Last week, I covered how an operations manual can save your business (and your life), much like the operations manual on Apollo 13 saved Jim Lovell’s life. This week, I want to take you on a journey into systems strategy.
- Reality dictates that you’ll be building systems while working in your existing business. We call this “working in Old Co”
- EMyth’s unique Roadmap enables you to work on your business’ Seven Essential Systems in a clear, step-by-step process, while also showing how the results you want across your business are systemically connected. Creating a systems strategy helps you prioritize working on your new business—what your business will look like in the future. We call this “working on New Co”
It takes a while to think about systems development in this way; but if you start planning now, you’ll save valuable time and avoid misdirected resources in the future.
Developing a strategic perspective
Let’s start with our imaginary trip to the moon.
"We learned a lot about the Moon, but what we really learned was about the Earth. The fact that just from the distance of the Moon you can put your thumb up and you can hide the Earth behind your thumb. Everything that you've ever known, your loved ones, your business, the problems of the Earth itself—all behind your thumb. And how insignificant we really all are, but then how fortunate we are to have this body and to be able to enjoy loving here amongst the beauty of the Earth itself."
-Jim Lovell, Apollo 8 and 13
Put yourself on the Apollo rocket, looking back at planet Earth. Imagine the blue of the oceans, continental shapes, emerald greens, ochre, gold, swirling clouds, twinkling lights of large cities and the infinite dark of the universe beyond.
Now imagine your business five years from now from the same extraterrestrial perspective. Can you see the entire eco-system that is your business? Imagine you can zoom in and see the inner workings—your employees, your suppliers, your customers, your neighbors. What does it look like? How does it feel?
As Einstein said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” You must shift your perspective from working in your business to working on your business as a strategic thinker. You’ll need to look at the bigger, more distant picture, much like an astronaut sees Earth from a different place than the rest of us.
As the Entrepreneur in your business, your primary role is to paint a detailed picture of your future company once it’s built. This is your Strategic Objective. This is what New Co will look like once it’s complete.
As Manager and systems innovator, your secondary role is to take something as complicated as your business and turn it into something beautiful, simple, understandable and repeatable.
Please note I said "beautiful" and "simple," but I didn’t say easy!
In order to create an EMyth business, you must create a systematized business. You must move from your existing method of solving problems in Old Co to a new, more strategic way of solving problems—New Co. It's absolutely critical to the future growth and success of your business.
Introducing The Seven Essential Systems
Here’s another way of looking at your system’s strategy:
Your business is an eco-system, just like our planet. And just as Earth is the aggregate of its systems—air, water, land and life—your business is an aggregate of The Seven Essential Systems.
At EMyth, we call them The Seven Essential Systems because that's exactly what they are—essential to the makeup of any business that works. This is the model on which all your systems need to be built. At first glance, the model looks linear, but in fact it’s integrative. Every essential system touches every other essential system; no single essential system can stand alone. Developing a systems strategy requires the twin disciplines of setting priorities so you can make progress, and thinking systemically so you can maximize effectiveness.
Old Co versus New Co
When an owner starts working with an EMyth Coach, they still have to work in their current business. If you’ve built your organization as a Manager or Technician—and spent significant amounts of time in the business—you can’t abruptly stop working in it and switch over to working on it overnight. Chaos would surely ensue.
EMyth Coaches regularly deal with frustrated clients who want to work more strategically, but don't have the time or space to do so. But we teach you how to work on it while you're working in it, laying the foundations for New Co as you go.
Old Co works from your existing perspective. New Co shifts your perspective to inhabiting the vision of your business once your vision is realized. It’s like looking at your business as you'd look at Earth from outer space. We’ll examine both these perspectives in how you develop your systems strategy.
Let me give you an example of this dynamic relationship inside Old Co:
Your receptionist was just asked to pay cash before the delivery guy would hand over goods ordered. In the resulting chaos, the same receptionist, away from their desk, missed a vital customer order. Your gut reaction is to buy a petty cash tin so that in the future the receptionist can pay the delivery guy quickly and get on with the more important priority of taking orders. You make a mental note to put ‘handling cash’ on the to-do list of systems to be built. These are the type of things necessary to keep Old Co moving.
But taking a step back, you also realize that your Management systems need improving. Your hiring process didn’t require or test the receptionist’s ability or willingness to handle cash. Your Sales process needs improvement if a missed phone call means losing new business. And the fact that one of your suppliers removed your credit terms and insisted on ‘cash on delivery’ indicates you're lacking some essential Finance systems.
