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  • Aspire » System

    12 Aug
    Dead End?

    photo by Nicholas Canup via flickr

    Clear, documented, easy to follow processes are critical to business success…but they could also be a reason why you’re struggling right now.

    For a business to grow, systems and processes are the cornerstones in creating a scalable business.  Everyone knows the story of how Ray Kroc bought a small chain of hamburger restaurants from the McDonald’s brothers and turned it into one of the largest franchises in the world.

    What most people don’t recall is that it was the McDonalds brothers, Dick and Maurice who actually pioneered what they called the “Speedee Service System”.   This was the initial process that captured Ray Kroc’s attention and sparked the vision for what was possible.  The McDonalds started the idea, but it was Kroc who expanded the idea to systematize not only the food delivery segment, but every segment of the business.   By creating efficient, repeatable ways of doing business, he saw the potential to make it much more than a small local chain of hamburger restaurants.   It would be the tool he would use to create a “How to manual” so every franchise could provide a similar experience at every restaurant regardless of location.

    So what does this mean for your business?   There are few businesses operating without a number of systems or processes in place – they may not be documented, but they’re there. With a little effort you can identify numerous procedures you have systematized in your business. Which is a great start – congratulations, you’re already on your way to being a protege of Ray Kroc.  Having a formal way of doing things…your system is the right way to make sure you and your team consistently do the most important work the right way.

    However there’s also a dark side to getting too much into processes. Once a procedure is established a company can get so focused on repeating that process, they will discount any other way of completing the task even if it means a better way of doing it.   The entire business gets fixated on completing the repeatable process and they block out other possibilities or considerations, because it doesn’t follow the established cookie cutter approach.

    Why is this? How does a once creative business full of energy and new ideas become a stagnant company repeating the same routine procedures day in and day out?   Their growth stalls and they have no idea what is causing the resistance.   Has your business ever experienced this?

    Currently AT&T has a popular “Rethink Possible” commercial series that features an adult posing questions to young children.  They are simple questions that an adult would answer with little thought.  Through experience, an adult is quick to jump to what they know and end up giving the logical answer.  But for this young audience there are no preconceived limits holding them back.  Their answers show the creative mind of a child and challenges the viewer to rethink what is possible.

    This stagnation unfortunately is what can happen in every business; even yours.   When your business is young, like the children in the commercial, you question everything.  You didn’t know any different and asking questions is one way you’ve learned.  But as your business matures you gain experience; you became an expert in your field, and you have fewer things to question because you already know so much.  Regrettably, it is when some companies reach this level of expertise they stop asking questions.

    The once innovative processes used to grow the business stops working and improving.

    Questions aren’t asked. The company stalls.

    What can you do?

    Here are 3 simple suggestions any business owner or professional may want to consider to see if their current processes are holding them back.

    1)      Think like a kid, ask lots of questions.   

    • Forget about all the current processes you have in place and start asking yourself questions about everything, just like you did when your business was young, before you knew everything.

    2)      Use internal resources

    • If you have different departments, bring employees from other departments into the picture.  Have them observe and provide input.  Have them review the current processes in place.  Do they see opportunities or roadblocks?

    3)      Get a fresh perspective

    • Invite someone from the outside into your business.  You may be surprised what a fresh set of eyes may see.   Maybe you know another business owner that would be willing to exchange this process evaluating experience with you?

    Whatever you do, continuing to just repeat your existing “perfected” processes day after day without questioning why you do them isn’t the best way to keep your business moving forward. Especially in today’s environment of constant change.   Those once cutting edge processes may have evolved into procedures that are today actually holding back the potential of your business.

    What do you think?  Could this be happening in your company?  Please share any thoughts or suggestions you have in the comments below.  As always we value your opinions.

    Chris Steinlage Kansas City Business Coach

    20 Nov

    growth3

    There is an almost magical component to sustainable business growth, but it’s not obvious and most business owners are missing it!  The key word there is sustainable – you can have growth without this component, but it won’t be easy.

    When you think of business growth…what comes to mind?

    Great marketing?   Really effective sales?  New products?

    Super flashy advertising?  Signing a huge new client?

    All of those will definitely contribute to business growth, but there’s a more fundamental attribute in sustainable successful businesses that no one talks about. It’s an unappreciated idea, but it really can be make or break when it come to taking your business beyond the brute force stage (where you’re putting in a lot more than you’re getting out).

    That secret ingredient is Systems!

    What are Systems? Simplistically effective Systems are a combination of written processes, tools, automation and applications that allow you…as the business owner to get things done the right way without actually doing it yourself.  A successful business is made up of a whole series of systems that work together in a seamless way…generally without any direct input or oversight from the owner.

    Want to get a quick read on how well  you’re doing when it comes to Systems in your business?  Here’s a quick quiz – a few statements you can use to judge your progress.  If you want to play along at home, score yourself from 1 to 10…with 10 meaning that you absolutely are in alignment with that statement (and a 1 if you aren’t even close).

    Systems Statement #1

    As the owner of the business, I fully understand that my primary role is to ensure that the business is run by systems (step-by-step processes).

    Score 1 to 10?

    Systems Statement #2

    All of the functions necessary to successfully run our company have been clearly identified and documented in a company operations manual.

