Have you ever left your business to be run by your employees and then come back to chaos? Or just as bad, had phone call after phone call about simple things that have been carried out before by your employees, or at least don’t take YOU too much brainpower to work out?
I was in the same boat…one time; I went away from my business to help prepare for my sister’s wedding…and forgot my phone. I came back to find 15 emails and six voicemails…All from my employees! If that’s happened to you, your business is very much how my business USED to be.
As you can imagine, I was pretty worried about this and was well prepared to return to a business burnt to the ground or at least on its way to bankruptcy…As it turned out, the desperate and “hugely important problems” that I had phone calls for were as follows:
- “You left your phone.” (they thought I would check my voicemails remotely, apparently)
- Someone called interested in what we had to offer……It turned out that NO phone number, email, or even name was taken (as “I didn’t think to”), so I couldn’t call back.
- “Where is the paper for the printer?”
- “The toilet towels need changing.”
- “I’m finished for the day.”
- “Oh, I forgot to say someone came in, interested in what we offer.” By now, you know they didn’t get any details from them. “But it’s O.K.; they said they would probably come back to see us.”
And don’t even get me started about the emails!!
As you can imagine, this didn’t put me in the best mood. I vowed never to leave my phone anywhere again!
This wasn’t by any means an isolated incident……I went a whole year and a half without taking more than three consecutive days away from my “business” for two main reasons:
- I didn’t trust my employee (I only had one at the time) to handle everything without me. So I figured I would be better off not leaving him too long than having the stress of worrying and getting phone calls from him.
- I wouldn’t be making any money! This was the most influential factor for me not to leave my business for long. If I weren’t there, I wouldn’t be earning any money, was my opinion. “No one else can do the technical aspect of my business…I’m the best at it.”
Being tied to my business and not going anywhere further than a few hours’ drives was not ideal for my relationship with my girlfriend. I say “of the time” as it turned out that it was too much for our burgeoning relationship to handle…She understood I loved my business and was desperate to succeed, but not spending any quality time – even when we were together as I tended to be stuck frantically answering emails or phone calls – was too much.
Back then, I thought she was unreasonable, and all entrepreneurs and small business owners would have to be in the same position.
A few months after that breakup, I spoke to a business owner at a networking event who was happily married and had started his relationship with his wife and his business at pretty much the same time as me!!
There were a few glaring differences between his life and mine at the time, despite us having started our relationship and business at the same time…
- His relationship lasted.
- His business was twice my size in the same amount of time despite starting with precisely the same…just ourselves.
- He had taken two three-week breaks in the last year and a half.
- I was the one that had to be rude and leave the conversation in mid-flow to answer an “important” phone call from my employee. It turned out to be about a task he had done a hundred times.
- He had a lot more hair!!
As I discussed our differences, I kept hearing the word “systems” pop out of his mouth…Not wanting to appear ignorant and a lesser businessman (even though I now realize I was), I didn’t ask him what he meant by “systems.”
At any rate, they seemed important to him as he must have mentioned them a hundred times. So when I got home, I was intrigued enough (more by the guy’s apparent calmness about his business, his ability to holiday whenever he wanted, and the fact that his business was double the size!) to try and look up the word, “systems.”
The best I could come up with was the Wikipedia definition which is as follows:
“Most systems share common characteristics, including:
- Systems have structure, defined by components/elements and their composition;
- Systems have behavior, which involves inputs, processing, and outputs of material, energy, information, or data;
- Systems have interconnectivity: the various parts of a system have functional and structural relationships with each other.
Systems may have some functions or groups of operations.”
If this makes no “real world” sense to you, you are exactly like I was… It made so little sense that I left it and made a whole load of “reasons” why my business was different from the guy’s at the networking event and how “systems” weren’t suitable for my business.
I didn’t let the fact that I didn’t know these so-called systems bother me.
I did remember a book title that the guy had mentioned a couple of times… “The E-myth”…Well, at the time, I was always keen to buy a book from Amazon and have it sit next to my bed looking brand new. (Books rarely ever got opened as by the time I got to bed, I was too tired from running my business to read anything… There was no point in finding time to read during the day!)
So I carried on with my everyday business tasks (which by then I could do with my eyes closed as I’d had to do them every day for the last year and a half, which made it harder for me to understand how my one employee had to ask so many questions for most tasks despite the general having been done every day for the last 90 days).
The business seemed to stay the same, which was fine as “we are in a recession, don’t you know, so it’s good to be staying the same and not shrinking.” I wouldn’t say I was happy with my business, but I had come to terms with it and forgot about the guy from the networking meeting.
That was until we met again…this time at a charity auction (where he bid on and won a holiday to Las Vegas, I may add). We got talking again about our businesses, and this time, I didn’t try and hide behind any bravado, and I asked him this exact question:
“I know you seem to think systems are important and have allowed you freedom and your business to grow very fast…and I started to read that book you told me about. But I still don’t know what a system is and where to start…and actually, I don’t have the time!”
This turned out to be the most important question I’d ever asked, as it encouraged James to take pity on me and take me under his wing. He allowed me to see totally inside his business and learn exactly what he meant by systems and what they can do for your business life and, as clearly, your personal life.
Following this “education” from James, I changed my business completely. I went from having just one employee and doing all the technical work that I thought only I could do to having five employees and not having to do any technical work. Oh, and I’ve also taken two three-week holidays, and I now live with my girlfriend (the same one who dumped me for “not having any time for her at all”… All this after just over a year.
Why it works
James, my original mentor and teacher, was very impressed with my progress in completely systemizing my business. I’d managed to achieve it quicker than he had, and now my business is more successful than his.
I put the speed with which I was able to achieve it (once I knew what I was doing) down to the system that I could work out and apply to my business.
I believed that the approach with which I systemized my business and allowed myself to step away from the day-to-day running of things and concentrate on the stuff that would grow my business exponentially was unique to me and my business.
HOW WRONG WAS I?! That couldn’t have been further from the truth… My approach to the systemization and automation of my business allowed it to work with any company!
It isn’t specific to certain industries or businesses with one person or 4…It’s suitable for all shapes and sizes of tiny companies!
I first worked this out when my good friend, Sarah, asked me to help free up her time. Sarah owns a small beauty salon that she initially started as a lifestyle type of business, i.e., to provide her with a decent income and lots of free time doing something she loves.
Well, due to a few marketing systems that I encouraged her to implement, her salon went from 50% empty to her becoming more stressed at the number of phone calls and voicemails from people asking for appointments!
So one of the first things I got Sarah to do was change her answer phone message saying that she would only respond to text messages!
You’re probably thinking the same thing she did……I CAN’T DO THAT; YOU’RE CRAZY! AND ANYWAY, THEN I’LL HAVE LOADS OF TEXT MESSAGES INSTEAD!
I taught her how to write a system in 10 minutes that allowed her to handle her texts in 10-minute blocks twice a day. And in fact, now she has one of the junior beauticians take it for her. So her diary is dealt with for her!
About Stephen and Mark Gray,
Owners of The Systems Solution
The Gray twins are committed to a healthy lifestyle, having played professional rugby for Bedford and fitness modeling for national magazines.
They carry this strong belief into their two training studios, where their knowledge of systems has enabled them to work for them.
You can check out their Systems Solution for you Systems that run your business at www.thesystemssolution.com.