedures
How do you end work with a customer or client?  Is payment due at the end?  What follow up procedures do you have to ensure you get paid?  Do you have a closing contract to let the customer know that you have completed all the work?  Do you have a follow up procedure to remind them you are there should they need assistance in the future?

Having these processes in place will help your company run smoothly.  The end result of a smoothly run company is that you stay in compliance with local, state and federal laws and you reduce the likelihood of conflict or litigation.   Get these things in place before you start accepting clients and your job will be much easier down the road.

Are you starting your own company or recently started a company?  If you would like assistance in starting the company or maintaining the company in compliance with laws, please contact us at (804) 447-0146 or clbaudean@baudeanlaw.com.