So, who here wants to talk about systems? Hands anyone? Anyone want to watch paint dray? Ahhhh, more hands went up there!
What is a system? They go by the names SOPs, standard operating procedures, processes or myriad other names.
Most small business owners avoid systems like the plague. In my experience, this is true for plumbers, electricians, lawyers, doctors, biotech company, and all other fields. This is true even though systems are one of the best way to increase your revenue and profits! They let you get “stuff” done consistently, on time, and efficiently. This leads to more customers, satisfied customers who stay with you, and more revenue and profit.
Without systems, every interaction with a customer or action in your business, would seem like a new experience. You would need to figure out how to do the work each time. Service and products would be inconsistent (a major factor that will cause many customers to leave you) and you will lack efficiency.
How Do You Create Systems?
Why do systems have a bad name? Basically, because many people, business owners and managers included, don’t know how to write them. They are often written wrong so they don’t cover everything they need to and/or are hard to follow. Sometimes the systems actually make the job more time consuming than doing the work without them.
There is an art to writing systems. When writing systems, the first thing to realize is that systemization is something that you start and never finish. You will eventually need to modify and update your systems and procedures. You will also add new activities to your business for which you need to create systems.
There have been many books written about systemization such as Bradley J Sugars’ (the Founder of ActionCOACH) “Instant Systems”. Here are a few basics to help you get started:
- List all the tasks you, as the owner, perform. One good place to start systematizing your business is to decide which tasks you don’t like, are not good at, or take up a large chunk of your time. Start by systematizing these and hand them off. This buys you time to work ON your business rather than IN your business. Use the time you just saved to create other systems. If you have a team, delegate the process of writing the systems to those who do the work.
- List/flow chart all activities done in your business. This exercise will give you the scope of the project ahead of you and will take significant time and thought. Include: sales, marketing, HR, hiring, accounting, operations, management, writing systems, training, and all other tasks done. This is a good time to consider why you do each task in your business and if you should keep doing the task, outsource it, or simply stop doing it.
- Write your procedures. These can be very simple or complex but should include:
- Who/what position will perform the procedure.
- A list of all materials needed and where they can be found. This is especially important if the materials may not always be in the same place or for people who don’t perform the procedure often.
- Step by step instructions simple enough that a new hire of that level can perform the task with little more than reading the instructions.
- What to do when there is a problem. What action does someone take? Who do they alert?
- What is the expected output. “This recipe makes 48 muffins” is VERY different than “this recipe makes 480 muffins”.
- What are the quality checks to make sure the procedure was performed correctly?
- Finally, you need to train your team in the new systems. Too many times business owners think that handing a procedure to an employee constitutes training. There is a method to training that needs to be followed for effective handoff of duties.
As a business coach, my experience is that most businesses can benefit significantly from improving their systems to run efficiently and effectively. People in these companies waste time reinventing the wheel constantly, the owner constantly feels a need to oversee everything, and the work is not performed as the owner expects. This poor outcome is usually because people don’t really know how to do their job or don’t understand how the owner wants the work done.
When I was Director of Laboratory Operations at Assurex Health, we decreased our turn-around time by 50% without adding new personnel. In fact, our team worked fewer overtime hours. This change was entirely due to streamlining our systems and resulted in significantly happier customers and increased profits.
Bottom line, systems may not be sexy, but they are necessary for peak performance and higher profits for your business.
What is it costing you NOT to implement systems in your business?
If you would like more information about systemization, come out to any of my business building workshops. The next one is Tuesday Dec 6. Register here.