~by Marina Darlow~
Clearly, any aspect of your business can benefit from having a system. But your time and brain space are limited, and you’re not in the business of creating systems, right? Unless you are, in which case you probably don’t need this post. Go have a lunch break.
If you have been exposed to online business advice, the picture you get is… overwhelming.
A confused mind is not conducive to making decisions, never mind taking action.
So what do you do? What do you “systemize” first?
In other words – Which systems are NON-NEGOTIABLE?
There are four key aspects of your business where having a system is a must:
Every order, every invoice, every – even the tiniest! – expense. Pricing estimates, quotes, EVERYTHING related to money. When it comes to money, “human error” mistakes are frequent and costly. Forgetting to invoice a client is no fun. Forgetting to pay a vendor could result in a late fee.
On the other hand, an automated system that lets you plug in your prices and number of clients, then spits out your profits and your hours is invaluable. It helps you decide how much to charge, how many clients you can take on, how many hours to invest in which service/product, and so on. Without doing complex math every time. Eliminating the need to worry about late payments and rush fees is priceless. Less worry = more mental room to be creative!
2. Communications, EMAIL in particular
Email: The amount of time it saves is just mind-boggling. It’s also the easiest to rein-in.
An inbox with 3-digit number of un-read emails is a Black Pit of Despair and Hopelessness. An inbox with 5 emails total is a brief to-do list.
This is what I’ve seen when there’s no system in place: Losing leads by the dozen. Missing speaking opportunities and collaboration proposals. General drop in motivation fueled by the soul-crushing amount of stuff waiting in the inbox.
Streamlining email takes about an hour upfront, and about 5-10 minutes daily upkeep, once the system is in place. Now the question is what are you going to do with an extra 2-3 hours a day? I’m serious, that’s how much time it saves.
Client Communications: I’m going to state the obvious, but it bears repeating – this is what builds your reputation and referrals. Build a process (or “steal” an existing one. Someone has probably done it before and shared it online.). Attach a TEMPLATE to every step. In my observation, it makes things go 3-5 times faster on average, and keeps stupid mistakes at an acceptable minimum.
It’s actually a subset of MONEY and COMMUNICATIONS, but sales are so crucial to business survival, so I put it in a separate spot.
Sales pages: You need a clear, easy to follow process every time something is being sold via a page. Even if it’s free. I highly recommend using automation tools like InfusionSoft and LeadPages.
Payment: Dovetails to the sales page. Please don’t skip this one – otherwise you or your employees might not get paid.
Payment tracking: Know how much money comes in (and goes out) is important! Unless your shopping cart software sends you regular, well-crafted reports about payments made to your business, be sure to have a simple, easy-to-read spreadsheet. Update and review it at least once a week!
Refunds: Keep your audience happy, and more importantly, prevent unhappy rants from people who asked for a refund and didn’t get it in time, or in full, or at all.
So much has been written on the topic, I’m just going to repeat the essentials: Setup a calendar with reminders, and design a system for short-term, mid-term, and long-term planning.
Long-term and mid-term planning: no matter what system you use, your planning has to happen on a regular basis.
A good rule of thumb is to run a mid-term plan-and-review session every week, and a long-term plan-and-review session every 3 months.
Note: mid-term planning is a) the most-avoided part of the planning process, and b) the most effective technique out there to make your goals a reality.
Tell me in the comments what systems are the backbone of your business!
Meet the Author: Marina Darlow
Marina Darlow is a systems expert and a productivity geek. She sees her job as helping impact-driven entrepreneurs get 10-20 more productive hours a week, stop leaking money, and prevent stress-fueled breakdowns.
She runs Vision Framework, a company that builds small, purpose-driven businesses from the inside, helping entrepreneurs run their companies with ease by putting effective, easy-to-use, and fun (yep!) systems in place.
Website: Vision Framework