As part of the blog spotlight series I’m sharing this month I wanted to highlight the work of a colleague, Laura Dick. Laura is the systems strategist at Laura In Order where she helps online business owners to scale and grow their business by systemising operations, while her clients focus their time and energy on the things they love. Sounds like a dream right?
With over 15 years experience in business systems implementation, process improvement, and project management, she knows a thing or three about streamlining and optimising businesses so that they can grow productively and purposefully!
So in this Spotlight Series interview, I pick Laura’s brain for insight into what business systems really are, why they are necessary to optimise and grow our businesses, and easy ways to get started with systemising so that we can do more of the work we actually enjoy.
Q. What classifies as “systems”? Does it need to be something technical?
Laura: People often think the word systems = tech. But that is actually not the case.
A system is simply a consistent way of doing something every single time you do it. Whether you use an app to automate some of the steps or use pen and paper, you still have a system if you’re following the same set of steps consistently every time.
I like to use a recipe as an example. If you want to bake a chocolate cake you’d pull out your recipe book (or find one on Pinterest). The recipe would give you all the ingredients and equipment you need to make the cake, and give you the step by step instructions, and if you followed it at the end you’d get a delicious chocolate cake. This is a system for baking a chocolate cake.
Systems for your business can be as simple as creating a “recipe” for the tasks you do in your business.
Q. So many people fear “systems” in their business, why do you love them?
Laura: I love systems because they make life and business so much easier!
With the right systems in place, you can automate manual tasks, outsource or delegate some of the work to your team, and make sure you’re focusing your time and energy on the things that you actually want to be doing in your business.
Q. What’s the #1 system you’ve implemented that has grown your business or made the business growth phase simpler and easier?
Laura: Having a strong client management system in place has been key for me.
I work with clients in both a ‘done for you,’ and ‘done with you’ capacity, so I need a system that helps me track where all my client projects are, and what work I need to be focusing on.
My client management system allows me to track potential clients, onboard new clients, manage invoicing, track tasks and time spent on each client project, and know who I need to follow up with and when.
Without it, I have no doubt I would have no idea what I was supposed to be doing each week!
Q. How can systems help a solopreneur or small business to optimise and/or grow their business?
Laura: In short, systems will:
- create efficiencies in your processes and tasks, freeing up your precious time to focus on sales, marketing, and serving your clients
- free up brain space allowing you more time to be creative – perhaps creating a new course, writing a book, creating content, or designing a new service, or serving your clients
- allow you to delegate and outsource the work outside your zone of genius. So you have more time to focus on the activities in your business that only you can do
- give you focus so you know exactly what to do, and how to do it, in order to get things done and out into the world. No more faffing about, you can concentrate on the most important tasks
- provide the foundation for you to scale and grow your business. You can’t build a high rise without strong foundations, the same goes for your business
- allow you to create strong relationships with your clients or potential clients – knowing who to follow up with and when
Q. Can one grow a business smoothly and successfully without solid systems in place?
Laura: Most people can wing it for a while, but at a certain point, they realise that if they want to grow a business that doesn’t run their lives, they need some systems in place.
Without clear systems, you can’t effectively outsource or automate, and you often end up constantly being reactive to what’s going on in your business rather than proactive. Without systems you’re often less productive as well.
Systems free up time and energy to focus on your business, serving clients, and planning for your future growth.
Q. What are the common reasons why people avoid setting up business systems and processes?
Laura: Common reasons I hear include:
- I’m not earning enough money – you don’t actually need money to start your systems journey. All you need to do is determine the steps you will go through each and every time you complete the process. SIMPLE! You could use a word document, an Evernote note, or an Asana project to create a checklist that you follow each time you complete the process.
- I’m not ready to outsource – 100% yes having systems is necessary when bringing someone into your team. But if you’re not at that stage of your business right now it doesn’t mean you can’t start putting these foundations in place. In fact, by getting organised, streamlining your processes, and looking for the right tech solutions to support your business you will find more time and energy to get things done, and may not need to look at outsourcing for a little while longer.
- I’m too creative – the major benefit of having systems is they free up time and energy to do more of the things you love. So simply by creating some consistent foundations in your business, you are giving yourself more space to be creative.
- I’m not organised enough – The systems will organise you! Implementing systems can help put in place the right support for you to get things done and stay on track when you need to. Adding reminder emails when tasks are due, creating recurring tasks for all your regular business processes are all options that can help you stay on track.
Q. How do you navigate these hurdles?
Laura: I’m a huge fan of working with a range of practitioners to support you not only in the practical areas of your business, but the mindset and energetic side of things as well. While systems are hugely beneficial at any stage of business, I find that most business owners start looking at their systems when they are in a stage of growth which often can also bring up a lot of mindset wobbles.
I highly recommend not only working with someone like me who can help with the practical elements of systemising, but working with a kinesiologist, EFT practitioner, or another modality of your choice, to get the energetic support you need while you’re going through big changes in your business.
Q. What essential systems or processes do you believe all online business owners need to have in place to grow their business EFFICIENTLY?
Laura: No matter what kind of business you have, first and foremost you need a system for getting paid!
Other core systems you will need include:
- Managing client bookings
- Client management (onboarding, notes, follow up, offboarding)
- Content creation and distribution (blogs, vlogs, podcasts)
- Social media management
- Email marketing
- Launch planning and execution
- Managing the day to day operations of your business
Q. How often should systems be reviewed for efficiency, productivity, profitability?
Laura: I think it’s important to take a step back and review things at least once a year. Our businesses grow and evolve over time, so what works now may not work for you in a years time.
Often we wait for things to break before we look at them, but if you can be proactive and evolve your systems as your business evolves not only will you fix problems before they become a major issue, you’ll be much better placed to handle an influx of clients or jump on a new opportunity.
Q. How can people struggling with business systems get started easily even if they are technically challenged?
Laura: Templates and checklists!
No matter what you do in your business and what tools or apps you might use, having templates and checklists will save so much time and are a great non-tech way to get systems in place.
You can create templates for:
- Emails you send frequently
- Information or questions you need to request regularly
- Feedback or testimonials
- Blog posts
- Graphics you create in Canva for social media
Checklists are great because you make sure don’t miss or forget any steps and you know things are being done consistently every single time, even if different people are completing the task.
Create checklists for:
- Publishing a blog post
- Sending newsletters
- Onboarding a new client
- Running a webinar
If you’re keen to delve deeper into the conversation around systems, sign up for the recording of the free online workshop I ran recently, Systemise Your Way To An Effortless Business.
In that free workshop I covered:
- what the heck systems are
- why you need them in your business
- how to start systemising your business quickly and easily, and
- what things you can automate or delegate so you can focus on the fun stuff
Read more interviews from the Spotlight Series.