If you asked your business what it wanted for Christmas (as in really, REALLY wanted deep down in its heart), it would say in a little voice, “Systems please!”
Just ask it. How does your business feel when you get so overwhelmed that you forget to invoice clients and get paid? Does it bang its head on the desk when you take double the time redoing what has already been done? What about when critical project tasks slip through the cracks because you lost *that* special reminder sticky note?
Your. Business. Wants. Systems.
How to Start Building Your Systems Foundation
#1: Daily/Weekly/Monthly Tasks – Think about the routine tasks you perform on a daily, weekly and monthly basis and brainstorm ways to turn those routine tasks into a system. Perhaps it’s a simple routine that you follow when performing that task or maybe it’s a way that you hand off work to your team.
For example, if you pay bills around the end of the month, your new system could be as simple as designating a bill paying day, scheduling the time block in your calendar and collecting all the invoices in one spot to handle on that date.
#2: Project Templates – Break down your projects into key steps, such as new client intake, initial project planning, project completion and delivery, invoicing and final follow-up, and create standard templates and check lists for each step.
For example, a new client intake form should include all the administrative and accounting details, such as legal company name, billing address, and contact, as well as details on the project, including timelines, deliverables, etc. That way both you and your administrative support have the necessary details when needed.
#3: Standard Methodologies – You need standard procedures so that no matter what, you are delivering consistency. Consistency should cover every aspect of your business – from the sales process to messaging to product delivery to final follow-up to internal communications.
For example, during the initial client interview, you probably share key information about how the project will unfold, critical project flow and such. Even if the same person does the interview, that information is likely to change unless you have a standard methodology or checklist of the key points to cover.
#4: Documentation – Recording your systems in an operations manual is critical as your business grows and evolves. As a company of one, changing a system or methodology is easy – you just do it, but as you add people, it gets more complicated.
Take a simple thing like email naming conventions. Everyone has a different style from “Hey read this” to “PROJECT NAME/DATE/TOPIC” and everything in between. Given the sheer volume of email, it’s difficult to find a specific email if it doesn’t contain the client name, or key words relating to the topic (or even worse, if it’s a footnote on an email relating to a completely different topic).
#5: Systems Automation – Finally – examine all your routine tasks for opportunities to take people out of them altogether.
Take your monthly bill paying routine, for example. Which of your monthly bills can simply be set up as an automatic monthly payment from your bank account or credit card? Chances are that one simple change will cut that task in half.