We’re kicking off a new blog series called Basic Business Ops! This series will be breaking down all things systems, how to optimize it, and understanding the non-sexy (but necessary) world of business operations inside your coaching, consulting, or service provider business!
Today is Part 1: When Should You Start Thinking About Systems?
You’re perfecting your marketing strategy, you are seeing clients come through the door; you are doing the most to move your business forward. And systems have been a far-off milestone that you can tap into once you earn enough.
Then buckle up buttercup we’re going over when you should be thinking about systems and scaling in your business –and it’s much sooner than you think.
–Why Systems Are Great for Service Providers?
–When you should start thinking about systems, and business operations in general
–The most effective way I know to add systems to your business (without adding more to your plate)
WHAT MAKES SYSTEMS SO GREAT FOR SERVICE PROVIDERS ANYWAY?
Ok, so we know that running a business can be stressful, especially as a solopreneur. You are in charge of running every detail of your business; which is something that isn’t sustainable in the long run. But when you look at how systems are presented, it’s always coming from a place of organization or scaling. Not so much about running your business right now, in the midst of building it. No wonder systems are overwhelmed. But what if I told you that your business can benefit from systems right now?
Here’s a real-world example: I love sending personalized welcome packets and emails to my new clients. It sets the tone for our coaching relationship and also sets boundaries of what they can expect. BUT, I couldn’t do this unless I had some type of process or system to expedite my time in doing this. If I’m in a launch, where I need to onboard 5-10 people at a time, I would have zero time to manage anything else in my business.
But, what happens as soon as a client signs up? Because of my busy schedule, and timezones, I may not see their invoice come through until 12 hours from now. Do I want them to wait until then to get onboarded? To schedule their first call with me? Absolutely not!
Plus, I don’t want to be concerned about whether my clients, my leads and my team are getting what they need at every waking moment. I know when it’s time for me to start focusing on my upcoming wedding (A global panini can’t bring us down!)
…I’m not going to want to be writing personalized welcome emails. But I want to make sure that my clients are welcomed, even when I am not there.
And I’m willing to bet you are the same right?
Sure it would be nice if we could personalize everything, from our lead generation to our client onboarding and beyond, but the fact of the matter is we simply can’t be everywhere at once, nor should we aim to have our business run with that sentiment in mind.
You want to make the most of your time, without adding more to your already full plate.
So how can systems help you do this from ANY point of your business? I’ll be taking the rest of this article to tell you.
WHEN SHOULD YOU START THINKING ABOUT ADDING SYSTEMS?
This is LARGELY going to depend on your type of business, but the general rule is: when you have a vision and direction of where you want your business to go and are in need of space in order to shepherd it into fruition.
Different than you’ve heard before huh?
When systems are introduced, it’s typically through talks on scaling and is focused more on the financial return they can bring to your business.
But you didn’t start your business just for the money.
You started it for the time freedom as well. Something that systems are very good at giving you.
When you know you are doing the most and you have very little time to work on directing your business to the vision you had for it, it leaves your business directionless. No one is steering it in the right direction!
Systems help make space for that now; even if you aren’t ready to scale to 50 employees, or have less than 6-figures revenue.
Do you have tasks you repeatedly do but are taking up your time? Are there areas of your business where you feel don’t align with your vision and know you can have a procedure that better suits you?
Then you are primed to begin designing and implementing systems for your business!
Through my years of experience as a project manager and systems strategist, I’ve found these to be the biggest benefits of having systems EARLY in your business:
You’re building a solid foundation to start from that you can grow.
Ever heard of the bible parable of building your house on sand compared to building it on stone? Long story short, you can’t expect to build something sustainable and long-lasting, when your foundations are shaky. The same can be said for your business. Short-term strategies that you need to constantly tear down and rebuild at each level of your business aren’t sustainable. Think cold DMing or paint-by-the-numbers launch frameworks.
That’s why you don’t want to wait until you have hundreds of thousands of dollars before you start thinking about systems. It’s much easier to set a foundation where you are making intentional time and space for yourself, than trying to add it back in after such a long time of doing business a certain way. This doesn’t mean they need to be perfect (the best systems are the ones that can evolve after all), but they should be able to set up a foundational structure so that when you grow, so do they.
Creating space for yourself. It’s very difficult to chase freedom; in fact, you’re never going to be able to catch up to freedom as long as you’re chasing it! It has to be built into your business. The way we can do that is by creating systems that support us and enforce our boundaries so that we’re not constantly having to reinforce them manually. Great example: Having weekends off, while your business still generates leads for you (I go over examples of this in this article). You’ll thank yourself for that space as you continue to grow!
Grounding ourselves in the process and lowering decision fatigue. I am in the process of planning my wedding, and let me tell you; decision fatigue is ROUGH. When you are expected to make decision after decision in the hopes that they will work out cohesively in the future, it takes its toll. The same can be said for business. While exploration and experimentation are encouraged, the last thing we want to do is add more decisions to our plate than necessary. Decision fatigue is exactly as it sounds; it’s the act of feeling exhausted from having to make several decisions day in and day out. Even worse, they feel like they are life or death decisions; if you do not make the right decision right now, then you are going to cause a loss of progress or loss of finances in your business. This can keep you tied to doing a lot of things in your business manually! Being able to ground ourselves in the decisions we have already made, then taking them off of our plate is a big benefit of having systems early on in your business.
SO, how do you make a great system in your business?
Get clear on your vision: It’s really easy when you step into operations to get overwhelmed by all the things you COULD do. The way we can navigate this is by having a clear understanding of where you want your business to go. What’s the end goal you are striving for? Who is it impacting? How are you living? Use that to guide the foundational systems you put in place now–you’ll find it helps you stay away from Shiny Systems Syndrome!
Document Everything: There are probably some low-hanging systems that you haven’t fully taken advantage of in your business! They start to stand out more when you begin documenting the steps you take to complete daily tasks. Start documenting the processes you are manually doing, then ask yourself how you can make that process less time-intensive by systemizing.
Start small: Trying to start with one big goal can be overwhelming, especially when you are in the midst of running everything else. Know you don’t have to start all at once. I always like to start with the customer experience, as it is the most active part of my business, and allows me to start on smaller, tangible items may start with templatizing my onboarding, automating my invoicing process, or writing a canned email to send to people automatically. It’s nice to start with one small thing at a time, as opposed to trying to tackle all the different systems at once!
If your mind is buzzing with ideas of how to streamline your business and you are looking for more, I have a great place for you to keep learning more about systems and biz operations.
If you are a creative or service-based entrepreneur, you can get system and business operations advice sent straight to your inbox by signing up for AfroMail! I send new blogs, tips I don’t share anywhere else, and access to free + paid resources to create simple, impactful systems in your business.
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I live in Melbourne, Australia, but I’m a Washingtonian born and raised. I’m a cat-mom, wifey, and in love with a good workflow (it gives me that warm, fuzzy, Christmastime feeling). My goal is to help female entrepreneurs stop having to choose between creativity and productivity to build a successful, sustainable business.