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E125: David Jenyns

How Companies Can Implement Systemisation To Grow And Create A High-Performance Team

David Jenyns

Podcast Overview

Do you use organised systems in your business? Listen in… we have a secret to tell you. Over 50 percent of businesses fail without particular systems in place. Don’t worry, this won’t be you!

We all know the importance of systemisation to the true growth of your business. Imagine your business running like a finely oiled machine where your team members follow the systems and deliver your products and services to a high standard. It’s easier than you think. In this episode David uses his vast years of knowledge to take a deep dive into systemisation so this can be you!

eCom@One Presents:

David Jenyns

David’s entrepreneurial journey began in his early twenties when he sold Australia’s most beloved sporting venue, the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Since then, his business experience has spanned from franchising retail clothing stores to founding one of Australia’s most trusted digital agencies, Melbourne SEO Services. 

In 2016, he successfully systemised himself out of that business, hired a CEO and stepped back from the daily operations. Through this process, he became a systems devotee, founding SYSTEMology

In this episode we talk about systemisation from why it fails to how businesses have grown tremendously by implementing systemisation. He tells us about his experience with this side of business and he has personally profited from systemisation

Tune into this to truly systemise your business to success. 

Topics Covered:

2:03 – Who is David Jenyns And What is SYSTEMology?

5:40 – The Importance Of Systemisation

17:30 – How Systemisation Will Improve Your Business

20:47 – Why Are Business Owners The Worst People To Systemise Their Businesses 

23:33 – Why Do Systems Fail?

27:45 – The Risks Of Not Systemising 

33:45 – The Key To Building A High-Performance Team

40:25 – David’s Book!

41:45 – Book Recommendation

 

Richard:
Hi and welcome to another episode of eCom@One. Today's guest, David Jenyns, founder of Systemology. How you doing, David?

David:
Great, Richard. Looking forward to this episode.

Richard:
Yeah. Absolutely. Something I'm very passionate about, something we spend a lot of time, a lot of head bagging, I think, as well. A lot of time over the years we've been doing this. I think we celebrated our 13th anniversary for one of our agencies a couple of weeks ago. When I look back on our journey as a business, systemizing is what we're going to be talking about. That's been a big part of, I think, it definitely has, of scaling our business. So, I think to kick off with, David, it would be great for you to introduce yourself and step through your background over the last few years and what you've been doing with Systemology.

David:
Yeah. Perfect. So, I have started, systemized, scaled, and sold three separate businesses. I had a rock and roll clothing music store, a digital agency, and a video production business. The digital agency is probably the one that I spent the most time in because it's funny, the previous businesses and when I think of the rock and roll clothing music store, we actually built that business up to franchise and we franchised that store. So, a lot of it was heavily systems driven. But then when I got into the digital agency, for some reason, I thought that business was different and that business couldn't be systemized, even though I'd had experience with systems and processes, and I got trapped in that business for a really long time.
It wasn't until I found out we were pregnant and that we were expecting and I thought, hey, I've really got to change the way that I'm doing things because I was burning the candle at both ends, working really long hours, and I just didn't want to be that dad who was always too busy. So, that's when I re-looked at systems and tested a lot of the assumptions and misconceptions that I had around why that business couldn't be systemized. Then I went through the process and I suppose I talk a little bit about it in my book, but just basically stepped myself out from the day to day, had that business owner operated for three years before we ultimately ended up selling it.
It was after the sale of that business that I took a step back and said, "Hey, what do I really want to be doing here? Where do I have the biggest impact?" I kind of lost a little bit of my passion for the digital agency stuff. It's tough work and it's nonstop and I was working so closely with business owners and in high stress sort of environment, and I thought, well I just don't want to necessarily get back into that. Then I thought, well, maybe I can show business owners how I was able to systemize myself out, get to the point where it was owner operated, and sell the business because I think there's quite a few counterintuitive lessons that you pick up along the way.

Richard:
That's a brilliant story. I think that will resonate with a lot of people. We have a lot of agency owners. Obviously, we have two agencies behind the podcast. Yeah. I think going from business owner to then scaling and obviously scaling to be able to have more time with your family, with the people that matter, what you're doing this for, everybody listening in. I think when you listen to this episode, most people are going to be in absolute peak season, madness around you.

David:
Yes.

Richard:
Hopefully, organized madness. But ultimately, systemizing enables you to do so much more, doesn't it? It frees up a lot of time, whether that's the scale of the business further or to obviously spend time away from the business and be able to spend time, I think, is the key thing, isn't it? To be able to spend that time.

David:
Having that choice is key because a lot of businesses that I work with or business owners, they just don't have the choice whether or not they could step away or not. Some business owners that we work with, they systemize and they continue to work in and on the business and they're working twice as hard, but they're working on the right things. They're working on the things that give them leverage and they're getting out of the tasks that are repetitive and very easily delegatable. But it's that choice that's the key. Most business owners don't get the choice and I believe every business owner should be able to step in it or out of it.

Richard:
So, what would you say? So, our listeners are going to be running e-comm stores, working in e-comm stores, primarily as marketers, but obviously, there've been an array of people. What does systemizing to those people mean? What is it exactly as an e-comm store are they're going to systemize their business? What are they going to do?

David:
So, when you systemize any business, oftentimes the first question that they'll ask is, well, what are the first few systems that I need to get in place? Where do I start? The whole idea of systemizing is about capturing the way that something is done, codifying it, and getting it to a point where you can then delegate it down to lower cost or less skilled team members to take over those tasks, which ultimately free up the more skilled team members to work on the tasks that don't yet have systems and processes in place. You want to free them up to work on only the tasks that they can work on, which makes them more valuable. So, that's one of the little counterintuitive things that you want to teach your team is by systemizing your task, you're not making yourself less valuable because, oh, now they can ship parts of my work offshore or to another lower cost team member. But rather, you're making yourself more valuable because now you can work on only the things that you uniquely can do.
So, as the e-commerce store owner goes through this, the first thing that they want to think about is what are those first 10 to 15 systems that they're going to systemize? E-commerce is a bit different from service based business because a lot of service based business, there's a sales process and you got to issue out invoices and maybe you got a proposal that you prepare and you have to onboard clients and then you have to do the work, whereas e-commerce, once you build the website, they come to the website, they hit add to cart, and then they check out and then you're done. So, you still want to go through and think through the customer journey and what the business has to go through to grab the attention of that client, to deliver and fulfill that client, and then also how to get them to come back. That's always where I suggest you start.
With a lot of e-commerce businesses, when you get down to it and once the shopping cart and the website's built, a lot of emphasis goes into traffic generation because e-commerce stores, just by the nature of the way that they're built and the way that you're selling product, are built for scale. Sometimes, you think about a digital agency, and I know you've got agency owner that's listening as well, your business can be a little bit harder to scale in that as you start to scale, you need to bring on more team members to really help fulfill and deliver and do the work for the client, whereas to scale an e-commerce business, you might need one person and they can ship out a truckload of extra orders.
So, e-commerce businesses, there's a lot of potential there. But there's a lot that sits around the core delivery of that product or service as well around restocking and getting inventory, thinking about the way that you are recruiting and onboarding staff, thinking about your management and your reporting and your finances. There are some other areas that you want to look at. But it always starts with what we call the critical client flow and identifying the first 10 to 15 systems that you go to work on first.

