As a Mentor/Coach to small business practices, I’ve had a chance to talk to many small owners who have common afflictions in their businesses:
- working long hours
- difficulties with staff
- recruiting and hiring good staff
- training and education
- tough to cultivate company culture
- clients who are fickle, that is, not loyal
- clients don’t appreciate the work it take for all design services
- not having a good handle on their finances
- inconsistent marketing
- business development which is driven by immediate need
- no clear short or long term plans for their business
- repeating mistakes
Your practice may not have all these afflictions, but if you check a few of these boxes, will negatively impact the enjoyment of your business if their left unaddressed. Worse, they can cause your team to operate less than its capability. Fortunately, there is a solution to this problem: a systems based office.
A system is a written step-by-step instructions on how to complete a task within a business environment.
All aspects of business may by systematized. If your small business is afflicted by any or all of the common problems outlined above, I recommend you consider developing a systems approach to your business.
When I’ve engaged these small business owners, one of the questions I ask “tell me about your business systems.” Their response is “of course my business runs with business systems.” When I probe deeper they say “all my business systems are in my head.” Then I ask “how is this working for you?”
I usually get on of two responses to this questions.
The first response is very defensive and no matter what I say about the usefulness and importance of systems, they have a counter argument. Their arguments are as follows:
- we don’t have time to develop systems
- our staff would resist change if we went to a systems culture
- our staff would not follow the systems
- developing systems would take away too much time from production
- developing systems would cost too much
- systems change so we’d have to continue to rewrite our existing systems
- systems do not permit creativity
- systems would make us inflexible
- we already have checklists and forms, so we don’t need systems
- you cannot systematize design
The other response I often hear is one of curiosity. People in this camp want to know exactly what systems are and what means are required to develop their own business systems. These responders are the ones that can potentially become systems thinkers and leverage the power to catapult their business toward greater success.
Over the past 5 years I’ve witnessed numerous clients who have made considerable progress with their system-centered approach to business. Their businesses have been positively impacted and they continue to further develop and refine their systems, to offer continuously improved services for their clinets
Cynthia Dovell, Avid Architecture, started her firm 2 years ago says:
“The Program’s learning content takes a systematized approach, that corresponds to all the areas of running a business in a systematic way. This has allowed me to be thorough and organized in the areas of planning, finances, human resource management, marketing and business development in addition to the more familiar aspect of client satisfaction. Like many architects, I am a visual thinker. The program has helped me to diagram and lay out actionable steps, visualizing all the business systems in a way that resonates with me.”
Aaron Batty, A.B Electrical Engineering Inc, and his brother Andrew, started their firm 5 years ago says:
“The systemized approach has given us a completely new prospective on business. Specifically the key frustrations process; which takes any frustration, finds the root of the problem, then turns it into an opportunity to improve the company. No more do I lie awake at night worrying about my problems. We have developed processes for financial tracking, quality control of out-going work, and human resource problems. I now have peace of mind knowing that all aspects of my business are running smoothly.”
Mindy Gudzinski Architect, started her firm 1 year ago says:
"Creative thinkers tend to get bogged down by day-to-day tasks that cloud their mind and stifle their creative initiative. The Mentor’s teachings provide individuals with a framework, that is, tools to deal with business tasks in a systematic & routine way that effectively clears the mind of clutter and allows the creative ideas to flow freely."
Keri Ramirez, Celtic Management Services Inc, took over the family business 3 years ago says:
“We have been working with our Mentor for a little over a years now and since that time we have been able to eliminate 2 positions in our office and increase our net revenue by 10%. We now have a streamlined systems process in place. Our lunch-and-learns have become an invaluable process for both myself and my team where we continue to enhance our systems culture.“
All of these firms have adopted a systems culture in their businesses and have begun to reap the benefits. I continue to work with them as a consultant to enhance their progress.
To shift towards a system-based practice, you begin with the following manatras:
Firstly “Unless it is written, it is not a system”
Secondly “Unless the system in integrated into the day-to-day work of the office, it is not a system”
Thirdly “Each system must be regularly evaluated and updated. All system users are evaluated on their diligence in use of each system”
Moving to a systems base office culture:
1. Make an unqualified commitment to changing to a systems culture. Don’t bite off more than you can chew early on, or be in a hurry to get all the systems in place too rapidly. Establish a pace to realistically identify, write and introduce each system so it will not unduly interfere with current work taking place in the office.
2. Start with one system. Learn the process of systems writing. Clearly identify what the system is intended to improve. Enlist the input of the users.
3. The systems must have all the necessary information, without anything superfluous. Achieving this balance will take some practice. Write and rewrite the systems to make them clear, simple and precise. I find systems written in point form are easier to follow. The length of each system should be 1 or 2 pages, 3 pages maximum for the more complex systems.
4. Annotated flow diagrams help understand more complex systems. This is especially useful when rolling out systems for the first time and also for teaching new staff members.
5. Each system to have a ‘first’ step and a ‘final’ step. This permits management to monitor and evaluate the system user after the final step.
6. When introducing a new system to the user, preface the presentation that the system will take effect immediately, without exception. Request that each user report aspects of the system that may be difficult to follow. Carefully listen to feedback from system users and seriously consider positive feedback to enhance the system.
7. All company system should be tracked by one person - ‘a Systems Manager’ - who will evaluate the systems on a regular basis, update systems as required, make certain the latest systems are available to the systems users. The Systems Manager reports to the COO the state of the business systems, and how the current systems are in keeping with the company vision and strategic objectives.
What about systems? by Ron Caroll, the systems thinker
Systems are the building blocks of your organization – the better the systems the better your business.
Systems involve every aspect of business – lead generation, customer care, hiring, client fulfillment and many others unique to each company. The primary purpose of systems to find and keep customers, eliminate inefficiency and waste and make you stand out in your market like a petunia in an onion patch. Systems are the rules to your ballgame if business. Your business will prosper to the extent that you become a master a creating and using them.
Systems thinking will raise your business I.Q. by 80 points.
As a systems thinker, you will have a better view of the details of you business –what’s working and what is not. You will be able to get to the root cause of problems along with clearly seeing the solutions to them.
Once you have begun Systems Thinking in your business you will get an Ah-Ha moment. From then on you, you’ll never look at your business the same way again.
A High Performance Business System is the master skill of the entrepreneur – nothing else will remove more frustrations, problems and pain, or put more money in your pocket.
Well written and run systems are the solution to all your operational problems – dissatisfied customers, underperforming employees, waste and efficiency, weak sales, poor cash flow and low profit margins. You can manage and improve your systems by applying the correct principles.
The ability to create effective business systems is the most important skill you can have and the best means to create real value of your company especially when your systems constantly get good results."
They will make money for you every day, weather you are there or on holiday.