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A car is a system of systems—maybe the electrical system is working, but if there’s a problem with the brake system, you better believe that car needs to go to the shop! A business operates the same way: ALL the systems need to be working to run smoothly. Pop the hood on your business to make sure all of these systems are working for you.

This week’s podcast is brought to you by the letter S for SYSTEMS, yo!

I talked about this on my blog last week as well (in Parts 1 & Part 2 because there is just way too much to say about this epically important stuff). Your business is made up of systems that keep it running. If you haven’t taken the time to intentionally look at those systems and make sure they are running well, you’re selling your business short.

1. Content System

I’ve got a routine down for my content. (And like I said on Monday’s podcast, routine = focus and focus = success.) I sit down with a content writer who interviews me, takes notes, and then turns that into blog posts. It’s simple and it gets content OUT THERE when I would never have time to do it myself.

We’re actually about to work with a group of small businesses who want to do what I’m doing. If you want the luxury of great content without writing it yourself, email me RIGHT NOW ( to tell me you’re interested before the spots fill up.

2. Productivity System

A productivity system is something that governs the way you work. 

I have tried every productivity app on the planet. Evernote. Things. Nozbe. Wunderlist. OmniFocus. You name it, I’ve tried it. They were not for me; I found them confusing and frustrating. I need things simple.

I use the Pomodoro Technique and the Post-It Note System as my productivity system. That’s all I need.

3. Time Management System

If a productivity system governs the way you work, a time management system governs how you spend you day working. There are so many time management tricks and tools and recommendations floating around out there, but none of them will do you any good, unless you choose something that actually works for you. Once again, I go with simple…

I use the Strategic Coach system to manage my time. It breaks down my week into three different types of days:

  1. Free Days: Nothing business-related. Time to recharge.
  2. Focus Days: Big money business days. Time to kick butt.
  3. Buffer Days: Clean-up days. Time to put out fires.

Same idea as Pomodoro; it’s all about focus with this system, and it works for me.

4. Cash Flow System

If your business is a car, this is your engine. It keeps your business running.

If your engine starts rattling, do you continue to drive on it until it just explodes one day? The answer better be no, dudes. You take it in and get it fixed; you don’t just keep driving.

I don’t like surprises. I set up a system with my bookkeeper to get daily, weekly, and monthly $$ reports.

Dailies might sound like a lot, but they’re not. It takes me 30 seconds every morning to check out the daily report, but it keeps me in the loop of how my business is doing. It doesn’t solve cash flow problems (nothing does for a small business, amirite?) but it keeps me from getting nasty surprises.

5. Marketing System

You need a system to track the lifecycle of a lead all the way through to a loyal customer. At Think Digital, we have a trademarked system:

  1. Know
  2. Like
  3. Trust
  4. Build

Here’s one example of many: See a Tweet or RT (Know). Read the blog post or check out the website based on the Tweet (Like). Sign up to receive an email after reading the blog post/website (Trust). Purchase a product based on the email marketing we send (Build).

It’s straightforward and engineered to get the results we want.

6. Onboarding System

You need a system here that works for onboarding new clients and another that translates to onboarding new team members. You need to set expectations from the get-go on both sides. Do yourself a huge favor and take the guesswork out of it.

There you have it, folks. These are the engine and the tires—without them, the car don’t go anywhere. This stuff is so crucial, I should be charging big bucks for this content. But I’m not, because I want to see you succeed. Take a listen to get into the juicy details. And you know the drill; hit me up on Twitter (@JustinWise) or Snapchat (ATJUSTINWISE) to let me know one thing you’re going to do differently after you listen in.

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It’s taken me 19 months to cultivate this checklist of hacks for entrepreneurs. Regardless of your business focus, put this list to use and reap the benefits. I wish I’d had it when I started. It would’ve saved me a lot of time and heartache.

I have been learning and growing nonstop from Day 1 of starting Think Digital, and I’ve come to realize that there are some must-have’s for me as an entrepreneur. I give you the spoils of my hard-earned knowledge freely, in the hopes that you, my fellow entrepreneurs, will be able to hack your way to success by implementing one, two, or all seven of these gems:

1. Get a Routine

Your routine, more than anything else, will affect your success as a business person. It may sound boring, but following a routine will free up your focus and decision-making power for the important things. Instead of taking time and energy to decide when and where to eat lunch, it’s a part of your routine.

