Why We Resist Systems
I know, systems aren’t sexy. They don’t call out to you “implement me and I’ll make your life/business like heaven on earth”. See, I know you – you are creative, passionate, innovative – you want to do your business, not spend your time setting up processes and procedures. You are the magic ingredient in your business and you want to be the one to sprinkle your magic dust. After all, there is no one else who can do what you do, like you do it. And of course, who hasn’t heard the saying “if you want something done right, do it yourself”? So when I start talking about systems, your eyes glaze over and your mind wanders on to more exciting things. You have convinced yourself that systems equal limitations – it means you are boxed in and your creativity is stifled. Besides, if you are a one man/woman shop, why do you need systems in place anyway? I hope you will stick with me a minute while I share five reasons you need systems in your business.
Why We Need Systems
There are many reasons, and benefits, to having systems in place for our business, starting with
Consistency: When processes are documented, anyone could handle a task or fill an order, or complete a given action consistent with the required standards. Solopreneurs often fear bringing on additional help because they are afraid the quality of their products or services will suffer. The truth is we can avoid a dip in quality if we have standard operating procedures.
Efficiency: Another reason/benefit of having systems in place is the ability to streamline processes. When there is one, consistent way to handle a task, there is no doubt that it gets done and done right.
Accountability: Whether a one-person business or a multi-person organization, you need to organize and documents your processes to ensure accountability to the work that needs to be done and to your bottom line. Especially when you start to hire, you want to ensure everyone is working towards the same outcomes. Having documented processes allows you to both clarify accountabilities and hold others (and yourself) to those accountabilities.
Freedom: Quick quiz – as a solopreneur or small business owner, when was the last time you were able to go on vacation, or just take a bit of time off for yourself? What happens when you get sick? What if you want to increase your revenue? That means you must work harder and longer because you are doing it all or oversee it all yourself. When you have streamlined the processes with which you carry out the functions of your business, you free up your time and energy to do other things. You have duplicatable processes that others can take on and both they, and you, know they are doing it “right”.
Growth: Scaling your business is possibly one of the most important reasons to have documented systems in place. If you want to ensure the growth of your company, you must have systems in place that support that growth. Keeping the operations manual in your head (or the heads of your employees who are experts in a given area) keeps you small. And if something happens to you or those expert employees, your business is devastated.
Mo’ Money: Some time ago I heard a “definition” for systems that has stuck with me: Saves You Stress, Time, Energy & Money. Focus allows you to create greater income. When you are less stressed and can avoid being pulled in a million different directions, you can focus your time and energy on innovations, improvements, connections and selling – all of which can improve your bottom line.
Systems You Need to Define NOW
So, hopefully I have successfully convinced you that you need systems in your business. Now you may be wondering just which systems you should implement, and when. The when is easy – if you are just starting out, do it as you go along. Document what works and how it worked so that you can repeat it (or train it). If you have an established enterprise, start immediately to document your processes (and those of your employees if you have any). While it can be time consuming, it is well worth it in the long run.
A few keys to keep in mind:
First, any function that is vital to running your business effectively and efficiently should be systematized. For example, if you run a coaching practice and you have clients, you should have an onboarding process in place to ensure a consistent experience in which all bases are covered from signed documentation to resource access and everything in between.
Second, processes should be clearly stated (written) and easy to follow so that, in your absence, someone else could follow them and provide the experience you desire to your customer. After all, at some point you will want to scale your business and someone else will have to carry out that task. Documenting as you build your systems will allow you to prepare in advance for your growth.
Finally, you will want to document functions that are replicable – generally, a one time/one-off task doesn’t need to be documented. However, it can make sense that if you encounter such a task, you may want to document how you dealt with it so that, someone in your absence encountering the same situation, will have a potential solution to reference.
That said, here are the main systems you will want to ensure are in place to support and grow your business.