Richard:
Something that I try to look at is almost accrued as an hour hourly rate. There's tasks that we all unfortunately can get wrapped up in that might be a $10 task. Then there's things like going on a podcast, which might be a $1,000 an hour, or probably more than that, hourly task. So, is that quite a good place to look or a way to think of it, you think? Or is there a better way? So, obviously, the idea being the lower end hourly rates that you're maybe spending two or three hours a day on, systemize those things, a month later, you've saved 30 hours, which would only be $300 that you've outsourced. Now, you've been able to then do 30 hours on your $1,000 task and made an extra 30 grand or whatever it may be. Along those lines?

David:
Yeah. Good place to start. One of the words I use, I talk about this idea of essential, repeatable, delegatable. So, you're looking for essential tasks. We apply the 80/20 to the business. What are the 20% of the systems that deliver the 80% of the result? It's really critical to the way that the business responds. E-commerce business, customer service, and replying to tickets when they come in and helping clients track orders, all of that stuff is essential, it's repeatable because it happens quite frequently, and oftentimes your clients are going to be asking similar tasks or similar questions again and again and again. It's also delegatable. It's something that you can train up and create email templates and a process for the way that you handle your customer service.
So, thinking about those three elements and if it ticks those boxes, that can be a great place to start because you're right. It's always about how do you delegate down in your organization? How do you move tasks to less skilled and oftentimes lower cost labor to free higher skilled team members up to do things only they can uniquely do? Because as the podcast example, I can't outsource the podcast example or outsource the podcast task if I am the podcast guest. So, it's one of those ones that has to be me. So, if we know that me being on podcasts is valuable and we want to do more of that, we want to strip away anything that is taking me away from that where I'm not adding any unique value.

Richard:
Yeah. Yeah. No. It completely makes sense and I think the people that are listening in, they'll be like, "Oh, god. I've spent so much time doing the wages at the end of the month." That's one that sticks in my mind, for example. I think the traditional quite often store of an e-comm store, you think, I think we're going to try and sell a couple of things on the internet. You put a couple of things on eBay. Next thing you know, you've got a few things on Amazon. Fast forward two years, you might be doing 200 orders a day. Fast forward another two years, you might be doing $500 a day. But back in the day, you just paid yourself. Now ,you're paying your mate, John. But five years later, you're now paying 30 people. But you've just got in that habit of, oh, it's payday. It's payday, I better do the wages.
But the reality is that's very easy to work with an accountant potentially or somebody within the business to systemize that, which is something we did many, many years ago. But I still remember sitting there on the last day of the month paying the wages, and it was an hour and a half every month of me having to do that, whereas now we have systems in place and the right people in place, obviously different hires and different people. There is a system online, it's more of my accountant's system to be fair, and now that takes me probably five minutes a month now to do the salaries every month.
I think it's one of those things that's quite hard potentially to relinquish. I think that's probably a good thing to talk about. I think business owners, I can definitely relate to it. Even now, I'm sitting here thinking about what you're saying like, "God, I'm still doing that." You hang on to things, don't you, I think. What would you say to business owners that are like, "Oh, no. I need to do that. I've always done that," or maybe a bit of a fixed mindset on a few things? How do you go from that mindset to really freeing up everything and systemizing almost everything?

David:
Yeah. It's quite common because the business owner typically starts off and it is just them, like you said, and the business grows over time and they just develop the habit. It's like they're going to the gym and they're working that muscle, so they're really strong at solving problems and issues when they pop up. As they start to bring on new team members, they train team members. Oftentimes, it's even subconsciously. They're not even thinking about it. But whenever there's an issue, oh, you come to Dave and Dave will be the knight in shining armor and he'll fix the problem. So, then you start to train all of your staff to come to you. Then it's clients. Maybe whenever there's a challenging situation, it gets escalated to you and everything just keeps coming through and bottlenecking at you and then you just get used to solving the problem.
So, part of the process for weaning yourself out from that is first starting off with the simple tasks because similarly, the muscle that you've built up that you solve every problem, you now need to start to build up the delegation, the systems mindset type of your brain where you built up enough experience to know, oh, you know what? I do know how to put the checks and measures in to make sure that it's done to the standard that I want, or I have got a process for the way that we recruit team members SO I get a person on board that's sufficiently skilled or I've trained them up and I trust them. Maybe there are things that take you time to let go over time. But ultimately, the whole goal here, I have this belief that if the business is key person dependent, it's broken, especially in an e-commerce business.
If we think about a service based business and some of your agency type owners, sometimes that step is a little bit harder because maybe they're the person running the AdWords or maybe they're the person who does the SEO or whatever it might be, and they are on the tools and that they're finding hard to let go. But oftentimes in an e-commerce business, if you're shipping out a box, who cares who's doing that? It doesn't change the client experience. I come back to this idea of if the business is key person dependent, it's broken, and the aim of the game is actually to remove that.
So, then at least we have the choice and it doesn't matter if Jenny is off next week because Sally is trained up right behind her ready to go and she can take over those tasks. Then that builds this redundancy into the business, which makes the business strong, and that's a key component of growing and scaling, making sure that you're strong and you can increase capacity and as you increase your capacity, that enables you to scale and turn some of the other knobs and drive up your traffic and have that flow through the rest of the business.

Richard:
So, I guess a good question to ask our listeners would be what would happen if you took two weeks off today? What's going to happen?

David:
For me, personally-

Richard:
Well, I think in terms of listeners.

David:
... or the personal listening.

Richard:
Yeah. The personal listening because that tells you, you think, ooh. That's going to highlight areas that you're going to be concerned about, which is probably part of a good place to start as well. Oh, god. Nobody knows how to do X, Y, Z. Nobody can do this. Oh, god,. I'm the only one with the password for this or I'm the only one that does the ordering. That type of thing.

David:
Yeah. So, there's usually about three different stages that we'll go through. Firstly, someone starts off and you think about the critical client flow, which is that idea of how can we deliver a core product or service without key person dependency and you identify the 10 to 15 systems related to that. That's a great starting point because if the business can make money without key person dependency, then fantastic. Most problems in business can be solved with more money. So, having the business be able to make money without that key person dependency increases the cash flow, which just makes problem solving easier. So, that's the first one. Then the step after that is we actually go through each of the different departments in business and you think about sales, marketing, operations, or the delivery of your product or service, HR, finance and management. Oftentimes, there are different departments, but those departments cover the majority of businesses and a lot of the areas can fall underneath those particular department headings.
But you go through each of those departments and again we think about the 80/20. What we want to do is we think about what tasks happen on a triggered basis, what happens weekly, what happens monthly, quarterly, and annually, and you identify in each department the top five to 10 key systems for that particular department. You do that across the complete business and you end up coming up with, when you combine that with the critical client flow, maybe there's 30 or 40 systems that when you really get that down, the most important things in your business happen. We call that reaching the minimum viable systems.
Once you reach that point, then it's a great idea to do exactly what you said. You start having key team members, the business owner first, but then you go around your different department heads, have them take a holiday and see what doesn't get done, what gets broken, or what just grinds to a halt. Then again, you start to shift the culture in the business where you solve your problems with a systems mindset and you go, "Well, if that was an issue, how could we fix that by getting a system or a process that could then take over that particular task?" Going through that thinking, this might be a 12 month, 15 month exercise to reach minimum viable systems. But once you get there and you build up the habit and a systems driven culture inside your company, then you're really off to the races.

Richard:
I think that's the thing, that 12, 15 months. I would agree with that completely. Ours is still ongoing. We've probably got, I don't know the exact number, definitely 50+ different systems written out for various things in the agency side of things. But then I'm thinking, ooh, we haven't actually got anything on the podcast. So, if our podcast people go down, because I just do record this and I have almost zero to do with the production, and as we should have for it. So, I get different people do those things. But one thing on my mind is, so the people. Who is the right person to do those systems. We talk about those different departments in a business. In an e-comm business, you've got the purchasing, the sales, the marketing, the shipping, the warehousing, probably the operational stuff. But as a business owner, are you the right person, obviously, or are you better delegating that to the person in charge of those departments?

David:
Typically, the business owner is one of the worst people, definitely for documentation, but even systems creation, and there's a few reasons why. One, obviously, business owners are really, really busy. Two, business owners can't help themselves and they'll design the system the way that they would like it to be, not the way that it is, and they try and over-engineer it to have this world class system when often the biggest wins come from just going who currently does this task really well or to a great standard? Let's capture that, consider that as version number one, bring everybody up to that standard before we even consider re-engineering it.
So, we often talk about making systems a two person job. You have the knowledgeable worker who knows how to do the thing and we have a second person we call the systems champion, and they often watch the person doing the task or record them doing the task. Maybe it's a video, might be a Zoom or a Loom or maybe it's something that's recorded on their phone, and then the systems champion takes that recording and then pulls out the key steps, that just becomes version number one. Oftentimes, just getting version number one down is a huge step forward for a lot of businesses.

Richard:
Yeah. I can completely agree with that. Thinking back of some people we've had come in to, for an example for us would be to run and create technical audits of websites, which is quite a complex task. Not so long ago, we had a new person join the business with no previous experience, but we spotted a real potential in this chap, and six months later, when he joined, he was given access to the systems that our technical manager, our lead technical, had created on doing audits for certain types of websites, and on Monday, just gone.
He delivered with one of our other colleagues a presentation around an audit to a very, very large site. But he really was able to do that independently within a couple of months of being with us with no knowledge of a very technical topic. So, I couldn't really back that up, and that's not something I created hands down. I created, it's one of my colleagues. So, why do systems fail, do you think? I think obviously, you may spend all this time as a system creating these system. Maybe you spend a lot of time thinking about creating the system, I think is probably half the problem. But then why do people fail at systemization of the actual-

David:
Yeah. Oftentimes, there's a few reasons. Sometimes, not giving it sufficient time to cook, reach that minimum viable systems. Maybe they try and introduce this idea of systemizing the business, they reach a little bit of resistance. Most of the resistance comes up front from existing team members who are like, "Well, why do we have to change? We've always done it this way. Why should I be thinking about systemizing my business?" All of that resistance happens up front. As you talked about I think earlier, this idea of the compounding effect of systems, the first couple of systems, you're only saving five minutes here, 10 minutes there. You might not be getting a huge amount of leverage from it. So, oftentimes, that can get people to abandon it once they reach the resistance and then just go, "Oh, it doesn't work for me. Look, we tried that. It didn't quite work." So, that's often one of the reasons.
People also have these misconceptions around how many systems they're going to need or they're worried that systems will remove the creativity, and particularly in digital agencies. I know we work a lot with digital agencies, so I'll kind of mention that. That was one of the things that held me back in my systemization why I got stuck in Melbourne SEO for so long was I was worried that we were a creative digital agency and if I systemized everything, we just turn into robots and that would lose some of our magic. Then I started to realize certain things in the business need to happen and they needed to happen a certain way, and systemizing those components actually freed us up to then have my more senior team members work on some of those things that did need to be creative, and they had more space to think because they weren't worried about some administrative things that should have just been taken care of via our system.
So, they're definitely some of the things that hold people back from systemization. Overcooking systems is another thing. People will try and create a system for every possible variation, whereas generally speaking, you just start off with a system to capture the most probable. What is most likely to happen? You don't need to capture every different variable because a system normally is given to a newer team member and that's the first thing that they learn to cut their teeth. So, we don't need to go over every possible variation. Whenever something is slightly off the system or it's not covered, that's when they would escalate that to a more senior team member. But you have the system cover the most standard, the most vanilla, the most probable version and just start there as a way to learn and train up new team members and then the higher skilled team members handle those exceptions.

Richard:
Yeah. I think that's great advice. Almost like that minimal viable product. But it's there. It's there and it can evolve. There's a little bit of movement in it. I think like you say, you can get so detailed. I know we have in the past, this is going back some years, but we refer to it as micro/macro. So, you've got the macro would be log into Google Analytics and then the micro would be a screenshot of the Google Analytics where the login button is. There's some elements of that you do need. Some of our systems are literally 40 pages, or maybe more actually, which it's good to have but it's a little bit excessive to be fair. Yeah. It's a little bit overwhelming, I think, to somebody that's looking at it. But then it's a bit of balancing act, isn't it, someone that's never logged into Google Analytics before, then first time around, it's probably quite useful. So, it's finding that line sort of thing, isn't it?

David:
Sure.

Richard:
So, what would you say the risks are, risks for not systemizing? If you're sitting here listening to this and you're doing, let's pick a number, doing 10 million pounds a year and you've not really systemized much, what are the risks of not systemizing your business moving forward?

David:
Mm-hmm. The business owner doesn't know how much it's actually costing them to not systemize. Whether that's the time that they're putting into the business, whether it's the wastage that they've got in the business, or what poor efficiency is actually costing them, and the domino effect of, well, maybe your lead generation is 10% less effective, maybe your sales isn't quite converting where it needs to be, or maybe when it comes to packaging up and fulfilling, it's not as efficient, all of that stuff compounds on each other.
That's not to mention then all of the opportunity cost because oftentimes, business owners, even if they had the best opportunity of their lifetime fall in their lap, so many of them are just so busy, they wouldn't even notice or they couldn't take advantage of the situation because they're just so in the business and so consumed. So, oftentimes, the biggest cost is the loss of opportunity. That might just be the thing that leapfrogs you up or 10x's your business, but you didn't see it or you were too busy to take advantage of it because you were so stuck in the day to day. So, it's a hard one to quantify because systemizing and becoming efficient and leveling up, it's wide reaching and it impacts all parts of your business and your personal life.

Richard:
Yeah. Totally. Totally. I know we've got people in our business that are obsessed with systems and to a degree, the documenting of things. One of the chaps in the business, who I spoke, I spoke to him a few weeks ago about the gym and what we do. He pulled up his spreadsheet of all of his recording of everything and just real detail people. I think that's the thing that springs to mind for me. You've got different people in a business avenue and some people are just, they're brilliant at their jobs, but they're not about ... They're recording, but they're still brilliant at their jobs. But then you've got different people that are insane at the absolute detail, following things to the letter, and having things super, super organized. But you do need a combination of those people. So, yeah. Yeah.

David:
I might touch on that because that's quite common with business owners. Business owners are often creative, visionary people who are fast moving and solve problems quickly and move on to the next thing. That's how their brain works, how they're wired, that's how they get the business off the ground, and that's kind of what's made them successful. That will get you quite far, but then you'll start to reach a point where you then start to hit the ceiling and then you really need to find the yin to your yang. You need to find someone who's great at managing people, who crosses T's and dot I's and who's more of a process person.
Because the business owner oftentimes doesn't usually like systems and processes, they project that onto the team thinking, oh, my team's not going to systems and processes, and it's more of a reflection of how they feel. But the truth of the matter is a lot of A players love systems because it'll outline how they win in your business. It'll define what success looks like. You can even build your systems culture into your recruitment and your onboarding process so that when you run a job ad you say, "Here are a couple of the systems that you'll be following as part of your daily work," and when you do your interview process, you ask them, "Have you created a checklist and what was the last process that you followed?" and those types of questions.
Then when you recruit them and you onboard them, you start off by teaching them the core systems and you say, "Hey, this is how we do things here and the way that you move up in our organization is by systemizing." What that does, if you front load that, then you end up repelling the people that don't like systems or wouldn't connect with that systems culture and you do it right up front, which then makes your job easier because those newer team members, well, that's all they've ever known. Oh, that's just how we do things here. Again, that's why introducing a systems culture is always hardest up front because you first have to go through your existing staff. But you get over the hump and it gets easier and easier with every new team member that comes on board because, hey, this is how we do things here.

Richard:
Yeah. That is brilliant. I like that, David, I like that. Brilliant. Because that was actually my next question about building high performance teams and giving some insight. Obviously, you've got quite a lot of people working for your business and your business of teaching systems. But obviously, you've systemized no doubt your recruitment, retention, and how you do things. What else could you add to that? We're in a time where there's a lot of different remote working options and building that team. I know, as we all do, everybody listening, everyone will have staff who's listening to this or staff within their business. What else would you say about building that performance team from your experience? I think that is brilliant on the job ads and things like that.
Then obviously, that key piece around when they first start, this is how we do things, introducing them to systems very early on, obviously in the interview process, make sure they're not going to be banging heads against the systems, that that's something they embrace, the detail. That's quite a good one, actually, because I've got an actually second interview today with somebody that's likely to start with us in a couple of weeks. So, I may add in a couple of questions around systems. But what would you say about that, building that high performance team around systems and any sort of other insights you've had, especially over this last couple of years where obviously ... I think you're a remote business anyway, even pretty COVID, were you?

David:
Yes.

Richard:
So, you'll be very familiar with, obviously, building that remote workforce. But yeah. what would you say about other things around building that performance team?

David:
Look. One of the key things to build a high performance team is to have everything as transparent and open and out where anybody can see it. So, that way, it's clear when things are being done and not being done. So, some examples, we use a couple of different tools. One of the tools is Slack and we have some channels set up for when certain triggers happen. When certain purchases or inquiries come through, they go into the Slack channel. That is a public area where a bunch of team members are in that space. Now, it's someone's responsibility when this particular order comes in that they then go take the action. What they do is underneath that particular Slack notification, they will often say, "Hey, I've got this and it's handled," or they'll link to the Asana task, because we use Asana as our project management platform, which basically says, "Hey, and here's now the task related to this to make sure that we execute everything."
Now, while some of that could be automated and you could use a zap that automatically sets up a Asana task from the purchase trigger that comes straight from the shopping cart. While you could do that, there's something about having it so front and center because it's an essential, really critical piece that we want everybody to be able to see. So, that level of transparency of having your Asana and breaking it up into your different departments and having the tasks quite clear and who is doing what by when and links to your how to documents in the project management. So, that way, it's very clear when someone is given a task, well, here's how it's done or the standard that we're expecting it to be completed to, and having that out in the open makes it much harder for someone to then say, "Oh, I didn't know," or, {Oh, I forgot about that," or all of those excuses that get in the way. Once you start to reduce that, it becomes much easier to really performance manage and have people rise to that level. That's a big part of it.

Richard:
Yeah. No. You've pretty much just explained my business there. We use Slack and Asana. We do use apps, to be fair, pushing one from the other and then linking to our systems documents. Yeah.

David:
Yep.

Richard:
Yeah.

David:
Yeah.

Richard:
There's no escaping, really. It's there in black and white sort of thing. Right? This has happened and now you need to go and do this sort of thing, and it's in a channel with whether that's a team of two or a team of 22 in that channel, dependent on the ... Yeah. Any other sort of technology things you would recommend? So, obviously, you're very big on project management software, Asana, and that's what we use as well, actually. We've tried probably them all, I think, over the years, been moving back and forth over the years. Now, I think we are about probably four, five years in now to Asana. Do you track time in your business? Is that something you do or something you recommend, like your people?

David:
Yeah. So the way that we track time, we are a virtual team and it's not like we use something like a Time Doctor that's taking screenshots of people's desktop, but we do have team members. It used to be that we would have them submit what we call EODs end of day reports, and they just basically say, "Here's what I worked on for the day, here's what I've got planned for tomorrow, and here are some questions or things that I might need help with." That worked really well for us for a period. As we've grown, we've now actually transitioned. We use a thing called Trackabi. It's just effectively like a time sheet software. What we really want team members to do is bullet point Here's what I've done for the day, and then they will assign some ... They'll break out certain times to certain tasks.
So, it's not down to the minute and every single task, but there is enough for a supervisor, their direct report, a department head when they're having the one on one with the team member to be able to open up Trackabi and go, "Oh, great. You're working on this and that. Oh, okay. Well, I can see that's popped up. Oh, that's taking longer than I thought. Can we give you more training or can you show me what you're doing here? So, oftentimes, particularly in a virtual environment, problems with team members will present themselves in the time sheets far before sometimes other things pop up and other indicators that they might not be performing. When you go back and you look at it and let's say you do discover an underperforming team member, if you go back and you had a closer look at their time sheet, oftentimes that's revealed many months before in the time sheet if you knew what to look for.

Richard:
Yeah. No. I think that's brilliant. That's brilliant. Brilliant. Yeah. I think there's a few options with time tracking, isn't there, and some of them, it can be quite intrusive and like you said, screenshotting and things like that. That's not something we advocate at all, but just getting a feel for two hours on that, an hour on that, an hour on that. Obviously, as time evolves, a week, a month, whatever it may be, and it's, well, we're not done any work on this. You'd see as a manager, wouldn't you, that they've not worked on XY. Somebody's maybe not worked on something that they've been asked to do or you over-service something, which gives you a feel for are you under or over-servicing a client, if that's a service based business more so. Brilliant. Right. Well, it's been an absolute blast, David. The last couple of things. So, I know you have your own book, so it'd be great to hear a bit more about that.

David:
Yes. So, after selling the digital agency, I wrote a book called Systemology and it's over on Amazon. There's the audio version as well. If you're listening to this right now, you're probably a podcast person, and I did read the audio version, it's on Audible. So, it's called Systemology. What it does is it takes the business owner who might have no systems in place and then gets them to a point where they've got those minimum viable systems in place. It's a seven step process. I've had the really good fortune, Michael Gerber, who's kind of like the godfather of business systems, he wrote a really famous book called The E-Myth, he managed to come across my work and ended up writing the foreword to the book. That's been really great for us. Systemology's almost like the how to guide for The E-Myth. It's like this is how you would actually implement it.

Richard:
Fantastic. Fantastic. Well that brings us to my last question, which actually is similar to my previous one in your case. But if you could recommend a book, and we're going to say not your Systemology book, to our listeners on anything, I'm not going to give you any too many prompts, but anything you like, what would be one book you would recommend to our listeners?

David:
One book I really loved is, I'm going to give two. I'm going to cheat here. The first one I mentioned, E-Myth. Michael Gerber's book, The E-Myth, is just a great book on selling the case for why, why you need systems and how they'll transform the way that you work. The other book I really love is one called Traction by Gino Wickman. What I love about that is it's an operating system. It's how to think about getting the most important things in your business down, like what's your mission, what's your vision, what's your focus, what's your target audience, what is your meeting cadence? Definitely Traction's a great book.

Richard:
I love it. This is almost like we planned it. If you look right there, you can see it on my video.

David:
Yes. There you go. A bit clearly. All great business owners their Traction book.

Richard:
We'll have to send that shot over to Gino Wickman.

David:
Yes. A hundred percent.

Richard:
Brilliant. Well, thank you so much for coming on the eCom@One podcast. For the guys that want to find out more about you, more about Systemology, what's the best way to do that, David?

David:
Yeah. Head to systemology.com or just jump on Amazon and grab yourself a copy of the book, Systemology.

Richard:
Brilliant. Well, thanks very much. I'll see you again.

David:
See you.

Richard:
Hi and welcome to another episode of eCom@One. Today's guest, David Jenyns, founder of Systemology. How you doing, David?

David:
Great, Richard. Looking forward to this episode.

Richard:
Yeah. Absolutely. Something I'm very passionate about, something we spend a lot of time, a lot of head bagging, I think, as well. A lot of time over the years we've been doing this. I think we celebrated our 13th anniversary for one of our agencies a couple of weeks ago. When I look back on our journey as a business, systemizing is what we're going to be talking about. That's been a big part of, I think, it definitely has, of scaling our business. So, I think to kick off with, David, it would be great for you to introduce yourself and step through your background over the last few years and what you've been doing with Systemology.

David:
Yeah. Perfect. So, I have started, systemized, scaled, and sold three separate businesses. I had a rock and roll clothing music store, a digital agency, and a video production business. The digital agency is probably the one that I spent the most time in because it's funny, the previous businesses and when I think of the rock and roll clothing music store, we actually built that business up to franchise and we franchised that store. So, a lot of it was heavily systems driven. But then when I got into the digital agency, for some reason, I thought that business was different and that business couldn't be systemized, even though I'd had experience with systems and processes, and I got trapped in that business for a really long time.
It wasn't until I found out we were pregnant and that we were expecting and I thought, hey, I've really got to change the way that I'm doing things because I was burning the candle at both ends, working really long hours, and I just didn't want to be that dad who was always too busy. So, that's when I re-looked at systems and tested a lot of the assumptions and misconceptions that I had around why that business couldn't be systemized. Then I went through the process and I suppose I talk a little bit about it in my book, but just basically stepped myself out from the day to day, had that business owner operated for three years before we ultimately ended up selling it.
It was after the sale of that business that I took a step back and said, "Hey, what do I really want to be doing here? Where do I have the biggest impact?" I kind of lost a little bit of my passion for the digital agency stuff. It's tough work and it's nonstop and I was working so closely with business owners and in high stress sort of environment, and I thought, well I just don't want to necessarily get back into that. Then I thought, well, maybe I can show business owners how I was able to systemize myself out, get to the point where it was owner operated, and sell the business because I think there's quite a few counterintuitive lessons that you pick up along the way.

Richard:
That's a brilliant story. I think that will resonate with a lot of people. We have a lot of agency owners. Obviously, we have two agencies behind the podcast. Yeah. I think going from business owner to then scaling and obviously scaling to be able to have more time with your family, with the people that matter, what you're doing this for, everybody listening in. I think when you listen to this episode, most people are going to be in absolute peak season, madness around you.

David:
Yes.

Richard:
Hopefully, organized madness. But ultimately, systemizing enables you to do so much more, doesn't it? It frees up a lot of time, whether that's the scale of the business further or to obviously spend time away from the business and be able to spend time, I think, is the key thing, isn't it? To be able to spend that time.

David:
Having that choice is key because a lot of businesses that I work with or business owners, they just don't have the choice whether or not they could step away or not. Some business owners that we work with, they systemize and they continue to work in and on the business and they're working twice as hard, but they're working on the right things. They're working on the things that give them leverage and they're getting out of the tasks that are repetitive and very easily delegatable. But it's that choice that's the key. Most business owners don't get the choice and I believe every business owner should be able to step in it or out of it.

Richard:
So, what would you say? So, our listeners are going to be running e-comm stores, working in e-comm stores, primarily as marketers, but obviously, there've been an array of people. What does systemizing to those people mean? What is it exactly as an e-comm store are they're going to systemize their business? What are they going to do?

David:
So, when you systemize any business, oftentimes the first question that they'll ask is, well, what are the first few systems that I need to get in place? Where do I start? The whole idea of systemizing is about capturing the way that something is done, codifying it, and getting it to a point where you can then delegate it down to lower cost or less skilled team members to take over those tasks, which ultimately free up the more skilled team members to work on the tasks that don't yet have systems and processes in place. You want to free them up to work on only the tasks that they can work on, which makes them more valuable. So, that's one of the little counterintuitive things that you want to teach your team is by systemizing your task, you're not making yourself less valuable because, oh, now they can ship parts of my work offshore or to another lower cost team member. But rather, you're making yourself more valuable because now you can work on only the things that you uniquely can do.
So, as the e-commerce store owner goes through this, the first thing that they want to think about is what are those first 10 to 15 systems that they're going to systemize? E-commerce is a bit different from service based business because a lot of service based business, there's a sales process and you got to issue out invoices and maybe you got a proposal that you prepare and you have to onboard clients and then you have to do the work, whereas e-commerce, once you build the website, they come to the website, they hit add to cart, and then they check out and then you're done. So, you still want to go through and think through the customer journey and what the business has to go through to grab the attention of that client, to deliver and fulfill that client, and then also how to get them to come back. That's always where I suggest you start.
With a lot of e-commerce businesses, when you get down to it and once the shopping cart and the website's built, a lot of emphasis goes into traffic generation because e-commerce stores, just by the nature of the way that they're built and the way that you're selling product, are built for scale. Sometimes, you think about a digital agency, and I know you've got agency owner that's listening as well, your business can be a little bit harder to scale in that as you start to scale, you need to bring on more team members to really help fulfill and deliver and do the work for the client, whereas to scale an e-commerce business, you might need one person and they can ship out a truckload of extra orders.
So, e-commerce businesses, there's a lot of potential there. But there's a lot that sits around the core delivery of that product or service as well around restocking and getting inventory, thinking about the way that you are recruiting and onboarding staff, thinking about your management and your reporting and your finances. There are some other areas that you want to look at. But it always starts with what we call the critical client flow and identifying the first 10 to 15 systems that you go to work on first.

Richard:
Something that I try to look at is almost accrued as an hour hourly rate. There's tasks that we all unfortunately can get wrapped up in that might be a $10 task. Then there's things like going on a podcast, which might be a $1,000 an hour, or probably more than that, hourly task. So, is that quite a good place to look or a way to think of it, you think? Or is there a better way? So, obviously, the idea being the lower end hourly rates that you're maybe spending two or three hours a day on, systemize those things, a month later, you've saved 30 hours, which would only be $300 that you've outsourced. Now, you've been able to then do 30 hours on your $1,000 task and made an extra 30 grand or whatever it may be. Along those lines?

