HOY

If you have to show up at your business to get paid, you have a job, not a business. You may have your name on the door, but it’s just a job as if you were working for someone else.

My business partner Megan and I both come from professions that typically pay you to get a job done, usually by the hour. We may get paid hundreds of dollar an hour but we’re nothing different than highly paid factory workers if that’s as far as we take our business.

Recently I’ve been talking about our serendipitous business that just kind of showed up for us. The business started making us about $6,000 a month almost immediately. Once we put our attention and a little marketing on the business, this jumped to $26,000 a month, 6 months after starting. We’re in a sweet spot right now that will probably last for a few more years at this pace, so it’s in our best interest to make money while we can.

But we didn’t want to work ourselves to a frazzle in the business and we also didn’t want to let quality and customer service slip. Up until we met a week ago, the way we kept the quality up was manual redundancy. That means that the work of one person was checked by someone else before it went out to clients. The process is slow, but it’s one way to make sure the quality stays high.

The other way, the better way, is to create systems. Here are 7 steps we used to create systems that work, so we don’t have to (at least not work as much):

Step One: Set up the space. We hung big flip chart sheets on the wall. The four workers in the company: Megan, Richard, Pete and I, each had a stack of sticky notes and a pen.

Step Two: Identify the main processes in your business. In our case we had 5:

(1) Marketing/Sales Cycle
(2) Sale Type #1
(3) Sale Type #2
(4) Sale Type #3
(5) Ongoing/nurture campaign

The Sale Type #1 – #3 are the three items we sell. People may buy one or all or any combination. Each sale has part service and part product involved.

You might notice that there are 6 flip chart sheets in the picture. That’s because (1) Marketing/Sales Cycle ended up extending on to two pages.

Step Three: We then wrote down each of the steps we currently take in the processes. Each step went on a separate sticky note.

Step Four: The sticky notes were then put on the appropriate sheets and together we put them in order. We found there was some duplication and unnecessary steps as we went through it. We also found that we needed to break down some of the sticky notes into more steps. Step Four of the system process was all about adjustment and correction.

Step Five: We now took little tape flags. Each of us had a different color. We then decided as a group who would do what step. We were alert to finding parts of the process that could bottleneck with one person alone being responsible for multiple consecutive steps that were critical path items for others.

Step Six: After the system was completed, edited, expanded and the steps assigned, we wrote up the systems.

Step Seven: The first draft of all systems for the company were now written. Now it’s time to implement and test. It can be tempting to just go back to our old ways, but we all made the commitment to give the new systems a chance. When it’s just you working in your business, systems can seem like a pain. But if you ever plan to build beyond just you, you will need them.

The final stages of the process are test, train and enforce. Time will tell what the final systems look like, but this process, which took about 3 hours, helped us get the initial draft of the working system written lightning fast.