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Building business systems must be one of the driest sounding phrases on earth. Unless you’re as weird as me and have a passion for writing database schemas. (Uhhh what?…I know.) But building systems in your business is one of the fundamental things that is going to skyrocket your success, and enable you to scale beyond your wildest dreams.

Systems are the building blocks of your business that define and simplify everything that needs to be done. Systems will help you with everything from organizing files to hiring team members. You could improve your whole life with systems! Not just using systems in your business, but throughout your personal life too. Let’s start with the many ways systems are going to improve your business.

A business system is simply a grouping of steps or actions you take for a specific purpose on a regular basis. You may have systems you only implement once per year, like your system for annual business planning. Or you may have systems you employ every single day, such as a system for engaging on social media. When you group every step into a system, you can repeat it, in the same way, every time.

When you can standardize your processes like this, you’ll be able to increase your efficiency, and ensure the right things are getting done at the right times. All with systems!

“Everything must be made as simple as possible. But not simpler.”
― Albert Einstein

Why do I need to be building business systems?

 

There are lots of benefits to having systems in place. Besides the aforementioned increased efficiency from standardizing everything, you’ll ensure that you did the right things each time, no matter who is completing the process. You’ll be able to teach your systems to any team members you may hire, and you’ll feel secure knowing they are doing everything the same way you would do it yourself. In this way, systems can successfully grow your business.

You’ll never depend on one person to get something done. You’ll be able to give tasks and projects to team members, or even get a new virtual assistant quickly up to speed.  And if someone else is running all of your systems, guess what? YOU CAN HAVE SOME TIME OFF. (What? What is time off?) The benefits of taking time off are beyond this article, but trust me, you need some.

Systems minimize mistakes or other bumps in the road. When you do things a certain way, and you know it works, you run into fewer issues. It takes all the guesswork out of doing things, especially when you’re racking your brain trying to remember how you updated that one thing on your website last month.

 

What are some examples of business systems?

There can be thousands of systems involved in running a business, but don’t worry! Running a small business online usually requires only a few major groups of systems. These groups can include:

Content Systems

Content systems are whatever systems you used to help you create, organize, manage, and distribute your content. There are so many options for content management software or different ways you can make your system, even with something as simple as a cloud drive.

No-code software like Notion allows you to create a content system that is customized exactly to your liking and moves you through the content creation process in a way that works best for your brain. With Notion, you can use databases to make a kind of content pipeline that moves each piece from idea to publishing. You can store a list of content ideas for each platform, draft and develop your ideas, and even keep an editorial calendar. With everything in the same place, this is my favorite method for content creation. .

Content management systems include systems like:

 

 

Business Management systems

Business management is a sort of meta-thinking about your business. It’s the big picture of what you’re trying to achieve, and how you’re going to achieve it. Like most of these groups, we can create the systems they contain in anything from high-tech software down to a word document.

For anything dealing with numbers, like tracking different metrics, I would highly recommend using a database or a table that will make it easy to record and monitor them. Another glorious thing about the Notion software is that you can have several database-heavy documents, as well as, word-only documents, all in the same place.

Business Management systems could include:

 

 

Client Experience systems

The systems in this group are anything that affects the experience your client has with your business.

At a minimum, I would have a checklist for each service I provide. This checklist would state the exact steps that each client will go through during that service. This helps to standardize the service so you can provide the same results each time. It also helps your clients to know exactly what to expect, and this increases their trust in you. If they get the same excellent service every time, not only will they be a repeat client, but they’ll also refer your business to others.

These systems would involve things like:

 

 

Project management systems

Project management systems are pretty self-explanatory, as they encompass the management of all your projects. But don’t make the mistake of only documenting your active projects.

As business owners, we have a lot of ideas bouncing around in our heads at any one time. Too many ideas for us to pursue all of them at once. Create a place where you can store future project ideas, ideas that may sit in backlog, project archives, and even projects you might have abandoned. Having all of your projects in one place also allows you to see your current workload and check on the status of each.

 

Task management systems

Task Management Systems are like projects because it dictates how you manage all of your tasks. Just like projects, these won’t only be tasks that need to be done soon. It might also include tasks to do at some point, tasks you started doing but didn’t finish, and “one-off” tasks that aren’t project-related. There are thousands of different task managers that can help you keep track of what will probably be thousands of tasks.

I keep my systems simple by storing them all in Notion. Within Notion, I use a database to store all of my tasks along with their current status, and connect them to their corresponding project.

 

Service & product systems

Service systems are anything related to the services that you offer. You can keep ideas for new services, and notes on the status of all your current services.

I find it helpful to evaluate services regularly, especially after receiving any feedback from a client. What were they happy with? What could have gone better? What else did they need? You can keep all of that information in one spot, so when you feel you need to re-evaluate your services, everything is at your fingertips.

Service systems could include:

Product systems are going to be very similar to the systems you have for your services. You’ll be using them to keep track of new product ideas and evaluate your current product offerings.

If you have physical products versus digital products, then the number of systems needed can be even higher since you’ll need to track inventory and supplies.

