Part Four

Part Four: How to tell (& what to do) when you’re outgrowing your systems

Woop! Today’s the last lesson of Systems 101. We’ve covered:

  • What systems are & why you need them in your business
  • How to start figuring out what kinds of systems you need
  • How to get those systems out of your head & on to paper
  • How to make sure those new systems stick

And today, we’re covering systems maintenance, along with how to tell & what to do when you’re outgrowing your systems.

Systems maintenance

Okay, that’s pretty much the most un-sexy sounding phrase ever. But what’s sexier: setting some time aside on a regular basis for going over your systems and seeing how things are doing, or waking up at 3 AM hyperventilating because you think you forgot to do an important part of your client intake process? Yeah. That’s what I thought. 

This doesn’t have to be anything huge – if you’re a solopreneur, choose a day of the week where you can spend 30 or so minutes going over your work-week and making sure all your systems are still working as well as they should be. If you’ve got a team, you can have a monthly meeting – with a very specific set of questions you’ll go over, to prevent neverending-meeting-hell – where everyone chimes in with feedback on how things are going. If you notice something not quite working, fix it now – before it gets any worse. Maintenance isn’t sexy at the time, but it’s a lot better than waiting until you’ve got a total clusterfuck on your hands to do anything about it. (If it makes you feel any better, you can create an imaginary systems mechanic who’s totally hot.) 

Symptoms of outgrowing your systems

The symptoms of outgrowing your systems are pretty similar to the symptoms of needing systems in the first place, it’s just a matter of scale that makes them different. The main problem will be things slipping through the cracks, a few things at first and then more. These could be:

  • client emails that needed a response not getting responded to, in a timely manner or at all
  • customer service requests that go unanswered or that require too much email back and forth (time to add something new to your FAQ or list of client tutorials, perhaps?)
  • team members repeatedly having to get your go-ahead or ask you questions in a way that takes up more of your time than seems necessary
  • forgetting a step in a the client intake process or in the work/service process, meaning that you or a team member has to go back and fix it later

What to do

If you start noticing problems like the above, first you need to figure out where along the line things are broken. If you’ve got good system documentation (like we talked about in part 2), this should be pretty easy – compare your system documentation with the problem you’re having and the answer should be obvious. If you’re not getting enough important information during the client intake process, then you need to add more questions to your intake form or add another round of questions to the process, for example.

Once you know where things are broken, figure out how broken they are. The above example is a fairly easy fix, and if it’s something like that, then your system only needs refined & tweaked a little bit to operate as well as it should be. However, if it’s a bigger problem than that, then you might need to revamp the system from the ground up. Go over all of the steps and pieces of the system, and see how each one can be improved.

This can take a little longer than a quick tweak but it’s important to fix it now, before it gets any worse. Make sure to get feedback from your team members that are actually carrying out the different parts of the system! If the system is really broken, you might need to replace it with a new system entirely – one that uses a new tool (an email marketing service with a better list segmentation or follow-up capability, for example), or that has less steps, or that has the responsibility assigned to different people.

Questions? Come hit me up on the Facebook page. Feedback? Send me an email and let me know what you think, and what you’d like me to expand on further for future blog posts or products. Want to learn more? Check out Rock the System in the Amazon store, or take a peek at the planners + toolkits in the shop.