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African startup advice series: how to make systems work for you

By , ITWeb
Africa , 17 Nov 2014

African startup advice series: how to make systems work for you

Systems. This has to be one of the most misunderstood areas of business today. Yet it's one area of business that is easy to implement and one that will make your life, and those of your team members, so much easier. It also happens to be something that will make your business run smoothly, efficiently and profitably.

I am a fan of systems for another very important reason: They allow your business to work without you. They allow you to live your dreams, to do the things you want to do, and to spend your time pursuing other, more lucrative goals.

A successful business can be defined as "a commercial, profitable enterprise that works without you." How close are you to this ideal?

Are you too involved in your business? Could you pick up the phone in the morning and say to your team, "you guys look after things, I'm taking three months off."? If you are like the vast majority of business owners out there, you would very definitely answer "no".

Why? Probably because your business doesn't have the systems in place that would allow it to function effortlessly without you. Or is it because you believe no one can do the job as well as you can?

Why did you start your own business in the first place? Did you simply buy yourself a job? This is not what owning a business is all about. If you continue working IN the business, and not ON the business it, then your business will never grow and prosper and it will not reach its full potential.

It's for this very reason that you have to get yourself out of the day-to-day routine of running the business. Almost all business owners I've ever met work so hard because everything about the business is in their heads. They are trapped. The business doesn't work. They do.

The first step in getting your business to function without you is to put systems in place. Document every function and task, so anyone can implement it. Remember, if you do a task without writing it down, you are condemning yourself to repeat it... over and over again.

Automate what you can. The more your team needs to verify, ask permission, bounce decisions off you and have you sign things off, the more indispensible you make yourself.

Good systems help you to improve your consistency and efficiency in delivery and distribution. It's about getting your service or product delivered to the right place, at the right time, the first time and every time.

To get the business running optimally, you need to know the numbers of your business both from a marketing and cash point of view. These need to be tested and measured and key performance indicators put in place to monitor the performance of the business.

And finally, the best systems in the world are useless unless you have the right people in place, with the right training. Recruit your team well, treat them well, train them well and help them perform the most amazing job.

Twice a month business coach Greg Mason writes columns for ITWeb Africa that provide advice for up-and-coming African technology businesses and startups. To find out more about Greg Mason, be sure to visit his website:

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