You’ve decided you want to systematize your business. How exactly do you do that?
The best way to systematize your business is to document one system at a time.
Documenting means capturing the way you do something and being able to share it easily. Typically you are writing down how the work is done step-by-step and storing your documented systems in operation manuals. You can think of operation manuals as “How to Guides” for each employee to do his or her job.What system should you document first?
To some degree, it doesn’t matter which system you choose to start with. The most important thing is to get started. Pick a system and document it. That said, we recommend and would prefer that you do all work in your business intentionally and by plan.
You and your team can brainstorm and list all of the core systems you need to make your business run. This will become your master systems list. Then go back and organize that list by priority. You will decide which system you need to document first, second and so on. You can turn this prioritized system list into your systematization plan by assigning documentation accountabilities and due dates for each system.
Although you want your entire team involved in helping systematize your business, make sure each system has one person who will be accountable for the actual documentation of that system. Think of each system you want to document as a mini-project, and then the person accountable is like the project manager. Multiple team members can be involved in the documentation of any one system, but only one person is in charge. You can have a documentation specialist or you can use multiple people; I have seen both ways work. The key to your systematization plan, like all good planning, is to have clear accountabilities plus due dates to ensure the work gets done.
A System to Design and Document Systems
Now that you have your systematization plan, it is time to document each system. To ensure consistency across your business you will want a standard way to document each of your systems. A way you can teach your people how to do it. You need a system to design and document systems. Your system to create systems should include a system design template to provide a framework for your people.
Here is our 7-step system to design and document a system:
1. System Title
Pick a system that you want to document and give it a descriptive title. The title will help you understand what the system is used for and help you locate the system when you need it.
2. Determine System Objective
Every system you design and document must have a clear outcome it should produce. Define the result you will achieve with the system. Being clear about what you are trying to accomplish makes it easier to determine the tasks required to produce that result.
3. Create System Work Plan
The work plan is used to capture and document all of the details of the system. You will show the sequential steps (or tasks) required to produce the system results. You will indicate within each step who is accountable for performing that work. You will indicate the timing or due date for each step. You will also include any standards that must be followed when performing each step. The completed work plans are then stored in your operation manuals.
Work plans are most often used to teach your people how to do their work (primarily a training tool). Each work plan is as detailed as you need it to be. Therefore, a work plan may be fairly lengthy; especially for your more complex systems.
Work plans may be the most important part of systematizing your business, because they are capturing “how your business works”. They are your collective knowledge. You are getting how the work is done in your business out of your peoples heads and onto paper. Now the business “owns” how the work is done. It is a form of knowledge management. Documented systems in operation manuals is what makes a franchise so valuable.
4. Create Checklist
The checklist is a simplified version of the work plan. You don’t need all of the details you included in each step of the work plan. Instead you want roughly one sentence or a phrase that reminds the system operator what they need to do in each step. Add a box to “check off” when the step is completed and then you have a checklist.
The checklist is the primary tool used by the system operator. If the work plan is the most important part of systematizing your business, then the checklist is the “work horse”. It is what will be used most often throughout each day.
The person accountable for running each system is first trained how to run the system using the work plan. Then the checklist is used to remind them of the steps required to achieve the system objective. Instead of trying to recall the steps from memory, the checklist is a tool to help your people be more effective and efficient. Additionally it provides feedback to both the person doing the work and their manager. This allows both of them to know how the work is progressing.
5. Create Script
A script is used in systems that have either employee to client conversations or employee to employee conversations. It is a written narrative used to guide a conversation. It is the words the system operator should use. Not every system requires a script. Many systems scripts are not designed to be memorized word-for-word, but learned to guide the conversation. Practicing the script will help the operator feel more comfortable and natural.
6. Create Forms
Forms are used to gather information, data and track the results produced by the system. A well designed system is one that produces a measurable result. A form is used to capture those metrics. Quantification is a key ingredient in the successful design and use of business systems. This data is used to provide feedback to the person using the system, track results produced by the system and used to aid in making improvements to the system.