David:
Yeah. Good place to start. One of the words I use, I talk about this idea of essential, repeatable, delegatable. So, you're looking for essential tasks. We apply the 80/20 to the business. What are the 20% of the systems that deliver the 80% of the result? It's really critical to the way that the business responds. E-commerce business, customer service, and replying to tickets when they come in and helping clients track orders, all of that stuff is essential, it's repeatable because it happens quite frequently, and oftentimes your clients are going to be asking similar tasks or similar questions again and again and again. It's also delegatable. It's something that you can train up and create email templates and a process for the way that you handle your customer service.
So, thinking about those three elements and if it ticks those boxes, that can be a great place to start because you're right. It's always about how do you delegate down in your organization? How do you move tasks to less skilled and oftentimes lower cost labor to free higher skilled team members up to do things only they can uniquely do? Because as the podcast example, I can't outsource the podcast example or outsource the podcast task if I am the podcast guest. So, it's one of those ones that has to be me. So, if we know that me being on podcasts is valuable and we want to do more of that, we want to strip away anything that is taking me away from that where I'm not adding any unique value.

Richard:
Yeah. Yeah. No. It completely makes sense and I think the people that are listening in, they'll be like, "Oh, god. I've spent so much time doing the wages at the end of the month." That's one that sticks in my mind, for example. I think the traditional quite often store of an e-comm store, you think, I think we're going to try and sell a couple of things on the internet. You put a couple of things on eBay. Next thing you know, you've got a few things on Amazon. Fast forward two years, you might be doing 200 orders a day. Fast forward another two years, you might be doing $500 a day. But back in the day, you just paid yourself. Now ,you're paying your mate, John. But five years later, you're now paying 30 people. But you've just got in that habit of, oh, it's payday. It's payday, I better do the wages.
But the reality is that's very easy to work with an accountant potentially or somebody within the business to systemize that, which is something we did many, many years ago. But I still remember sitting there on the last day of the month paying the wages, and it was an hour and a half every month of me having to do that, whereas now we have systems in place and the right people in place, obviously different hires and different people. There is a system online, it's more of my accountant's system to be fair, and now that takes me probably five minutes a month now to do the salaries every month.
I think it's one of those things that's quite hard potentially to relinquish. I think that's probably a good thing to talk about. I think business owners, I can definitely relate to it. Even now, I'm sitting here thinking about what you're saying like, "God, I'm still doing that." You hang on to things, don't you, I think. What would you say to business owners that are like, "Oh, no. I need to do that. I've always done that," or maybe a bit of a fixed mindset on a few things? How do you go from that mindset to really freeing up everything and systemizing almost everything?

David:
Yeah. It's quite common because the business owner typically starts off and it is just them, like you said, and the business grows over time and they just develop the habit. It's like they're going to the gym and they're working that muscle, so they're really strong at solving problems and issues when they pop up. As they start to bring on new team members, they train team members. Oftentimes, it's even subconsciously. They're not even thinking about it. But whenever there's an issue, oh, you come to Dave and Dave will be the knight in shining armor and he'll fix the problem. So, then you start to train all of your staff to come to you. Then it's clients. Maybe whenever there's a challenging situation, it gets escalated to you and everything just keeps coming through and bottlenecking at you and then you just get used to solving the problem.
So, part of the process for weaning yourself out from that is first starting off with the simple tasks because similarly, the muscle that you've built up that you solve every problem, you now need to start to build up the delegation, the systems mindset type of your brain where you built up enough experience to know, oh, you know what? I do know how to put the checks and measures in to make sure that it's done to the standard that I want, or I have got a process for the way that we recruit team members SO I get a person on board that's sufficiently skilled or I've trained them up and I trust them. Maybe there are things that take you time to let go over time. But ultimately, the whole goal here, I have this belief that if the business is key person dependent, it's broken, especially in an e-commerce business.
If we think about a service based business and some of your agency type owners, sometimes that step is a little bit harder because maybe they're the person running the AdWords or maybe they're the person who does the SEO or whatever it might be, and they are on the tools and that they're finding hard to let go. But oftentimes in an e-commerce business, if you're shipping out a box, who cares who's doing that? It doesn't change the client experience. I come back to this idea of if the business is key person dependent, it's broken, and the aim of the game is actually to remove that.
So, then at least we have the choice and it doesn't matter if Jenny is off next week because Sally is trained up right behind her ready to go and she can take over those tasks. Then that builds this redundancy into the business, which makes the business strong, and that's a key component of growing and scaling, making sure that you're strong and you can increase capacity and as you increase your capacity, that enables you to scale and turn some of the other knobs and drive up your traffic and have that flow through the rest of the business.

Richard:
So, I guess a good question to ask our listeners would be what would happen if you took two weeks off today? What's going to happen?

David:
For me, personally-

Richard:
Well, I think in terms of listeners.

David:
... or the personal listening.

Richard:
Yeah. The personal listening because that tells you, you think, ooh. That's going to highlight areas that you're going to be concerned about, which is probably part of a good place to start as well. Oh, god. Nobody knows how to do X, Y, Z. Nobody can do this. Oh, god,. I'm the only one with the password for this or I'm the only one that does the ordering. That type of thing.

David:
Yeah. So, there's usually about three different stages that we'll go through. Firstly, someone starts off and you think about the critical client flow, which is that idea of how can we deliver a core product or service without key person dependency and you identify the 10 to 15 systems related to that. That's a great starting point because if the business can make money without key person dependency, then fantastic. Most problems in business can be solved with more money. So, having the business be able to make money without that key person dependency increases the cash flow, which just makes problem solving easier. So, that's the first one. Then the step after that is we actually go through each of the different departments in business and you think about sales, marketing, operations, or the delivery of your product or service, HR, finance and management. Oftentimes, there are different departments, but those departments cover the majority of businesses and a lot of the areas can fall underneath those particular department headings.
But you go through each of those departments and again we think about the 80/20. What we want to do is we think about what tasks happen on a triggered basis, what happens weekly, what happens monthly, quarterly, and annually, and you identify in each department the top five to 10 key systems for that particular department. You do that across the complete business and you end up coming up with, when you combine that with the critical client flow, maybe there's 30 or 40 systems that when you really get that down, the most important things in your business happen. We call that reaching the minimum viable systems.
Once you reach that point, then it's a great idea to do exactly what you said. You start having key team members, the business owner first, but then you go around your different department heads, have them take a holiday and see what doesn't get done, what gets broken, or what just grinds to a halt. Then again, you start to shift the culture in the business where you solve your problems with a systems mindset and you go, "Well, if that was an issue, how could we fix that by getting a system or a process that could then take over that particular task?" Going through that thinking, this might be a 12 month, 15 month exercise to reach minimum viable systems. But once you get there and you build up the habit and a systems driven culture inside your company, then you're really off to the races.

Richard:
I think that's the thing, that 12, 15 months. I would agree with that completely. Ours is still ongoing. We've probably got, I don't know the exact number, definitely 50+ different systems written out for various things in the agency side of things. But then I'm thinking, ooh, we haven't actually got anything on the podcast. So, if our podcast people go down, because I just do record this and I have almost zero to do with the production, and as we should have for it. So, I get different people do those things. But one thing on my mind is, so the people. Who is the right person to do those systems. We talk about those different departments in a business. In an e-comm business, you've got the purchasing, the sales, the marketing, the shipping, the warehousing, probably the operational stuff. But as a business owner, are you the right person, obviously, or are you better delegating that to the person in charge of those departments?

