During the last long-haul flight I was on, I re-watched ‘Apollo 13’ (the one with Tom Hanks as Jim Lovell). Perhaps not the best choice as I was hurtling through the sky at 500 mph in a tin-can myself, but there’s something to be said for the thrill. If you haven’t seen the film, it's based on real-life events and it’s gripping.
This week I want to share a business development concept that will help you turn your current frustrations into operational systems. It’s one small step for you and your team, but it will be one giant leap for your business.
There were some days as a business owner when I felt completely consumed by my business. The only thing I could count on was a frustrating lack of control as I raced around putting out fires. On days like that, I found myself wishing I was like the members of the Apollo program: the mad scientist, the iron-jawed leader, and the astronaut:
“By the end of the decade we will have put a man on the moon and safely returned him to Earth.” —President J.F. Kennedy, 1962
In my first article in this series on systems, I introduced you to the idea that as the owner and entrepreneur in your business, you are also the systems engineer. In this second article, I’m proposing that in solving frustrations with better designed system solutions, we often start in the wrong place.
I can remember watching the moon landings on a black and white television as a young boy and being fascinated by the idea. I’m still young enough at heart to feel excited by big rockets and the notion of space travel. I apologize up-front if space isn’t your thing but building rockets and flying to the moon is a good metaphor that can help us think about the value of systems. It might not seem like there’s much in common between your business and mission control, but the systems you use can have just as much of an impact as the systems NASA used to land on the moon. Systems in your business can do anything, like give you the freedom to pursue your astronaut dreams, or something simple like ease all the frustrations that come with managing your finances.
“Frustration is commonly the difference between what you would like to be and what you are willing to sacrifice to become what you would like to be.” - Unknown
Show me a business owner who hasn’t felt frustrated and I’ll show you someone who is only a few hours into running their business. All business owners know what it feels like to experience many degrees of frustration: from the small, mildly irritating, won’t destroy your weekend frustrations to the turn-off-the-lights, head in your hands, nowhere to hide frustrations.
So you’ve found yourself doing a better job of hiring and retaining the right employees. The last key point in my blog post, “Hiring and Keeping Rockstar Employees,” referenced documenting the system. You’ve spent a lot of time understanding and strategizing, and it would be a shame if you didn’t take it a step further and cement the entire process.
Great systems without documentation are only rumors about the way you do things in your business.
A procedure without clear directions is little more than an assumption about the way things should be done.
Without documentation, all your tasks, functions, processes, and procedures— the way that you and your staff habitually do everything— are nothing more than good intentions.