There is no one type of form that can be used by all systems. You will have to create custom forms based on the type of data the system produces. Typically they tend to be reports or tables in spreadsheets.
7. Implement and Innovate
Just having a documented system doesn’t mean you are finished. You must train your people how to use the system and begin to actually follow the steps in each system. You will want to make sure your people get into the habit of using the documented systems, especially the checklists. One of your goals is to create a process dependent culture in your business. Don’t fall back into the habit of keeping everything your firm does in your peoples head.
The world and your business are dynamic – things change. Your systems need to change as well to keep up. In order to grow and get better at what you do, you will also want to continuously make process improvements. We call this continuous system improvement process innovation.
Don’t be tempted to do too much process improvement when you are initially documenting your systems. Capture how you currently do the work first. Then you can go back later as a separate project and look to improve each system. As a matter of fact, you can make your systematization plan a living document and use it to schedule periodic reviews of each system in your business for possible innovations.Time to Systematize Your Business
Systems occur all over your business; they either just exist in your people’s heads or they are intentionally designed, documented and used. The benefits of documented systems will be seen in performance improvements, increased effectiveness, improved productivity and increased business valuation. Systematizing your business is hard work, but the payoff is they will make your life easier.
If you would like a copy of our system documentation template, contact us and we will email you a PDF version of our template.
Why You Want Systems in Your Business
One of the byproducts of growth and success is that complexity increases in your business and your life. This complexity eventually puts an artificial ceiling on your growth and you feel stuck or like you hit a wall. You are unable to move to your next stage of growth.
In an effort to break through to the next level you fall back on what got you this far, hard work. You work harder and put in additional hours. Unfortunately your time doesn’t scale. This leaves you exhausted, overwhelmed and feeling burnt out. You are no longer confident you know how to break through to the next level.
To move forward we need to take a quick look back and see how you got here.
A common way for a small business to start out is with one person…YOU. Maybe, if you were optimistic, you might have even started with a support person. You had a simple vision to provide a great product or service, while making enough money to live. From a management perspective your business was simple to manage: little or no staff; only a handful of client relationships; and you made all of the decisions = simple.
Eventually you had enough business to add employees. New people were added randomly and layered on, one at a time, to handle the additional work load. People were added as a reaction to the stress of trying to keep up, rather than based on any type of strategic plan. They were hired because they already had “experience” doing the type of work you were hiring them for. You now have a staff of employees all doing things their own unique way.
When you have multiple clients and multiple people complexity increases exponentially. Your span of control and influence begins to exceed your comfort zone. At times you feel the business is “out of control”. At this point you will often take back some of the work or involve yourself in work, just so you feel more in control. You are working harder and longer hours than everyone else and maintaining your workload is a real challenge. It is hard to scale when too much of the business depends on you; therefore it is hard to grow to the next level. You begin to question whether you really want to grow any larger.
To Scale or Not to Scale…What Is Next For You?
On one hand you’re thinking about how you can get your business back to be being simple again; and on the other hand you’re thinking about how to scale and move your business to the next level. What is next for you? Are you going to scale and grow or shrink back to a smaller, simpler version of your business?
What if you could scale and simplify your business; wouldn’t that be ideal? I think you can if you add just one missing ingredient to your business. One of the big weaknesses of most small businesses is they are missing documented systems.
Yes, the path to your next level requires you to focus more of your time on strategic areas of your business like planning, marketing, team building, and profitability. Obviously, these are all important areas that require your attention in order to move forward. Additionally, we have found if you also focus on business systematization you can scale and simplify your business. Systems will free up more of your time to do the strategic work of growing your business.
Systems Are The Solution
Systems are predetermined documented procedures for getting everything done in your business. They are fundamental elements required to ensure all key areas of your business are working. Systems are the way you do what you do in your business – from serving your clients to how you pay your bills. They are the steps, standards and accountabilities required to get things done.
Without systems, you’re just a group of people doing work every day, hoping you each remember the best way to do it. Without documented systems it is very difficult to:
- Teach a new person how work is done, or cross-train a team member.
- Delegate work that you can’t do or would prefer not doing to others.