Routine = Focus. Focus = Success.

2. Get a Bookkeeper

If you are an entrepreneur, you have no business being in the books. You are handicapping your business by doing it yourself. I’ll say this over and over in this post and others: Spend your time on your $1,000 and $10,000 tasks. Pay someone to do your books so that you have time to generate new leads, make sales calls, whatever! Hiring a bookkeeper is an investment, not an expense.

3. Get a Team

The best way to grow your business is to grow your team. Solo-shop entrepreneurs often drive me up the wall, because they can’t see how they are handicapping their own success. You cannot do it all yourself; even Superman had Kryptonite. Focus on what you do best and delegate everything else.

For example, I hired Don’t Panic Management to produce this podcast for me. I hit record and stop, and then I send the file and they do everything else. Yes, it costs money. But getting it off my plate allows me to produce more episodes. More Episodes = Greater Reach. Greater Reach = Greater Business Growth.

4. Get a Marketing Automation System

Next up, get a marketing automation system. Dan Sullivan, co-founder of my current business coaching program, Strategic Coach, says, “Don’t own anything that eats while you sleep.” That’s why I don’t have a dog, and that’s why I have an automation system for my business. I don’t want to deal with anything that needs my attention while I sleep (or do anything else, for that matter).

To go a step further, I want to get paid while I sleep. We use Infusionsoft to do it all: content management, email marketing, billing automation, you name it.

5. Get a Designer

You may be saving money by doing design yourself, but you’re paying through the nose in other ways. I might start to sound like a broken record here, but you need to focus on what you do best. You need your brand to look good. Let someone super talented and awesome design for you. Again, this is not a cost. This is an investment.

You can use Fiverr. It’s called that because projects start at $5! Don’t tell me you can’t spend 5 bucks on making your business look good. Or you can upgrade to an agency. If you find the right agency, like we did, you will be so happy. 

6. Get a Business Coach

Take a listen to last week’s podcast if you want to hear more about why this is essential to your business.

7. Get an HR Consultant

If you are ever going to hire employees, you need this on your checklist. I can say, “This is what I want to know” and he’ll translate that into questions and come back with a report for me after meeting with a candidate. Once again, that let’s me focus on what I do best.

BOOM. There’s your checklist, ladies and germs.

If you’re going to take one thing away from this podcast, take #1 and get yourself a solid routine. The rest can follow in any order, depending on what your needs are. But I guarantee you, you’re going to benefit from gettin’ your routine on, son.

Take a listen, take some notes, and take a second to hit me up on Twitter (@JustinWise) or Snapchat (ATJUSTINWISE) and let me know one thing you’re going to do differently after listening to this podcast.

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Systems are going to run your business, whether you’ve crafted them or whether they are running by default. Systems are simply how the world works!

Hopefully by now you have taken some time to analyze your current systems in place. Maybe you’ve found some things to celebrate! Maybe you’ve found some broken systems.

This post will cover 5 more critical systems. I’m confident you will be able to walk away from this post with direction to both fix and build your own network of systems.

Productivity System

A productivity system’s purpose is to manage how you work. Not enough people take this seriously! We tend to think that either we’re expert multi-taskers (multi-tasking is the sworn enemy of productivity, by the way) or we wind up running from fire to fire, with no intentionality in place.

A productivity system gives you a way to approach your work. You can find several out there if you look; I personally swear by the Pomodoro Method. It allows me to approach work in a systematic way.

The method means focusing on a specific task for a certain amount of time, say 25 minutes, and then taking a break.

Focus, break, focus, break.

On the surface this sounds dead simple, but truly focusing on only one task for 25 minutes can prove very difficult. This is coming from a guy who through who couldn’t focus AT ALL through grade school, and not much better beyond!

Yet the hardest part about sitting still in grade school was never knowing how long the task at hand would last. It was this open-ended time commitment and that was really hard for me to account for.

This system is my solution. Even if it’s the most unpleasant task on the planet, I only have to focus on it for 25 minutes at a time. Chances are I can get it done before that time limit is up. I bet you could, too!

What I have not found to be helpful when seeking productivity are apps.

Using an app opens the door to the black hole of the smart phone. Those little red notifiers are competing for attention, and before you know it you’re in a Twitter conversation, snapchatting for just a second, and miles away from your task.

