Systems. Yikes. Sounds like the TPS reports and drudgery of the typical office job are just around the corner, right? Well maybe not so.
I’ve been working hard on PodcastMotor for the past few months, not just on growing the business, but making it more sustainable, predictable (for both our team and our customers), and easier to manage. The result of this is now we have a business that runs much less with out or any one person (save for Becky our god send of a project manager and the real brains behind the operation).
We recently moved into our new home in Annecy, France, and for a period of about a week I was living in another country, without WiFi access in our new house, or cell phone coverage at home, and the business did pretty good. That’s what sparked me to write this (what’s now seeming like quarterly) blog post. I am reflecting a bit on the work we’ve done on the business, and what it could mean to anyone who’s out there building a business they wish to be larger than themselves.
First thing’s first: Systems are the lifeblood of a scalable business
I don’t care if you are running a one-man SaaS or a Productized Service with a team of 30, you have to have a certain way that things are done every time, so that the entire business doesn’t hinge on the shoulders of one person. It’s not meant to take the power away from anyone, and certainly not to give the power to anyone else, but rather to ensure that no matter what the job will get done and the customers will be happy.
There’s an infinite way to build systems out for your business, but as I’ve talked to a lot of other founders there’s a certain recipe that seems to work well for most.
- Google Docs: Everything related to your checklists, spreadsheets about customer information, and data having to do with how to complete a task goes in here. You can nest them into folders and grant access on any sort of basis you want. Heck you can even link within a document to another document. So if I’m describing how something’s done and want to link to a spreadsheet with a bunch of keywords or lists, I can do it. Piece of cake, and a no brainer for the repository of information.
- Checklists: Within the Google Docs ecosystem, I create a checklist with the big ticket items that need to get done for a greater process. Break it down into a handful of tasks and you’re on your way.
- Video: Don’t be shy, and it doesn’t have to be complicated. Whether you use a tool like Jing to do screencasts or record locally and share them on Google Drive or Dropbox (my preferred way just cause we use Dropbox for so much at PodcastMotor), flip that puppy on and walk folks through how you do something. If a picture is worth a thousand words then a video is worth a bazillion. Honestly, if you record exactly what you do (and don’t screw it up too bad) you can completely document something for a process in exactly the same amount of time it takes you to do it once. This has been the biggest lifesaver of all for me.
- Lists, Lists, and Lists: I have a running list of all the things I do on a routine basis for the business, and am agressively trying to get all of these off my plate every day. If I find myself doing something more than once I document what that is on the greater Checklist, and do a video of it. Keeping that list down to below 10 will ensure that you’re consistently pruning your personal obligations, which are letting the business grow without you (or in spite of you).
- Delegate: No there aren’t bots to do all this work for you, so it’s paramount to find good, qualified, and responsible people to handle these aspects of your business. This is last not out of coincidence. I have now hired about 25 people at PodcastMotor and finding good ones is tough. I’ve learned enough to write a book about probably but the few biggest ones are:
- Generally you get what you pay for, so pay up so you don’t have to do it again
- Your gut is usually right, so trust it
- Look in unusual places: Upwork is not the end-all-be-all for finding freelancers
- Interviewing and resumes are for chumps. Save everyone the time and just dive into a sample (non-mission-critical) task to see how they really do.
With all these lessons about systems, processes, and building the team it’s no wonder we don’t have a more successful business. I think that overall the job of building, refining, and identifying these systems initially should lie with the founder, as the business grows the burden should go back into your key members of the team.
Empower them with the responsibility of creating, refining, and replacing the systems and processes relating to their jobs.
So, what’s been your experience with building systems for your business? No good business exists without them, so I’d love to hear some stories. Shoot me a message and let me know.