- Trouble Shoot a problem and trace it back to the root cause.
- Replicate your successes and maximize the firms’ effectiveness and productivity.
- Scale to grow and add team members easily.
Systems are the solution to many of your challenges. Documenting how the most important work of your business gets done is the antidote to complexity. Adding systems to your business is the way to both simplify and scale your business.
You can actually build your scalable business one key system at a time. The way to do that is to think of the business you are building as one big system, comprised of many smaller systems and sub-systems. A good analogy is the human body, which is a complex system comprised of multiple smaller systems like: the nervous system, respiratory system, circulatory system, etc. Your overall health depends on how well each one of your body’s systems is working. Similarly, the health of your business is dependent on how well your business systems are working.
Strategic systematization is your process for identifying all of your key systems, and then designing and documenting each one. You will want to systematize all of the key functions of your business: leadership, management, marketing, service, finance, lead generation and lead conversion.
There are multiple benefits to having a systematized business:
- Enhanced and consistent client experience
- Increase profits
- Increase confidence from your staff
- Knowledge management
- Improved productivity and efficiency
- Scale and leverage
- Increase the value of your business
Systematizing your business is no easy or quick task. For that reason, many small businesses won’t take the time to put systems in place. Sure they agree it is a great idea (like working out and eating right) but most never make it a priority.
However, making strategic systematization a priority in your business will help you overcome many challenges of growth. Systems will allow you to have a life outside the business and still maintain the quality you have set for the business, even as you add new employees. Systems are the secret to growing your business to its next level of success.Read more
Imagine for a moment you are coaching your child’s youth basketball team. You’re on the sidelines. You have to get results from your team, all without you touching the ball, making any baskets or playing defense. How would you do that? You would have to:
- Evaluate team member strengths and weaknesses
- Organize the players by position
- Give them some plays to run (structure)
- Develop each individual player
- Develop them as a team
- Coach your players during the game
It is the coach’s job to improve the team and get results. You would be spending time with the players as a team and as individuals, working on their game.
Back in Your Business
Now you’re back in your office, but instead of you being the main player in your business, I want you to stay on the “sidelines”. Can you get results from your business, without you personally doing the critical work? Of course you can…but how might you do that?
You would apply the same principles needed to coach a basketball team. You must get results from your people, as opposed to you doing everything. Getting results from your people is our definition of management.
Unfortunately many business owners have never been trained in the fundamentals of management. You don’t understand it, you are not good at it, you spend very little time managing and you don’t like “managing people”. You feel much more comfortable doing the work and getting results based on your own efforts. Business owners are some of the hardest working people I know. However, eventually your hard work alone is no longer enough and then it is time to learn how to get results through others – it is time to learn how to become a more effective manager.
Business Management 101
So where do you start? John Wooden, widely considered the greatest basketball coach of all time, spent most of his teams practice time focused on the fundamentals. Here are five business management fundamentals that will get you started on becoming a better manager:
1. Clear roles and accountabilities – In basketball there are clearly defined positions (roles) – guards, forwards and center. Each position has specific accountabilities that they must do during the game in order to be successful. Create and use an organizational chart and position accountability statements. They will give your business the structure it needs, while providing employees clarity about their roles and what is expected of them. Your organization chart and position accountability statements are tools to manage your business.
2. Documented Systems – A sports team captures how things are done in a playbook. In business, capturing how work is done takes the form of systems in operation manuals. Having systems for each position in your firm will help your people to be more productive. Increased productivity leads directly to improved profitability. There are intangible benefits of having systems as well:
- Peace of mind knowing your people know how to do their work
- Increased employee confidence and empowerment because they know what is expected of them
- Confidence knowing you can bring on a new employee and quickly teach them how to run their position
Remember, to be a system, it must be documented and readily accessible.
3. Employee Development Meetings – How often do you meet for a scheduled performance discussions with your people? Some owners will say once per year for annual performance reviews. Is that really enough to help your people improve their performance and produce better results? A more effective way is to have bi-monthly one-on-ones with your people. These meetings are designed to develop employee knowledge and skills required to improve performance. An additional benefit of these meetings is that you will build better relationships with your people.
