PreneurCast is a marketing + business podcast. Each week, author and marketer Pete Williams and digital media producer Dom Goucher discuss entrepreneurship, business, internet marketing and productivity.
This week, Pete and Dom discuss how you can prepare for and manage scaling your business. They talk about things you can do now to make sure that when you need to, your business can grow without pain.
Pete and Dom talk about what you need to have in order for your business to grow
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Dom: Hello everybody, and welcome to this week’s PreneurCast! Back again with me, Dom Goucher, and him, Pete Williams.
Pete: Hey, hey. How’s things, buddy?
Dom: Great, great—and I hear big news from the Williams’ camp.
Pete: There is some very exciting news. Yes, there is.
Dom: Lay it on us or keep us in suspense?
Pete: We’re having a baby, which is very exciting! End of January, we’ll have another (well, the first) addition to the newly formed Williams clan, which is very exciting.
Dom: Fantastic. Congratulations to you and your lovely wife.
Pete: Thank you, mate. Fleur is super excited, which is good! And so far so good. No real morning sickness or any sort of side effect so to speak of, which has been very, very well-received so far.
Dom: Excellent, excellent. So, other than the big news, what else have you been up to this week?
Pete: Plenty of crazy shenanigans as always. Just working on the Profit Hacks project—which I don’t really think we’ve really mentioned too much about. But it’s coming together pretty soon.
Dom: We haven’t. Yeah, we’ll be bringing that up in a future episode, real soon now, I’m sure. What about—I’ll ask the age-old question, “Read any books lately?”
Pete: Well, actually, yeah. I’ve been rereading a fantastic book called The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene, which is a really cool book. It’s a bit of a must-read for anyone, again. It’s sort of that Cialdini’s Influence book-type must-read no matter what you’re doing with your life, whether you’re a marketer or not. I think The 48 Laws [of Power] are powerful into that as well.
I’ve been rereading that off the back of Trust Me, I’m Lying by Ryan Holiday who works for Robert Greene. So, I thought I’d just delve down that rabbit hole again. But part of that, I’ve been listening to The 50th Law by Robert Greene and 50 Cent—Curtis Jackson, the rapper.
They collaborated on a book called The 50th Law, which is part Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson’s autobiography, part strategery, part strategy around dealing with fear and power. It’s quite good. I’ve been listening to the audio version of that.
Dom: Wow, so two book recommendations in two minutes. Awesome! So I’m guessing that you listened to the audio version from Audible?
Pete: That’s it, mate. Audible is the place to go. That’s where I get the majority of my audiobooks. There’s a whole bunch of good stuff in there.
Dom: So a little shout-out to Audible, who are one of our sponsors. Very quickly, if you go to AudibleTrial.com/PreneurCast (the link will be in the show notes), you can get a free trial on Audible. You can download a free book in audio format. And both Pete and I really consume a lot of our content in audio format. Audible is a fantastic library and resource for getting that audio content for any kind of book, not just business and personal development books.
Pete: Absolutely. It’s AudibleTrial.com/PreneurCast. That’s the address, isn’t it, mate?
Dom: That’s the one. But as always, all links are in the show notes.
Dom: Let’s get on and get into this week’s topic. Now, this week I have a little bit of a mini rant. I’m not going to dwell on the rant too much, but it does raise a great topic that you might have some input into being a man of many talents and many businesses. I want to talk about scalability.
Dom: Scalability is something that has come up for me, recently. I work for myself, I’ve been self-employed for a very long time now. I’ve previously worked for large companies (and I mean really large companies). And going from a large company to working on your own can sometimes be a bit daunting, because you certainly realize what all the jobs are that need doing.
Pete: In a big corporation, you never come across the Accounts Department or the Service Department or that sort of stuff; you’re isolated in your own little world and your own floor of the building.
Dom: That’s right, that’s right. As every entrepreneur knows, there are a lot of jobs to do in running a business, and it’s easy to get caught up in doing them. Now, I don’t really want to talk about that, it’s a separate topic But when you are your business, when you are the person providing the service or the product, one of the biggest problems you’re going to face even if you can even overcome getting somebody else to do the minutiae so you can get on doing that thing, one of the biggest problems you’ve got to overcome is scalability.
The ability to produce whatever it is that you’re selling or doing beyond your own personal capacity. At some point, you are always going to hit a ceiling, you’re always going to hit a limit of what you can do. It was a silly little thing that flagged this with me. These are my own experiences of scaling my business.
