What Is a System?
The system is an automated process in business that automates one or more of the tasks. Systems are used to make the process more organized.
We can define a system as – “a set of interconnected parts forming a whole” – it comprises two or more components working in concert with one another to achieve some sort of goal. Systems can range from being complex, well-organized machines that produce products to simple checklists for managing your finances.
“If you’re too busy to build good systems, then you’ll always be too busy.”
What Systems do You Need to Create in Your Business?
Entrepreneurs need to be mindful of systems that they need in order to start their business. There are many that are important, and it is important for them to know which ones they need most.
The most important systems for an entrepreneur are:
Entrepreneurs might not know how to set up the most important systems at the beginning of their business. However, it is vital for their success that they create strong financial systems early in the life of their business.
Financial systems are key to any company’s success. They will turn into a full-time job if you leave them unattended or unsure about what to do. They are so important that they even have an acronym, CASH, standing for:
Cash – Keep enough cash on hand
Accounting – Setting up the accounting system
Systems – Setting up the right systems for your business
(And the most important of which is…)
Hire – Hiring people who can take care of these systems
Unless, of course, you have a degree in accounting or bookkeeping, in which case, congrats on saving the money!
A critical success factor for any entrepreneur is to manage their team and make sure the team members are all working on the same goal. You need to know how many people you’re working with and what their roles are in the company. This can help you keep things organized and assist you in making sure that you get all of your tasks finished.
One way to do this is by using project management tools that help with planning, monitoring progress, and tracking deadlines.
Managing a team can be challenging, as it requires a lot of time and skills. It is also demanding as not only does an entrepreneur need to manage their team, but they must also do all the tasks that come with running a business. It can get overwhelming fast. But when you have the systems in place to keep track of who is doing what, and when, it gets much easier.
Sales systems are how an organization approaches sales. It does not limit them to one strategy or process, but they are a culmination of various strategies and processes.
There are many components that make up a Sales System, but there are five critical success factors that every system needs.
1) A sales system needs a clear definition
2) The sales process must be streamlined and efficient.
3) It needs to have a proven track record of success for it to be sustainable.
4) The sales manager must have the ability to train and coach his/her team in order for them to reach their full potential.
5) The systems need to take into consideration the customer preferences and market trends when choosing how it will operate.
Marketing can be a challenge for any business, big or small. It is not enough to have the best product in the world; you also need to know how to get it out there. A good marketing plan is a critical success factor for any business. But there are so many types of marketing strategies and tactics, you need to decide what marketing system will work best for your business.
Business Management Systems
A business management system is a set of processes and systems that help entrepreneurs and small business owners to do their work efficiently. They come in handy when we need to stay on top of the deadlines, manage and delegate tasks and responsibilities, and keep track of finances.
The critical success factors for an entrepreneur include:
- – Planning
- – Having a clear vision
- – Having excellent management skills
- – Establishing an organized operation
- – Hiring the right people
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Use Systems to Improve Your Productivity
Small business owners are often juggling between managing their business, marketing their products or services, and keeping up with the latest trends. It’s difficult to stay organized and productive with so many demands on your time. Systems will help control the chaos.
Create systems that work for your needs – No system is a one size fits all. You can identify the general steps of a system, but it’s best to build your systems from scratch.
What does YOUR business need? What do YOU need to do? Sometimes your systems may have more or fewer steps than others who complete similar tasks. Your business is unique, and so are your systems. Just like everyone else 😉
Allow your systems to help you get organized – Storing all of your data in one location is the most important step in setting up any small business system. You don’t want information consistently scattered across different tools, post-it notes, and memos on your phone.
I highly recommend using Notion for nearly everything in your buiness because the Notion software has such an enormous amount of flexibility. You can use it to build almost any system imaginable. For more on how to use Notion, check out our beginner’s guide!
Investing in the right software for managing your finances, inventory, projects or team will save you time and frustration down the road. The software you use can make a world of difference in how your business operates.
Work expands to fill the time you allow for it – If you have two hours to do something, it will take two hours. If you have thirty minutes, guess what? You put your ass in gear. Time your tasks to get an accurate sense of how long they take, and be sure to document time estimates as part of your systems. This will allow you to judge you, or your team’s efficiency, in the future.
Prioritize your systems to focus on the things that need more attention when you’re not feeling at your best. Every entrepreneur has off-days. We try to do all the things all the time, and it’s a quick recipe for burnout. Identify your ESSENTIAL systems, so on those days you need a break, you know that the most vital things are still getting done.
How do you build a business system?
A system does not have to be complicated to be effective. It can start with a simple idea, an understanding of the problem, and a plan.
There are five steps to creating a system.
1. Start with identifying the problem you want to solve or the goal you want to accomplish. For example, create a system for your client experience. You want to standardize the process your clients go through to ensure you’re delivering the highest quality work every time.
2. Develop an idea of how you would run this system. How do you onboard clients? What information do you need from clients? How do you communicate with clients? Determine each piece of your client experience system.
3. Create a plan for your system. Once you know what pieces of the system you need, put them in order from the first part of the process to the last. For a very simplified example, we might compose your client experience system of – onboarding your client, conducting a client call, delivering your product or service to your client, and then off-boarding the client.
For each part of your system, you’ll need a process, or a standard operating procedure, also known as a SOP. In its most essential form, a SOP is simply a checklist. These break down the steps of each piece of the system.
In our example, part of our system is conducting the client call. How is this done? Are there questions you need to ask? What information does the client need from you? How long should a call be?
We will document all of this in your standard operating procedure.
4. Evaluate the success of your system. Try it out! Test your new system by following the SOPs for each part of your system, as you documented them. Did it work? Did you miss anything? Is there a part of the system you would change?
