That word. “System.” Not exactly sexy. It comes from the from Greek systema, which means an “organized whole, a whole compounded of parts.”
Doesn’t that sound fun?! Organizing everything and compounding it? C’mon!
This one little term also brings to mind computers, wires, spreadsheets. The phrase “working it’s way through the system” is code for “moving through irritating red tape and bureaucracy in an agonizingly slow fashion.”
But what can a system do for you and your business?
Oh that’s all kinds of sexy.
It can free up your time. It can make you more money. It can cut down on customer complaints and returns and headaches. It can increase employee satisfaction. It can make your business so buttoned up and predictable that it becomes attractive to buyers!
It can make your life a hell of a lot easier, in other words.
So try thinking of a system as less of a spreadsheet and more as your own personal, charming Miss or Mr. Moneypenny. Your good-looking, clever, uber-efficient assistant who you can always turn to show you the way.
Picture your own George Clooney or Marilyn Monroe if it helps.
Now before we get into what a good system is, we need to talk about what it isn’t. It’s not a spreadsheet or a bunch of documents.
Those are simply the physical recording of your system or systems. They are touch points you can turn to when you or your staff needs reminding on how the system works.
And a system isn’t something you summon from thin air. Even if you have never put thought into creating a system, guess what? You already have one. It’s probably just a bad one.
It’s like when business owners sit down and have a meeting about How to Create a Great Company Culture. Chances are that, unless they had this meeting within the first few days of the business being created, that they actually already have a culture in place.
It may not be the culture they wanted and it may be broken and loaded with low morale, but oh it’s there. It exists, for better or worse.
So if you’re reading this now and you have never actively tried to put a good clean business system in place, I guarantee you have some bad systems hanging around. You and your staff probably run through all kinds of inefficient routines and regular activities on a weekly, if not daily basis. Time to give those systems a makeover.
You may have a Phyllis Diller of a system right now, but with a little spit and polish, we can transform her into a true bombshell.
Now, I won’t be able to detail how to create every business system you need in the space of this blog post. There’s a lot of fantastic, granular instruction out there to help you do that. (My absolute favorite is the E-Myth series. I use these teachings in my own business to great effect and I recommend it highly.)
But what I can do here is to help you wrap your mind around some basic systematizing principles. Gear you up for battle, so to speak, and plant some useful guidelines in your head before you even begin the process of systematizing.
And, just before your mind starts thinking of the overwhelming number of systems to “create”, try starting with one a week. Then, once that’s manageable, try upping to two a week.
This is how I do these things. Gradually, habits develop and, before you know it, you create one a day (that’s over 200 a year) or, better still, it becomes part of the starting phase of every new doing.
10 Tips to Streamline Your Systems
1. Change Your Mindset
The first, and perhaps most important, thing to do is to change your mindset. You are not your business. Your system is your business. Only by removing you from the process can you truly create a business that can run without you, should you ever choose to sell or heck – go on vacation!
2. Create a FoolProof System
This brings me to the next principle. You want to create a system that virtually anyone can run. You want to make it foolproof, literally. There’s a reason McDonald’s can be almost completely managed by low-paid teenagers. They put so much time into creating a foolproof system that it’s almost unbreakable.
There are four general areas that you can systematize.
3. Look Outside Your Own Company
Look outside your own company for ideas on how to systematize. Don’t be afraid to research and duplicate other systems. Start with what makes most sense to you but don’t limit to that. There may be ways of systematizing certain processes that haven’t even occurred to you yet!
4. Leave Room For Tweaking
Your systems should not only focus on improving your business, it should also leave room to eventually tweak and improve the system itself. For instance, retail stores expect and factor in the inevitability of shoplifted items (they call it “inventory shrinkage” I believe.)
So should your systems factor inevitable inefficiencies down the line. And have a plan in place for addressing them.
5. Set a Goal
Every system should have one goal and one goal only. It is lowering costs? Increasing customer satisfaction? Is it making the work easier? Get crystal clear on “the point” of the system and make sure it’s communicated to everyone who touches it.
6. Who Owns the System?
Every system should also have one person or role who ‘owns the system.’ This helps keep the system from being altered and also helps with accountability.
7. Feedback is Needed
Speaking of that person, make sure you give him or her feedback. When the system is followed and seems to be working – thank them! Reward them if you can. Not only will they be happier and more likely to follow the system the next time, it’s just the cool boss thing to do.
8. Measure Your Systems
“That which gets measured, gets improved.” Make sure you are measuring your systems and monitoring if they are indeed reducing mistakes or time on task. Or maybe they are increasing other metrics like profits. Either way, keep close track to see if The System Is Working.
9. Be Flexible
And finally, systems need to be flexible. It’s one thing to adhere to a system and let it do it’s magic. But if your system ends up creating consistently frustrated employees or worse – angry customers – abort! Tear it down to the studs and put a new system in place.
- You can systematize your marketing efforts, to help streamline how leads come in to your business.
- You can systematize your sales process, putting rules around how your staff follows up on those leads and attempts to convert them into sales.
- You can also create a fulfillment system, which will help you deliver your goods or services in the most efficient way possible.
10. Put the Right Systems in Place
And finally, you should put systems in place around the administration of your company. Anything that supports the rest of it: accounts, facilities, human resources, customer service, etc.
So let’s hear from you. Do you have systems in place? Where? If you haven’t implemented any systems, why not? Have you ever created systems that haven’t worked?
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