What do Starbucks and McDonald’s have in common?

It’s not that they’re both restaurants.

It’s not that they’re both franchises… although, if you guessed this, you’d be on the right track.

Think about it for a second. McDonald’s, a restaurant notorious for mostly using teenagers to run their business, is able to hire someone, put them through a short training, and the employee is able to deliver an experience and product that is consistent with all the other McDonald’s restaurants around the world.

Starbucks, similarly, delivers the same coffee experience and product quality whether you’re in Seattle, Denver, or Dallas.

How is that? How do seemingly independent business locations, under one banner, create a consistent product and experience no matter the location, regardless of the people they hire?

If you said they both have INCREDIBLE systems, give yourself a gold sparkly star!

As we continue our 5-part blog series – Your Business Under Construction – we’re going to tackle a part of the business most owners rarely think about. In fact, I’d venture a pretty safe guess that if you’re a solopreneur or just getting your business off the ground you probably think establishing and documenting systems is something that can wait until your business is bigger or more established. After all, you’re the one who’s doing it all anyway. Am I right? If you said yes, then I’m here to tell you that is a big mistake.

If you think about this in the context of home construction, much like we’ve been discussing the last two weeks, you’ll realize just how important systems like the electrical wiring, plumbing, cable and wifi really are. I know you probably don’t spend much time thinking about these either – unless of course they’re not working. But if they’re faulty, they’re unsafe… or at minimum a costly annoyance, right? The same is true for your business… not just from a business health perspective, but also from an ease of operations perspective.

When we first started 2 Smart Girls, we were constantly asking each other how we did something? How do I create that blogpost? How do I record the audio blog? When should we do the finances? How do we analyze those metrics? And the list goes on and on. Every time we needed to do something it was like reinventing the wheel, and it was exhausting. We were both overloaded with tasks, trapped doing things that weren’t in our wheelhouse. It wasn’t until we determined the roles in our business, started documenting the tasks for each of those roles and how they needed to be done, and built them into our monthly operating rhythm that everything started to get a little bit easier.

Systems at their core save you stress, time, energy, and money. They ensure your customers have a consistent experience and keep you from having to reinvent the wheel every time you need to get something done. They enable you to grow and scale the business by allowing you to replicate and expand what you do. Think working ON the business versus just working IN the business, as well as outsourcing tasks that aren’t in your passion zone. And lastly, systems ultimately allow you to take a vacation, free you up in the event of an emergency, or sell your business when you no longer want it, or your circumstances change (and they inevitably will at some point in the future).

Here’s a hard truth: your business is worthless if it can’t run without you.  And the easiest way to figure this out is to ask yourself the following question: Do I HAVE a business or AM I the business? If it’s the latter… it’s time to get some systems in place.

What kinds of systems should you have?

As we work through this, I want you to think about the businesses I mentioned earlier –  McDonald’s, Starbucks, and even Amazon. All of these businesses have made it relatively simple for someone to step into any role in the business and be successful. Why is that? They’ve created easy to follow steps for their employees and managers to follow. They’ve streamlined business operations and documented every detail and possible contingency and made it simple. And you need to do the same in your business.

There are 4 major system types that cover virtually every aspect of your business. Once you get these locked down and repeatable, you’re going to see your business shift in a massive way.

  1. Marketing – Your business needs a marketing system to consistently bring in new leads.
  2. Sales – A process that allows you to consistently nurture your leads, make offers to them, and convert them into paying customers.
  3. Service/Fulfillment – This system allows you to consistently deliver the promised product/service your customers paid for.
  4. Business Operations/Back Office – This set of systems allows you to manage your business (e.g. accounting, metrics analysis, human resources, customer support, etc.) based on the operating rhythm you’ve created to keep yourself on track.

But…. I don’t have any of those!

First, take a deep breath. Building systems is a work in progress, much like building a house. It takes time to figure out what you do well, how, and why. So, if you don’t have systems now, it’s not too late. In fact, I’ve got a checklist for you to do a wellness check, and you can grab it here!

With that check done, you may be wondering how to get started creating some of these systems. I want you to think big picture for a second. Right now, your business may be just you (or you and a partner), but it won’t always be that way. So, here are the 3 D’s of system development:

Think long term and big picture. Imagine if your business was five or ten times bigger than it is now. What roles would you need in order for your business to operate smoothly? A while back, Christy and I sat down and talked through the key roles in the business – Strategy and Idea Generation, Operations, Finances, Marketing, Product Design… and then we decided who was best suited, based on our respective strengths and weaknesses, to take up each role. In some cases, neither of us are a great fit – hello, finance! – and we won’t always be doing that, but it’s a role that has to get done now. When you know the roles/jobs that must be done, you can start crafting the actual systems for each of them, which will ultimately allow you to bring additional people onto your team in a seamless and efficient way.

With the roles clearly identified in your business, now it’s time to define what those roles do, the frequency, and the way in which they get done. Really think about the steps a person in that role would need to go through on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis. Start listing them out. For example, your bookkeeper will need to go through the expenses on a regular basis, code those expenses, generate reports to help you understand the trends in your spending… these activities are the heart of your system.

This is the “know how” of your business, and it’s essential to have this laid out, so someone else can step in when the time is right.

With those activities on paper, start making some checklists. Each checklist should give step-by-step instructions for how to do each activity. In some cases, you’ll have to get into the weeds to document the subprocesses that go with them, but for now, start small and document the high-level steps. As you work through the tasks each time, have that document open and make note of what is done and try to repeat it the exact same way the next time you do it. Make adjustments as you find new, more efficient ways of doing those tasks.

When we decided to do a blog post every week in January, I worked through the process of how to do it. But Christy wasn’t clear on how to make it all work. So, I created a step-by-step document that walks her (or anyone that comes into our business) through the process of creating a blog post from start to finish. It’s very detailed and points her to additional processes that she’ll need to follow (audioblog, where to get pictures, etc) in order to post the final blog post. By doing that, it meant I no longer needed to make myself available to take her words, the pictures she’d chosen, and the audio blog and create it each week. Now, we both generate the blog post we respectively write and set it post each Tuesday. And bonus… by having this process completely defined, we can now outsource this work to someone else when we decide to shift our focus.

That is the power of having healthy, documented systems. They free you up to focus your time and attention where it’s most needed.  And as the CEO of your business, this is essential! You won’t always be the only one doing the work unless your business IS you. When you started this business, it was with the intention of doing it on your terms. Systems are THE best way to make that happen. So, go evaluate your systems and start developing or refining them. We guarantee it’ll revolutionize your business and free you up to be the CEO you really want to be!

P.S. If you’re struggling with the systems and processes your business needs, let’s talk. There’s no reason to do this alone, and I (Jess) LOVE talking about and helping women set up the systems they need to grow and scale their business. Just click the link and complete the application. It’ll allow me to learn more about you, your business, and your business goals, so we can jump on a call and bring it all to life! And bonus! The call is free.

Prefer to listen? We’ve got you, Smart Girl. Click on the Podcast icon and you’re golden!