For the past 3 weeks, I have been coming home tired, hungry, and in a bad mood. Sure I love the work that I’m SUPPOSED to do, but that’s not what I’m doing at work. I literally spent ALL day last Friday building proposals and agreements for potential clients.
You might say, “Hey, that’s a good thing because if you’re closing deals, then that means more money for you and your company.” The thing is that I have been spending so much time on these proposals that it greatly limits my time to build a quality team, brand the company, and build systems and processes for my team.
I was reminded of The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss where he writes that he was working 18 hour days trying to manage all of his clients. When he stepped back, analyzed his company, and applied the 80/20 rule, he realized that 20% of his clients were producing 80% of the revenue. Furthermore, by giving his customer service team more responsibility and the ability to handle any problems under $100, it freed him up from having to deal with all of their problems. (Yes, I have the entire Four Hour Work Week book memorized in my head :P)
So I decided to take a step back this weekend, analyze SocialMediaMarketing.com, and completely focus on building a system/process that would allow me to focus on the things that I love to do and that I’m great at.
I ended up building a completely dynamic set of proposals and agreements that the sales team can use to complete the documents themselves. I spent a good 8 hours building it over the weekend, but man am I glad I did it. After the entire experience and teaching some of the sales people how to use it today, this is what I’ve learned about systems and how you can apply it to your startup:
1. The beauty is in the details
Everyone falls victim to the curse of knowledge. This is when you’re so knowledgeable about a subject or task that you completely overlook and forget what it’s like to be a novice on the subject. What ends up happening is the following:
1. I tell my manager to research personal finance bloggers in the United States and compile a list of people we should be building relationships with.
2. My manager tells our intern to do research on personal finance bloggers in the United States and create an excel document for them
3. My manager overlooks the fact that the intern has no idea how to research bloggers. The intern ends up spending a day on figuring out how to research bloggers, which means we ultimately lose a day because the manager was not specific with his instructions.
The solution: Use tools like Jing to create specific video tutorials that will show your team the exact processes and steps that need to be taken to effectively complete a task. Furthermore, before you assign a task or project, try to remember what it was like when you had absolutely no idea how to complete the project. This will help you train your team member in the best way possible.
2. A home for your systems
When you’re a startup, you’re so small and you hire so few people that you don’t take the time to document everything that you do. What ends up happening is that people will ask you how to do the simplest things, and you’ll have to go through your Gmail account to try and find out how to do that one simple task. Here is a great example:
We recently made some changes in our database for Viralogy. Because of the changes, I was no longer able to log into the FTP account nor create email accounts that were needed. I had to ask our CTO about how to access these things and he had to take the time to teach me. I finally understood how everything worked which is great, but then another person on the team needed to access the same information. I therefore had to take the time to teach him how to do it. Needless to say, teaching the same thing over and over is highly ineffective.
The solution: Use the free version of PBWorks as a hub for all of your company processes. It has a slightly steep learning curve, but once you learn how to use it effectively, your team will greatly benefit and the time you spend training your team members how to do something greatly diminishes. Here is why I use it:
- The free version is way more than enough for a startup. I use the paid version for SocialMediaMarketing.com because we have a bigger team and more clients
- You are able to create multiple PBWorks spaces with just one account. I have a personal, Viralogy, and smmdotcom account
- It’s better than Google Docs (the platform we used to use). In Google Docs, you have to constantly share your documents with your teammates and the documents tend to get lost with all of the other jumbled documents in your Google Docs. With PBWorks, I know that every page I create is seen by default by all of my team members. I can also categorize my pages and documents into folders so that it stays uber organized.
3. Take the time to get to know your team
This is by far the most important out of the three points in this post:
It’s not about having great people on the bus, it’s about having great people in the right seats of the bus.
We have an outsourced person who didn’t really seem to be getting along with the rest of the team. It seemed like he was doing work a lot slower than the other people on the team, and his work was always sub-par. Before we sent him packing on his way, the company put him under my management for one final chance.
I assigned him some projects and he seemed to be doing some good work, until he made a minor blunder. I was pretty disappointed, and I understood why the rest of the company was pretty frustrated with him. I saw him on Gchat and decided to give him a chat:
Hey Bud, how’s it going?
Bud: Oh, it’s going ok. How are you?
I’m doing amazing! How can I get you to have an amazing day as well?
Bud: What do you mean?
Well, what kind of work would make you the happiest? I want to be able to put you on those type of projects
Bud: I don’t think it works that way. You just let me know what needs to be done and I go ahead and do it.
Nonsense! Now tell me, what do you love to do?
Bud: Well, I love designing and building websites…
What!?!? I had no idea you could do that! Well, I have a project that I know you’ll love…
And just like that, his effectiveness and happiness increased by at least 100%.
Lesson learned: When I was given Bud, I had absolutely no idea what he liked to do or what he was good at – I just put him to work. Truly taking the time to understand his skill set was not only beneficial for him, but ultimately the company benefits with a productive and happy person on the team. Take the time to get to know your teammates and really understand what they’re good at and what they love to do. A happy team member means a scalable company.
Startups of the world. Just because you’re small, it doesn’t mean that you should forgo documenting all of your systems and processes. Start now at the beginning so that when you grow, you will be able to scale the right way!