There is a great book, “The EMyth” by Michael Gerber. I heard him speak the year he first published his book in 1986. He made so much sense that I bought his book and it changed the way I thought about entrepreneurialism and what it meant to own a business.
One of the major takeaways for me from that book was the idea that you should “begin as you mean to go on” or as Stephen Covey put it, “begin with the end in mind”. What this means is that you need a plan and in order to have a plan, just like taking a road trip, you need to have a destination, a map (often referred to as a “mindmap”) of where you want your business to become. Every good plan starts with where you want to go and ends with how you’re going to get there.
From an entrepreneurial standpoint, especially if you are a solo-preneur, time is both the enemy and the solution. Once you know where you want to go and how fast you want to get there, you need to plan your route, including what milestones you need to achieve and in what amount of time. Having decided that, you need to decide what you need to do to get to each of the milestones. From there, you break it down into manageable, doeable chunks and then create a schedule that will allow you to accomplish what you want to do.
Until you have taken these steps, your plan is incomplete. Until you have committed this to a written form, including hourly, daily, weekly, monthly and yearly tasks, your plan is incomplete. Having a far-seeing plan created in this way is the sign of a truly serious entrepreneur…a business person.
That being said, you will from time to time decide to add or subtract things from the plan. Rigid adherence to the original plan can be as destructive to a business as floating from task to task without a plan or a time budget.
Probably your absolute best ally is the ability to create systems that work. The Emyth is a must-read for that reason. You need to understand the power of including not only what the tasks are, but how they can be done in th emost effective and most profitable way. This especially applies to things like:
- How you provide customer service, including how your representatives will reply to various questions, having a very usable FAQ or Knowledge Base on your website.
- How you accomplish repetetive tasks, so at the point when your growth warrants it, you will be able to add employees or technology, it will be clear as to the order of operations and the details that raise the quality while working “smarter, not harder”.
- How do you deliver your product? What are the “happy surprises” you consistently deliver every single time? What specific things do you do to delight every single customer every single time and what systems do you have in place to be sure that no one gets “dropped through the cracks”?
- How do you assure that your brand is strengthened with every single post, with every single customer/client interaction, with every single piece of printed matter, with every single video or report or class that you do?
In order to create consistent quality in your brand that will survive your initial “entrepreneuril seizure”, you need to have systems in place that assure that your customers and clients can depend on your company. Creating that kind of trust can be difficult when you are the “chief cook and bottle washer” of your business, if you don’t have systems in place, including budgeting and scheduling your time to be sure that the job is done in an organized way.
If you are serious about your business and assuming you aren’t an entrepreneurial hobbyist, you need to ask yourself these questions:
- Do I have a vision of what I want my business to look like in 5 years, 10 years or even 20 years from now?
- Have I written it down in detail?
- Do I know what milestones I need to make in order to get there?
- Have I broken it down into time blocks that make sense?
- Have I actually created a reasonable work schedule that will mean I make progress every business day?
- Have I created systems for my tasks that mean that I could hand that task over eventually to someone else and be confident they could do the job efficiently, effectively and without lengthy training or micromanagement?
- Am I in integrity with this plan?
When I worked for the State of Washington, at every desk, in every department there was a “desk manual” that gave instructions for that particular position, everything to what order tasks needed to be done in, how to answer the phone, the chain of command if I had questions or suggestions or if something wasn’t working often up to and including how to arrange the work area. Anyone with basic knowledge and understanding of the position they had been hired for could get up to speed, often within less than a week, and could work that position as effectively as someone who had been doing the job for awhile. My supervisor or trainer didn’t have to hang over my shoulder after my first day of orientation and I was able to feel confident I could do the job with little fuss and with very few reasons to ask questions.
The thing is that most new entrepreneurs skip this step because they have everything already in their head. The problem with that comes when the business is ready to take that next step upward and they need to add “minions” to thier process. Assuming you ever want to go beyond always doing everything yourself, making the effort now to develop systems that will take you where you want to go and then documenting them, will allow you to make that transition with grace and a lot less bumps in the road that most businesses experience as they expand.
What systems do you already have in place for your business and what have you done to document them? Please take a moment and tell us in the comments below. Have questions? By all means, ask in the comments below: