I see a lot of problems.
For whatever reason people don’t seem to call me – or want to pay for my help – unless there is a problem. Usually by the time I am called in the issues are serious.
I think that’s just part of the life of a lawyer and business consultant. Part of that is that I am expensive. You only pay high fees for big issues.
I see situations like the client that called and had months of correspondence from a certain government agency piled up in the corner of their office. Or a client that has already been sued on something. Or a client that is no longer talking to their business partner while their customers hang in the balance.
And, of course, I have my problems too.
Over the years I’ve learned one thing when analyzing problems: start at the root and build from there.
In this article I am going to share with you how I analyze problems. I am looking to dig deeper. I don’t just want to address the problem – I want to fix the problem so it doesn’t come back again.
Key 1: Systems Are The Root
No matter what the problem the root is almost always the same thing: the systems.
My business partner on all things Time Magicment(™), Shannon J. Gregg, is a huge fan of the “Five Whys” system of analysis. Basically if you ask “why” five times you usually get to the root of the problem.
And I can tell you, from experience, when I ask “why” five times there is usually a broken system at the root.
Business partner mad at you?
You probably didn’t have an agreement, at the start, on the situation that arose – or didn’t have a partnership agreement to break deadlocks for unanticipated problems.
It’s a systems issue.
Government agency mail piling up in the corner?
You probably didn’t have the most basics of systems: read and review your mail periodically. Even the stuff you don’t want to.
It’s a systems issue.
In a lot of cases you didn’t have the protections in place to avoid a lawsuit.
Sometimes people are just lawsuit crazy.
But most of the time it’s a systems issue.
The root of most problems is bad systems. Ask “why” five times and find out for yourself.
Key 2: Systems Control Your Destiny
And because systems are the root of most good, and bad, in business they control your destiny.
Your business will literally live or die on your systems.
So build them well.
When working on problems in the business, I also know a problem can usually be traced to one of two things: (1) the system failed, or (2) an employee didn’t follow the system.
Systems will control your destiny so hire employees willing to follow them. And manage your employees to follow systems so you can build the long-term health of your business.
Key 3: Systems Can Be Changed
The step beyond having employees following systems is to get employees – and all others involved with your business – improving systems.
Systems can – and should – be changed. Often.
Good businesses are looking for problems, why they happened, and working to eliminate the root causes.
When there are big problems it’s usually because the systems utterly were not thought about when the business was started. Or – more often – the businesses didn’t pay attention to feedback and adjust systems.
Really good systems can emerge if you keep fixing problems. Just look at what Paul O’Neill did at Alcoa (mentioned in this article).
Key 4: Systems Allow Scale
If you look at any big company they have systems.
Systems that work.
At least mostly.
I mean who hasn’t been frustrated calling their cable company, electric company or other service provider by systems that don’t work? Especially in unusual situations.
But, when done right, systems are what allows scale. We fix problems before they happen with systems.
We also duplicate profits with systems. This should be music to the ear of business owners. If we find a profitable operating model systems let us do them again, and again, and again until something changes.
So good systems are the key to scale, avoiding problems and finding where the problems are when things go wrong.
Key 5: Without Systems You Won’t Grow
The converse of systems allowing growth is that, in almost all cases, you won’t grow significantly without systems.
If you are reinventing the wheel every time a new customer walks in you are wasting a ton of energy. Not to mention you may forget things (one of the reasons checklists are so good) or not apply past learning.
Many small businesses are guilty of this.
Systems are a key to growth and if you are serious about growing, minimizing losses and maximizing upside you need them!
What To Do Now
If you are reading this because you have a problem you are fixing start with the systems.
If you don’t have a problem – yet – keep this article on file for when you do. Better yet start improving your systems – today – by looking at them.
It doesn’t matter if you are in DeLand, Florida or Dallas, Texas, where I keep my offices, or anywhere else in the world. The truth is the same: systems are the root of problems and systems are the key to avoiding problems.
NOTE: This article is a piece develop a small portion of the content of the book tentatively called The Journey: Finding Your Place From Entrepreneur to CEO being co-authored by The Our Shawn McBride and Ann Gatty. If you want updates on the book including the possibility of joining our release team or getting one of the first copies please join our mailing list here.
DISCLAIMER: This article talks about legal issues. I am a lawyer licensed in multiple US jurisdictions, but I am not your lawyer unless we have signed an engagement agreement. Please view this material as educational and consult counsel you have retained for advice on your specific facts and circumstances. Do not rely on these general statements as legal advice.
By: The Our Shawn McBride, is the business nerd and long-time business attorney that focuses on changes of ownership in businesses. He works with business owners that know their business is about more than themselves to get ready for their future through keynotes, training and personalized solutions. In furtherance of this he hosts The Future Done Right(TM) Show where he collects, digests and gives lessons and insights on The Future of Business. If you want regular content on the future of business subscribe to get new blog posts from us here.
You’ll quickly notice his unusual suits which he uses open the conversation of how businesses should Do Business Differently™.
The Our Shawn is based in DeLand, Florida (between Orlando, Florida and Daytona Beach, Florida) and Dallas, Texas where he keeps offices. You can also find Shawn on webinars or traveling nationally or internationally for speaking engagements.
Check me out at: www.planningdoneright.com
Affiliate notice: Some links in this article are to sites that I am affiliated with.
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