Systems in Disguise

Transform the World Around You

How do I get started with systems?  What foundational systems do I need to begin with?  I know I need to improve my systems to scale my business, where do I look first?  When is the right time to start thinking about systems in my small business?

I get these questions all the time.  Good questions.

Here’s a confession from a self-proclaimed small business systems expert: Sometimes I still don’t know.

Let me explain.  Most of the entrepreneurs asking me these questions already “get it.”  They have read the books and listened to the Podcasts.  They understand that a system is not software. Many of them can speak the language of process. But few of them can see an opportunity, design the right system, and deploy it in a sustainable way into their business.  Why?  What makes practicing this so hard for so many?

I have a theory.  Systems are Transformers.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I am a huge Transformers fan since I was a kid.  I would go see the movies, no matter how bad the plots, just because Optimus Prime is a main character.  But I’m actually being serious about my theory (well, not too serious… we are talking about imaginary robots).

Think about two lines of theme song lyrics for Transformers that practically defined my generation:

  1. The Transformers!  Robots in Disguise.
  2. The Transformers!  More than meets the eye.

You see, systems are all around you, all the time.  The biggest challenge I face when talking with people about their life, their relationships, their health, or their business, is helping them to see this reality.  Learning how to open your eyes to the systems already in place is the first step on any entrepreneurial systems journey. What may look like a boombox is actually a menacing Decepticon waiting to destroy your business.  We assume that a system is going to “look like system” or else it isn’t there.

Here’s a recent example.  A friend and entrepreneur came to me and asked about how to create a better system for hiring.  Awesome question. Hiring right is crucial to the success of any business, and his last few hires had not worked out.  I asked what his current system looked like. His response was, “I don’t have one.”

Wrong.  The system is in disguise.

After some deeper questioning, here is the basic framework I discovered:

  • Post job online with multiple sites
  • Collect resumes of people with interest
  • Schedule 1 hour on-site interviews with the candidates with good resumes
  • After 3-6 interviews, select the best candidate and make an offer

Simple system.  Obviously for him, not a great one.  But why didn’t he SEE this as a system?  I think it’s because we have become conditioned to this idea that for something to be a system, it has to be documented in Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and enforced by internal auditing police or something.

There are systems at work all around us, all day long.  Until we intentionally look and begin to see them, the robots will continue to live among us.  Sorry, I meant systems will continue to go unnoticed.

More than meets the eye.  This is a pretty darn accurate way to describe my belief about systems: they are the driving force behind results bigger than you ever dreamed possible.  Want to get in the best physical shape of your life? Design the systems needed in your life to improve your nutrition, put you in the gym every day, and give you the best sleep you’ve ever had.  Want to improve your relationships?  Have a system that focuses your mind on how you want to show up in the world daily, and take advantage of your calendar to spend time with the right people.

Let me say one thing here before you take this the wrong way.  Using the power of systems to drive results does not mean that spontaneous, adventure-filled life has to stop.  In fact, the two complement each other.  Being systematic about the things that need to drive forward every day allows you to be more free, more spontaneous, and maintain a life of adventure.  It goes back to my website tagline: Freedom in Process.

Remember that systems are often in disguise.  You can actually use that to your advantage.  There doesn’t need to be a written SOP for date night with your wife, but having a system in place that makes sure you are consistently planning something special for her is going to be awesome for your marriage.

How do I get started with systems?  What foundational systems do I need to begin with?  I know I need to improve my systems to scale my business, where do I look first?  When is the right time to start thinking about systems?

All great questions.  The reason I don’t know is the same reason you don’t.  We can’t implement new and better systems without a starting point.  Start by answering for yourself one thing that will begin to transform the world around you.

What is my system now?  

Chances are it’s in disguise.

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