Systems and Processes

One pivotal book that has shaped my professional, business philosophy is Michael Gerber’s The E-Myth Revisited. I have taken two main things from that book: 1) The importance of focusing on your strengths, and 2) Using systems/processes for consistent results (especially from other people). Let’s briefly look at each of these.

Focusing on your strengths requires determining what your strengths are. It’s helpful here to understand there are three main types of people in an organization:

  1. Technicians: Who are really good at making widgets.
  2. Managers: Not really good at making widgets, but great at managing Technicians.
  3. Visionaries: Good at coming up with amazing ideas, but not naturally wired to execute long term on the front lines.
    Most businesses are started by Technicians who are really good at making something. (For example, a web designer who works for a company and one day has an “entrepreneurial spasm” to go out on their own and start a web design company.) The problem is Technicians know how to make the thing they are great at, but they don’t know sales, marketing, accounting, accounts receivable, management, and/or business planning/strategy. They just want to make web pages, or whatever they are an amazing Technician at. It is imperative for a company that wants a chance at being successful long term to have its Technician, Manager, or Visionary know what they are best at and then fill in the rest of the team with the other players. As James Collins says in his book Good to Great, first you have to get the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus), and then get them into the right seats on the bus.

Using systems and processes for consistent results concerns both people and technology. Modeling after the way large, multi-location franchise type companies operate (such as McDonald’s), my professional goal in many roles has been to build systems and processes that could be operated by almost anyone with the proper training; such systems do not require superstars to produce desired results. When a system requires superstars, it can limit the team’s size and create a high-maintenance environment management has to deal with.

Instead, a truly scalable organization should be built that combines the philosophy of building systems and processes that anyone can operate with recruiting, training, and managing competent, willing, and motivated people to achieve amazing results. When you step back and analyze a company like McDonald’s, you see a company, staffed traditionally by employees starting out at minimum wage (teenagers, entry level workers, etc.) being managed to use well-defined systems to produce consistent results. They serve billions of people all around the world, and not on the backs of superhuman operators. I have been to McDonald’s locations in many states and countries, and the product is always consistent. How do they do it with thousands of locations staffed by entry level workers? Systems, processes, and checklists. I take this same philosophy into each organization I am part of to create consistent, predictable, scalable results within operational teams and sales teams.

System Tip

Most salespeople are great at talking and selling, but not necessarily great at the admin portion of a sale. If possible, build into your sales process the ability for someone else to do the admin—whether a different person on the team (admin/support role) or prospects themselves who complete forms online on their end. Build your systems to keep salespeople in their sweet spots as much as possible, and outsource the rest. Then you will be capitalizing on your team members’ strengths. If you cannot outsource that admin, there are ways that scripting can be written as a walk-through guide for the rep to complete the admin/application process. There are also various technology solutions that can guide the rep through the data entry as well.