In this final article on systems development, I want to address the question we get most from our clients when it comes to building systems in their business: Where do I begin? In this article, I’ll provide a blueprint for the most important, foundational systems in your business—and the ideal order in which to build them.
Building your own rocket
Building a rocket is not dissimilar to building a business.
Rockets are traditionally built on stacks that break apart in stages as it moves towards space. The first stage provides thrust to leave the Earth’s gravitational pull. This is like your core business disciplines—Leadership, Marketing, Finance and Management—which form the foundation of your business and inform everything you do. The second stage allows the rocket to continue accelerating into space and to provide the velocity for the rocket to reach its final destination. This is like your business activities—Lead Generation, Lead Conversion and Customer Fulfillment—which allow you to grow your business and reach more customers. The upper stages are like the finished product in your business, which turns customers into raving fans.
But before you can actually build a rocket (or your business), you have to define your mission objective. Are you looking for life on Mars or are you more interested in putting a man on the moon? If you’re in the construction industry, do you want to build skyscrapers or affordable housing? Why do you want to do that? If you’re in the health industry, or technology, or retail or manufacturing—why do you do what you do?
In other words, what’s the vision for your business? What's your mission objective?
Answering these questions is the key to building the most important system in your entire business: your Leadership system.
Leadership: The link between systems and results
The truth is, systems alone don't lead to the results you want from your business. Systems alone didn't put a man on the moon. Your leadership—having a clear sense of your mission and the values that drive it—is what allows your systems to the create the results you're after. And in order to build your leadership foundation, every owner needs the following nine systems:
- Written Strategic Objective: A 1-3 page statement defining what your business will look like, act like, feel like and perform like when it’s treating customers how you want it to, every time.
- Written values: A clear set of values that truly matter to you and that inspire a team of people who share your priorities and own their responsibilities in a way that frees you.
- Business metrics: A simple dashboard of strategic indicators to track progress toward your vision, ensure initiatives have the right impact, and give you the information you need to course correct when you’re not meeting your targets.
- Revenue plan: Plans for generating revenue, documented and translated into a twelve month budget that is both realistic and that stretches you.
- Employee role descriptions: Signed agreements that define every role—focused on results and values, not tasks and policies. These are the foundation for job ownership and excellence.
- Repeat sales plan: Driven by powerful customer experiences, you design systems that leverage your existing relationships to sell more—and more often—to your current and former clients.
- Ideal customer profile: A detailed definition of your perfect customers. This includes demographics and psychographic information about how they feel, think and make decisions.
- Written marketing plan: A cohesive plan for generating leads designed to meet your ideal customer where they are with what they need in a brand-consistent way.
- Marketing metrics: Indicators that tell you how well you’ve converted people from total strangers to your best customers so you have actionable data to maximize your impact.
In working with clients, we often find that putting the foundation in place is some of the hardest work you can do. It takes time to build momentum and see the results of your efforts—like a rocket launch, you have to work in stages to pick up speed.
But doing things in this order makes sense because each system builds progressively on the one that comes before it. Each one is easier to build than the last, because it's informed by the vision and values that serve as your foundation.
From all our work coaching clients in the last 4o years, we’ve learned that each one of these tools had a dramatic impact on your business. Implementing each one increases the odds of a business reaching its profit targets.
These aren’t the only systems required to run a business—far from it. Yet, these nine core systems provide a clear and predictable path for a business to follow to reach a higher degree of profit performance.
Creating each of these systems isn’t easy. A written Strategic Objective alone takes deep, personal thought. While you work to improve your business, you might find yourself feeling more uncomfortable than before. You might not have all the answers. You might be stuck at the beginning of this process for months—and that’s okay. If you’ve been following along with this series, you’re already ahead. Use this article as a guide for your systems development process.
Let’s recap what we’ve learned so you can start designing systems for a business that really works:
Who's responsible for systems development in your business?
As the leader of your business, you’re also its lead systems designer. The kind of systems you gravitate toward will reflect your strengths and weaknesses as the entrepreneur and driving force in your business.
Are you focusing on the right things?
Too many business owners focus on revenue and not systems development. We call this The Growth Paradox. A well-designed business will be built from the ground up with a focus on control and attention to detail, not quick wins. Cash is the rocket fuel in your business—but it’s not the destination. If you’re focused on revenues, you may be neglecting the important work of getting your house in order. Building a successful business requires control first, not a focus on revenue.
Does developing systems sit inside a business development framework which includes Innovation, Quantification, and Orchestration?
Working on your business not in your business means addressing frustrations at their root cause, not at the symptom level. The solution is to recognize that building systems and business development are not separate activities, rather they're one and the same and it’s an essential way of carving out strategic time for yourself. Having a process for developing your business systems means the entire company is continually involved in building systems. Employees go to work on the business as well as in it. In other words, they think systemically, helping them build and document systems that work. The culture of the company is likely to have a high-level of internal communication with an emphasis on employee training and personal development.
Do you take the time to write your systems down?
You can’t fly to the moon (and make it home safely) without a working Operations Manual. The difference between a well-designed business and a poorly-designed business is having an Operations Manual that lives within a larger process of continuous systems improvement. The work involved in building an Operations Manual (or task management system) gives you the operational flexibility to cope with inevitable change. It can save your business.
Have you identified the key systems you need for your business to succeed?
Identifying the key systems you need to succeed is the strategic work of your business. Using EMyth’s Seven Essential Systems will allow you to prioritize which systems to work on and in what order. In its completed form, it will include every system described in this article.
You can’t shortcut this business development process but you can model success and follow a systems blueprint for building your own rocket. Working with an EMyth Coach will accelerate this process and will allow you to balance the needs of ‘Old Co’ with the strategic work of building ‘New Co.’
Whether or not you choose to work with one of our coaches, my hope is these articles help you create a life and a business you love leading. Whatever that looks like for you, my wish is that you get to experience the same level of accomplishment as Neil Armstrong, brushing moondust off this plaque: