How to Implement Systems and Processes to Make Your Business Run Like Clockwork

Joel Gerschman

Systems and processes are an integral part of our business. Without them, chaos ensues and we wouldn’t be able to deliver quality service and results. Not only that but cognitive overload and stress levels would go through the roof!

In this episode of Radically Honest Marketing you’re going to learn exactly how we build systems and processes in our business using Asana.

Episode Highlights

[00:33]: Common questions asked by business owners about systems and processes for their business.
[01:28]: Why a lot of business owners completely waste their time documenting systems and processes, only for it to gather virtual dust.
[01:55]: The right way to document a process and implement it in a way that it will actually be used.
[03:45]: Then we take you through one of our actual processes that we use regularly in our business.
[07:14]: What you need to be thinking about when building processes and systems for your business.
[07:59]: Systems don’t exist in a vacuum and shouldn’t be thought of as a silver bullet. At the end of the day your systems are only as good as the people that use them properly.
[8:56]: “You don’t rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your system.”
[09:23]: How to avoid system bloat which can increase unnecessary admin.
[11:39]: Why your processes and systems shouldn’t be static. They need to be tested and refined over time and updated when necessary. The business and marketing world isn’t static so why should your systems be?


Joel: Hi there, I’m Joel,

Raph: and this is Ralph from Digital Autopilot,

Joel: and welcome to the radically honest marketing show where we try to go behind the scenes and show the mechanics of what goes on in the marketing world, so you can use those insights to improve your business. Part of what we sometimes do is we go behind the scenes in terms of our own operation. We try and be completely transparent so you can learn from some of the things we are doing. And that’s part of what I wanna do today.

People often ask me the question, how do I ensure that my business runs smoothly and efficiently and profitably, whether I’m there or not, right? So that I avoid fires and things falling through the cracks, how do I just make it run like clockwork? To answer that there’s a lot that goes into answering that question. But one of the critical pieces of that answer is systems. In other words, what you need to do is implement step by step processes or procedures for performing the key tasks of the business. That means defining what those systems are, empowering your staff by explaining it to them, documenting it, and most critically, having a way to track and manage that tasks are happening according to the systems. And this is where people fall down.

The Wrong Way and the Right Way to Build Business Systems and Processes

People sometimes spend a lot of time creating these beautiful systems that fit on somewhere in a document gathering virtual dust, and they pull it out when a new employee starts and they proudly show them the system they created three years ago. The problem with that is it’s now completely obsolete. No one was ever really actually using it to manage their day-to-day tasks. And as a result, you’re not really seeing the true benefit of the system.

Whereas, I’m gonna suggest that not only should you document a system with a step by step processes for how to perform it, but you need a way to manage it and track that the systems are actually happening.

How do you do that? Well, these days there are some fantastic pieces of technology that manage tasks. There are lots of options out there. We use Asana as a task management platform to help manage our systems, but there are lots of other platforms out there, ranging from ClickUp, is a relatively new one that’s starting to run.

Raph: Basecamp is popular.

Joel: Yeah, people use Basecamp, Teamwork, Trello is very popular, Monday is a great platform. They’re all good platforms. We happen to use Asana and.

Raph: Even for small teams, Joel, like even just something like the Google Doc, which is, you can share live with anyone. Sometimes that depending on the type of business could also be a system that you use.

Joel: A Google Doc is great for documenting the task. But the challenge with a Google Doc.

Raph: Google Sheet, I mean a Google Sheet.

Joel: A Google Sheet, sorry, is it’s harder to track that things are happening. And that’s where I think a platform like a dedicated task management platform like Asana works really, really well. And I’ll just give you a really quick insight and I’m gonna show you, we’re trying to be radically honest here, so what I’m gonna do is I’m actually gonna show you my screen right now.

Raph: I know you’ve just changed it to look like the ideal system without all the warts and all, I’m just kidding.

Walkthrough of Our PPC Management Process in Asana

Joel: So, well, let me explain this very briefly. So what you can see here is our, what is really an Asana project, but this is one of our systems template for PPC management, pay-per-click management. So in this case, it might be Google Ads, for example. So whenever a new client comes on board, what we do is we have this pre-built PPC template which we then copy and we obviously name for the client. We have a section here called account where we put any account notes about what their goals are, what they’re trying to achieve, what their core services are, et cetera. And we can refer to that at any point in time.

Then we have a setup, a set of setup steps, okay? Where we’ve got everything from admin, keyword research, ad group structure, and so on, and each of these, if I was to click on keyword research for example, there are some templates there, there are various steps that go into keyword research, and that is our process, and what we do is we then allocate these tasks to whoever in our case, is managing that within the business, and we allocate a due date to it. So it needs to be done by a certain time. And the idea is to tick off the tasks as they go through them. And then we have to this.

Raph: If I can just add in there the good thing there about even the sub-task is that you can allocate the sub-task specifically to a person and assign a due date for that. I know with projects that I’ve managed, sometimes I do a lot of it, but then someone else or you Joel or whoever it is might do a couple other elements, so then I can assign it to them specifically, or I can drag it out and pull it in its own task. And the communication within each of those sections can happen down below, as well there’s sections where you can actually just write comments.

