Systems: The Cure to Chronic Business Pain

Mar 1, 2016, Written by Sue Miley

Systems: The Cure to Chronic Business Pain

What’s automation got to do with it?  I hear the tune of Tina Turner’s song playing in my head.  Automation, policies, systems all sounds so mechanical and boring.  I started my own business because of passion and entrepreneurship.  I don’t have to follow a bunch of rules anymore.


Owning my own business didn’t do away with rules.  Or laws for that matter.  I still have to pay taxes, but now there are different rules for even the taxes.  I have to have all of these inspections and approvals to own my office.  I even have to have the fire extinguisher hanging a certain number of inches from the floor.

This is external stuff.  Then you start making rules for your business operations.  We have operating hours and tasks we want people to do.  All the while I am thinking, “We are so small…it’s just a couple of us…and I will have to follow the rules then, too.”

I know you have had these thoughts before.  At least most of you.  I have.  I still do.  But fortunately experience and training kicks in.  It is necessary.  It helps everyone.  It is for the greater good.

There are a million examples, but I will give you a current one from my world.

Learning on the Job

Since we are a business coaching and consulting service, we invoice people.  There is usually more than one person working with any given client.  If we all turn our time in for a client in a different way, it makes it really hard to figure out what to bill, it takes time to reconcile each employee’s time to the projects and to each other, and ultimately it makes answering questions to the customer difficult.

To help us with this process, we adopted a great app about 5 years ago to collect our time.  It is called Harvest App and we recommend it for like businesses.  It worked perfectly for the first couple of years.  I felt like the automation queen.

Then we started adding people.  And amazingly enough, other people found different ways to put time in than I did.  I thought we had a system.  Turns out, we also need to document how we want to use the system for our team.  If not, everyone uses the tool differently.

I went back to spending way too much time invoicing.

We have made full circle again.  More people are on the team and now we want to look at the pricing and profitability of different types of projects.  This requires a new process that has to be established and followed by everyone on the team to get the results we want.

Rule #1 about Automation, Policies and Systems:  They save time and create efficiency.

Rule #2 about Automation, Policies and Systems:  They still must change and be updated regularly.

Sometimes we are able to embrace systems.  But if you are like me, you put them in place and expect them to last a lifetime.  Systems will help you grow, however, as you evolve they need to be reviewed and updated.

And if you think that is frustrating to you, trust me, most people don’t like to change.  Your team doesn’t like it either.

Updating Systems Is Much Easier Than Starting From Scratch

The good news though is that if you have systems in place and you update them regularly as needed, the changes are much less dramatic.  Which usually results in people embracing them more quickly and complaining much less.

When you go from no system, until you have a complete quagmire of information and mess-ups, to a fully automated system, it is much more difficult for your team to embrace the change.

Why?  If it is going to make things easier, why is it so hard to embrace?

It’s sort of like untangling a necklace.  To get to the usable dangling piece of jewelry you can quickly and easily put off over your head, you have to spend a ridiculous amount of time trying to figure out how to separate the chains without creating a bigger knot.

It’s painful and time consuming.

And then you have to remember to not throw the necklace back into the drawer or jewelry box (your habit) or you will start back over with the pain.

There may be a little pain to get to the easier way.  But if you stick with it, the task or area of responsibility becomes a non-issue.

The absence of pain does equal progress.

What area of your company has become a bottleneck?  What seems much harder than it needs to be?  This may be a good place to start.

What’s automation got to do with it?  Less pain, more love.


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Sue Miley

Sue Miley MBA, MA, LPC helps small business owners build successful businesses on a foundation of Christian values. After 20 years in business, and 10 years as a Christian counselor, Sue uses a combination of faith, business and psychology to help clients in business and in life.

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