    Score 1 to 10?

    Systems Statement #3

    We regularly consider outsourcing options to reduce expenses and increase efficiencies.

    Score 1 to 10?

    Systems Statement #4

    We regularly review our systems to ensure they are as efficient and effective as practical in delivering the desired outcome.

    Score 1 to 10?

    Systems Statement #5

    I’m confident that my employees would know what to do if the leadership team or I were not present for an extended period of time.

    Score 1 to 10?

    What’s your score?

    How did you do?  This quick little test certainly isn’t comprehensive, but it will directionally give you a pretty good idea of where you and your business stands from a Systems perspective.  There are several key ideas represented here:

    • Do you view your primary role – where you spend the most time (as the business owner) as purposely building your business…and the systems that run your business?
    • Are you documenting everything down to a level that a new employee could jump right in?
    • Are you and your team consistently looking for ways to improve?

    So overall how did you score?

    If you scored above 40…then you’re in pretty good shape…keep it up! 

    If you scored between 30 to 40, then there are some things to work on, but at least you’re headed in the right direction. 

    If scored 20 to 30, you at least understand it’s important, but you have some work to do.

    If you scored less than 20, then it’s a good bet that you didn’t have time to read this post and you are working really, really hard all the time…and your business is at risk!

    When you’re ready to unleash some magic and start building systems into your business, the best bet is to carve out some free time and lay out all the big components of your business (how business comes to you, how you close it, how you satisfy it and how you collect from it).  Once you’ve got that (in writing) then you can start digging into the details over time. 

    Make sure you get your employees involved…they probably know the details in a lot of areas better than you do and they’re going to have to live with whatever system or process is developed – so make them part of the solution.

    Also – get an outside perspective…maybe a coach or some kind of advisory board to help you focus and get some insights that might be hard to come by on your own.

    What’s your experience with Systems?  We’d love to hear your thoughts (and share your score) in the comments below.

    Shawn Kinkade   Kansas City Business Coach

    Photo by Pink Sherbet via flickr

    26 Sep

    I-Love-Lucy-candy-factory

    (Image from the famous Candy Factory episode of I Love Lucy – Lucy’s system didn’t work so well in this case…)

    The now ubiquitous tagline “There’s an App for that” gained so much traction for Apple they filed to trademark it in Dec. of 2009. If you have an I-phone, Droid, or tablet PC you probably are amazed at the ever growing number of applications available. Some are for just for fun, but many were created to simplify your processes and your life.

    So replace “App” with “System”? “There’s a System for that”. It certainly isn’t nearly as catchy, but for a business owner it’s even more important.  Have you ever walked through your business and observed how many repeatable systems or processes are in place?  In a really successful business you can bring someone new in, give them a little instruction, and turn them loose to follow the system you have in place and hardly miss a beat.

    However for most of us…we think we have systems in place but somehow the same mistakes happen again and again – which is a clear sign that you’ve got an issue.

    Call Before You Dig!

    Everyone has probably seen a “Call before you Dig” commercial or ad.  A large portion of my career was in the heavy equipment industry…and a lot of the equipment we distributed was “ground engaging”, which simply means during operation it will be penetrating the earth’s surface…digging. That means knowing the location of underground utilities is paramount.  Without that – you aren’t going to be getting any work done.

    I assure you every contractor and every municipality I ever worked with has a system in place that triggers someone to contact the “Call before you Dig” locating service well in advance of an installation crew arriving. But the reality is there were dozens of times I arrived at a job site to find out “the locates” weren’t completed or they weren’t done in the correct area. There was a break down in the System and the result is unrecoverable expenses in lost productivity for everyone involved.

    A Better way?

    It’s an ongoing battle, but as a business owner you have to continually look at your business and find opportunities to implement systems that will simplify your life or your employee’s lives, and improve productivity.

    If you don’t know where to start, find a small specific area in your business and start there.  Keep it simple, but take action. The system you design should be a written step-by-step process that you can hand to anyone of average intelligence and they can replicate it without you.  Creating a system doesn’t have to be complex, but it won’t happen without focused action.

    Do you have a system for selling your product or service? A structured way (a system) you prospect for clients? If a client has a complaint do you have a system to handle the complaint or do you just deal with them as they happen? Maybe it is a system to complete a task in your business management software (Quick Books. Peachtree, etc.) Proven repeatable systems are stress reducers and money makers.

    You can do it. “There’s a System for That!”

    We would love to hear about how you have implemented a system into your business and how it impacted you, your employee and/or co-workers, and ultimately your bottom line.  Please share your thoughts in the space below.

    Chris Steinlage    Kansas City Business Coach

    27 Mar

      photo by dimnikolov

    Being a business owner often feels like being in a race…only it’s a race that never ends and it seems like you have to keep running harder just to keep up as you go!

    The one thing that most business owners fantasize about, maybe even more than having more money, is having more time!  Think about an average week for you – how much time did you have to just sit and kick back without your mind racing, or the phone ringing?  Staring at a list of 100 things not getting done doesn’t count!

    Imagine if you could find a way to free up 1 hour of your week while still getting the same amount of things done?  What about 10 hours a week?  What would you do with the extra time?

    Read More…