Joel: Correct, I can write something here and it relates to this specific task rather than fitting in my emails where I get dozens of emails every day. It relates to this task and it’s easy to find, right? So, that’s what happens in terms of the setup, and then of course, there’s the ongoing, once you’ve completed the setup, then you’ve got the ongoing phase. And one of the beautiful things about task management system like this is you can create recurring task.

For example, with Google Ads, we make sure that we do ongoing checks for clients. It’s not like it’s fit and forget, we have a range of steps that we go through as you can see here on a regular basis for each of our clients. And what we do here is we assign it to someone, we put a due date but we put it as a recurring task, as soon as they click it off, let’s say it was to happen every week or every fortnight, whatever it is. Then once they click it off, it will then reappear. And we know that when they’ve clicked through each of these steps in the process and ultimately clicked off the task, we know it’s been done. And if it hasn’t been done, we can see immediately because the task turns red. And this is, without going into too much detail about this particular task, this is about how we run things here.

But for your business, the idea is to think about what are the core tasks that need to get done? And have you documented them, number one, that’s the first step, but then have you integrated into a system with some checklists to enable you to allocate them to people and ensure that you can track that the system is getting done in the way you want it to get done? And what I find is where you do that, you seriously increase the consistency of performance, the effectiveness of performance, you reduce the chance of the things falling through the gaps, and as a result, you create a business that runs smoothly and efficiently all the time.

Your Systems Are Only Work If Used By The People They Were Intended For

Raph: If I can push back a little bit, Joel.

Joel: Yeah, yeah, go for it.

Raph: At the end of the day though, we all know in business there are challenges and some things do fall through the gaps, at the end of the day, these systems are only as good as the human beings that use them properly. And even the system might not be perfect, it needs to be changed as well, but things do happen that you don’t expect, that you just didn’t forecast. So, I think what these systems allow is they have this, it’s more like a protective barrier or just this safety net that you can always fall back to when things are getting crazy. It’s like well, if we stick to this system, that’ll help us sort of manage and get through some of these bumpy periods as well. There’s always gonna be bumpy periods, that’s just life, that’s the way things go. But having this system does help to smooth those bumps out, I wouldn’t say it’s just gonna be, oh, once you’ve got the system bang, the other thing.

Joel: Well, wait let me just on that point, just quickly, one of my favorite phrases from James Clear’s book, “Atomic Habits,” which we have referenced numerous times is this, he said, “You don’t rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your system.”

Raph: Wow.

Joel: Right, you don’t rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems. And I think that’s probably true. Yeah, anyway, sorry, go on.

Avoiding “System Bloat” Which Leads to Excessive Admin Work

Raph: Yeah, we could probably talk about that in many aspects of life as well, not just in business. The other thing was is that having come from a large, fast growing agency background before I started my own business, and managing up to 120 clients in any month, which is just ridiculous, what we found at that company is that there’s too much admin work going on, so I’m always trying to balance up, Joel, when you say that we should have a system for this and I agree with our love systems and the philosophy of it, but it’s also about balancing doing the work, and not making the admin and the ticking things off in the charts.

So I think there’s always that tight rope that we have to think about, which means just because you create the system once, it doesn’t mean that it’s perfect. And there was a recent example of that where I was having a discussion with one of our ad specialists, and we were discussing like how could we sort of fast-track things without unnecessary admin? And so one thing like based on that structure that you just showed that we’re gonna, I know you don’t have the screen there but there was this ongoing list, and it had 11 or 12 points to check. Then there was a quarterly one, which also had probably half a dozen things to check, but within each of those subtopics, there was also, it branched off into other areas as well to check.

So what we discussed with the tech specialist is that there are some things, I’m talking about here, Google Ads that you should be checking every few days or every week, some things that you should probably just check every month, some things you probably just check every quarter. And so what we are going to do is actually we’re gonna restructure that and actually break it up by things that need to be done more frequently, not as frequently, or very infrequently. So yes, there might be more sort of tasks within that client account, but they’re not gonna, only the ones that are really important are gonna occur frequently, the ones that are less important, not as frequently.

Make Your Systems and Processes Dynamic vs Static

Look, we are gonna test it out, we’re big on testing as you know. Let’s test that out, let’s see if that’s easier to manage. We also worked out just general parameters of communication and when things, yeah, when, how many people do you need to involve in decision making as well? But that’s another topic in itself.

Joel: You make a good point and that is that your systems should not be static, they should be dynamic, and you need to innovate them over time, right? You start with a baseline, you test it, right? It’s never gonna be perfect first up, and in fact, it will never ever be perfect ’cause there’s no such thing as perfect, right? There’s only getting better and better and optimizing and optimizing. And so the idea is to review your systems over time and continually improve them. And as you continually improve your systems, you continually improve your performance, right?

Remember, you don’t rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems. So if your systems are great, then your baseline is really, really solid. So hopefully that’s been a helpful insight for you, hope you can apply it to your business.

And if you found this valuable, then please subscribe below and/or like this episode so that other people can see it, and hopefully benefit from it as well. Thanks very much everyone and good luck implementing it in your business.

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