The last six months have been huge for my company, Socialexis.
I hesitate to write too much about this yet because I think I’ll see the full picture more clearly — and be better able to pull out important lessons — once the transition is complete. But I also see the value in sharing while I’m in it, because a lot of you will find yourselves in similar situations down the road. When you’re living deep in that moment, working your way through the sludge, it’s nice to hear from someone else who has been there.
My sludge this year is shifting from freelancer to manager. Over the last six months, I’ve clarified the company’s core services, solidified the roles of our 10 team members, and brought on a project manager who is making good things happen. With the help of a business coach, I’ve greased the wheels of Socialexis so everything runs more smoothly. The goal is to continue to over-deliver for our clients, while making room for the product side, creating guides and courses that help go-getters achieve big dreams.
Know what’s helped the MOST as we move from awesome to more awesome?
Putting systems in place.
Systems are, essentially, getting organized on steroids. If there’s anything you do again and again — whether for your business or in your professional or personal life — you can create a system for getting it done. Once you document every little detail about how you do it, you can often have someone else do it for you.
Even before I decided to reorganize Socialexis, we used some systems. We relied on collaborative tools like Flow for task management, had a process for editing and managing client blogs, and followed social schedules for each client so we all knew what would be posted when. But it wasn’t until I pushed myself to let my team do awesome work without waiting for me to approve every step along the way that I realized just how much more potential for systems we truly had, and how taking the time to put those systems in place would change the business — and my life.
Putting systems in place requires effort up front, but it has already saved us time and stress and paved the road for us to do better work. It has also helped me create clearer expectations for my team, so everyone understands their role and how to execute their piece of the puzzle.
Saving time and stress + clarifying expectations = an entrepreneur’s dream. That’s why systems, which once sounded utterly boring, have become, in my mind, totally, undeniably sexy. (Click to tweet this.)
I realize “systemizing the business” sounds kind of vague and abstract, so let me give you some examples of tangible changes that have made us more efficient. These exact examples might not fit into your own projects, but hopefully they’ll spark ideas for how you can apply this mentality to your own business and life.
Example #1: New and improved editing funnel. In the past, we relied on emails to pass blog posts between editors for various stages of editing: content edit, copy edit, SEO optimization, inputting into WordPress and more. When you manage several large blogs, this quickly turns into a LOT of email.
That’s why we’ve transitioned to funnels that rely on folders in Google Drive instead. Editors push each post through 3-5 folders (depending on the blog), so we can easily see where each post is in the editing process and take appropriate action without the slew of email. Let’s face it: anything that cuts down on email is a smart move.
I should note here that this system wasn’t easy to figure out. I knew we needed a better way to publish as many blog posts as we do, but it took a few tries — and the patience of my awesome editing team — to discover what would work best. Now that we’ve done that, we have a system we can replicate each time we begin managing a new blog.
Example #2: Using Canned Responses in Gmail. Yes, this counts as a system. If you find yourself writing the same responses again and again, creating a Canned Response that you can insert into an email with one click will save you lots of time over the long run.
What types of emails are good for Canned Responses? Readers of this blog ask whether a webinar will be recorded or when the next Twitter Power course will run, and both of those questions require responses we don’t need to create from scratch. For blogs we manage, readers ask how to contribute, which is perfect for a Canned Response; we send them details and a link to guidelines with one click.
Example #3: End-of-month client reports. At the end of each month, we offer clients an analysis that shows how much their channels have grown over the last 30 days. Depending on the client, that could include growth of followers on Facebook or Twitter, engagement metrics, website referrals, newsletter open and click rates, and more.
Eight months ago, I did all this myself. I already had a team at that point, but I hadn’t written down exactly what needed to be included in these reports, so the process lived only inside my head.
Now, we’ve developed a system whereby one team member collects as much of this information as possible from places like Facebook and Hootsuite, and adds it to Google spreadsheets. Then our project manager pulls more complicated details from Google Analytics, calculates engagement metrics and drafts an analysis for each client. And this is the best part: by the time the work gets to my desk, all I have to do is look everything over, make a few high-level conclusions for moving forward based on the metrics and share it with each client.
Putting this system in place has not only freed up my time so I can focus more on strategizing and creating, it has also created room for us to offer even better reports than we did before.
Even once you understand how valuable systems can be, the hard work of putting them into place often gets overlooked or forgotten when we’re dealing with the everyday tasks of running a business or keeping up with a blog or simply getting through life. How many times have you deleted a newsletter you no longer want to receive rather than unsubscribing? The quick yet temporary fix is to get that email out of your inbox, but you’d be smarter to fix the root of the problem so you don’t waste time on it again the following week.
Most of us spend so much time fire-fighting — dealing with daily problems or maintenance — that we don’t take the time to create systems that will make us more efficient down the road. If you can set aside time to put even small systems in place, you’ll have more time over the long run to create new products or bring in more clients, both of which will result in more revenue. Indeed, systemizing will help you make more money. Or, if you care more about living your life than earning money, you can use that free time to go hiking or swim with your kids or read a novel.
While creating systems can be considered an investment, you can also see how NOT putting systems into place keeps you from accomplishing the big things that truly matter.
That’s why my whiteboard now reads, in huge letters: What SYSTEM can you put in place today?
This is my way of reminding myself to put one new system in place every day, even if I spend the rest of the day fire-fighting. Just ONE new system! It’s totally doable, and yet also like putting a dollar in the bank each day: If you save little by little over time, your pile begins to grow… and then your investment multiplies with interest, so you end up getting more back than you actually put in.
You can see then, why this is one great way to invest in yourself or your business — and reap huge rewards.
What systems do you use to make your life easier? Is there anything you do repeatedly that you know you should create a system for?