5. Review your systems. Regularly, you’ll want to go back and review your systems. Does anything need updating, changing, or to be removed? Did you find a better way to do things? Did you get any feedback from clients about their experience?
Now that you know how to more about how to build a system, we can go into more detail on how to correctly write your SOPs.
What is a SOP?
A SOP is a document that contains the steps and processes that need to be followed for a task. Other names for it are “Operating Procedure” or “Standard Operating Procedures” (SOPs).
A SOP can contain any tasks, such as how to make coffee, how to install software on your computer, or how to change the oil in your car. It can create a procedure for anything you can imagine.
Why Are SOPs important for your business?
The following are some benefits of having a SOP:
- – They allow your team to know what to do in any situation, without you having to be present.
- – They help with efficiency and serve as reminders for both your or team members.
- – They provide an easy way to find information quickly as everything is present in one document and stored in a central location
- – They act as a road map for new team members so they can learn the ropes quickly and easily.
The most important aspect of an SOP is that it provides consistency and reliability, not only among team members, but even for solopreneurs. Think of a SOP as a checklist. It makes sure you didn’t miss any important steps, and that everything is completed to a specific standard.
It can also help someone who is unfamiliar with a task or process to follow it step-by-step without making mistakes.
Have you ever wanted a day off? You’re going to need SOPs.
Tips for Writing Your Sops
1. Keep sentences short and concise
Remember that someone else will most likely need to follow this procedure. Make it easy for them to understand without long, complicated explanations.
2. Focus on key points
Ensure you have the major steps listed, as well as the details.
3. Use bullet points and numbering for ease of reading
This is nice and easy to read, right?
4. Include visuals whenever possible
Images are easier to process than words, and it’s much easier to show someone a task in a video than it is in a written explanation. Be sure to expand on your instructions with helpful (short) videos, screenshots, and other media.
5. Test your instructions before giving them to others
You want to make sure that your instructions don’t omit important steps. Run through your SOPs exactly as you wrote them BEFORE depending on them to help others.
7 Steps for Creating Your SOPs
Step 1) Define Your Systems:
The first step is identifying all the processes and procedures that need to happen in your business, and then grouping them into categories such as Business Management systems, or Team Management systems. We talked more about doing this earlier in the post.
What are the sizeable areas of your business? It may help to document what you do throughout the day and then categorize each activity. Sometimes I completely blank out on what I actually do when I try to remember things out of context.
Step 2) Know why you are creating the SOP
What are you trying to accomplish? What exactly does “done” look like? You can’t know the path to get somewhere until you know where you’re going. For our example, we’ll use writing a blog post. The goal of your SOP is publishing a blog post. Be sure to be specific. There’s a big difference between a drafted blog post and a finished one. Include ALL the steps.
Step 3) Write the steps.
Brainstorm all the steps you can think of to accomplish the goal of your SOP. If this is a procedure you’re familiar with, it can help to write the steps as you’re doing them. For a blog post you might write:
Write an outline
Write a draft
Schedule the post for publishing
Step 4) Add resources and additional information
For each step you wrote, you need to break down the step to its smallest tasks, and include ALL the information needed, such as what tools you used to complete the step. You might also want to use other media to show the steps such as a short video or screenshots. Make sure you also provide links to any of the software tools you use, or the documents needed for the SOP.
For researching keywords, I would provide links to any keyword tools I use, or websites I used to complete keyword research. I could also include a short Loom video on how to use the keyword tool.
Step 5) Test your SOP
The next time you need to complete the process you’ve documented, complete each step exactly as you detailed it. Did you miss anything? Do the steps lead you to the goal of the SOP? Edit your steps as needed. Continue to test your SOP until you’ve mastered each step.
Step 6) Store Your SOP
Organize your SOPs and store them in a location that is easily accessible by you, or anyone who might need to use the SOP.
If you bury your SOPs under 12 levels of folders on your cloud drive, you’re never going to bother looking at them, and who wants to waste time on things they will not use?
Step 7) Review Your SOP
Regularly, just as you review your systems (detailed above), you should also review your SOPs. Are they still relevant? Did you change the way you do anything? Did a new tool come out that you use?
I like to set a quarterly task (LINK TO PRODUCTIVITY POST) to review all of my SOPs, and make sure everything is up to date.
This may look like a lot of extra work you have to do, but taking each system and process one at a time, and breaking them down will help you document your systems and routines quickly and efficiently.
If you’re just starting your business, take advantage of it and write your processes as you create them. Sometimes you may not know all the steps of a process yet, in which case, complete some research or ask for help. See what steps others took, make notes on them, and then test them until you have completed your own unique process.
Eventually, you and/or your team will follow your SOPs on autopilot, and all of this will just seem like a bad dream. (Just kidding!) But don’t get too lazy about using or updating your SOPs, or you’ll eventually have to go through the entire process again.
You’re completing these processes anyway, so writing out the steps as you do them won’t add too much extra work, and the time it saves in the long run will be well worth it.
Successful Systems make a Big Difference in a Small Business
Successful systems make a big difference in a small business. An excellent system will help you and your team (or future team!) stay connected and up-to-date on what needs to be done, and when it needs doing.
It will also make sure that you always satisfy your customers with the service they receive. Systems allow for a uniform client experience. They’ll grow to trust your business when they know they are getting the same high-quality service every time they need you.
If you don’t have systems for your business, then it is time to create them. Creating systems as soon as you start your business is the key to success. Document, document, document! Your future entrepreneurial self will thank you when it comes time to automate and delegate tasks as your business grows.
Don’t forget to get your complete systems checklist and ensure your business has every system in place to thrive.
The Complete Systems checklist will list every potential system your business may need to have in place to be successful. You'll use your business systems to get organized, eliminate the overwhelm and know exactly what steps you need to take to grow your business!