A system helps automate self-control. You don’t have to conjure it up, it’s built into the system itself. You can’t be pulled into a distraction if the distractions are out of sight and mind.

Time Management

Time management systems are a way to divvy up certain types of tasks for specific days. My days are divided into catch-up days, money-making days, and free/relaxation days.

I purposefully align my week as much as possible to have the tasks that I accomplish fit into those pre-specified days.

What does your business require? What 3-4 categories do you need to chunk your week into to make sure everything is accomplished with as much focus and purpose as possible? Organizing your days to a specified rhythm will bring much more flow to your work and results.

Cash Flow System

Confession: for the first 9 months of business I had no idea what was coming in or going out financially. I had no idea of numbers keeping the business going.

I realized that if that did not change there would be no business. I used the excuses of being new, or of having time for that later. But I realized that from day one a person can have someone on board to help them manage their accounts if they prioritize it.

I’ve had a money person on board for a while now, which is how I have established a cash flow system. For me, this looks like getting 3 reports on a regular basis:

  • A daily report which shows me profit and loss for the previous day, 90 day averages for income, expenses, and cash reserve.

  • Weekly profit/loss statements, because I have weekly income to monitor.

  • Monthly profit/loss as well, to give me an overall shape of where things are heading.

Some of the numbers are redundant, but I’d rather be over-educated on my numbers than under-educated. I don’t think enough entrepreneurs realize the power of numbers!

Seeing those numbers has been a mind-shift. This system has helped me to realize that I’m running a real business and not just working on a hobby. Those numbers impact me, my family, and every single team member and their families.

Integrating my cash-flow system has been the single most important change that I have implemented since starting this business. What gets measured gets managed – money doesn’t magically show up.

Challenge Time

I want to  challenge every entrepreneur reading this to hire a bookkeeper.

There are way too many of us who simply buy a license for QuickBooks and resolve to do our own books, but it just never gets done.

Spending $30-40 an hour to have someone else do this will make you more money and reduce your stress. Yes, the smaller you are the tighter your budget may be – but that also means fewer hours (fewer dollars) going to that accountant. You need to consider it. You need to take it seriously.

Marketing System

You cannot leave your lead nurturing system up to chance. You need to outline a path and engineer a process for your leads to go through.

This can happen on many different levels and in many different ways. My company has a process for converting leads into Think Tank Sessions. We have a different process for how we get people from being social media contacts into joining the email list into becoming full-fledged clients.

Marketing systems do not have to be complex! They aren’t rocket science. But if you don’t outline yours and give it intentionality, it will default to haphazard chaos. That means no results.

On-Boarding System

It is also important to have an onboarding system for clients. This process could be a need for you if you have created an application, if you have clients, and even if you don’t have clients!

Why? Because as an entrepreneur you are serving somebody. How you onboard those folks is critical to the long term success of your business.

An onboarding system sets expectations from the get-go for whomever you are serving. It basically says, when X happens; we do Y!

If this, then that.

I have started implementing 30, 60, and 90 day checklists with every client. That way if a client is unhappy we know it as soon as possible and can fix it.

We also know if there’s room for improvement. I want to be proactive in finding out what that is and fixing it. The only way to do this consistently is by having a system in place and sticking to it.

The Goal of a System of Systems

When you approach your business as a system of systems it will allow the business to eventually run independently of you. If you want your business to be sustainable, that should be your goal!

Let’s look at it through the lens of a final analogy: your business as a person. More specifically, as your baby – which in many ways all of our businesses are!

Now, a baby needs a mother to grow and to be nurtured and to be cared for literally 24/7 for the first 9 months of its existence. Eventually, however, the cord has to be cut. Your business is the same way – if you want it to be sustainable.

Yet a lot of entrepreneurs never get to the point where they cut the cord of the business. Cutting the cord doesn’t mean that the baby doesn’t need its mom anymore! It just means that the relationship between mom and baby is different. The baby is learning how to grow and develop and function on its own.

Having a business is the exact same thing. There are way too many entrepreneurs who are 5, 10, 15 years into it and they still have the cord connected to their business. They are not allowing that business the chance to grow and develop beyond its infancy.

Personally, I don’t want a codependent business. There’s no freedom in that.

I want a business that can grow into its own with my guidance. How will I achieve that? By continuing to build my system of systems!

What systems will you put into place this week?