Product systems could include:

 

 

Operating systems

Operating systems are sort of catch-all for your administrative tasks. It encompasses your systems and processes for things like organizing, scheduling, and time management. It also encompasses document and information management, and other administrative tasks like website updates, or IT security.

Examples of operating systems would be:

 

Financial systems

Ah, math! A lot of businesses leave the financial systems up to the professionals, but when you’re just starting, it’s good to get at least a basic grasp on tracking your income, expenses, profits, etc. A good bookkeeper can save you a ton of headache once it comes time to file taxes, but don’t be afraid to start with doing these things yourself.

At the least, I would suggest a database or software tool to track what you spend and earn each day. This will allow you to see trends, and whether you’re making money, or losing it! Once you outgrow a basic financial system, I would hire an accountant who can help you.

Financial Systems are anything that involves revenue and numbers including:

 

Marketing systems

This covers a huge part of the systems you’ll need to have in place, but they’re also the systems that make the largest impact in your business. It’s worth it to take the time to get these exactly right.

Using database software, or software built specifically as a “customer relationship manager” can help you keep track of any potential clients, warm leads, and networking with other professionals. There are tons of unique examples of systems you’ll need here, but some of them might be:

People systems

People systems involve everything that helps you manage your team. If you’re flying solo at the moment, then you won’t have these, or you’ll have very few if you temporarily hire someone like a virtual assistant. If you have a team, it’s very important to keep all of their information organized and accessible, not just for ease, but especially for legal and tax purposes.

Their systems could include:

It sounds like a lot but each of these groups will house pretty much every system you could think of that your business needs. Every business is unique, so it will be beneficial for you to determine each of the systems you’ll need. Go through your day and week, and think about the tasks you perform regularly, and how each of these fits into one of the system groups.

Don’t panic if you don’t have any systems in place. Establishing and documenting all of your systems is going to take time and is usually something that happens gradually as the business grows.

You’ll also need to make sure you have a system for periodically reviewing your systems. Tools and resources used in tasks often change, and you’ll need to make sure your documented systems stay up to date.

A system for my systems?! Yup. We’re going down the rabbit hole.

 

How do you build a business system?

 

There are a few basic steps to go through regardless of what system you’re creating.

  1. Identify the activity. What is it you’re trying to accomplish? There are tons of business activities and every one of them can be a system.
     
  2. Plot out your steps. If this is an activity you’re already familiar with, the next time you do it, simply write each step as you do it. Use different forms of media to document the steps. Depending on what it is, screenshots, short videos, or written documentation can be helpful. If you’re building a new system, write what you think you’ll need to do, and then you can test it the first time you execute that system, making any necessary changes. 
  3. You’ll also want to make sure you document any tools that you use, as well as how to access each tool. Write out the steps as if a stranger had to complete this process for you. 
  4. Store your documented system in a safe place where you and your team will access it at any point. I highly suggest using Notion to store standard operating procedures or even company wikis. Notion makes it easy for everyone to access information, but it also makes it easy to customize page permissions, and make documents available to different team members. You could use also use word files stored on a cloud drive, or one of the specialized services like Sweet Process that helps you create, manage, and store your systems.

    Run through your system to test and evaluate what you’ve recorded. Did you miss any steps? Does everything work as documented? If so, you’re ready!


How to get started creating systems in your business

The first thing you need to do is figure out what systems you need. What do you do regularly? Send newsletters? Write blog posts? Work on client projects? After you’ve determined what systems you’ll need, you’ll have to prioritize them.

I’ve always prioritized my systems by first refining and documenting any system that generates income or leads. These are the systems that will keep your business in business!

After you take care of those, you can move on to activities that you do the most often to the least often.

 

 

Download your complete systems checklist

There are lots of great places to go to learn more about systems! We first recommend downloading our Complete Systems Checklist. This printable list contains every business system I could imagine a business needs, no matter whether that’s a service-based business, a product-based business, or a mix of both.

This checklist is slightly more detailed and breaks up some of the larger groups of systems into smaller ones, so it seems less overwhelming. There’s also space for you to mark down which systems you already have in place, and which systems you’ll need.

There might be some systems that you have in place but have never documented formally. Mark these systems as needed so it will prompt you to make sure you go back and complete building your system. Ensure you are writing out all the steps and evaluating them as the best way to do things.

You’ll find that there are endless amounts of tools you can use for each system. Try not to get caught up in shiny new toy syndrome and keep things simple at first. As you get more familiar with your systems, you can better evaluate where you need more involved tools or software to help increase your efficiency and effectiveness.

The Last Thing about Building Business Systems

Systems can seem complicated at first glance, but now you know that they’re very simple!  It’s easy to create systems, and it is easy for systems to help you grow and improve your business.  It can even almost be fun to build systems as you think about doing things in new ways.

Systems aren’t just relegated to improving your business, they can also improve your life! Think about all the things you do on a day-to-day basis. You can build a system to do anything. Systems are truly limitless. Download your checklist, check off those systems, and get to building!

 

 

 

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Hey you, I´m Lauren.

An entrepreneur and systems nerd for the last 7 years! Combining my education & experience, I want to help you love your business and leave the overwhelm behind.

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