EF Staff

January 28, 2016

Most entrepreneurs are a mess their first year.

Jonny Gibaud, founder of Emergency Food Storage UK, laments, “You spend most of your time running around like a headless chicken trying to work out what works and what doesn’t. The first year or so was long days, long hours, a lot of wasted time, primarily because we just didn’t know what we were doing.”

Most business owners can probably relate to the state of chaos.

Running around like a headless chicken, wasting time, spending a lot of time and energy experimenting, and figuring out what works and what doesn’t.

Fortunately for Gibaud, he was building his business with systematization in mind. Today, he spends no more than two to three hours per week on his business.

What many business owners don’t know is how to get their business to run on autopilot.

Here are seven common challenges associated with scaling up your business, and how to solve them with systematization.

1. Clearly Defined Goals

James Schramko, founder of SuperFast Business, urges business owners to figure out what’s important and set the actual goal.

Schramko adds, “I’m mellowing out a little bit at my age. I’ve traveled the world several times. I’ve run a $100 million business. I just want to chill a little bit more and just do good work.”

He has the freedom to do what he wants because of the systems he has put in place, and because he had a clear vision for what he wanted to accomplish.

“Don’t take someone else’s goal,” he stresses. You have to have a clear vision for what you want out of your enterprise and a means to communicate that vision to your team.

2. Delegation

When her business had yet to be systematized, Laura Zander, co-founder and CEO of Jimmy Beans Wool described it as “a hot mess.”

She said, “I would work 7 days a week, I could work 12 hours a day if we had a bump in orders…. and then all of a sudden you throw something in there like a child, or a pregnancy, and all that kind of stuff, and you can’t be there.”

What is a business owner to do if they can’t be there? Zander says, “You have to learn how to start handing things over. And the only way to hand things over is to create some systems.”

Even if you don’t want to delegate, the need will eventually arise. And when it comes time to start delegating, you’ll need to create systems.

3. Automation

Steven Essa, founder of X10 Effect, can certainly speak to the idea of automation. He teaches people how to turn their knowledge and experience into something they can sell, particularly through webinars.
Essa got into business because he wanted more freedom. He warns, “it’s a dangerous thing to not have a business that’s systematized, automated, and has people running it.”

What if you get sick or incapacitated in some way? It’s not only your business that’s at risk – it’s the livelihood of your employees that don’t have a system to keep everything afloat.

Automation usually involves finding the right software and tools for your business. Essa says: “Basecamp is a fantastic tool which gives a deadline for our web designers.” He adds, “[w]e use Infusionsoft as well as 1ShoppingCart.”

There are plenty of options available. The key is to find tools that are right for you.

4. A Sudden Influx Of Clients & Customers

Growth has a way of being unprofitable, and the first thing most business owners do to cope is hire more people.

But there are business owners like Shahzad Nawaz – managing director of AA Accountants – that keep their team lean, but are still able to knock out a high volume of work.

“At the moment, we have six full-time employees,” Nawaz admits. “Previously, before we were fully systematized, we had 11 people working for us.”

Nawaz says he was inspired by a Michael Gerber DVD on small business success. After watching it, his team members all agreed that this was the best way forward.

If your business is growing, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to bring on new team members. If you have the right systems in place, it is possible to handle a larger workload with a smaller team.

5. Hiring

Tim Francis, founder of Profit Factory, has a very specific process for qualifying job candidates.
He makes it a point to look for people that are detail-oriented and qualified. Francis suggests finding people with the right skills for the job. That might include knowledge of HTML, PHP and CSS, or it might be something as basic as English skills. It all depends on the role.

Bringing on the right people enables you to teach them how to help you with systematization. You can empower them to start documenting procedures related to their jobs.

Different business owners have different ways of onboarding employees – and some are even able to bypass HR by using software – but in the end, it starts with forming a vision for your ideal employee and working backwards to find qualified candidates.

6. Training

Marnie Swedberg, owner of two fully systematized businesses, says, “The best practices are so important for you to actually set the bar exactly where you want the bar to be.”

Swedberg actually experienced considerable challenges related to training. Referring to her employees, she said, “Sometimes they didn’t have training, they just didn’t remember how to do it correctly, they needed more training. They maybe needed more instructions, so the instructions were in their head, but not where they can look at them.”

Swedberg says she encourages her employees to put themselves in her shoes, and asks them to consider what is most important to her as an owner.

Training may be a common challenge in business, but one that can be solved by creating an onboarding process that can be used and re-used with new hires.

7. Tracking

Every business owner needs a method for tracking and verifying the results delivered by their employees. Oftentimes this can be achieved through various software tools and automation.

In the case of Ontraport COO Lena Requist, she uses both Ontraport and a ticketing system.

She says, “I can see which tickets are open, which tickets are closed, [and] when they got it done. And there’s really amazing reporting on that. So you can make sure that there’s not an employee who’s not doing any work.”

As with automation tools, the exact process for measuring key performance indicators can vary depending on the nature of the business. But whether it’s looking at monthly statements or having employees tick off checklists, you need to have a strategy in place for measuring employee performance.

Are You Ready To Systematize Your Business?

If you’d like to free yourself from the “headless chicken” problem, you’re going to need to get serious about building systems in your business.

The first step is to identify bottlenecks in your company. Where is the slowdown, and why is it happening? Many entrepreneurs find that they are actually the bottleneck, because they’re trying to do everything themselves.

The next step is to start documenting procedures. Lay out a step-by-step process that anyone on your team could follow to see a task to completion. The best way to achieve this goal is by using a tool that allows you to make and share checklists quickly and easily with your team members.

For more on systems and processes, I’d definitely recommend checking out our post on the Empire Flippers blog about Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). Soon enough, you’ll be on your way to building a systematized businesses that runs without you – what a sweet thing to have, eh?

What are you using for your SOPs and processes? Or do you (gulp!) not have any in place yet? What’s stopping you?! Let us know in the comments below.

This guest post is from Owen McGab Enaohwo, the co-founder of SweetProcess, an app that enables you to quickly and easily document how you get repetitive tasks done so that your employees know exactly what to do.


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  1. […] often hire more people to meet an increase in demand, but this alone will not necessarily solve challenges associated with growing and scaling. You need a more holistic […]

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