A business without systems is a business that's a lot like a drowning swimmer. It's flailing, trying to do everything it can to stay alive, but because there are no systems in place the business can't stay afloat.
When I first started my business, I didn't have any systems in place and didn't even know you needed them. Yet I quickly became overwhelmed by all the activities that I discovered I had to do, from marketing to networking to bookkeeping to customer service. It also didn't help that I didn't know how to evaluate activities and determine if they were really helping me. If I had systems in place in my business I might have saved myself a lot of time and money.
But you know, we don't know what we don't know, until we encounter it. When I started building systems into my business, it changed everything about how I ran the business, how I marketed, and made my life a LOT less stressful. Suddenly I could focus on the work I'd been wanting to do instead of being weighed down by tons of busy work that wasn't producing results.
I want to share with you 6 reasons why creating and implementing the systems in your business can save you time, get rid of the overwhelm, and help you get back to doing the work you love.
1. Systems provide organization and structure by showing you how your business ought to run.
A business without systems has little in the way or organization or structure. A system, by its very nature, provides organization and structure. Good businesses have systems in place in order to use those systems to focus their activities and behavior.
When I worked with a contractor, he had no system in place for managing his work or employees. Consequently he took on jobs that ended up costing him more money than what the jobs brought in. The constant chaos in the business also didn't help, because there was no structure or hierarchy in place.
Once we started putting a system into the business, all of that changed. The business owner refocused on who his ideal clients were, let go of employees who couldn't handle the changes and hired on personnel who shared his vision and wanted to make it a reality.
2. While there is an upfront cost to the time you put into creating a system, the system saves you time over the long run.
A lot of what stops a business owner from working on a system for their business is the initial time investment that is needed to define and implement the system. While that investment can seem prohibitive, what's really holding the business owner back is a lack of understanding about the long term benefits of creating a system.
I worked with an accountant who was just starting his business. A lot of his activities were unfocused, because he had no system in place, but when we talked about systems he worried that putting one together would take away from time he was putting toward getting clients. However, when he did work on a system for his business he discovered that wherever the system was implemented it saved him time...the time he could've been doing busy work or focusing on details that someone else could handle for him.
Once he understood the benefits, he put a lot of time into creating his system. A couple years since then, he's focused on doing the work that's really important to him. His system is taking care of the other work, which is also important, but not the work he needs to be doing.
3. Systems allow you to scale your business to handle the growth, so you don't get overwhelmed by it.
Your business will grow, but if you don't have a system in place, you may not be able to handle that growth. Systems are designed to help you scale your business to handle the growth and still be able to run.
The feast and famine cycle many businesses go through is due to the lack of a system for handling the growth. When a business doesn't have a system in place, too much growth can actually hurt it because the people operating the business don't have a way to manage the growth. As a result the business backs down from taking on new clients or stops doing activities that bring in more money. But this inevitably creates a famine, where certain activities are dialed up again. If a system was in place, the business could handle the growth and maintain activities that manage the growth.
I worked with a sign maker who had this problem. She could only handle so much growth before she had to stop growing her business in order to take care of her clients. She had no system in place, and so was always reacting to either having too many clients or not enough. Once she built a system for her business, it provided her a way to regulate her growth and plan for it, so she wasn't overwhelmed with too much work or not enough.
4. Systems can be modified to include your team, as you bring them on.
A system shouldn't be set in stone. Any system you create for your business can and should be modified as your business changes. When you get to the point where you can bring people on board and have them as part of your team, your system needs to be adjusted to account for those people and to assign them specific roles in the system.
One of my clients was a bookkeeper who was able to scale her business to a point where she needed to bring on a team member. Before she hired someone, we sat down and defined what responsibilities the person would have. This helped her change her system and also helped her figure out who would be a good fit for as a team mate in her business.
5. A good system increases your productivity because it helps you hand work off and focuses you on what needs to be done.
A big problem lots of small business owners have is an inability to hand work off to someone else. While the typical excuse is that they don't have the money to hand the work off to, one of the hidden reasons is that they're afraid the other person won't do the work or will mess up. So the business owner holds onto work that is important to be business, but is also busy work for them to be doing.
When you create and implement a system for your business it enables you to hand work off by either automating it or delegating it. Automation really just involves doing the work once, but executing it multiple times and that can be useful at the beginning of your business. But at some point you need to delegate, and the benefit of delegation is that it truly allows you to hand work off to someone else so you can focus on productive work, instead of busy work.
One of my clients was a computer repair person. At the beginning of his business he wore all the hats, but as his business grew, he knew he needed to hand parts of it off to other people. In one case this involved hiring a business to manage the bookkeeping, but in another case he needed to bring on a direct employee who can handle the admin work so he could focus on taking care of his clients. Having a system in place helped the computer repair person hand work off to the right people so he could do the productive work that would bring even more business through his door.
6. A good system shows you what is working in your business and allows you to let go of what isn't working.
When you have a system in your business it can help you evaluate what activities are working versus what activities aren't working. With no system in place it can be hard to determine if an activity is or isn't working. The reason a system can help you determine if an activity is successful is because when you implement it, you also set it up to help you evaluate your activities.
For example, I used to attend a lot of networking meetings. When I started developing a new system for my marketing, I used it to evaluate my networking and discovered it wasn't an activity producing much in the way of business. If anything it was an expense that was taking up a lot of time and money. As a result, I decided to change how marketed myself, refocusing on online marketing as a better avenue of reaching my tribe. Thus far, it seems to be working in terms of having established a thriving online community, as well as identifying who my tribe is, eccentric entrepreneurs like me, who want to establish a viable business.
Before I had a system I had a vague sense of who my ideal clients were and engaged in a lot of activities that were ultimately counter productive. Putting a system into my business to help me with my marketing also helped me figure out what marketing was or wasn't working.