As you begin to grow your business, it becomes very clear when you need more team members. The demand for appointments has outgrown the supply, and it’s time to find another practitioner, until this process repeats.
Maybe things get busy enough that a front desk or administrative roles are hired, but the conversation usually ends there.
There is a false belief that as long as you bring on more people, and “as long everyone just does their job”, everything is going to be fine. What you don’t see, or aren’t aware of until it’s already a problem, is that every new member of your team increases the complexity of your business.
This isn’t a bad thing, it’s just how it works. However, with this increased complexity, the odds of errors, mistakes, or information lost in communication increases just the same.
The solution to this complexity? Systems.
“Imagine you’re about to sit down on a stool. You’d want that stool to be a sturdy, stable seat. If it had only two legs or, even worse, one leg, you’d be worried about that stool toppling over. Most business owners build their companies on a one-legged stool, with that one leg being “team.” Now if everything stays in balance and alignment you can sit on that one-legged stool, but it is a wobbly place to sit.”
– Excerpt From: Jeff Hoffman, Scale: Seven Proven Principles to Grow Your Business and Get Your Life Back.
What are systems actually, anyway?
While they can take many shapes and forms, systems are the reliable processes and procedures that enable your business to consistently produce excellent results for your clients.
Or, in simpler terms, they are the things you put in place to make sure everyone does what needs to be done, in the correct way, at the correct time, consistently every time.
Your systems can include the checklists your therapists follow when opening or closing the office, the orientation process you use to onboard all new hires, the automated follow up emails that go out to clients after their appointments, or the guidelines on how to give an amazing and consistent service.
Overall, they are the combination of people, software, equipment, and documented best practices that reduce mistakes, increase consistency, make your business more scalable, and most importantly, make sure team members don’t have to ask you (the owner) how things are supposed to be done.
The Business With No Systems
Imagine a company without clear ways of doing things. At first this may sound ideal – not having to tell people what to do, because everyone is doing things their own way.
But therein lies the problem...
Picture it – every employee delivering their services in the way they think is best. Everyone checks-out clients in the way that’s most convenient for them.
Cleaning and restocking is only being completed when somebody feels like doing it , and marketing only happens when someone decides it’s important.
Everyone would be using their own methods, their own equipment, their own oils, their own sheets, and their own standards – all under the same business name, because there’s no standardized way to do anything.
Without systems, every aspect of operations would be a complete free-for-all, and instead of a unified business, a gaggle of people loosely coordinated in the same physical space.
It’s clear things quickly become complicated, chaotic, and overwhelming without systems, and why they are so important to a business. However, each specific system looks a little different, and is based on what you and your business need to thrice.
McDonalds vs The Fine Dining Restaurant
Consider 2 very different kinds of restaurants – the first being McDonalds and the second a 5-star dining experience somewhere on the strip of Las Vegas. Both of these businesses serve food, and have the potential to be operating with a high revenue and solid profit margin.
Almost instinctively, you know that those two businesses operate in greatly different ways, yet they both are committed to consistently delivering on the promise they make to their customers day after day and night after night.
You can take a peek behind the counter of nearly any McDonalds and see the various machines, print-outs, stickers, checklists, custom tools, and hear the different alarms alerting workers to food that’s finished cooking or orders ready to go.
Although it’s not fine dining, it is a delicate dance to churn out a high volume of food, when and where it’s needed, just like any other restaurant. However, McDonalds promise isn’t to provide the best burger in the world.
While they have made some small shifts over the years, McDonalds promises to provide an inexpensive, familiar & consistent meal served quickly in a clean and unpretentious environment.
And while I’m sure you can all think of a time or two where they have failed on this, by and large, McDonalds meet’s this expectation, empowered by the use of their systems. (If you ever want to see a dramatization of this, go watch the 2016 movie The Founder)
Take on the other hand, the upscale restaurant, known for their delicious food and exquisite presentation…
They need to be perfect each and every night, while also wow-ing their customers with taste and presentation. But this isn’t as if the 5-Star restaurant has simply hired a handful of chefs and let them loose in the kitchen to do whatever they want, however they feel like.
Fine dining establishments need their dishes to be perfect, each and every time. Even though the menu and plates are highly creative, the kitchen relies on systems to create those exquisite and mouthwatering dishes.
These systems ensure that each plate is a visual work of art, with flavors that blow your mind, and that each ingredient is ready when and where it needs to be.
Their recipes, prep process, plating, and service all interlock together into a fine tuned system to produce those results.
Imagine the services and operations of your business are like specialty dishes, created by your unique cooking method, and a specific set of ingredients.
Your systems act as the recipes to make them all come together, each and every time.
Overall, your systems are like the glue that holds everything together. They turn chaos into order and confusion into clarity.
Done right, systems make life easier for your team, your business less dependent on you, and success more predictable for your business. They empower everyone on your team, and your business as a whole, to consistently provide the best results, to the highest standard.
Just like in cooking, where the right combination of flavors and technique makes a dish unique and exciting, systems in your business can add the right mix of structure and creativity.
The good news is that whether or not you have a formal operations manual, your business likely already has some form of systems, processes, and procedures that you and your team members are following.
The next step is to pull them out of your head, and begin to document them so that they can be followed by all.