Systems Go!

Are you confused at all about systems?  What they are, how to create them, what they can accomplish?  If you’re lost, you’re not alone.  Not too long ago someone asked a really good question about systems.  The question was this: How many steps should an effective system have?  If you take the time to really dig into that question, you’ll see that it’s very complex.

The question posed above does have an answer . . . but the appropriate response goes beyond just finding a concrete answer.  It involves helping you come to the understanding that a system is more than a formula—it’s more than a flowchart or set of steps to be followed as outlined on a piece of paper.  A system is more than a document that tells people how to do things and in what order to do them.

So What Is a System Then?

A system is a course of action that is often repeated to obtain a specific, known result.  Consider the following examples, all of which are systems:

  • Sweeping the floor
  • Exercising
  • Flossing your teeth

All of those activities are examples of systems.  They are systems that you likely haven’t documented, but they are systems nonetheless.  Now if you wrote a work plan that specifies a particular employee is to clean the counters before clocking out, well now you have a documented system that if followed will mean you have cleaner counters.  So that’s the difference between documented and undocumented systems.  Why the distinction?

The distinction is a first step toward understanding that there are good systems and bad systems.  A bad accounting system is one where you run a cash business, don’t account for cash receipts, and expect employees to report sales figures to you.  I think we can all agree that such a system would eventually lead to bankruptcy because of employee theft.  It’s sad, but true.

The difference between a good system and a bad system is measured only by whether you obtain the results you want on a consistent basis.  If you find a system that gives you a great result, document it!  If greeting every customer with “Welcome to Candy’s Candy Shop.  Please buy a candy cane,” results in the sale of a high profit margin item every time, well by all means follow that system!  It doesn’t mean you can’t continue to test and refine your systems (or even try parallel systems), but it does mean you have at least one proven way to convert sales!

On the other hand, if you have a system in place that actually keeps customers from making purchases, you need to identify it and get rid of it!  Sadly, you might not even know such a system is in place, which is why outside observation and third-party objective advice is often very valuable to business owners.

Bottom Line: Systems will either allow your business to grow and realize a profit or they will cripple you.  There is no “in between.”

Behind the Curtain

The Wizard of Oz stood behind a curtain and the façade of an all-knowing being.  That was his system.  But the important thing to remember is that people run your systems!  The system is the switch, lever, or button that must be pushed, and at times improvisation is necessary.  Systems cannot replace people, but they can make people more efficient over the long-term.

When your employees fully comprehend that the systems they follow are a means to an end that they are expected and empowered to reach, they will understand their value to your company.  Don’t keep your desired results a secret.  Make sure everyone understands what your systems are intended to accomplish.  When your employees understand that, they’ll start thinking and feeling like a person who contributes, rather than just a person who follows a set of rules. That’s when they start looking for ways to go above and beyond the call of duty and improve upon existing systems in productive ways.  That’s when they’ll start creating systems within your systems, which is a recipe for success!

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The Parents Estate Planning Law Firm, PC

At The Parents Estate Planning Law Firm, we answer your questions at your convenience; we stay in frequent communication; and we meet to discuss changes in life circumstances and in the law to ensure that your assets are protected.

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