Working on current problems from a strategic perspective is an opportunity to infuse some New Co into an Old Co business. It doesn’t take more time to do this; it will always take time to solve day-to-day problems in your business. But it does take a different perspective. Your EMyth Coach helps you leverage your day-to-day problems for strategic muscle-building. You’re still solving problems that need solving, but you’re seeing them as entrepreneurial opportunities rather than technician headaches.
Most businesses already use systems—some consciously, and some simply out of habit. But their systems are typically reactive. They’re meant to quickly solve a frustrating problem or put a band-aid on a difficult situation. A symptom presents itself in the business, prompting business owners and their teams to reactively create a system solution, which they implement without testing, quantification or training.
But when you’re able to see the underlying causes of your business frustrations, you can think strategically about how to address the problem and strengthen your business as a whole. This is the EMyth Roadmap in action. Assessing the performance of your business against The Seven Essential Systems provides the framework for your systems strategy—helping you capture, organize, prioritize and manage the development of the systems your business needs. It sits within your overall business development process: the cycle of Innovation, Quantification and Orchestration.
Using The Seven Essential Systems to create a systems strategy
In the second half of this article, I provide a definition of each of The Seven Essential Systems. And, I offer some starting questions from the business assessment that will help you see how to leverage your leadership strengths and capacities to start building systems.
Leadership is all about learning to recognize the unique qualities your business needs from you as a leader, and defining values and a brand promise that will shape every choice you make as a business owner. As the leader of your business, you need to prioritize thinking systemically and building effective systems.
Do you know how to lead others to do the work of your business the way you’d do it yourself?
Do you have a clear picture of where you'd like your company to be in five years?
Do you track whether or not you're on target to achieve your vision?
Marketing allows you to understand your markets and your customers so well that you know what they value and can anticipate how they make purchase decisions. This understanding informs the way you communicate with the world and supports your Lead Generation, Lead Conversion and Customer Fulfillment systems.
What's the one thing you want every single customer to say about your company?
Finance is about controlling the movement of money through your business, leveraging it as a tool to achieve your business vision and creating your company’s financial value.
Do you use your financial reporting to make strategic and day-to-day decisions about your business?
Do you have key financial indicators that you regularly review to understand the health of your company and progress towards your goals?
Management is the way you manage people and other resources within your business in order to get results through others and through work as a team.
Do your people understand what you want from them, and do they work independently and as a team to achieve the business results you want?
Do you have a written organizational chart where accountabilities are clearly defined and where you've delegated each part of the business to a manager?
Customer Fulfillment includes producing and delivering your products and services, as well as customer support services.
What part of your customer experience makes you most proud?
What are your most common compliments and complaints?
Lead Conversion includes selling your products or enrolling your customers in your services. It’s converting prospects into customers.
Do you have an effective Sales Process that consistently produces the desired results?
Lead Generation includes creating awareness in your target markets and attracting customers to your business or your products. A person interested in your business is a lead, a prospective customer.
How do you attract and track leads in your business?
Do you know the cost of acquisition for each new customer?
Let’s use another example of building a systems strategy, but this time from the perspective of New Co.
Imagine the presenting symptom is a lack of leads. Your assumption is that unconvincing copy, without a clear call-to-action, isn’t sufficiently engaging. This is a Lead Generation system. But at the same time, you notice how a lack of clear messaging is also reflected in your Lead Conversion process and conversion rate. It also appears in Customer Fulfillment because your customer-services team is inconsistent in how they explain your product. This shows up in complaints, returns, refunds and further-missed sales opportunities. But it starts with the lack of a clear Marketing strategy, or brand story, and that might be because Leadership hasn’t clearly defined the company vision.
We’ve covered a lot of ground today, exploring the need to build foundational systems that stop the wheels falling off your business while slowly creating time to work on systems that will move you from Old Co to New Co. If you’ve stuck with me through this series, you’ll know that I'm not presenting any magic bullets to solve your system frustrations. To repeat the point I made in part two of this series: sustainable growth is only possible when the focus has been on control, not growth for growth’s sake.
I don’t believe it’s practical or sensible to attempt shortcuts on this journey, but I do believe you can model success.
In the final article in this series, I'll provide you with a systems blueprint for building a successful business.
And if you're ready to start working on The Seven Essential Systems in your business, schedule time to talk to an EMyth Coach. Your first session is on us.