Some days, you may feel completely consumed by your business, like the only thing you can count on is a frustrating lack of control as you race around putting out fires. This experience is so common to business owners, it’s almost generally accepted as “just what it’s like to be an entrepreneur.”
Most small business owners have to play three roles in their business all the time: Entrepreneur, Manager and Technician. When this is how you do business, every day is a struggle to keep up and pitch in to deliver the results you want. But if you systemize your way out of working in your business and instead just work on it, you’ll not only see your role begin to change, you’ll see your team start delivering the results that you thought only you could.
How do you systematize your business?
1. Carve out time for strategic planning
If you don’t have time for strategic work, your first task is to track your time. It seems simple, but most business owners have no real idea of where their time is actually going—all they know is that they’re busy. You’ll find out quickly that you spent too much time doing things like micromanaging your employees or answering every customer call or email immediately. You may see that the work you think you’re doing is really a collection of half-thought-out strategies.
Once you’ve started to carve out the strategic time to work on your business and not just in it, you need a way of thinking about building a business that does the work. Then you can start working the cycle for developing your business: innovation, quantification, orchestration.
2. Start with small frustrations
As the leader, it’s your job to think about the bigger picture. But if you’re just learning how to think systemically about your business, don’t start with a big problem, like "We don't have a marketing strategy." Start with a small frustration that you can involve your team in and learn the process of solving frustrations systematically (something like, “The office is a mess, and we’re surrounded by clutter").
The critical thinking involved in this process of transforming frustrations into solutions gets you past superficial symptoms to understand the underlying causes and effects. Every area of your business is connected. And when you realize that you’re getting a repeated pattern of undesired results, you see it’s up to you to find the root cause.
Try these questions to evaluate your frustrations, determine the real source of the problem and then work to create a system solution.
What's bothering me?
Who and/or what is contributing to the frustration and how?
How is my business structured so this undesirable pattern of events exists in the first place?
How much is this costing my business?
What result am I not getting?
What's the solution going to look like?
Does it make sense to address this now? If not, when?
What exactly does the system to produce that solution need to look like?
How exactly will the system be implemented?
Like anything new, this process is going to feel uncomfortable at first, but it will get easier—and more rewarding—each time you use it.
3. Use the cycle for developing systems
Once you identify a frustration that you want to solve and what’s at the heart of it, you can start systemizing based on the cycle of innovation, quantification and orchestration.
- Innovation is using creativity to solve problems in new ways, including the improvement of existing systems.
- Quantification is using numbers to measure and evaluate the impact made by your innovations and tracking their performance over time.
- Orchestration is documenting a system that works, training your team to run the system, implementing it and creating a management culture where the system delivers consistently, predictably and reliably—until innovation improves it.
You need all three parts to create a business that works:
- Innovation without quantification or orchestration is a whole bunch of great ideas that do nothing.
- Quantification without innovation or orchestration is like counting sheep—pointless, and it puts you to sleep.
- Orchestration without innovation or quantification is running around with no place to go.
This is a cycle because, just as the world doesn’t stop turning, your business will keep evolving, and how you develop it needs to keep pace with the world around you if you want to hit your company growth goals.
Having a defined approach to systemization—rather than being reactive and fighting fires—allows you to identify deep underlying themes in yourself and the business that are the source of most of your day-to-day frustrations.
This process gives ordinary people on your team a way to create extraordinary results, and that’s an important accomplishment you shouldn’t underestimate.
Remember, developing your business and building systems aren't separate activities—they're one and the same. So each system you build is a step forward. If you'd like support getting started, we're here to help. A good first step is to download our Six Steps to Transform Frustrations Into Solutions guide.
It will help you identify choke points in your business and a proactive way to solve each one.