4. Delegation – Most owners have unintentionally designed and built their businesses to rely too heavily upon themselves. Learning how to effectively delegate not only frees up more of your time, it is necessary if you want to grow beyond you. Delegation is also useful in succession and career development. It’s a great way to test your people’s abilities, discover their strengths and determine what areas they need to work on to move to the next level. Delegation increases your company’s capabilities.
5. Behavioral Coaching – A basketball coach is continually giving players feedback regarding their performance in an effort to win the game. The fastest and easiest way to improve employee performance is behavioral coaching. Observing your people as they work and providing them with feedback based on behavior is employee coaching. Learning how to coach your people is a must if you really want to build a great team. Behavioral coaching is a daily habit for the most successful managers.
Doing vs. Managing – Where do you spend your time?
During any given business day you are frequently required to change hats. At times, you are doing things yourself – your technician role. At other times, you are getting things done through others – your manager role. For the small business owner it is like being both a player and the coach simultaneously. Finding the right balance between these roles is what is going to move your business forward.
One of the reasons a small business gets stuck is because the owner spends too much time doing and not enough time managing. You may simply enjoy doing more than you enjoy managing. You may not naturally recognize the difference between doing and managing. Or, it may be because you were never trained in how to manage people.
Your beliefs about management will also affect the amount of time you spend doing vs. managing. If you believe that the best and highest use of your time is doing the work, you won’t spend much time trying to get results through others. If you believe people should not be managed, you won’t spend time managing. If you believe people should “manage” themselves, you won’t spend any time managing. However, if you would like to grow a scaleable and saleable business then getting results through others is a great use of your time and the way to leverage yourself.
Start spending a little of your time focused on implementing these ideas and you will become a more effective manager. If you need help with any of these concepts contact us to learn how we can help you.
According to research this one question can predict the difference between consistent sustainable growth and working harder and harder to just make a living:
“Are your clients likely to recommend you (your business) to their friends and colleges?”
Every business owner knows the “best” way to get new business is by referrals. Current clients have already experienced the quality and value of your work and should be shouting your praises. It makes perfect sense right? You do a great job for your clients. They like you. They trust you. They should be referring people to you all of the time. Yet when I coach business owners most are not happy with the quantity or quality of the referrals they receive.
Obviously happy satisfied clients are most likely to refer business to you. Not only are satisfied clients more likely to refer people to you they are also more likely to stay with you and repurchase from you. Buying additional services and referring others to you are two great ways to grow your business. How happy and satisfied are your clients with your services? How do you find out?
Typically to find the answer to the “how happy and satisfied” question you would survey your clients. You could easily send out a satisfaction survey using a physical letter, or an email, or even conduct the survey by phone. Even better, you could utilize one of the many web-based survey tools (Survey Monkey is probably the best known, but there are others). A web-based survey is nice because they usually automatically provide the data for easy analysis.
At first glance, it seems like a fairly easy process. You don’t have that many clients to survey, and if you were to focus only on your top clients, the ones you would like to replicate, you are probably talking about 100 or less. The harder part is creating the questions you will ask. Who will create the questions? Do you know what to ask? Do you know how to ask, in a way that will not distort the truth about how your clients really feel? How many questions do you need? If there are “too many” questions how will that affect the responses? What do you do with the results?
An Easier and Better Way to Survey Your Clients
Before you do your survey, I highly recommend you read the book The Ultimate Question by Fred Reichheld. He found that most customer satisfaction surveys do a poor job of predicting the likelihood of a customer either repurchasing from you or referring your company. He decided there had to be a better way to quantify how well a company is serving its customers. He developed the Net Promoter Score (NPS) methodology.
It is radically simple, yet has proved a useful way for determining satisfaction and loyalty. It has become very popular among the Fortune 500. Companies like GE, Southwest, Apple, Intuit and Schwab (to name a few) have all been using the NPS methodology; so you may be familiar with the concept. It is based around asking customers a single question that is predictive of both repurchase and referral:
“On a scale of zero to 10, how likely are you to refer a friend or colleague?”
