Mastering the 4 spheres of business - Operations & Systems

Having a solid operational structure in your business means that you need to put systems in place. Systems that ensure the business can run without you if you're not there... that any new person can follow when they start the job. The key is making sure knowledge of how to do a job isn't just sitting in one person's head.

So where do you start?

1.Understand what a system is:

A system is a device we can use to solve a problem. That’s all it is. There are three common misconceptions about trying to systemise a business. Firstly that systems have to be complex and are difficult to understand, secondly that it takes an enormous amount of time to put a system in place and thirdly that a system is costly.

None of these necessarily need to be the case, especially in a small business. A system is simply "a set of principles or procedures according to which something is done; an organised scheme or method". It's about getting a process down on paper that anyone can follow.

The basic premise is that if there is an accessible “how to guide”, mapping out in simple terms, the exact task, and this guide is used by more than two people then it is a “system”.

2.Learn to create a system:

An example of simple business systems could be when a business leader taught a staff member how, for example to manage a job such as invoicing.  Once the owner has imparted “their way” the team member writes down notes, take screen shots, list out steps and compile a “how to guide”. The next step is to take a different team member unrelated to the task, and ask them to follow the guide and test out whether they understand the instructions and if the guide is easy to follow.

The above example describes the beginnings of what is the global accreditation system called ISO accreditation, by the International Organisation for Standardization1. The basic premise is that if there is an accessible “how to guide”, mapping out in simple terms, the exact task, and this guide is used by more than two people then it is a “system”. The system then need only be “sense checked” (meaning people questioned it, understood it and it is relevant) and continually improved by the team in the business. This system making tool is low cost, high impact and meets the objective of creating more time to work on the greater issues facing the business. Taking the idea of systems back to the invoicing example the business benefits enormously because after the “tester” understands the guide, they can perform that task well, making two more people fully trained and ready to take on that activity, creating time for the business owner to spend to think of ideas, develop more efficiencies and generally work on their business.

3.Recognise the areas where you need to put systems in place:

How does the smaller business owner approach problems such as rehiring staff, speeding up invoicing to customers, finding funds for sales offers, building a local presence, and handling debts on loans and credit cards? In many cases the business owner is often personally performing those tasks directly. Attending interviews, working late at night to produce invoices, juggling overdrafts and post messages from their phone on the way to the next meeting. It becomes virtually untenable to continue working as a sole proprietor rather than a leader who oversees the management of a team.

Once it’s identified that there is a major time issue with managing daily tasks there is a crossroad or an impasse that is reached. Do I continue doing it all myself or do I hire others and teach them through a central system to do it for me? Let’s challenge the assumption that to be a good business leader you need to know each moving part of a business intimately in order to be able to see the business clearly and manage it as a whole. On the whole, most people who are, for example, excellent at sales and people-orientated, may not be as highly skilled and involved in areas such as managing stock levels, scheduling just-in-time customer orders, and quality control of products. Just like we say “there’s an app for that”, there are also systems for that too. Every system must have an objective to reach, a business problem to solve. If the system works then continue with it, if it doesn’t, find a different system. You can set yourself a goal of systemising one area of your business at a time and before you know it you can have a business that can run without you, so you can work on the bigger picture... or not work so much at all!

Not already an Action Centre client? We'd be happy to review your business with you and suggest some systems that will help you grow. Contact us below for a free, no-obligation business review with a senior Action Centre coach.


You’ll find having an Action Centre business coach is just like having a marketing manager, sales team leader, trainer and recruitment specialist - wrapped in one - all for one nominal investment. We are the business partner you need without sharing your profits - with over 60 years of collective coaching experience to keep you on track and accountable for your own success.

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