Every business is the sum of its systems. Indeed, systems are to businesses what foundations are to homes. When you break down that massive system (which is your business), do you find the cogs of the many smaller systems running in sweet harmony? No matter how big or small your business is, systems and processes can help you get bigger, faster.
As a business owner, I am obsessed with designing new systems and maintaining old ones to unlock the next wind of sustainable growth. Systems establish operating rhythms and team norms that help drive overall strategy. Here are three principles I abide by.
Create an ecosystem of cross-functional experts
I believe strongly in teamwork. The kind where experts are free to focus on what they are great at and enjoy great synergy with other experts who have the liberty to do the same. Putting the right people in the right places unlocks personal and organizational potential. When there is focus, there is hyper intentionality.
That also means that we get to focus on what we do best and outsource to the experts what they do better. For example, our legal administration staff carry the load of the legal admin work (you’ll be surprised how much there is to do here). We also outsource our marketing and finance operations to our amazing partners so that our lawyers can focus on their core competencies and bring their 120% to the table everyday.
Systems save time and therefore save money
There is no secret that time is money. Automating processes means you don’t need to think about all your business’ repetitive tasks each day. This reduces the costs of operating, which in turn allows you to spend more money on growing your business.
For example, we’ve invested in an enterprise time tracking software that records timesheets and issues bills to clients automatically. The secondary benefit to this automation is greater transparency and accountability. Systems help you identify and prevent problems quickly. Any problem, no matter how small, can eventually blow up. So systems can help you to spot mistakes early so you can manage hurdles efficiently.
Systems bring work clarity and consistency
Aren’t you thankful that everytime you step into Mcdonald’s, your burger is going to look and taste exactly the same way? The McDonald’s brothers pioneered the establishment of such precise systems, you know your experience will always be the same no matter which day of the week it is (or which branch you walk into). Essentially, they made Mcdonald’s culture-proof and disruption-proof.
In an organizational context, when processes are well-documented, the playing field is leveled and disruptions are minimized. Clarity brings consistency. Employees can go on leave knowing that their colleagues will be able to pick up from where they’ve left off without a hitch. Work gets replicated, onboarding becomes a breeze. Newcomers will find navigating a new organization a lot less painful.
We need an entire organization of system thinkers
At the end of the day, building systems is not a one-person, one-time effort. It’s got to be an ongoing company-wide culture of creating, using, refining and simplifying. It takes a system thinker to produce an organization of system thinkers. Eventually system thinkers are also great multipliers, capacity builders and growth hackers. We’ll get there, one system at a time.