In my experience, one of the biggest mistakes I see you make as a startup or new business owner is to create a business that is totally dependent on you.
That means you are the only one who knows how the business works, you make all decisions, and progress grinds to a halt when you are away. That may make sense on day one, but it will kill you and the business over time.
The alternative is to create systems and processes, starting before the first customer arrives, and providing the resources, documentation, and training to every team member as they come on board. This may seem obvious, but I find that most owners let time and a thousand other startup distractions get in the way. In addition, they have heard all the myths of systemization gone bad.
Thus I was pleased to see a new book, “SYSTEMology,” by David Jenyns, who was trained by the master in business strategy, Michael E. Gerber. In his book, Jenyns provides a step-by-step guide for systemizing your business that is powerful, practical, and simple.
He also debunks the seven most common myths that I hear, which keep many owners from tackling this critical task:
1. Every business needs hundreds of systems to start.
The reality is there are only a few processes that are key to every small business, like the sale, delivery, and support for your primary solution. Remember the 80/20 rule to keep your priorities clear. By defining a few key processes, you will find that you have a business that can be scaled.
2. Only the business owner can create processes.
In fact, you as the owner may not even be the best person for the job. Too many owners are micro-managers, and reluctant to delegate. Every business needs a team with a range of skills to thrive, so your focus must first be on building the right team. By assignment, they can create the processes.
3. Creating systems is time and energy consuming.
By extracting the needed system data from the responsible and experienced people on your team, you will more likely get it right the first time, and also minimize the learning and thinking time that you would have to invest. At least if you work together in two-person teams, it will only take half as long.
4. Systems require expensive and complex software.
In reality, the best approach is always to keep it simple. Don’t fall for the old software sales pitch that more features (that you don’t need now) make it better. Start with the less complex tools to get organized, understanding they can be upgraded as your needs grow, and technology changes.
5. Your team will ignore systems already in place.
People hate complex systems they don’t understand, and will find a way around them. This is all the more reason to keep things simple, and well integrated. Integration is the key to providing real value to your business as it grows, as well as the team. Manage via the systems, and everyone wins.
6. Processes and automation destroy creativity.
You won’t get much creativity from a team of overworked people manually trying to deal with more cases. Good systems will give them the space to look ahead and inspire them to scale the business. You need that creativity to address new growth opportunities, not find more ways to do the same thing.
7. Systems don’t pay back until they are optimized.
Optimizing processes always has value, but don’t make that your top priority. Providing consistency and measurability is the major contribution of a good process, so you don’t need perfection. Build a dashboard to measure performance, and listen to the needs of the business for new requirements.
Some franchising business, such as McDonald’s, have taken their systemization to the Olympic level as a key to their competitiveness in a highly saturated market. Unless you are in a similar domain, I suggest that you don’t need perfect systems in order to thrive.
The real challenge for every business is to keep up with changes in the market, and to maintain growth through new and repeat customers. Ignore the myths often associated with processes and systemization, to allow these to give you the time and energy to focus on building your business, rather than day-to-day operations and survival.
You may even find time to take a vacation.