Systemization Series: 5 steps to building a systemization plan

The accompanying chart, taken from the U.S. Small Business Administration’s March 2014 Frequently Asked Questions report, tells a tale of heartache and concern.

The data include entrepreneurs and existing, large firms. But mixing large and small companies together skews the numbers so it doesn’t look as risky as it really is for small landscape companies. This is especially troubling when it’s brought to point that 70 percent of all startups are out of business in less than 15 years. Most of these failed businesses will have owners that lose their homes and life savings in the process.

I’d be willing to wager that 99.9 percent of the 70 percent that go out of business never devised a business systemization plan. I’d also bet that the 0.09 percent of business owners who have a business systemization plan in effect are in the top one tenth of the 30 percent of businesses that survive— furthermore, they are not just surviving but thriving. With all that is at stake, it’s hard to imagine why more people don’t make a business systemization plan. It’s awfully hard to get somewhere if you don’t really know where you’re going or how you’re going to get there. It’s just common sense but, as business owners, we know how uncommon common sense is.

Here, I am going to give you the keys to the kingdom so to speak—the five steps to building a systemization plan, that is.

It goes like this.

1. Identify all the tasks of your business.

At this point, don’t worry about documenting all of these processes. Simply understand the scope of the project ahead of you. What are all of the systems that need built? Think of sales processes, production processes, financial and administrative systems and leadership and management procedures. This is the foundation of your plan, so be thorough. You’re creating a picture of your business in terms of its systems.

2. Prioritize your systems list.

Which procedures are the most important ones to be implemented? Which systems, if documented and implemented, will have the most impact on the business? Which ones can wait for later? There are many ways of thinking about this prioritization process. If you’re thinking of hiring a salesperson, for example, make the hiring process and the sales systems a high priority. This will make recruiting, hiring and training of new employee more efficient. Plus, you will get a faster return on your investment in the hiring of that new employee. Keep in mind this scenario is just an example. There are lot of factors that will help you determine your priorities. The beauty of it is you individualize it for your business, yourself.

3. Document your systems according to your prioritized list, and manage the writing process.

Wherever possible, you want to enroll others in the company, meaning your team, to help with writing procedures. They’ll be more invested in your systems’ success, and it won’t feel like a top-down exercise. Together, everyone will help to take the first steps toward greatness. Put your people in a position to take the credit.

4. Implement your systems.

Another word for “implementation” is training. Go through the systems documents step by step with your employees so there is clear understanding of what needs to be done, how it needs to be done and what results are expected.

While implementing systems in your business is a long-term project, all you need is to get a few employees trained to fan the fire of the systems development process. As humans, we’re “wired” to follow processes. Think of how you get up in the morning, drive to work, shovel a driveway or mow a lawn. All are routine tasks almost always done systematically, and it’s more satisfying that way. Give employees systems, and they will be more efficient and satisfied. They also will be more in tune to the systems development process.

5. Monitor your results until you get what you expected.

Many managers and business owners forget this process. They get motivated to systematize and do put a system in place, but forget to follow it up. This is why there should be systems in place for management to monitor the systems. This is in line with the notion that people respect what is inspected. If you ask someone to do something and never follow up to see if they did it, what are you teaching them? You’re teaching them you don’t care or you’re too busy to check back with them. This only relays the message that they probably don’t need to do what you’re asking them to do.

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