David:
Typically, the business owner is one of the worst people, definitely for documentation, but even systems creation, and there's a few reasons why. One, obviously, business owners are really, really busy. Two, business owners can't help themselves and they'll design the system the way that they would like it to be, not the way that it is, and they try and over-engineer it to have this world class system when often the biggest wins come from just going who currently does this task really well or to a great standard? Let's capture that, consider that as version number one, bring everybody up to that standard before we even consider re-engineering it.
So, we often talk about making systems a two person job. You have the knowledgeable worker who knows how to do the thing and we have a second person we call the systems champion, and they often watch the person doing the task or record them doing the task. Maybe it's a video, might be a Zoom or a Loom or maybe it's something that's recorded on their phone, and then the systems champion takes that recording and then pulls out the key steps, that just becomes version number one. Oftentimes, just getting version number one down is a huge step forward for a lot of businesses.

Richard:
Yeah. I can completely agree with that. Thinking back of some people we've had come in to, for an example for us would be to run and create technical audits of websites, which is quite a complex task. Not so long ago, we had a new person join the business with no previous experience, but we spotted a real potential in this chap, and six months later, when he joined, he was given access to the systems that our technical manager, our lead technical, had created on doing audits for certain types of websites, and on Monday, just gone.
He delivered with one of our other colleagues a presentation around an audit to a very, very large site. But he really was able to do that independently within a couple of months of being with us with no knowledge of a very technical topic. So, I couldn't really back that up, and that's not something I created hands down. I created, it's one of my colleagues. So, why do systems fail, do you think? I think obviously, you may spend all this time as a system creating these system. Maybe you spend a lot of time thinking about creating the system, I think is probably half the problem. But then why do people fail at systemization of the actual-

David:
Yeah. Oftentimes, there's a few reasons. Sometimes, not giving it sufficient time to cook, reach that minimum viable systems. Maybe they try and introduce this idea of systemizing the business, they reach a little bit of resistance. Most of the resistance comes up front from existing team members who are like, "Well, why do we have to change? We've always done it this way. Why should I be thinking about systemizing my business?" All of that resistance happens up front. As you talked about I think earlier, this idea of the compounding effect of systems, the first couple of systems, you're only saving five minutes here, 10 minutes there. You might not be getting a huge amount of leverage from it. So, oftentimes, that can get people to abandon it once they reach the resistance and then just go, "Oh, it doesn't work for me. Look, we tried that. It didn't quite work." So, that's often one of the reasons.
People also have these misconceptions around how many systems they're going to need or they're worried that systems will remove the creativity, and particularly in digital agencies. I know we work a lot with digital agencies, so I'll kind of mention that. That was one of the things that held me back in my systemization why I got stuck in Melbourne SEO for so long was I was worried that we were a creative digital agency and if I systemized everything, we just turn into robots and that would lose some of our magic. Then I started to realize certain things in the business need to happen and they needed to happen a certain way, and systemizing those components actually freed us up to then have my more senior team members work on some of those things that did need to be creative, and they had more space to think because they weren't worried about some administrative things that should have just been taken care of via our system.
So, they're definitely some of the things that hold people back from systemization. Overcooking systems is another thing. People will try and create a system for every possible variation, whereas generally speaking, you just start off with a system to capture the most probable. What is most likely to happen? You don't need to capture every different variable because a system normally is given to a newer team member and that's the first thing that they learn to cut their teeth. So, we don't need to go over every possible variation. Whenever something is slightly off the system or it's not covered, that's when they would escalate that to a more senior team member. But you have the system cover the most standard, the most vanilla, the most probable version and just start there as a way to learn and train up new team members and then the higher skilled team members handle those exceptions.

Richard:
Yeah. I think that's great advice. Almost like that minimal viable product. But it's there. It's there and it can evolve. There's a little bit of movement in it. I think like you say, you can get so detailed. I know we have in the past, this is going back some years, but we refer to it as micro/macro. So, you've got the macro would be log into Google Analytics and then the micro would be a screenshot of the Google Analytics where the login button is. There's some elements of that you do need. Some of our systems are literally 40 pages, or maybe more actually, which it's good to have but it's a little bit excessive to be fair. Yeah. It's a little bit overwhelming, I think, to somebody that's looking at it. But then it's a bit of balancing act, isn't it, someone that's never logged into Google Analytics before, then first time around, it's probably quite useful. So, it's finding that line sort of thing, isn't it?

David:
Sure.

Richard:
So, what would you say the risks are, risks for not systemizing? If you're sitting here listening to this and you're doing, let's pick a number, doing 10 million pounds a year and you've not really systemized much, what are the risks of not systemizing your business moving forward?

David:
Mm-hmm. The business owner doesn't know how much it's actually costing them to not systemize. Whether that's the time that they're putting into the business, whether it's the wastage that they've got in the business, or what poor efficiency is actually costing them, and the domino effect of, well, maybe your lead generation is 10% less effective, maybe your sales isn't quite converting where it needs to be, or maybe when it comes to packaging up and fulfilling, it's not as efficient, all of that stuff compounds on each other.
That's not to mention then all of the opportunity cost because oftentimes, business owners, even if they had the best opportunity of their lifetime fall in their lap, so many of them are just so busy, they wouldn't even notice or they couldn't take advantage of the situation because they're just so in the business and so consumed. So, oftentimes, the biggest cost is the loss of opportunity. That might just be the thing that leapfrogs you up or 10x's your business, but you didn't see it or you were too busy to take advantage of it because you were so stuck in the day to day. So, it's a hard one to quantify because systemizing and becoming efficient and leveling up, it's wide reaching and it impacts all parts of your business and your personal life.

Richard:
Yeah. Totally. Totally. I know we've got people in our business that are obsessed with systems and to a degree, the documenting of things. One of the chaps in the business, who I spoke, I spoke to him a few weeks ago about the gym and what we do. He pulled up his spreadsheet of all of his recording of everything and just real detail people. I think that's the thing that springs to mind for me. You've got different people in a business avenue and some people are just, they're brilliant at their jobs, but they're not about ... They're recording, but they're still brilliant at their jobs. But then you've got different people that are insane at the absolute detail, following things to the letter, and having things super, super organized. But you do need a combination of those people. So, yeah. Yeah.

David:
I might touch on that because that's quite common with business owners. Business owners are often creative, visionary people who are fast moving and solve problems quickly and move on to the next thing. That's how their brain works, how they're wired, that's how they get the business off the ground, and that's kind of what's made them successful. That will get you quite far, but then you'll start to reach a point where you then start to hit the ceiling and then you really need to find the yin to your yang. You need to find someone who's great at managing people, who crosses T's and dot I's and who's more of a process person.
Because the business owner oftentimes doesn't usually like systems and processes, they project that onto the team thinking, oh, my team's not going to systems and processes, and it's more of a reflection of how they feel. But the truth of the matter is a lot of A players love systems because it'll outline how they win in your business. It'll define what success looks like. You can even build your systems culture into your recruitment and your onboarding process so that when you run a job ad you say, "Here are a couple of the systems that you'll be following as part of your daily work," and when you do your interview process, you ask them, "Have you created a checklist and what was the last process that you followed?" and those types of questions.
Then when you recruit them and you onboard them, you start off by teaching them the core systems and you say, "Hey, this is how we do things here and the way that you move up in our organization is by systemizing." What that does, if you front load that, then you end up repelling the people that don't like systems or wouldn't connect with that systems culture and you do it right up front, which then makes your job easier because those newer team members, well, that's all they've ever known. Oh, that's just how we do things here. Again, that's why introducing a systems culture is always hardest up front because you first have to go through your existing staff. But you get over the hump and it gets easier and easier with every new team member that comes on board because, hey, this is how we do things here.

