Archives For Life

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?

 

An entrepreneur is someone that cannot work for somebody else. They are unemployable.

They are unemployable not because they do shoddy work or because they lack drive or focus. The reason entrepreneurs are unemployable is that they have a specific vision of what the future looks like. And usually they are the only ones capable of steering themselves towards that vision!

Working for others, no matter how much you like or respect them, is steering somebody else’s ship towards someone else’s vision.  For an entrepreneur, that role isn’t sustainable.

Look Back

When I look back on the history of my own life I see patterns of an entrepreneurial history. For example, I had a baseball card stand in my driveway at age 9. I started a house painting business with my friends at 16. Then we split up and did our own thing in college, BUT each with our own separate house painting business. That’s amazing! I even started a t-shirt company right out of college.

When I look at my life down the line there are those glimpses of entrepreneurship. Outside of being  a grocery store clerk, I’ve never had  a normal job for an extended period of time. Seriously – my first and only “normal” gig out of college lasted for 2 weeks. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do the clock in, clock out.

Be Certain About Your Calling

That tension of what I was “supposed” to do didn’t leave just because I left the grind behind, though. Thankfully Ben Arment, my first business coach, pulled me aside when I was questioning whether or not I could be an entrepreneur and said, “Justin, it doesn’t matter if you land the most awesome job on the planet. Within two years you will want to quit and do your own thing and you’ll feel that way until you actually try it.” He was absolutely right.

I had all of the symptoms of being an entrepreneur. It was life-changing for me to realize it, so I want to give you all a means of self-diagnosing yourselves as entrepreneurs, too. A symptom-checklist, if you will.

You Might Be an Entrepreneur If:

  • You’ve always struggled working for somebody else.

    • (Not because you’re rebellious, but because of your inner drive to create a something of your own.)

  • You have always gravitated towards entrepreneurial activities.

  • You are excited by risk. Drawn to it; not repelled by it.

  • You want to get paid for results not effort.

  • You like working at weird hours and from any location.

  • You live in the future (and day to day tasks go unnoticed).

  • You are not comfortable living out someone else’s vision for your life.

This list can be summed up by two questions: Who needs to make the decisions in your work-life? Why do you feel that way?

I use to let other people make decisions for me. Ironically, that wasn’t the right decision. Instead of just carrying on in that role, I listened to my inner vision. If you realize what you are doing isn’t the right fit, you cannot just stay put.

Final Thoughts

Remember: there is a difference between being an entrepreneur and being self-employed. Self-employed means you have to do all the work by yourself because you think you are the only one who can do it. Entrepreneurs see the value in finding others to take on tasks that those others shine in so that they can keep steering the boat. Entrepreneurs would rather work with somebody to achieve a common goal than do all of the tedious but necessary tasks themselves.

If you are an entrepreneur, you have a call to cash in on this. It’s time to start exploring where your passions and strengths lie. It’s time to focus your vision and flesh it out.

It seems that whenever I hear someone tell me they wish they could take the leap to being an entrepreneur, it’s followed by a “but…”

Too often do I hear from people who just can’t seem to go for it. There is a lot of pushback that I hear from people who want to be entrepreneurs.

The Four Most Common Excuses:

  1. I don’t love my job but I don’t HATE it. Being an entrepreneur seems too risky.
  2. I need a steady monthly paycheck/benefits included.
  3. I’m afraid I’ll fail.
  4. My spouse isn’t on board – which is one I hear consistently that I want to address today.

The Reason for No Support

When people say their spouse isn’t supportive, I actually feel like there is a valid reason for it. Lots of times guys specifically go to their wives and say “Hey honey! I want to start this business. There’s a lot of risk involved!” She hears something deeper than that. She’s thinking “You are ignoring my need for security.” I’m sure there is something similar from wives to husbands, but as a dude, I can’t speak to it as fully. Either way, that’s a tough conversation to have. Too often it spins to a stalemate where no action takes place. Because of this, I truly believe as the entrepreneur, you need to prove it to your spouse that you can be successful before you ask them to take the leap with you.

Start Small

My wife Kerry was never not-supportive. BUT she became much more supportive as I was able to prove success to her. The very first time where I saw the light flicker in her eye that this could work was when I launched a $39 email marketing course and around 15 people signed up. I did this while still working at my church job, so I didn’t take away any security.

It was the small success of that course which allowed me to go to the next level in her eyes. We agreed it was time for me to step out of the church role and work for a web development company. At the web development company, I was still working for someone else which provided a safety net. Yet I kept up the small risks by continuing to do contract work on the side. By working with my wife, we were able to take measured risks that kept both of us happy.

When I got ready for the next move, I took a couple clients on to do project work while still at the web development company. Kerry began to see that I was able to generate more revenue with each progressive opportunity. That instilled that faith in her to say, “Okay. I think he can do this.” From there it was taking on more clients and making the full jump to full-time entrepreneur. Since then it’s been a series of setting a goal with her, achieving that goal, and showing her the benefits of achieving that goal. It is what keeps us working as a team towards my dreams of entrepreneurship and her own dreams, too.

Your Turn

I think a lot of people put their spouses in tough positions and they have no track record to say that, “Hey, me becoming an entrepreneur doesn’t mean our kids will go hungry and we’ll have to live in a van down by the river!” The fact is, that is where most spouses go when they hear their other half wants to quit their job and make a go of it on their own. Your spouse doesn’t think that because he or she is crazy. They think that because they need proof.

Your spouse is there to serve as a partner, and good partners have high expectations. If they aren’t on board then you need to accept that you must prove it to them to get them on board. Kerry is my biggest ally, supporter, and counselor. I cannot imagine doing this without her love and support. I think it’s safe to say it’s nearly impossible to be an entrepreneur without your spouse being on board. Talk to your spouse. Set goals together. Sooner than you realize, you can make the leap to entrepreneur together.