When customers answered this question with a 9 or 10, Reichheld discovered that they were statistically more likely to refer and/or repurchase. He also found that the companies that score well on their NPS were more likely to grow than were lower-scoring companies.
Determining Your NPS
The scoring system is easy and straight forward. It uses this scale:
- 9 or 10 = Promoter
- 7 or 8 = Passive
- 6 and below = Detractor
Your “Promoters” are much more likely to repurchase and refer you to others. Whereas the “Passives” are satisfied to the point they are not leaving, but they are more neutral toward your service and are not likely to refer you. Your “Detractors” are the clients who are probably looking for another provider.
To calculate your NPS, take the percentage of your customers who are “Promoters” and subtract the percentage of “Detractors”.
What Does the Score Mean?
Reichheld did something rarely undertaken with traditional surveys: match responses from individuals to their actual behavior — repeat purchase and referral patterns — over time. The NPS has proven to be a good predictor of future growth. A single number, based on research that is a better indicator as to whether clients will promote you appears to be a great tool for all business owners.
When implementing the NPS method with my coaching clients, I have them add two follow up questions to create actionable ways to improve their score:
- Why did you give the score you gave?
- What can we do to increase our score?
As important and as predictive as the number is, as long as we were going to survey some clients, I thought the answers to the other two questions would help us understand where improvement work was required. With just three questions you can know where to focus your attention.
Why NPS is For You
Just because the Net Promoter Score has become very popular among the Fortune 500, I do not think it is a theoretical exercise for MBA students. I think this methodology is even better suited for small businesses with limited time and limited resources because it is:
- Simple and easy. You can create a questionnaire and ask the question in just a few minutes. Utilizing a web-based survey tool you should see a high response rate and quick turnaround time.
- Not expensive – The survey can be created, deployed and the data analyzed in house for the internal cost of labor.
- Easy to delegate – It can easily be done by your assistant or another team member.
- Predictive – Unlike most surveys, which ask respondents a litany of time-consuming questions that render interesting but often irrelevant data, the NPS methodology asks the question that has been proven to predict the likelihood a client will repurchase or refer you—the two things that fuel growth of any business.
The Future of Your Business
Companies spend lots of time and money on complex tools to assess customer satisfaction. It turns out they’re measuring the wrong thing. The best predictor of growth can be captured by the question: How likely are you to recommend us to a friend? This question is based on research in which a variety of survey questions were tested by linking the responses with actual customer behavior–purchasing patterns and referrals–and ultimately with company growth.
Surprisingly, the most effective question wasn’t about customer satisfaction or even loyalty per se. In most of the industries studied the percentage of customers enthusiastic enough about a company to refer it to a friend or colleague directly correlated with growth rates. Willingness to talk up your business to friends, family, and colleagues is one of the best indicators of loyalty. When clients act as references, they do more than indicate they’ve received good economic value from you; they put their own reputations on the line. The NPS methodology is a simpler and more effective approach to understanding how your clients feel about your service. If you would like a copy of our version of the NPS survey email me at Kevin@TheRenaissanceGroup.us and I will send you a copy.
5 Steps for Selecting Your Ideal Client
The majority of businesses, including yours, have a number of different types of clients. You started out by taking on just about anyone who would agree to work with you. You may feel you are more selective now, but you still have difficulty turning away any business that comes your way. While it is great to have lots of clients, catering to too many different types of clients is the cause of multiple problems; it complicates both marketing and service delivery.
For example on the service side, you may:
- Neglect your best clients by spending time with low value clients
- Find it difficult to standardize and systematize your service model
- Feel overwhelmed by trying to provide excellent service to everyone
- Have capacity issues and adding new business means more work for you
On the marketing side, you may:
- Get confused about the story you are telling each type of client
- Struggle to craft a compelling marketing message that appeals to everyone
- Lack focus and consistency in your marketing efforts
- Not be getting the quantity or quality referrals you should
In my opinion, working with too many different types of clients leads directly to many of your time management issues.
