Business Systems

Have you ever felt you were running harder and faster in your business and yet appear to be staying in the same place. If so you probably know the feeling; the working days get longer, the backlog gets larger, leisure time gets shorter (or even disappears altogether). Running a business can tie you down rather than give you the freedom you expected.

Way back in the dim and distant past I was introduced to the concept of working on my business instead of working in my business. This was quite a revelation and is actually the key difference between creating a job and building a business.

Working in your business means spending your time doing all the work involved in getting customers, providing them with the products or services you sell and doing all the admin stuff that goes with it all. This means that growth is limited by the time you have available. Even taking on staff to do some of the work can often involve you in more work training and managing the staff.

The magic formula for getting you as a business owner off this endless self-imposed treadmill is systems. The systems I have appliedĀ  to my business have given me time to plan strategically and, more important, given me more time for myself and family. In fact I now work only 3 days a week and yet the business keeps running just fine.

Setting up systems can take quite a bit of time initially, but will pay dividends for years to come. The first thing to do is to list all the jobs and tasks that need to be done on a day to day basis. Then for each task identify all the steps in the order they are carried out and the specific ‘how to do it’ process. Then write a detailed description or procedure for each task. The real trick is to document the procedure in such a way that anyone with the necessary skills could just walk into the business and take over that task with the minimum of training.

The next thing is to look at each task to see if it can be improved, streamlined or automated. Can the task be computerised or mechanised. Start by looking at what the end result of the task should look like and consider alternative means to the same end. Just because a task has always been done a particular way doesn’t mean that it is still the best way!

Think of it as producing, task by task, a complete operating manual for the business covering every area of the business.

Once the ‘operating manual’ is complete, look at who will carry out each task and what equipment, if any, is needed. Make use of check lists for each task to ensure quality control.

One of the most popular books on setting up small business systems was “The E-Myth” by Michael Gerber. That’s now out of print but was later replaced by “The E-Myth Revisited”.