Stephen Barnes is the principal of management consultancy Byronvale Advisors and the author of ‘Run Your Business Better - Essential Information Every Business Owner Should Know and Use’.
Christmas is a great time to take a much needed break, but often it is hard to avoid your business becoming all-absorbing. Putting in place the right systems and processes allows you to take some down time, and work on your business, rather than in it.
If I had a dollar for every time I heard people say they are either too busy to have a holiday, or they couldn’t leave it to others to run the business while they were away, or it wouldn’t be a holiday as they would be tethered to their emails and phone calls and disengaged from their families – I’d be a very wealthy man.
It doesn’t need to be like that. Let me tell you a secret – systemise your business!
Let’s take a look at an example.
Penny the planner is super busy and works around 100 hours each week. She gets up, goes to work, comes home and either falls asleep in front of the TV or drags herself straight off to bed.
Penny is working in the business rather than on the business, and she has really created herself a job and not a business.
Penny’s philosophy at coping with the workload, or not coping as is probably the case, is ‘just do it’, rather than figuring out how to get the work done through using other people who use innovative systems to produce consistent results.
Now, I concede, in theory this is easy and in practice it’s hard, but it takes continual steps forward to climb a mountain. So, make time to systemise your business.
Josh Kaufman in his book The Personal MBA – Master the Art of Business describes systems as:
“… a process made explicit and repeatable – a series of steps that has been formalised in some way. Systems can be written or diagrammed, but they are always externalised in some way. The primary benefit of creating a system is that you can examine the process and make improvements. By making each step in the process explicit, you can understand how the core processes work, how they are structured, how they affect other processes and systems, and how you can improve the system over time.”
Systemising is the process of documenting everything you do in your business – from answering the phone and meeting clients, to pricing work and chasing referrals. There are many ways to do this and some aren’t as daunting as you might expect. Here are some ideas:
Over the course of a week, write down what you are doing – sort of like keeping a log book. Use short sections of time and be quite specific. Use this as a starting point to document the tasks you do every day.
Use voice, video or screen capture technology to document the tasks, e.g. answering the telephone.
When training someone, get them to document the task they are undertaking and then review and refine it. This might take several iterations.
Create an intranet site where your documentation and videos can be stored and accessed from anywhere. It’s very easy to do this. You create a Google Sites account and then a sub-domain to your website with the URL going to Google Sites.
Make a start. The most energy you spend to get something moving is getting it to start.
So, what does documenting and systemising your business do for you? Here are some of the advantages:
It clarifies your thoughts and relieves stress.
It can be used to train staff and provide a resource for staff to refer to, which will increase your staff’s confidence.
It makes you question if there is a better way to do something (part of working on the business, rather than in the business).
It creates the ability for a task to be replicated the way that you want it to be done, without you actually doing it.
It lets you guarantee the quality of work because your staff will follow the same process.
Your uniform processes are simple to audit.
Staff will feel relieved because there is structure.
It lets you sit on a beach in Thailand knowing that tasks are being performed the way you want them to be done.
Without putting systems and processes in place, your business will become all-absorbing, with endless tasks to complete – like painting the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
However, when faced with the reality of their all-absorbing tasks, or finding an alternative, most business owners would rather live with the frustrations and endless tasks, rather than risk enduring new, short-term frustrations of systemising their business.
Systems and processes allow others to share the load. These people then become what a studio recording is to Taylor Swift. A Taylor Swift song can be played by millions of people all at the same time. It sounds the same every time it is played and Taylor Swift collects a royalty every time the recording is played.
So, create a recording – a system – of your business, your talents, your way of doing something and then, like a song, replicate it, market it, distribute it and manage the revenue.
Without putting systems and processes in place, your business will become all-absorbing.
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