The word “systems” can be intimidating for us entrepreneurs, right? Many business owners caught up in the midst of chaos know deep down that they need to have systems, but they’re afraid. They’re afraid that if they put systems in place, the business will lose its soul; that the systems will make the business inflexible.

Instead of hiding from business systems, it’s time for you to start embracing them. Systems provide a way to coordinate your team’s efforts so you can avoid the urge to micromanage. They allow you to focus on the things that matter—like building your business.

In this article, I’m going to share with you five steps that you can take to make sure that you can put flexible, friendly systems in place in your business:

  1. Focus on the result.

Define the result as clearly as possible. Don’t just write, “The result is customers are greeted,” when you can say, “Customers should feel like they’ve been greeted by a long-lost friend.”  A clearly-defined result means that even if your employees don’t follow the systems one hundred percent, you’re still pleased with the outcome. Results-based documentation allows employees to have some wiggle-room in the path they take.

  1. Make systems guideposts.

Avoid policies. Policies are for enforcement. Systems, instead, are for development. Documented systems are best used as a training manual—a way to teach people how to do things, not as something we’re going to micromanage verbatim. Start thinking of systems as a pattern of preparedness. In the event an employee needs guidance, they can rely on the pattern of preparedness to resolve the issue—whether you, the owner, are present or not. By training from bullet-point systems, but filling in the details with verbal training, you won’t feel like a policymaker, but rather a mentor on how to get from point A to point B.

  1. Keep systems brief and simple.

One of my favorite experiences as a business coach was meeting a business owner who had—prior to meeting with me—documented all the systems in his business. It was a 350-page monster! I asked him when was the last time he reviewed this manual. He said…well…never. That’s exactly what we don’t want to have happen. By keeping systems very brief—just bullet-point outlines—makes them something that is a helpful resource that people will use and will refer to in the future. As long as you’re able to keep your systems brief and simple, the execution won’t be overwhelming to the spirit of your business.

  1. Keep evolving.

I tell my clients regularly that there is no such thing as a perfect system. Often, we get caught up in wanting every last detail to be perfect when, in fact, it’s just the next draft. By allowing yourself and your employees to continually evolve and change the systems, that makes them vibrant, living things. This is part of the reason why I recommend that companies use a company wiki to store their systems. It allows people to edit much easier. Much like marketing, systems are a science that must be tested and fine-tuned—especially as your business continues to grow.

  1. Define your company values.

What do company values have to do with systems? Everything. There’s no way you’re going to cover every last detail of what people should do in a system. No. There are moments when people are going to have to make a judgment call on their own. That’s where the company values come in. If living your company values has become a part of your company culture, employees can use them to guide their decision-making process—to fill in the gaps of your business.

Systems are powerful tools to help your business grow and mature. By implementing these simple suggestions, you can make systems an essential, yet inconspicuous and flexible part of daily operations.


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