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 you'll be building systems while working in your existing business. We call this working in ‘Old Co’.
- Using EMyth's Seven Essential Systems will allow you to prioritize which systems to work on and in what order, so you can get results.
- 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 awhile to think about systems development in this way but if you start planning now, you’ll save valuable time and 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 & 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 of your business, 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 vision. This is what ‘New Co’ will look like once it’s complete.
As manager and systems engineer, 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 built around seven continents, your business is structured around 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. It’s a roadmap for your business development and for your systems strategy itself. This is the model on which all your systems need to be built. But developing a systems strategy requires you decide where you go first, second, third and so on.
‘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 your week in the business, you can’t become a strategic thinker overnight. Chaos would surely ensue.
EMyth Coaches regularly deal with frustrated clients wanting to work more strategically but not having 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 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 missed phone calls 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.
None of these systems are built from the perspective of ‘New Co’ but they're the essential building blocks to get you there. Working on current problems should not be a frustration in itself. These are systems that stop you fighting fires and eventually give you the strategic space to start building ‘New Co’.
This real-life example is how most businesses reactively build systems. It looks like this:
Some businesses use a version of our process Transforming Frustrations Into Solutions, even if they don’t know it by that name. They have a process that creates space for their team to think innovatively about system solutions. It might simply be called ‘brainstorming.’ In its more fully developed form, it’s a process that allows your team to think systemically, placing the presenting symptom within the context of your business as a whole, looking for the foundational pieces that are missing, improving ‘Old Co’ while working towards ‘New Co’. It looks like this:
Sadly, only a few businesses have a management team capable of strategic work; orientating around the current frustrations with ‘Old Co’ inside the larger strategic framework, building ‘New Co’. This is what it looks like:
When you’re able to see the underlying causes of your frustrations, you can think strategically about how to address the problem and strengthen your business as a whole. In the process outlined above, you’re looking at the bigger picture from assessing your frustrations to assigning projects and monthly goals for the entire year. 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’m providing you with a definition of each of The Seven Essential Systems. And, I’m giving you some starting questions from the business assessment to help you define which part of your business needs most attention in developing your own system strategy.
Leadership is the vision, action, and spirit you bring to the business. Leadership shapes and directs everything else, gives it purpose, and moves it steadily towards your vision.
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 deeply that you know how their minds work and how they make purchase decisions. This understanding informs 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 and creating your company’s financial value.
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 the people and other resources within your business in order to get results through others and through work as a team.
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 providing 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 am not presenting you with any magic bullets to solve your system frustrations. To repeat the point I made in Part 2: 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 short-cuts 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.
If you want to talk to a coach in the meantime, just let us know.