As you know I really believe in the power of systems for running a an efficient and rewarding business. But what does that mean?
I’m visiting clients at the moment so I had a hotel breakfast buffet. For some reason they had decided to put the plates in the middle of the two hotplates of food. This meant that
- They weren’t where everybody expected them at the end
- People had to join the queue in the middle
- People had to cross over to get from the food on one side of the central queue to the food on the other side
- It was all slightly chaotic and much slower than it needed to be
Another common example is the chaos at the tea/coffee table at events. The first thing somebody needs is a cup so these should be at the end. Tea drinkers need somewhere to put their teabag before they add milk (for the non-tea drinkers, tea is a chemical reaction and adding milk too soon cools the drink and quenches the reaction 😊 ) so they need a spare bowl/bin for the teabag packet near the milk. Getting everything laid out in the right order helps to avoid bottle necks. Moving the table away from the wall can allow people to get their drinks from both sides of the table.
When we first started using Receipt Bank (now Dext) software for processing invoices back in 2013 there was a delay between scanning invoices and the OCR process of around an hour. Our bookkeepers were used to working on one client at a time and complained that they had to wait for the software. So we changed the process to scanning all the invoices for all the clients first to allow time for the first client’s invoices to be ready.
This is the sort of thing that a business coach can often see straight away when observing your business from the outside. Quite often there are quick fixes that can make a huge difference for little effort. Generally the big wins require longer projects and a little more planning
When I’m introduced at speaking events it usually includes something about how I run two businesses, write my books and look after two teenagers. It sounds a lot but here’s how I do it and how you can manage more too.
First, I try to limit my work to 25 hours per week to ensure that I have time for me and my teens. If I do something personal during the working day then I may choose to work an evening to compensate or I may accept that these is a quieter business week to make up for the weeks that are busier.
Pre covid I would try to book a holiday once a quarter. I think most of us have fallen into bad habits through lockdowns so do book your time off even if it’s just to pamper yourself at home rather than to go away. Rest is important to keep performing at our best.
I love everything that I do so no single part of it seems too onerous. I do find deadlines can be stressful so it is important for me to stay ahead of those by preparing early.
My life involves quite a bit of juggling so my diary is essential for my sanity. I have a default diary which schedules each morning to focus on a different aspect of my business. I split my main to do list between each of those 5 areas. The afternoons are kept free for meetings. If I have a speaking event that means that I can’t do one of my morning sessions then I move the appointment to another time.
On Fridays I double check my diary for the next week and move items from my to do list into an allocated morning slot. My diary is usually pretty fully booked for two weeks ahead and probably half booked for the two weeks beyond that.
I’ve written elsewhere about the benefits of systemising, automating and delegating but please feel free to share your top tips too.
There are all sorts of ways to work smarter rather than harder. I usually speak and write about systemising, automating and delegating work but you can achieve a whole lot more just by organising your workload better.
I run two businesses, Hudson Business Advice is my coaching/training as well as speaking and writing but I also run Minerva Accountants which is much easier to systemise with predefined processes for preparing accounts etc. I therefore use two different systems to track my workflow and deadlines as my brain can’t hold everything that I need to know.
Accountancy Manager is great for a highly systemised business with known inputs, outputs, and a clear process. It’s good for tracking deadlines and uses templated emails at each stage of the process. There are other good systems available but this one suits Minerva best.
For my main business I have fewer standard processes but more individual interactions so I use Active Campaign to add notes and actions relating to each interaction. This business revolves more around people than processes, although I do have standard procedures for as much as possible.
I also use a third system, Trello, to track ideas and project work as well as my household and family tasks. (I will get around to resealing the bath one day!) I can have either a whole Trello board or a list on my main board to ensure that no idea is lost.
So, three systems to manage the three different parts of my life and also a vague attempt to separate them. I prefer these to paper because I can access them from any of my devices which are all backed up to the cloud.
What systems do you use to manage your to do list and ensure that you don’t forget anything?
No matter what age you are it is still worth thinking about how you will save for your retirement. And I don’t just mean saving your teeth.
There are 3 main ways that your business can fund your retirement:
1. Increase value of business for sale
If you have a valuable business this can be sold at the point of retirement to fund your new lifestyle. Your business value will increase if it is highly systemised and not dependent on you.
2. Systemise your business for residual income
If your business is highly systemised you can step out of it or just reduce your hours and still have a generous income. Whilst we often coach accountants and business owners who want to sell up, two of them have been so pleased with the process that they have actually decided not to sell yet as the revamped business operates so smoothly and takes less of their time. It’s a bit like doing up your house for sale and then deciding that you like it so much that you won’t move after all.
3. Increase profits to invest elsewhere
Some businesses have limited sale value as they will always be dependent on the expertise of the owner. In this case it makes more sense to increase your profits to invest elsewhere. Your company can pay into a third party pension scheme or SIPP very tax efficiently or you may prefer to take your profits out now, pay the tax and invest in property.
Whichever way you choose to fund or retirement, and whether you use us to help you to improve your business or not, please remember to take care of your teeth.
Have you read the book ‘The 4-hour work week’ by Timothy Ferris?
I read it a few years ago thinking that it would help me to run my business more efficiently in just 4 hours a week. Whilst it does have lots of efficiency tips for any business, it was built around the idea of building a business purely to earn money to finance a lifestyle. While this may be your objective too I was disappointed that there was no thought of creating enjoyable work or focus on serving a client’s needs.
If you haven’t read the book then I can recommend it as it certainly gave me a few ideas that helped me to run a business I loved in a 25-hour work week, and I believe we helped our clients and their businesses too.