I confess that I used to hate the thought of systems. Starting my first business was all about freedom. Being my own boss. Setting my own hours. All of that was true, except those hours started getting longer and longer. Then I added other people to help me. And things got even more chaotic.
I was either constantly reinventing what I was doing, or trying to remember what it was that I had done before. Not only a total waste of time, but the team I had put together was doing the same thing. Resulting in….you guessed it even more wasted time. Not to mention the team was ready to mutiny, often grumbled loudly and we were all heading for burn out.
Something had to change. And like most things in my business, it was me. I realized that I had to think about systems differently. I began to imagine having the freedom to take a vacation without being tied to my business, knowing it would run smoothly in my absence. Night could be for sleeping, rather than answering e-mails at midnight. My team would no longer be frustrated, wasting time and reinventing the wheel one more time. I even imagined we could actually have more fun doing what we loved.
That felt good, until I broke into a cold sweat thinking about all of the steps, flow charts, post-it notes, and colored pencils it would take to actually create the systems. Realizing my clients were probably experiencing the same thing we were, we rolled up our sleeves and came up with an easy way to think about and create systems.
- Begin to make a list of everything in your business that is done more than once. (Hint: begin. The list will be on-going. You won’t get it done in one, or even two, sittings. So breathe).
- Organize the list into categories. Make these easy to begin with – financial, operations, marketing/sales, project management, etc. This is the start of your master “to do” list for system creation.
- Prioritize the list based upon whatever criteria works best for your business. When working with clients, we start with the systems and processes that are creating the most disruption, frustration and/or impacting on the ability to deliver great service.
- Delegate creating systems to the team members responsible for them. If you are team of one think through the simplest, more effective way of completing a given task.
- Make sure each and every step of the system created is written down. You can create an electronic document, use post-it notes on the wall, or whatever other technique works as long as it is documented.
- Step back and take a look to see if all of the steps are really necessary. Is it the shortest, most efficient way to get a task completed? Is it relevant to your business and supportive of the experience you want your clients to have?
- If the system you are developing touches two departments – for example, the bookkeeper who invoices and the account manager who provides services, make sure that both are involved in creating and refining the system.
- Review, finalize and make sure that the written system is provided to your entire team, and a hard copy is easy to find.
- Consciously evaluate, review and revise systems as your business grows and changes. Always keep top of mind the question: “Is there a better way of doing this?”, and encourage your team to do the same.
Once we got our own systems in place, we experienced less chaos and more time to perform for our clients. In working with clients over the past 10 years we have learned that usually the statement “there are no bad people, just ineffective processes and systems” proves true. The efficiency and profitability of your business can change dramatically once you put systems into place.
If you often feel like you are the hamster running around in the wheel, it may be because you systems and processes are not in place. If your team is not performing the way you would like, it could be you are missing the systems and processes that enable their success.
Want help? Get in touch. We have been there, done that, and would love to help create the right systems for you and your team.