When you hear someone talk about creating systems, do you tend to cringe or get excited?
If you’re like most business owners and/or entrepreneurs, chances are you tend to cringe and think, “Oh no, I hate those things!”
- They probably seem too constraining/confining.
- They probably seem too boring.
- They probably seem like vampires upon your soul (i.e. like “soul suckers”).
I get that. However, there is another way to think about systems and that’s that they’re freedom granters.
You see, until you get what you and your business do into documentable and effective systems, you’re held captive to your business (i.e. you’re enslaved to it). However, when you build a more scalable business (one that’s built on systems), you create freedom for yourself where you have all kinds of options (and having more options is always good).
So, if you’d like to build a more scalable business and get your life back (i.e. experience the kind of freedom you envisioned when you started your business), you’ll want to keep reading this post on the five steps to creating systems that actually help you scale your business.
If you’re ready, here you go …
Step 1 – Design
The first step in creating any system is for you to do a data dump—either from your own experience of doing that task or from your own research about how to do that task. For example, since you’re reading this as a blog post, let’s pretend that you’ve been writing the blog posts for your company’s website for the past few years and you’re ready to have someone else take over that task.
Using the principle of this first step, you’d simply do a data dump of what you’ve been doing over the past few years to create a step-by-step procedural guide for how someone could post a new blog post on your website. Seems simple enough. And it is, until you get to step two.
Note: as you’re thinking about some areas where you might want to create a system here are a few to get your brain started
- How to obtain and process leads
- How to close a prospect who’s pushing back
- How to screen resumes so you don’t have to do all the screening yourself
- How to ask for referrals so your people know how to get more referrals
- How to sep up a new customer on your CRM
- How to reduce A/R (i.e. how to decrease the average number of days before you’re paid)
- How to conduct an outbound sales call
- How to run an effective meeting
- How to complete a performance review
Which brings us to …
Step 2 – Test
Once you get version 1.0 completed (your data dump), the next step is to test your first version—and there are the two tests you’ll want to run.
1. The first test is what I call the “You Test.”
In other words, before you pass your system on to someone else, you should first sit down and try to complete that task using the procedures you just laid out in v. 1.0.
If you’re a normal human being, chances are you’ll discover that you’ve missed a few steps. Why? Because once you know something it’s difficult to remember what it’s like to not know that thing.
In our example, you might notice that you start with something obvious like “Click on ‘Add new post.’” However, since you’re trying to think like someone who doesn’t do this task regularly, it might dawn on you that you might need to start by explaining how to actually log into your WordPress dashboard (or whatever platform you’re using) and show where to click to add a new post.
Note: having done this for years with clients, I can assure you that while this might seem like a simple and obvious thing, it isn’t 🙂
2. The second test is what I call the “Normal Human Being Test.”
In other words, before you roll out a system, you need to watch another person try to accomplish the task you’re systematizing WITHOUT you telling them how to do that task. This way you’ll actually discover if your directions really are complete or not.
In addition, when I use the phrase, “Normal Human Being” I want to emphasize that the person doing the test doesn’t have to be the person who will actually be completing the task. Whenever you create a system, you want to design it so that anyone (a normal human being) who uses your system’s instructions should be able to complete that task and get a successful result. Which brings us to …
Step 3 – Revise
Steps two and three are a virtuous cycle. After you’ve gone through your system (“The You Test”) and discovered you missed some steps or information, you’ll revise it to v. 1.1
Version 1.1 is the system you’ll use to complete the “Normal Person Test.” Once you observe another human being trying to use your system, you’ll probably need to revise your system to create v. 1.2.
In our blog post example, you may notice that when this person tries to create subheads they try to use a larger font size (something that works in the short-term but will be a problem in the future if you ever change your theme or headings in WordPress). So, in v. 1.2 you might revise your system by adding the statement, “When creating subheads, select the text for the subhead and then click on Headings 2 from the drop down box labeled ‘paragraph.’” Simple. Easy. Done.
Now, you could go through multiple cycles of “test and revise” but …
Your goal shouldn’t be to create the perfect system right off the bat. Your goal should be to get this task systematized as soon as possible and handed off to someone else.
It can get “perfected” later. What you want to do at this stage is get an 80/20 system out the door (i.e. a ‘good enough’ solution), which brings us to …
Step 4 – Train
Once you’ve designed, tested and revised your first version of your solution, the next step is critical, you have to train people in how to use it effectively. One of the most common mistakes in creating systems is thinking that once a task is systematized your work is done. However, that’s far from correct. Just because a system is codified in a procedure manual or a checklist or a video etc. doesn’t mean that it’ll be executed correctly.
For example, let’s say the system you’re working on is a sales presentation. Just because you’ve written out or video taped how to present your sales pitch doesn’t mean that Joe or Mary or Malik will execute it flawlessly. There are issues related to nonverbals and intonation, mindset and confidence that can’t be translated fully on paper. Or just because someone has read through a presentation system doesn’t mean they can do it flawlessly in front of a prospect—which is why training is critical to creating great systems.
In our example here, you might write a post and have them watch you post it. Then you might write a post and have them post it while you watch. Then you might have them write a post that you check before they post it. Then you might have them write and prepare a post without you watching (but wait until you preview it before hitting publish). And then you might have them do it all on their own.
Now, if you’re thinking, “This sure seems like a lot of work?” may I remind you that you’re taking time up front to save you MASSIVE time on the back-end. That’s the beauty of systems. Once you get this off your plate with a good system in place and a trained person to do it, you’ll be saving yourself hundreds of hours on the back-end. So, hang in there. Good systems design and training always pay off. However, there’s one last step before you’re done and that’s …
Step 5 – Optimize
This last part is my favorite—and one of the reasons why you shouldn’t be afraid of creating systems. Why? Because systems aren’t designed to be static, they’re meant to be improved and optimized. They’re not meant to be lifeless but living, breathing ecosystems.
So, once you have version 1.2 out in service, the next step is for the owner of that system (which hopefully won’t be you) to design some tests to improve that system. They should regularly be tweaking all of the systems under their control because rarely is anything ever optimized. Remember, in creating version 1.2 you weren’t trying to create the perfect system; you were simply trying to get a “good enough” version out the door.
It’s now the owner of that system whose job should then be to work on v. 1.3 through v. 2.0 through v. 3.0 etc.
In other words, systems shouldn’t be static, they should be dynamic.
Now, can you do this? Absolutely! You can take virtually anything in your business and/or anything that you do and run it through these five steps. And the sooner that you do that, the more freedom you’ll experience and the more scalable your business will become. It’s just …
That said, there’s only one last question left to ask, “What’s the next system you need to create for your business (or ‘What’s the next thing you need to get off your plate’)”?
Whatever that one thing is, do it. You’ll be glad you did.
To your accelerated success!