Systems are the backbone of any successful business whether or not expansion is in sight. But systems become vital when businesses decide to franchise or even just open an additional location. Success simply can’t be replicated without the existence and implementation of systems.

Systems are methodologies and processes. They answer the questions: what, how, when, where, and by whom. In essence, they encompass the way things are done in a business and what is required to get it done over and over, producing the same result. Systems don’t need to be complex; in fact, the simpler they are, the greater their effectiveness.

To first create and then replicate the success of a business, systems need to exist in all areas of the enterprise: finance, management, customer service, operations, sales, and personnel. Michael Gerber, author of The E-Myth and The E-Myth Revisited says, “Organize around business functions, not people. Build systems within each business function. Let systems run the business and people run the systems. People come and go, but the systems remain constant.”

Systems are thus the key to sustainable success. If you let people perform their functions without following a system, each person will do it his or her own way. There will be no consistency and therefore no ability to reproduce the same results. If an employee happens to be good at his or her job and he or she leaves, the business will suffer. Training another person becomes a nightmare because there are no systems on which to base training.

Most business owners do not record their systems because the task overwhelms them. This does not have to be a scary task if you follow a simple approach. Get your employees together and make it a fun exercise. Buy a presentation easel pad and colored markers. Ask employees to divide your business into different functions. Take each function and start writing the tasks, policies and procedures your employees come up with.  Examples include: cleaning the bathrooms, displaying merchandise, sending customers’ reminders, refund policies, and so on. Use a different sheet of the  pad for each function. Do this over several days. Just make it fun. Once you have collected a substantial amount of detail, let your employees take this information and use it to answer the following questions:

  • What do I do?
  • How do I do it?
  • When do I do it?
  • What do I need to do it with? What tools, equipment, etc., do I use and how?
  • What do I need to know in order to do my job? (What are my qualifications?)

Make sure they understand this is not a job description, but instead you are looking for a detailed outline of each of the tasks they do. Let them work together. Keep making it fun. Buy them lunch. Create an incentive of a gift certificate or something else they can win for the most complete and detailed answers. Provide them with the format you want them to use. Be available to answer questions and assist them as they work on this task. Don’t pressure them, but do give them some reasonable timelines.  This exercise can provide you with a great beginning point in the documentation of your systems from which you can build on.  It does not have to be scary; it is all in how you go about collecting this information that creates either a sense of anxiety or a feeling of fun.

If you are a solo entrepreneur, your business still has different functions. It just so happens that you perform them all. Go through the same exercise as above with friends and family who can help you brainstorm and convert what could be an overwhelming task into a fun experience. Of course, you can always hire professionals to assist you with this task, but be aware that they will still need to get the information from you and from your staff.

Want to achieve success in your business? Think systems!!!