Marketing: If you are interested in launching, running or growing a business, this system is vital to your success. Without a marketing system in place, no one knows about you; and if no one knows about you they cannot buy from you You must make decisions and document procedures for how you market your business and sell your services. For example: Do you use FB or IG? How often do you post? Do you run ads? How are those ads developed? What is the vetting process? When do they run? How much do you spend per ad – or determine how much to spend? What are the metrics you use to determine effectiveness?
Suggestions: If you’re in an online business, check out www.fizzle.com or www.digitalmarketer.com for insight, training, tips and resources. For businesses of all types www.forbes.com has a plethora of articles, tips, and resources, as does www.entrepreneur.com and also check out www.kissmeetrics.com for customer conversion and engagement. To develop marketing materials, consider www.canva.com, www.crello.com, or www.stencil.com.
Finance: Mastering your money is vital for growing your business and that requires systems in place to ensure you are paying attention to the things that matter most. You need to be able to track more than how many sales you made, for how much money and how much that cost you. While those are important metrics, without a comprehensive financial picture, you are not able to truly understand if your business is thriving or merely surviving.
Suggestions: Use tools like www.getharvest.com, www.due.com or www.quickbooks.com to get a handle on your money. And don’t forget to have a conversation with a financial professional to ensure you are setting up the right metrics and tools to support and grow your business.
Product/Service/Event Development: If you are developing a product, service or event, you know there are so many moving parts it is hard to keep up with it all. Using tools to help automate the process will definitely help – and ensure you stay on track and within budget.
Suggestions: Check out www.planview.com for product development help. There are webinars, white papers and other resources to help guide you along the process, along with the automation tools. Sites like www.monday.com and www.asana.com, along with www.evernote.com provide tools that can help keep things on track and organized, while creating ease of access for your whole team.
Customer Experience/Fulfilment: Once your ads are successful and you connect with potential clients, how is that connection facilitated? What documentation is required? How do clients communicate with you? If you have a sales funnel in place, what are the components of that funnel and how do you move people along within it?
Suggestions: Tools such as www.activecampaign.com, www.ontraport.com or www.hubspot.com (great for marketing also) can help you simplify processes and enhance your customer experience.
Leadership: Before you grow your business, it is imperative that you have documented processes (systems) in place to develop job descriptions, hire/promote and train employees. Having systems in place for the process of hiring and promotion, training and supporting your employees is equally as important as having systems for dealing with customers. It will definitely save you stress, time, energy, and money!
Suggestions: Check out www.eSimplified.com for information on a free business retreat designed to help you focus all five areas of building systems for your business.
A Few Final Things to Keep in Mind
When designing your systems keep in mind that some tasks may not be efficient, effective or necessary to your business, and if so, they should be dealt with accordingly. Remember that as a business owner, your time is valuable. There are likely tasks you are undertaking that could be more efficiently handled by someone else – these you should delegate. You may feel that you have no one to delegate to, however if you check out Fivrr.com or some of the other freelance sites, you can often find inexpensive labor to take some of these tasks off your hands for a reasonable rate. And if you use that off-loaded time to generate more marketing and sales, you can more than make up the “cost” of labor.
There are likely some tasks that you could automate to save you time and energy. I have included some of those as suggestions above, but really there are so many tools out there, you just need to research and see what works best for your needs. The key is to automate as much as possible so that you are not caught up in having to carry out tasks “below your pay grade” and which can, and should, be easily replaced by automation.
If you evaluate and see that a given effort isn’t providing an adequate ROI and really does not enhance your process, product or service, consider eliminating it all together. Especially as a small business owner, it is so important that you are focused on doing tasks that take your business forward. You cannot afford inefficiency of tine or effort. Eliminating something that isn’t working or isn’t serving you will free you up to focus on what matters most and brings about the best ROI.
Tanya Michelle is Chief LifeScape Architect at Tanya Michelle International, a coaching and consulting firm focused on helping entrepreneurs build a life and business that is wholistic, fulfilling, authentic and aligned with their life purpose and accountable to the actions required to accomplish it. Ultimately, Tanya Michelle works with individuals to create their someday, every day, and live the legacy they want to leave. You can find Tanya Michelle at www.tanyamichelle.com, on Facebook or Instagram.