To Creating a Business That Runs Like Clockwork
By Rich Schefren
Have you ever said to yourself:
- I’m tired of having to do everything myself….
- I need to figure out a way to make more money…
- I wish I could find a way to work less and make more….
- My business is consuming my life – I have almost no free time…
- I can’t seem to find the right type of people to help me grow my business…
- I wish I could spend less time putting out fires and more time growing my business…
I’ve heard all of these complaints time and again from overworked, over-stressed entrepreneurs. The fact is, all of these issues are easy to fix. That’s because they are the result of a business that’s lacking systems. A business that’s fully dependent on one person – YOU – for everything.
Installing systems inside your business… Standardized procedures for everything from customer service to marketing to product creation… Is the best way to eliminate all those problems.
Today, I want to give you everything you need to know about systemizing your business. I want to show you how to identify which areas to systemize… How to develop and write the systems… And how to implement them in the easiest way possible. Once you have the right systems to run your business… And the right people to run your systems….You’ll be free to enjoy your life and do whatever you want to do.
A Few Hours for Just a Few Weeks
Now, I know… Organizing and systemizing your entire business may seem like a Herculean task.
But that’s not the right way to look at it. It only requires you to make a small time commitment for just a few weeks.
Now, don’t get me wrong. It’ll take more than just a few weeks to have your business completely systemized. But, once you begin systemizing your business you’ll actually free up lots of time. In other words, invest one to three hours a week to begin systemizing your business. Within a few weeks, you’ll have already freed up more time than your initial time commitment to systemizing.
Let’s take a look at the five simple steps you’ll need to systemize your business. You’re going to be amazed at the impact a few systems can have on your company.
Step #1 – Identify the Tasks to Systemize
Right off the bat, I suggest you keep a list. Call it your “Fix-It List.” Write down everything that goes wrong inside your business that needs to be fixed. In an un-systemized business, problems occur all the time. So make sure to keep your list handy. It’s important to write them down as they occur so you don’t forget about them.
I strongly suggest you start your systemizing efforts here. Once you’ve eliminated the consistent problems in your business, you should create the following four lists to illuminate the next areas of your business to systemize:
- Your most time-consuming tasks
- Your most stressful tasks
- Your most profitable tasks
- Your most important tasks
From these different lists you’ll be able to choose the tasks and procedures you want to systemize first. I recommend you start with the most important parts of your business. To determine which one to start with, ask yourself this question:
Which problem or challenge, once eliminated, will reduce the most problems, free up the most time, and make the most money?
Step #2 – Determine Who Is Going to Create the System
If you work for yourself it should be pretty clear who is going to design the system… YOU!
But if you already have a team working for you… Then you’ve got an important decision to make.
When I began systemizing my first business, I felt compelled to do much of the documentation myself. It took me months to see that this was unnecessary. I caution you not to fall into the same trap.
What I’m sharing with you right now is a system for creating systems. Once you train your team to apply it, they’ll easily handle 90% of the systemization work in your business.
Ideally if a task or activity falls inside the area of responsibility of a team member, that person should create the system. For example, let’s say you want to systemize a marketing task. If you have an employee in charge of marketing, then you should make him or her responsible for developing the documentation for creating the system.
Step #3 – Record the Steps, Standards, and Guidelines
There are basically two steps to creating a system that standardizes and documents how work should be done in your business.
First, you decide on all the key elements of your new system. Here are the five key decisions that must be made to design an effective system:
Decision 1: Who Should Perform This Procedure?
If you don’t define who is responsible for executing a procedure, by default you’re responsible for it.
Ideally, you want to assign procedures to specific roles, not to specific individuals (i.e. the system should be executed by the receptionist, not Sally). Over time, you’ll have all the responsibilities documented for each specific role in your company. If a person leaves and you need to hire a new employee, you don’t have to change your entire policy and procedure manuals.
For any systemized procedure that requires several team members to complete, it’s important to list their roles as well. This way every member of the team will be aware of what every other member of the team is doing.
That means they’ll know who to expect a hand-off from… What they’re expected to do… Who they need to hand it off to… And what that team member will be doing with it. The whole thing is designed to be a well-oiled machine.
Decision 2: What Results Should This Procedure Produce?
Specific, measurable results make your entire business predictable. The only way you’ll ever get predictable results is if you make your expectations clear, and design systems to achieve them.
Plus, as your business grows, your managers or leaders will have clear standards to evaluate an employee’s performance. And by clearly identifying the result the system is designed to achieve, you’ll easily be able to identify whether the system is still relevant, useful, and effective when revisiting it in the future.
Decision 3: When Should the Work Be Done?
The timing and frequency of when a procedure should be executed is often missing from entrepreneurial companies. Is this procedure something that should be done daily? Three times a week? Every Monday? The first day of the month?
If you don’t specify, the odds are exceedingly high the procedure will either be done haphazardly… Or not be done at all. Neither makes your business predictable or moves you closer to the successful business you want. So, make sure every system developed in your business clearly identifies when and how often the procedure should be done.
Decision 4: Why Is the Work Important?
Explaining why the work needs to be done helps ensure that team members achieve their goals. Your team members need to know why something is important. Employees often see only their work process. They don’t know how their work fits into the big picture. This makes it difficult to optimize your team’s performance.
