Simple, logical, repeatable: how systems should be your new investment

Alice Weil

Alice Weil

Features Editor at The Executive Magazine

Marianne Page, who worked as a senior manager with McDonald’s for over 25 years and is now a best-selling author focused on high-level business development, gives us the inside scoop of how to invest in your company the right way.

There are few things more exciting than being in a position to invest in your business – taking that leap to the next level is one of the best feelings as a business owner! But what do we invest in?

In a reactive business, where you as the business owner are head-down and involved in the day-to-day running of the business, investments are more often than not reactive, as a result of necessity – renewing old software, marketing to generate more custom in a slump… and not always planned in advance.

If you do have the time-freedom to work on your business and not in it, then investments will inevitably be pre-planned and more controlled. You can hone your product, reduce production costs… whatever your aim may be – and, of course, attract more customers and increase your turnover. 

So, you have generated more custom and your business is growing, but have you got the infrastructure to support this? The highly engaged, high-performing team? Do you have the consistency in place to ensure that each customer receives the same high level of customer service?

Have you invested in your business systems?

Many of us make one fatal assumption when it comes to scaling up. We think that as hard work has been essential getting us to this point, working even harder is the key to making it to the next level. We work ourselves into the ground, exhausted, and then wonder why we never quite make it to that next milestone, or worse, we do make it to that next level but are too burnt out to enjoy or sustain it. 

The key to scaling up without burnout isn’t hard work, luck, or even connections: it’s systems.

By systems, we mean having one way, the right way, to do everything in your business. We mean training your team in that one, right way, achieving consistency throughout. 

While you can go into great depths with systemising your business, ultimately, a great system is built on four foundations: your planning system, your customer experience system, your people systems and your performance management system.

We recommend cementing the foundations before you increase your customer base, before you hire new team members. Do it now, so that ‘the way we do things around here’ is second nature, so that new recruits can be trained in the one right way to do everything in your business. Your consistency will mean that you can scale and grow with ease, with confidence.

Your planning system

If you’re not sure where you’re going, how will you know when you get there? You must start out by becoming extremely clear on your vision and values, your specific goals for each quarter of the year, and your personal management system (i.e. how you manage yourself so you’re constantly working at your best) before you do anything else. 

Your customer experience system

When you’re scaling up, you need to be able deliver consistency to your customers. They want the same, great experience each time. They want to know that what they expect will be delivered, and they want to know that each time they call or email in, they will be treated professionally, no matter who they deal with.

Do you have this in your business? Or do customers complain that promises weren’t delivered, or that the quality has dropped, or that the communication has broken down?

Your people systems

No business can exist, much less scale, without great people, so pay extra attention to this pillar. Start by thinking about your hiring: would you hire the same people you have again? How is everyone fitting into your team? Is there someone who needs to go for the rest of the team to perform optimally?

Of course, you have a lot to do with how your team is performing, so don’t forget about your training processes, including the initial training you give people and the way you’re giving feedback. If it’s been a bit piecemeal up until now, it’s time to get that systemised.

Your performance management system

People often shy away from really looking at their performance, especially when things are going well. After all, why fix what’s not broken? But you should be paying close attention to all aspects of your performance at all times, including the way your people are performing, the way the business is performing, and how you can continually improve. While the exact elements of performance you’ll be tracking will vary depending on your business, do take the time to figure out what the most useful metrics for your business are — looking back at your initial goals will help you figure this out — and then track them.

With these four foundations, you’ll be well placed to create the systems that support that next big leap and help you capitalise on its success, rather than being too burnt out to make the most of it. 

So how do we go about this?

There’s no point in having a system if you’re not going to follow it, or if your team is not going to follow it. This is why it is so important to involve your team in systems creation. For the simplest tasks, for those tasks that you repeat every day/week/month/year, create a ‘How-to.’ 

Those who perform a certain task the most often should be the ones to create the How-to. Remember, your team may well be better at performing a certain task than you – you can trust them to make the ‘How-to.’

Always explain the importance of the plan. Share the reasoning behind what you’re doing, and your team will feel included, and feel ownership for what they’re contributing to. They will want the business to succeed, and they’ll see their efforts rewarded by this success.

It’s best to keep systems as simple as possible – don’t overcomplicate anything – and put each system through a logic test – ask someone in your team who doesn’t usually do a task to follow the new ‘How-to.’ You will find they ask questions that you might not have answered in your system, or they will highlight repetition or wasted effort. 

These ‘How-to’ documents can now be used as training guides. Everything in your business, over time, will become systemised. It will feel natural because it will become ingrained in your culture.

Invest in your systems to grow your business…

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