Businesses, when it comes right down to it, are made up of systems…at least the successful ones that outgrow their entrepreneurial founders who crank every lever, turn every dial, fill every customer request…whatever it takes to get the job done. Systems are what let the founders grow the business beyond their personal capacity and even step away from the day-to-day operations.
Without systems, growth quickly becomes a trap for you, the entrepreneur. That random approach that had you responding to whatever hit your desk that morning starts to fall apart when the business growth outstrips your personal capacity. In the short-term, you can work harder and smarter, enlisting technology and additional resources to keep up with growing demand. Eventually you need to make the giant leap from solopreneur to small business and that’s where systems become critical.
So where do you start creating systems to grow your business?
The best time to create systems for your growing business is well before you need them, even in the earliest stages before you can even imagine needing them. Start with the simple stuff and grow from there.
Hire a Shadow — Start by hiring a shadow to follow your every move, learning as you go and helping you document and create the systems that will eventually form the foundation of your business. This is the fastest and easiest way to find the holes in your current process and develop new ones in a risk-free environment.
Document Everything — Divide your business into its core components: sales and marketing, operations, customer service, finance and administration (or whatever broad categories reflect the nature of your business). Chances are when you hire additional team members, you will hire individuals and eventually teams to handle each of those areas.
Build the Systems — Shift from the random ‘habits’ that get the job done to a systematic approach to everything you do. It’s what enables you to hand off tasks and entire functions to people with no knowledge of the specifics of your business. Yes, you hire for talent and aptitude, but you protect your growth by making it possible to interchange those cogs.
Develop Training Programs — Create a training program that lets you transfer that knowledge, the business rules and systems to new hires. In the early stages, all systems will likely be developed by you, the entrepreneur. As your business grows and your team starts handling more and more aspects of the business, enlist them to further develop systems and the training materials to teach them.