Systems organize a business and keep its processes running smoothly. A number of flawed beliefs, however, keep many business owners from creating systems and implementing them.
In this podcast episode, SYSTEMology’s Dave Jenyns debunks the myths that prevent people from optimizing their businesses through systems.
McDonalds has a reputation for systemized business. That doesn’t mean you have to be them. [06:06]
Some people think systems kill creativity. Here’s why the opposite is true. [08:50]
It doesn’t matter what company system you have, your team won’t follow it… Are you so sure? [12:33]
Expensive and complex can actually work against you when it comes to creating business systems. [20:01]
Systemizing your business can take much less time than you think it might. [32:53]
The business owner may not even know what’s needed for creating systems. So why put everything on their shoulders? [38:03]
You don’t need hundreds of systems to get the results you want. [41:49]
A couple of years ago, Dave Jenyns put out his book, SYSTEMology. The tagline read, Create time, reduce errors and scale your profits with proven business systems. These are goals any business could benefit from, yet many business owners resist creating systems, for a number of reasons.
In this catch-up, James and Dave go over seven myths discussed in Dave’s book – seven mistaken beliefs that prevent business owners from creating systems and eliminating a lot of unnecessary work.
Someone says systems, you think McDonald’s
Number seven on the list is a big one. In just about every discussion on systems, McDonald’s comes up. Or Amazon, or Google. The trouble is, these companies have been systemized for the longest time. It’s hardly fair to expect a business starting out to operate like them.
Systems start out pretty raw. Things get moved around. And you don’t want to overcomplicate things at the start, says Dave, because it just gets in the way of making them work.
He actually thinks the sign of a great system is something that’s flexible enough that can then be applied in multiple different scenarios. If it’s too rigid, and it’s over-optimized, it tends to perform less well in real-world scenarios. Something more flexible lets smart team members fill in the gaps or make adjustments where it’s not exactly fitting the system.
Are systems incompatible with creativity?
Myth number six is interesting: systemization destroys creativity.
Dave had an experience that highlighted quite the opposite. Driving out to a video shoot, he listened to his videographer go through a list of things they should really have taken care of before setting out. Did Dave pack the spare battery? Did they email the client not to wear checkered shirts? Did they have the extra extension cable and lens?
It occurred to Dave that they needed a shoot checklist, something he implemented after that occasion. Six months later, driving out to another shoot, their discussion was much different. They talked about how to get the best shots, what sort of performance Dave wanted from the staff, how he wanted them to interact – all the creative aspects they now had room to consider.
Oh, but the team won’t follow them…
Isn’t it often the wildly creative and highly visionary people who can benefit from systems the most, asks James?
Definitely, says Dave. And oftentimes when the business owner is that visionary, systems are the weakest part of the business. The owner thinks, systems don’t work for me. Why would they work for my staff? If I put processes in place, no one’s going to follow them. That’s myth number five.
What James has discovered with his team, most of them former call center hires, is that they actually like structure. They want to know where the boundaries are so they can always play safely within the zone of comfort. That’s where they can often get their very best performance. James himself couldn’t care less what days or hours they work, but they track those things anyway.
A players, Dave says, generally want to do well, to perform. Systems and process can give them the rules of the game and show them how they can win. Of course, however, you don’t want to over-optimize and not allow room for creativity and thought.
“What are the minimum viable set of systems required to run your business?” – Dave Jenyns
It’s good to consider, he says, What are the minimum viable set of systems required to run your business? And start there. It builds in order and safety, so that business is not all over the place, but neither is it stifling.
Do you really need expensive, complex software?
That kind of leans into myth number four, that you need to invest in expensive and complex software to have effective systems.
“If you don’t know the basics of what you’re doing, automation isn’t going to save you.” – Dave Jenyns
Complexity is the enemy of systemization, says Dave. And if you can’t do the simple, you’re never going to be able to do the complex. So before you start accumulating tools, and connecting things, and subscribing to Zapier and all the different automated software, get a grasp on the basics. if you don’t know the basics of what you’re doing, automation isn’t going to save you.
Even Google starts out with a hypothesis, a change they want to make. They write it up and send it to reviewers who apply it manually and look at the results. If it improves things, then they roll it into the algorithm.
With systems, you can start off with the 20 most important processes in your business, and use Google Docs. It’s simple, it’s easy to update, and anyone can learn to use it.
“Online, you get rewarded for hitting reset occasionally.” – James Schramko
And if you are using an array of tools, says James, it’s okay to scrap stuff. In fact, online, you get rewarded for hitting reset occasionally. So review your tools periodically, and keep only what you really need.
If you think systems take too much time to make…
Myth number three: creating systems is time consuming.
This stems in part, says Dave, again from McDonald’s imagery of Hamburger University and thick, heavy manuals detailing every step of every process.
The reality is, a system can be conveyed in a Loom recording of a specific task. It might be a checklist. It needn’t be an over-documented compilation of millions of bullet points. An over-optimized system is more likely to break. Keeping it simple is key.
James streamlined a Mercedes-Benz dealership’s sales process in a couple of hours, simply by calling everyone involved into a boardroom. They established who did what, made it into a checklist, and stuck it on an envelope that would make its way around the dealership with the buyer’s contract.
Oftentimes, Dave says, creating a system is a two-person task. You’ve got the person with the knowledge, and you’ve got the person who’ll do the documenting.
You might record the knowledgeable team member performing a task, and pass it to the documenter who identifies the steps involved. They document it, and send the draft back to the knowledgeable worker, who can then edit it as needed and offer feedback.
It doesn’t all depend on the business owner
Myth number two is, the business owner is the only one who can create the systems.
James doesn’t even know how to do half the things his team does. He doesn’t edit his own podcast, for instance. His team member is much better at it. But he’ll buy them a course on editing and let them learn from a professional.
Often, says Dave, the business owner thinks they are the best person to make the systems. And much of it has to do with a picture in their head of where they want the business to be. If they do try to create systems, they may be basing it on that future-paced image, changing the systems instead of capturing what they’re currently doing.
“You can’t improve what you don’t measure.” – Peter Drucker
It’s classic, you can’t improve what you don’t measure. It’s about creating a baseline first. So capture current best practice where you can, and then you can improve and build upon that.
So the business owner, nine times out of 10, is the worst person to be making system because of that reason, because they’re time-poor, and because often they don’t even like creating systems. Sometimes they need to be involved, but generally the team, members, who actually use the systems, are better suited to do the job.
You won’t need hundreds of systems
Big myth number one: you will need to create hundreds of systems to systemize a business.
It ties together everything they’ve spoken of, says Dave. It’s the 80:20. If you can find the 20 percent of the systems that deliver 80 percent of the result, you can just focus on that. And even more than that, it’s not the systems. Building a culture for your team, where they can solve problems through systems and thinking, is at the real guts of it.
It’s not the number of systems. Oftentimes, less systems is more. And if you can’t get 10 or 15 systems firing, how are you going to set hundreds in motion? Figure out how to do the least possible first. If you can’t do that, don’t make it harder for yourself.
And systems also have a compounding effect. Once you’ve figured out how to deliver that core product or service, without key person dependency, and consistently, that actually becomes the motivation and the excitement to continue building out the culture and the machine. One system on its own is not going to do it. Hundreds of systems won’t do it. There’s this sweet spot you have to get right in the middle first.
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