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The systems blueprint for building your own rocket: the ownership stack for EMyth-ing your business

Before I dive into this final article on systems development, I want to thank those of you who have written to me during the course of this series. Your participation in this process has made writing this series so rewarding. In particular, I want to thank Bob C. who provided the inspiration I needed for this last piece.

So, Bob (and everyone else), I want to address the “many moving parts” in systems development by:

  • Providing a blueprint for the most important systems in your business and the ideal order in which to build them—we call it The Ownership Stack
  • Finishing with a summary of the concepts and tools we’ve talked about over this series

Building your own rocket

Building a rocket is not dissimilar to building a business.

The first step is to define your mission objective, which will be different for every business. 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?

What is the vision for your business? What's your mission objective?

Just like NASA knows how to build rockets, EMyth knows how to build businesses that work.

Rockets are traditionally built on stacks that break apart in stages as it moves towards the moon. The first stage provides thrust to leave the Earth’s gravitational pull. The second stage allows the rocket to continue accelerating into space and to provide the velocity for the rocket to reach its final destination. The upper stages are like the finished product in your business. This is the part of your business that attracts new customers and converts them into raving fans.

The EMyth Curriculum is a system for building your business using the same stacking principles that NASA uses to build its rockets.

The ownership stack defined: the link between systems and profitability

The Ownership Stack is the link between systems and profitability. The nine business systems in The Ownership Stack all lead to a profitable business. I’ve organized them like the stages of a rocket:

Stage one:

  1. Written vision: A 2-3 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.
  2. Written values: A clear set of values from your heart that inspire a team of people who share your priorities and deeply own their responsibilities in a way that frees you.
  3. 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.
  4. Revenue plan: Plans for generating revenue and associated assumptions, documented and translated into a twelve month budget that is both realistic and that stretches you.

Stage two:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Ideal customer profile: A detailed definition of your perfect customers. This includes demographics and psychographic information about how they feel, think, and make decisions.

Stage three:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

It’s no coincidence that the first stage is the largest. 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 the systems in Stage Two are quicker to build if you’ve already built the systems in Stage One. And the systems in Stage Three are quicker to build if you’ve built the systems in Stages One and Two.

From work we’ve done in the field, we’ve learned that each one of these nine tools had a dramatic impact on the business—implementing each one increased the odds of a business reaching its profit targets.

If all nine systems exist in a business, the odds of that business achieving its revenue goals will increase.

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. What we’ve found is that it doesn’t matter which of these systems are in place—each one of the nine systems increases the odds of a business reaching its targets.

Working through each of these stages isn’t easy, a written Vision 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 on Stage One for months—and that’s okay. If you’ve been following along with this series, you’re already ahead. Use The Ownership Stack 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 engineer. 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. That’s why the core foundational pieces are in Stages One and Two.

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 business development process 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 Business Development Process. This is Orchestration in Action. 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 The Ownership Stack described in this article.

One final comment….

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:


Nick Lawler

Written by Nick Lawler

Nick is an EMyth Coach and the Coach Network Global Ambassador. 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.