Richard:
Yeah. That is brilliant. I like that, David, I like that. Brilliant. Because that was actually my next question about building high performance teams and giving some insight. Obviously, you've got quite a lot of people working for your business and your business of teaching systems. But obviously, you've systemized no doubt your recruitment, retention, and how you do things. What else could you add to that? We're in a time where there's a lot of different remote working options and building that team. I know, as we all do, everybody listening, everyone will have staff who's listening to this or staff within their business. What else would you say about building that performance team from your experience? I think that is brilliant on the job ads and things like that.
Then obviously, that key piece around when they first start, this is how we do things, introducing them to systems very early on, obviously in the interview process, make sure they're not going to be banging heads against the systems, that that's something they embrace, the detail. That's quite a good one, actually, because I've got an actually second interview today with somebody that's likely to start with us in a couple of weeks. So, I may add in a couple of questions around systems. But what would you say about that, building that high performance team around systems and any sort of other insights you've had, especially over this last couple of years where obviously ... I think you're a remote business anyway, even pretty COVID, were you?

David:
Yes.

Richard:
So, you'll be very familiar with, obviously, building that remote workforce. But yeah. what would you say about other things around building that performance team?

David:
Look. One of the key things to build a high performance team is to have everything as transparent and open and out where anybody can see it. So, that way, it's clear when things are being done and not being done. So, some examples, we use a couple of different tools. One of the tools is Slack and we have some channels set up for when certain triggers happen. When certain purchases or inquiries come through, they go into the Slack channel. That is a public area where a bunch of team members are in that space. Now, it's someone's responsibility when this particular order comes in that they then go take the action. What they do is underneath that particular Slack notification, they will often say, "Hey, I've got this and it's handled," or they'll link to the Asana task, because we use Asana as our project management platform, which basically says, "Hey, and here's now the task related to this to make sure that we execute everything."
Now, while some of that could be automated and you could use a zap that automatically sets up a Asana task from the purchase trigger that comes straight from the shopping cart. While you could do that, there's something about having it so front and center because it's an essential, really critical piece that we want everybody to be able to see. So, that level of transparency of having your Asana and breaking it up into your different departments and having the tasks quite clear and who is doing what by when and links to your how to documents in the project management. So, that way, it's very clear when someone is given a task, well, here's how it's done or the standard that we're expecting it to be completed to, and having that out in the open makes it much harder for someone to then say, "Oh, I didn't know," or, {Oh, I forgot about that," or all of those excuses that get in the way. Once you start to reduce that, it becomes much easier to really performance manage and have people rise to that level. That's a big part of it.

Richard:
Yeah. No. You've pretty much just explained my business there. We use Slack and Asana. We do use apps, to be fair, pushing one from the other and then linking to our systems documents. Yeah.

David:
Yep.

Richard:
Yeah.

David:
Yeah.

Richard:
There's no escaping, really. It's there in black and white sort of thing. Right? This has happened and now you need to go and do this sort of thing, and it's in a channel with whether that's a team of two or a team of 22 in that channel, dependent on the ... Yeah. Any other sort of technology things you would recommend? So, obviously, you're very big on project management software, Asana, and that's what we use as well, actually. We've tried probably them all, I think, over the years, been moving back and forth over the years. Now, I think we are about probably four, five years in now to Asana. Do you track time in your business? Is that something you do or something you recommend, like your people?

David:
Yeah. So the way that we track time, we are a virtual team and it's not like we use something like a Time Doctor that's taking screenshots of people's desktop, but we do have team members. It used to be that we would have them submit what we call EODs end of day reports, and they just basically say, "Here's what I worked on for the day, here's what I've got planned for tomorrow, and here are some questions or things that I might need help with." That worked really well for us for a period. As we've grown, we've now actually transitioned. We use a thing called Trackabi. It's just effectively like a time sheet software. What we really want team members to do is bullet point Here's what I've done for the day, and then they will assign some ... They'll break out certain times to certain tasks.
So, it's not down to the minute and every single task, but there is enough for a supervisor, their direct report, a department head when they're having the one on one with the team member to be able to open up Trackabi and go, "Oh, great. You're working on this and that. Oh, okay. Well, I can see that's popped up. Oh, that's taking longer than I thought. Can we give you more training or can you show me what you're doing here? So, oftentimes, particularly in a virtual environment, problems with team members will present themselves in the time sheets far before sometimes other things pop up and other indicators that they might not be performing. When you go back and you look at it and let's say you do discover an underperforming team member, if you go back and you had a closer look at their time sheet, oftentimes that's revealed many months before in the time sheet if you knew what to look for.

Richard:
Yeah. No. I think that's brilliant. That's brilliant. Brilliant. Yeah. I think there's a few options with time tracking, isn't there, and some of them, it can be quite intrusive and like you said, screenshotting and things like that. That's not something we advocate at all, but just getting a feel for two hours on that, an hour on that, an hour on that. Obviously, as time evolves, a week, a month, whatever it may be, and it's, well, we're not done any work on this. You'd see as a manager, wouldn't you, that they've not worked on XY. Somebody's maybe not worked on something that they've been asked to do or you over-service something, which gives you a feel for are you under or over-servicing a client, if that's a service based business more so. Brilliant. Right. Well, it's been an absolute blast, David. The last couple of things. So, I know you have your own book, so it'd be great to hear a bit more about that.

David:
Yes. So, after selling the digital agency, I wrote a book called Systemology and it's over on Amazon. There's the audio version as well. If you're listening to this right now, you're probably a podcast person, and I did read the audio version, it's on Audible. So, it's called Systemology. What it does is it takes the business owner who might have no systems in place and then gets them to a point where they've got those minimum viable systems in place. It's a seven step process. I've had the really good fortune, Michael Gerber, who's kind of like the godfather of business systems, he wrote a really famous book called The E-Myth, he managed to come across my work and ended up writing the foreword to the book. That's been really great for us. Systemology's almost like the how to guide for The E-Myth. It's like this is how you would actually implement it.

Richard:
Fantastic. Fantastic. Well that brings us to my last question, which actually is similar to my previous one in your case. But if you could recommend a book, and we're going to say not your Systemology book, to our listeners on anything, I'm not going to give you any too many prompts, but anything you like, what would be one book you would recommend to our listeners?

David:
One book I really loved is, I'm going to give two. I'm going to cheat here. The first one I mentioned, E-Myth. Michael Gerber's book, The E-Myth, is just a great book on selling the case for why, why you need systems and how they'll transform the way that you work. The other book I really love is one called Traction by Gino Wickman. What I love about that is it's an operating system. It's how to think about getting the most important things in your business down, like what's your mission, what's your vision, what's your focus, what's your target audience, what is your meeting cadence? Definitely Traction's a great book.

Richard:
I love it. This is almost like we planned it. If you look right there, you can see it on my video.

David:
Yes. There you go. A bit clearly. All great business owners their Traction book.

Richard:
We'll have to send that shot over to Gino Wickman.

David:
Yes. A hundred percent.

Richard:
Brilliant. Well, thank you so much for coming on the eCom@One podcast. For the guys that want to find out more about you, more about Systemology, what's the best way to do that, David?

David:
Yeah. Head to systemology.com or just jump on Amazon and grab yourself a copy of the book, Systemology.

Richard:
Brilliant. Well, thanks very much. I'll see you again.

David:
See you.

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