But it’s a silly little thing and it was to do with the signs that somebody doesn’t think beyond themselves or their current organization size or scale. Just let me know, Pete, before we go onto scalability; just let me know if you’ve ever come across this before: somebody sends you a file attached to an e-mail.
Pete: Yup. I’ve received that before, yup.
Dom: You may have received a file, I have seen that. Very good, Pete. Thanks for that. I am the fall guy, yet again. Hahaha. And that file is, for example, called ‘Map.’
Dom: Or let’s not go as silly as Document1, that’s just silly. But it’s called ‘Map’ or ‘Competition Entry.’
Pete: Something that’s extremely generic.
Dom: Something that is so phenomenally generic that even the person sending it would not be able to find that file again if you put a large amount of money on the table in front of them, let alone if their business depended on it or—as I’m now going to segue to our topic—if there was more than one person working on that business.
Because one of the things that you have to do a lot in business when there’s more than one of you is move information around and share it; whether it’s sharing it with the person right next to you or sharing it with your team, your outsourcers, distributed around the world. It just really raised it to me—I’ve seen it a lot.
For one reason or another, I’ve seen a lot of people attaching a lot of files to a lot of emails; or I’ve received a lot of files or seen a lot of files (for one reason or another) just recently, and this is a huge thing. It’s one of those little signs that I think that people don’t quite think beyond their own desktop. And it’s a warning sign for scalability.
Pete: I know my accountant experiences that same issue because at the end of the financial year, all of his small businesses and corporations and things like that that he deals with are sending him copies of their MYOB files or their accounting files. And every file is exactly the same, it’s just the ‘Financial Year.myob’ or whatever the file format is. So he’s getting all these e-mails from everyone with exactly the same file name because it’s just the generic data file out of the software.
Dom: Yeah, so to roll this open—”don’t talk about a problem without a solution”, that’s my rule; when I was in high school and we were being taught to write resumes or CVs as we English people call it, we were told back then, it was the early days of computers and we were all sending our files in whatever format it may have been. But we were told, don’t call it ‘Resume.’
Put your name in the name of the file so when it gets to the other end, just like if you had a pile of paper; if you could imagine you had a pile of paper in front of you and every one of these sheets of paper, all it said on it was “Resume”, it didn’t have anything to identify a person in any way, shape, or form. It’s one of those little things again, so it raises the whole issue of scalability.
That is such a tiny, tiny detail of the whole topic, but communication, I think, is a cornerstone. Practicing in getting good at organizing and communicating is a cornerstone. Certainly, it has been for me to be able to scale my business. Because we often say this about outsourcing; very often we come across people who say “Oh, I can’t find a good outsourcer,” or, “I can’t find a good person to take on this task for me.
Everyone I have given this task to has failed.” And we very often say to those people, “Look at your communication to them first. Make sure that how you communicated it to them was good enough to get the job done and it wasn’t you talking to yourself.” Because a lot of people do that, don’t they?
Pete: Exactly, absolutely. For a lot of people who are starting out with the outsourcing, the primary problem initially is them. They’re not used to communicating properly, they are not used to understanding the context in which the outsourcer comes to a project, whether it is experience or lack of, or not understanding. There’s this big lack of context and communication, and that is that issue in its own little bucket.
Dom: Yeah. So really, I could talk about my issues with scalability; but what issues do people face in your experience? You have a lot of experience in coaching people and from mastermind groups and things like that. What are the main issues brought about when you go from being just you, or maybe you and a couple of people, to a bigger organization? What kind of things can people look out for and how can they deal with those issues?
Pete: Again, like a lot of topics we cover on the show, it’s a very big rabbit hole. But a big thing is that so many people when they have a small business, if it is a one-man band or even if there are three or four staff, the business is fundamentally run off adrenaline. What I mean by that is that there is no strong core system or process around the business. Everything is just done based on people’s adrenaline to service a customer and get a good result because they are passionate about the business.
When we first started the telco [Infiniti Telecommunications], we were very small team, about four or five people. At that point, we were very lucky because you can be nimble, you can be flexible and get stuff done because you’re all in the same room, you all talk to each other and communication is very easy. But then what you need to start thinking about, and everyone listening right now should take a moment and think about the scale.
