Guest Blog with Brie DeLisi Zoller: Business Systems: They May Not be Sexy, But They Work

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by Brie DeLisi Zoller

Owning a small business is the ultimate rollercoaster. You’re stretching and growing, while pushing your boundaries like they’ve never been pushed before. You experience the cycles of “ups” that bring more business than you can handle, and “downs” which mean not getting any calls for weeks in a row.

Most people go into business because they LOVE their craft, and they want to share it with the world! Unfortunately, a common pitfall is that soon after starting the business, you learn that you need to spend more time focusing on running the actual business, rather than creating.

All too often, there is a point in any entrepreneur’s business life when they are working 60+ hours a week and think to themselves, ‘I know there is a better way to do this.’ Creating a system, implementing a platform, or hiring someone to support your business are all great ways to overcome that business management burnout. But the hurdles can be intimidating. Many think to themselves:

  • I don’t have time to learn a new system
  • I don’t have time to teach the ways I do what I do to someone else
  • I’m just not good at new systems
  • I don’t even know where to start

First off, let’s acknowledge that you are not alone: this happens to almost every business owner. Second, take a deep breath. Allow me to share some practical tips on how to avoid/overcome these challenges.

Before the Tipping Point

If you haven’t reached this tipping point yet – FABULOUS. Here are the steps you can take to begin ‘systemizing’ your business before you feel like you’re in over your head:

  • Start documenting your processes – this could be a video, a written document, an audio recording, or whatever comes naturally to you! They key is to have a rough starting point for the next step…
  • Turn those processes into repeatable steps – you might create templates with work instructions, or videos for the way you conduct and run your business. This will automatically save you time in the long run by not having to ‘recreate’ or dig through history each time you do the same task or process.
  • Start asking yourself “Is there a better way to do this?” For many manual business steps, there are programs out there that can help you automate. Begin looking into CRM (Customer Relationship Management) platforms and project management platforms, and start testing them out while you have the time! This is a task that is incredibly overwhelming to start when you already feel like you’re in the deep end, so it’s best to dabble when you aren’t feeling that pressure.

At the Tipping Point

You are over capacity and drowning in work, and you need HELP. Let’s talk about how to most efficiently take action to implement some systems:

  • First, clear out as much of your schedule as possible. If there are nonvalue-added activities in your schedule, take a pause. (This does NOT include personal well-being activities; those are necessary to maintain sanity.)
  • Identify opportunities to take a pause – will you have a season of downtime? Keep pushing forward for the moment and continue the work mentioned above for systems! If not, you might need to refer business elsewhere temporarily in order to open your schedule temporarily to do this work.
  • Ask for help – when we’re in this place, we tend to not see the full picture because we’re immersed in the details. Meet with a business coach or business management consultant to hash out the big picture, and identify the steps you need to take to get organized.
  • Begin documenting – the easiest method is to record. Voice, video or screen record your processes so that you don’t have to take any extra steps to write them down. This will be incredibly helpful when you are ready to start creating systems.
  • Either find the time yourself, or hire someone to build out your systems (using the steps in the section above). This requires time and financial investment no matter which way you cut it, but hiring someone will allow you to spend more time on the work you love while only requiring your oversight. It is important to NEVER hand over a piece of your business operations to someone else without oversight – this can result in real damage to your business if your hire isn’t properly supported and/or managed.

After the Tipping Point

Maybe you’ve already experienced the full swing and have some downtime during the off season. This is a great time to reflect on what worked, what didn’t work, and what can be systemized for when business starts to pick up again (following the steps above for “Before the tipping point”).

While it can be tempting to procrastinate and enjoy your downtime, there is always the risk that the longer you wait, the less likely you are to remember the critical details or have the motivation to change your business systems. Take a breather, and then jump in with intention to get ready for the next upswing.

Business ownership is a challenge – but you are sharing your craft with the world and that alone is worth the price of admission. As long as you are willing to continue to learn, improve, and grow with each challenge, your business will succeed.

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