Building systems in your business
Building systems in your business is one of the most powerful moves you can make. If done correctly, they can improve the experiences of the business owner, your staff, your suppliers and your customers.
So what is a system?
Technically, any process that happens in your business can be systematised. Some are easier than others, but it is definitely worth starting with the ones that recur frequently and involve similar or the same steps.
Obviously there may be costs involved, but the more you can systemise, the more time you’ll have to do the things you enjoy doing in your business. These systems can be incredibly easy to create using technology and I’ve implemented plenty that now I probably take for granted. Some cost money, others simply cost the time it takes for you to implement. It may be that a system is built leveraging the time of someone else, maybe an online freelancer for data collection for example.
My humble beginnings
When I first began my adventure travel business, I had a very simple website with a few pages outlining the trips and adventures I offered. Thanks to https://web.archive.org/, we can see (quite embarrassingly) what that looked like!
There was a ‘Book Now’ button on each trip.
If the potential customer liked what they saw (goodness know why!!!), they could secure their place on the trip for 25% of the total trip cost. The big red awful Book Now button then took them through to Paypal where they could secure their place.
Then a needlessly complicated and involved process took place.
Firstly, I would add their details to a spreadsheet that recorded who and how many people were on each trip. Then I would manually draw up an invoice for the remaining amount, send it along with some other details to the customer. To check if they’d paid or not, I’d laboriously keep having to check Paypal and my bank account to see if the final balance had been paid. If it hadn’t, I’d need to send reminder emails to customers.
Looking back, it’s surprising I got anything else done!
Enter the new website
Then a few years later I decided to get a new website built. It was simply one of the best decisions I’ve made. I designed the backend of the website with the help of some local website developers which created the mother of all systems for designing and publishing trips on the site, and, most importantly systematised the whole payment process.
- No more sending invoices.
- No more having to check with Paypal or my bank for payments.
- No more having to remind clients to pay.
- No more ugly red Book Now buttons.
It was a dream. The system I’d built automated every step of the way. Now, I design a trip (the bit I love!), pop it on the website, set some dates and a price, then circulate the link to wherever I need to. Customers then can create their own account on the website and have all of their trip documents and payment details in one place. Payment reminders are automated and I can set the payment reminder emails to be sent at whatever frequency I like.
This one decision, to systematise and automate payment, was probably the best decision I’ve ever made in business. Yes I had to pay for the website to be designed and yes, I pay a small percentage to my payment provider Stripe, but the time it has saved me over the years is…well probably years!
What are some other examples of systems?
This is just one example of systematising. Others could include:
- Scheduling social media posts
- Autoresponder messages on email and/or social media
- If this then that apps – automatically post social media posts from one app to another
- Automatic drip-feed emails once someone subscribes to your email list
- Spreadsheet and other document ‘master’ files where you simply duplicate the main details instead of having to write them out each time
- Designing manuals and standard operating procedures to give to staff members
- Designing standard email templates to use for each trip
- Using cut and paste replies when managing social media accounts
- Create checklists for important processes
- Employing freelance staff on websites such as freelancer.com and fiverr.com to perform repetitive tasks
There are many more. One way to find out is to simply write down every step that’s needed to run your business. Then see which ones occur frequently, work out the similarities between them, then build the systems to take your involvement out of the equation.