Narrow Your Focus to Grow
By focusing on a single client type it is much easier to create a clear value proposition, a compelling marketing message, determine the right marketing channels for your target market, and create your repeatable client service model.
Talk to any successful business owner who focuses on their ideal client type and they will tell you that selecting, then defining their ideal client profile is the best thing they could have done. Why? Because trying to market to everyone, to create a message that resonates with everyone, to connect with everyone is not only extremely difficult, it is exhausting, ineffective, time-consuming and can be expensive. At the same time trying to service too many different types of clients makes it difficult to delegate work, is more labor intensive and leads to lower profits.
How do you choose your ideal client type?
Here are five simple steps to select your ideal client type and craft your ideal client profile:
1. Segment and analyze your client base – The best place to start when selecting who you want to work with going forward is your current clients. Review your current and past clients. List them in order based on who are the most valuable clients to you. I like to initially sort them by profit per client. During this analysis it is common to see the 80/20 rule in effect – 80% of your profits are coming from just 20% of your clients. Therefore, the 20% contain your most valuable clients – the type you would like to replicate.
While profitability is important when thinking about client value to your firm, I don’t believe it should be the only criteria. The great thing about owning your own business is you can work with whoever you choose. I also like to segment clients based on how enjoyable it is to work with them. We refer to this as physic income. Other criteria I like to use are lifetime client value and potential for referrals and/or additional business. You should choose your criteria based on what you are trying to accomplish.
Once you have your criteria and have your initial segmentation, next look to see where there are common characteristics among your most valuable clients. Characteristics like education, family status, employment status, and association memberships, to name a few. Segment them into groups based on these characteristics. Each grouping or segment, has the potential to be your ideal client type and may become your target market going forward.
2. Describe your most valuable clients – For each segment of your current client base you think you might want to target you need to create a detailed description, known as a client profile. It is a clear representation of each client type in demographic, geographic and psychographic terms. Using our ideal client profiling tool you can also capture some information about their current situation, identity their biggest frustrations and aspirations. Creating this type of profile will help you “know” your clients.
3. Segment and analyze the marketplace – Now that you have an idea of who you might like to focus on, you need to look outside your business into the “market” to determine if there are enough similar buyers to achieve your business goals. Segmenting is the process of dividing a market into distinct groups of buyers that require different solutions, different messages and can be best reached using different channels.
A basic tenet underlying successful marketing strategy is that there are distinct market segments each of which has its own needs, wants, desires, and interests. Therefore your segmentation strategy will not only help you identify targeted opportunities, but may also identify sub-groups (or niches) that will respond to similar messages. List potential target market segments and analyze each based on potential. In some case you will have to estimate the target market size and for others you will be able to easily find data.
4. Select your future clients – This is the hardest part. Most owners find it difficult to decide on a target market (so they work with everyone). Based on what you learned from segmenting and analyzing your client base and your marketplace, you need to select who will be your future clients. This is where less is more. If you can narrow your focus to one type of client it will make your life easier and your business more profitable. Because you can create a systematize service model and one clear message that will resonate with your target market.
If you find it too difficult to select just one type, then please limit yourself to 2 or 3 for now. Create an ideal client profile for each. It is the key to unlock the door to communicating at a much higher level with much greater clarity. Without the profile, you’re guessing. Document it. Share with staff and strategic partners.
5. Refine over time – The world, your clients and your target markets are dynamic and constantly changing; not to mention your competitors. A key differentiator is your ability to know your ideal client. Selecting your ideal client type is an ongoing process at the best-managed businesses. Continue to gather data and information about them and at least annually analyze your client base and marketplace, and select or re-select your ideal client type.
Every business, not matter the size, has limited resources. How you use your resources to both attract and retain clients is critical to your growth and success. Chasing too many different types of clients (opportunities) is actually a barrier to sustainable growth, due to the time-consuming nature to service and find clients.
Your target market is the center of your marketing bull’s-eye. They’re the people or companies you have in mind when you create and develop your product or service and when you create your marketing communications. Your ideal client will shape the future of your business.