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How to run your business like NASA going to the moon

This is the first installment in our series on developing and designing clear systems in your business. Click here for part two, part threepart four, part five and part six.

As a kid, I remember being absolutely fascinated while I watched the moon landings on a black-and-white television; and now, years later, I’m still excited by big rockets and the notion of space travel. But even if you’re not that interested in exploring galaxies far, far away, maybe you'll still appreciate how strongly the notion of building rockets and flying to the moon speaks to the value of systems. Though it might not seem like your business has much in common with Mission Control, the systems you use can have just as much of an impact as the systems NASA used to land on the moon.

Systems in your business can do anything—they can give you the freedom to pursue your astronaut dreams or simply ease the frustrations that come with managing your finances.

In this series, I’ll help shift your perspective so that you can gain more control over your organization, create a blueprint to develop your business sustainably, and ultimately build a business that doesn’t rely on you.

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Let’s begin with six ideas that'll change the way you think. We’ll cover each of these ideas in turn over the course of the series:

  • You're a systems engineer whether you’re aware of it or not.
  • If you avoid systems, you risk creating a business that’s out of control. (We call this The Growth Paradox.)
  • Developing your business and building systems aren't separate activities—they're one and the same.
  • In order to fly to the moon and back again, you need a working Operations Manual.
  • Part of your Strategic Work is to identify the key systems needed for your business to succeed.
  • Unless you know something sneaky about the space-time continuum, there aren’t any shortcuts for cruising through the solar system—but you can model success and follow a blueprint that works.

Business owners often seek out EMyth Coaches because they believe they want systems, but they don’t yet realize something important: Their business is already built around systems; it’s just that some of those systems aren’t producing the results they want. Everything that happens in your business is the byproduct of a system that you’ve created—whether you realize it or not—and it'll likely yield the same result, day in-day out. And if that result isn’t part of your vision, it’s actually damaging your business.

Your systems, like your business, are a reflection of your skills, life experience and personality. Do you think Gene Kranz, the flight director of the Apollo, had a different approach to system design than Steve Jobs? You bet. And it’s not just because one managed Houston’s Mission Control and the other built computers. They were two people who thought differently, had different values, possessed unique skill sets and built their management teams within different organizational cultures. So, when you think about the business you run and the type of leader you are, start by asking some of the following questions as an exercise.

  • What sort of system engineer am I?
  • Who drives the systems in my business? What skills do they have and how much supervision do they need?
  • Do I quantify the intended results of my systems and measure their effectiveness?
  • Do I have a culture where I go to work each day to eliminate weak spots and improve our results?
  • Do I take risk into consideration when planning, and do I have contingency plans in place?

Your answers will help you understand the way you think, design, implement and test your business systems. If you’re not the one driving the systems in your business, then why not? If you aren’t quantifying the results that your company achieves, then how do you know how effective your systems really are? As the leader of your business, you’re also its lead systems engineer. You’re Mission Control, and it’s your job to map the way to the moon so that the whole crew can get there safely—or in this case, lead your team to accomplish your vision of the business you’ve always wanted.

As an entrepreneur, the kinds of systems you gravitate towards reflect your own strengths and weaknesses as the driving force in your business. And while you may have the best systems you can think of, it may not necessarily be the best system for your specific job. The true Entrepreneur in you wants to build long-term value instead of just managing the next problem on their list. You want—and deserve—to be able to focus on the future, and you also have to manage your systems in the present. It’s a difficult feat: balancing the tension of wanting everything in its place and making sure that it’s there, with the sum of those finely-tuned systems known as “your business”.

But this shouldn’t feel like rocket science. Let’s look at an example from The E-Myth Revisited with a business model simpler than flying spaceships to the moon or building computers: How about cooking a hamburger?

Unlike most small business owners before him—and since—Ray Kroc went to work on his business, not in it. He began to think about his business like an engineer working on a pre-production prototype of a mass-producible product. He began to reengineer McDonald's decades before the word and the process came into fashion.

The EMyth Revisited—Michael E. Gerber

Remember this: In your business, you’re the lead systems engineer—you’re Houston—whether you’ve known it or not. And a Mission Control without systems leads to chaos, leaving you feeling overwhelmed because your business is too reliant upon you.

If you’re ready to shoot for the moon but aren’t quite sure about how to lift off, reach out to us

In the next article in this series, we’ll dive further into what gives you control over your business and why this is the real driver of growth.

Nick Lawler

Written by Nick Lawler

Nick is an EMyth Coach. He was the Chef/Proprietor of a hotel, restaurant and events business in the UK for twelve years before becoming an EMyth Coach. His articles focus on making the transition from technician to business owner.