I’ve been thinking a lot about “systems”.
My friend is a co-founder in a start up. I remember visiting his room at his parent’s apartment in 2016. He was on a conference call with his business partner and they were direct messaging on facebook to gather leads.
At the end of 2019, his business grossed over $900,000 and they have 4 full time employees.
A major component to his success compared to other “entrepreneurs” I talk to is his commitment to increasing efficiency (automating work flows, reducing clicks, and systematizing manual processes). He sees his business as a machine and works to modularize, optimize, and scale up.
The parent company I work for buys companies with strong market presence and unique competitive advantages. Then they train leaders to improve the business processes underneath. The end result is a portfolio of companies which still have their “soul” but are lean and efficient. Danaher’s portfolio companies consistently over-perform because they focus on the “systems” that make businesses run.
I just finished an audio Book called E-Myth by Michael Gerber. Many people start businesses with the best of hopes and quickly find out that they are overwhelmed, swamped. After they leave their jobs, sign a lease, and dive into their business.. they find that the business owns them more than they own their business. Michael Gerber systematically breaks down traps sole proprietors get themselves into, and offers systems based solutions to help entrepreneurs regain control and succeed.
In every meeting, in every planning session, and in every conflict, these three influences play in the background of my mind.
Call it the “law of attraction”, feeding your reticular activation system, or aligning your vibrational energy… It has inevitably led to me thinking about systems in my department.
In previous posts, I discussed my quick rise at work. I was hired to help assist with support tickets for our client relationship management system (CRM). Within a year and a half, I’m now a project manager for our CRM software, Lead for front end web development and Lead for our Content Management software.
The past year and a half has been characterized by learning how to fill the gaps. It has been incredible to learn the different roles, it has given me insights, technical skills, and empathy… but
Having one person wear 6 different hats is not sustainable.
Sure, that person is highly regarded because they do things that
1. No one can do
2. No one wants to do or
3. No one knows how to do.
But it doesn’t lead to a sustainable team that can grow. It also creates a massive liability for the company, should that employee get sick, experience a major life event, or accept a higher paying job somewhere else.
You’re betting that your next hire can “figure it out” on their own. That they have the determination and initiative to learn things outside of their job description.
For both my long term career interests and the wellbeing of our team, I’ve been cobbling together this “system” and documenting the various components. I’ve scoped out how each component interacts with the other and how tasks should flow.
After we delivered a demo for our Vice President of Marketing, he commended our efforts and asked what any smart executive would ask... “Whats next”?
This is where I pounced.
I busted out my “system”, showing him the different work streams and how they interact with each other.
My manager and I pinpointed the bottle necks. We made the case that filling these roles will increase capacity by allowing me to manage the SYSTEM rather than working on narrow development tasks. He agreed and we now have plans to onboard another two resources.
Thinking in systems runs counter to what most people are used to. It takes extra thought, a broader view, and likely goes beyond your job responsibility. But damn is it effective. Once you put in the work to document what your job/team/department actually does — you possess the prerequisite knowledge to scale your team, cross train responsibilities, and eventually empower it to operate without you.