Another important reason to make sure you document why the work is important (especially online) is that things are always changing. What might have been a good reason for executing a system can change. By clearly documenting the reason the procedure needs to be done, you’ll make it easier to determine (later on) if the procedure should be stopped, modified, or changed.
Decision 5: How Should the Procedure Be Completed?
This step is what most entrepreneurs think of when they think about systemizing. It’s where the rubber meets the road… Where the procedure is documented in a “step-by-step” manner. No matter who is doing the work, they can do it exactly the same way each time. And, more importantly, generate the same results each time, too.
If you’re already doing the task or activity, the easiest way to record the process is to do the task or activity and record the steps on a piece of paper as you do them. If the entire process is done on the computer, another way to document your system is to use screen capture video recording software (like Camtasia or Screenflow) while doing the process. Then after you’re done, watch the video and record the steps.
If you’re not currently doing the task or activity in your business… But you’ve decided it’s something that should be done… I recommend you do some research to determine an exact procedure for completing that task.
When I am creating systems like these, I generally create a rough outline of the steps recommended… Then attempt to execute the process. Often I’ll identify missing steps that I’ll need to add to my outline when going through the steps on my own.
Documenting Your New System
After you’ve identified all of the system’s key elements, you need to document your decisions. This can include checklists, details, pictures, diagrams, and videos.
Here’s where all the steps we just covered come together into a formalized system. It absolutely must be done. Because the steps won’t be followed, and the expected results won’t materialize via
mind reading, a one-time conversation, or when it is discussed in a meeting.
An effective process must be set in concrete. That means creating it in hard copy. Then publishing it. And then ensuring it is implemented.
A mistake that many businesses make is that they don’t have a formalized, consistent way of documenting their procedures. The problem with that is three-fold: First, important information is often missing. Second, it’s not as easy to simply pick up a system and follow it. Third, it sends the wrong signal to current and future employees because it’s sloppy and disorganized.
By making procedures identical in presentation, their individual instructions will come through loud and clear without becoming confused by various style or tone variations. This is where you come in. It’s up to you to keep things on track.
That’s why after each system is created and drafted, either you or one of your employees needs to standardize the systemized procedure into a formal document for distribution… And put it into your procedure manuals.
Use digital pictures with call-outs, checklists, arrows, and diagrams clearly defining exactly how each procedure is to be accomplished or what the end result should look like.
Step #4 – Test It Out and Tweak
The first draft of a system is almost always less than perfect. Once a new system is documented it needs to be tested. I recommend that you test each new system in two ways.
First, have whoever developed the system follow the outlined steps to see if anything needs to be fixed. If anything needs tweaking, he or she can make the necessary corrections.
Next, give the documented system to someone else in your company. This person should have less knowledge than the system’s creator. The goal here is to determine whether or not someone unfamiliar with the procedure can easily follow the system. This is normally where glitches will surface. Any issues should be sent back to the creator for revision.
The cycle repeats itself until someone other than the system creator can easily execute the system.
Step #5 – Install and Implement With Training
Now that the system has been tested out, there’s one final step before it gets rolled out. That is your approval.
As the owner, you want to sign off on the new procedures incorporated into your business. You want to make sure each system is consistent with your overall vision and values, and in line with your strategic objectives.
Once a system has been approved, it’s time to give it to anyone who will be responsible for executing it… And train them in executing it exactly as it’s laid out.
The key is to train everyone to use the system. Insist that everyone do it per the company standard – no exceptions, including you. If anyone protests or has a better idea, let them put the item back on the “Fix-It List” for further revision.
Step #6 – Monitor and Improve
You or a manager should revisit your systems every six months. This way, you can ensure that they are being used properly and are working well. Continue looking for problems to fix… Things that go wrong… And systems that need improving.
One area that you (or your system manger) must revisit is this: Are employees following the systems exactly as they are documented? Your employees will not always want to follow the systems. Over time they may revert to doing things their own way instead of the company standard… If you let them. So don’t let them. Simply have someone manage the systems and ensure they are being followed.
As you install more and more systems and train your employees to use them, your job will change. You’ll transform from doer to coach… From micromanager to leader… And ultimately from entrepreneur to Founder. You will go from controller of the work… To manager of the systems… To a Founder who owns a business that is systemized.
A Final Warning
A word of caution: Be reasonable.
You don’t want to create an unwieldy bureaucracy by writing up procedures for problems that are random or infrequent… Or problems that have little chance of resurfacing. You also don’t want to create systems for insignificant activities either.
The danger of systemization is in creating too many insignificant systems… And ultimately being inundated with batches of rarely used procedures. This creates unnecessary complexity due to the sheer volume of information.
A good guideline is to only create systems you’re willing to continually enforce. Only create systems you want executed exactly the same way every time. If it’s not that important, then you shouldn’t waste the time creating a system for it.
A System to Create Systems
What you want to create are the precise instructions for creating systems in your business. That way, you don’t have to be the only one creating them. Consider it the “Mother of All Procedures”: The outline for the several hundred systems that are necessary for your operation. This document ensures that each system will share the same tone and format.
I suggest you modify and personalize the steps I’ve just laid out for you. Make them your own. Detail exactly the steps that every system will go through from inception to it being installed and performed inside your company.
For more on Rich Schefren’s Frustration Elimination Process, go here.