What would happen if you had twice as many leads coming into the business tomorrow? You’ve got the funnel; you’ve got the 7 Levers funnel that we spoke about. Obviously, the more leads you have coming into the funnel, into the business, the more customers you are going to have, the more products you’re going to have to deliver, and the more customer service at the back end you have to deliver.
Fundamentally, scale and growth generally hits a bottleneck at some point in the business when you start throwing more into it, into that funnel. What would happen to your business today if you doubled the leads and the inquiries you had? Could your business cope with that increase right now? And the answer should be “no.” The actual answer should be your business should not be able to cope right now with the double of leads because that means you’re going to be over-resourced.
If you can handle twice as much leads and twice as much business right now, that is going to be an issue because you’re going to have excess staff, excess capacity right now, which is not a great way to be profitable in your business. But, if you do double those leads, how easy is it for your business to grow? How easy is it for you to put a couple of more people into the team and have them step right in and be able to take up those projects and just grow?
Do you have systems? Do you have documentation? And for a lot of businesses, that will make the business implode, by doubling that business. Oh, you think, “For my business to grow, I need to double it and all stuff like that,” which is great. That is where you want to head, obviously, in increasing business. But you’ve got to make sure that you don’t self-implode.
Because one of the unforeseen issues that so many businesses face—and a big driver of businesses collapse, particularly in that small or medium-sized business, is growth. Growth actually causes the decline of the business, which when you think about it from the outside, looking at their company, you go, “How is that possible? How can more sales and more revenue cause a business to go backwards?”
That’s the whole point of growth, is to get more revenue. But if the business can’t handle it in that scenario, then you’re going to be letting down more customers, you’re going to have to fund that growth out of some way. How do you buy more hardware and more infrastructure to scale without doing it organically?
You can only fund a 10% growth; but you suddenly get a double in growth, how do you find the infrastructure needed to generate that sort of growth? So, that is some of the scalability issues from a higher context. Is that the kind of stuff you are thinking in terms of issues of scalability?
Dom: Absolutely, that is exactly what I was thinking. That is really the kind of cornerstone of my personal problems, was growth. It is one of those, the world’s more ironic problems that you end up with too many customers. In modern climates, the concept, the mere concept of too many customers—most people would be glad of that problem.
But when it happens, as you say, it can be crippling for all kinds of reasons. How would you deal with that? How did you deal with that? How do you deal with that situation, the going from you or you and a couple of people, to being able to quickly bring on new staff or quickly scale your processes?
Pete: There are quite a few things to be aware of and we can definitely run through them. The first point is something that you talked to earlier, Dom, where you need to make sure that what you are doing right now can scale. The perfect example is if you are naming files ‘map.doc,’ or whatever it might be, that doesn’t scale. And if you say to yourself, “I’ll start naming files correctly and sorting out my customer directory.
I’ll start using a CRM package when I need to,” that is too late. I know that is one of the really annoying pieces of advice you get, where you go, “Thanks, prick. You’ve given me a piece of advice that gives me more work and frustration now.” Most people don’t want to hear that sort of stuff because it is frustrating; but that is the way you need to do it.
You need to make sure that the systems you are using right now will scale without having to change the system too much. You can adapt the system but don’t have to change it. Because if you start off right now with a CRM package, you can obviously just expand the capacity of your account, with Highrise CRM, SugarCRM or something like that.
You want to make sure that what you are doing is actually scalable in its own right. So, making sure you name files, you name them correctly, not only for your internal purposes but also if you start sharing them with clients or with staff or things like that. That you don’t have to go back and rename all of the files for the business to still operate and things like that. You don’t have to go back and do things twice.
You need to have that mindset that growth and scalability will come, and make sure that what you are doing now allows for that, not, “Hold on, I’ll change it later,” because that change is inevitably too late and too hard to do. If your business is growing rapidly and you have to go back and change all of your old processes, your old naming conventions, and your old file structures—getting kind of granular here; but this is hopefully a real resonating thing for the listeners.
That if you have to go back and change that, that’s three days of work you just don’t have when your business is growing. Those three days are better off being spent servicing the customers not restructuring the business. So you’ve got to make sure you are putting things in place now that is scalable from that regard. Another thing that is worth thinking about is, how do you want to grow?
The ability to do the VC [venture capital] angel sort of stuff, which is getting a lot of hype and conversation these days where the way you grow in your scale is by getting outside investors to throw money at you to fund that growth. That’s definitely a possibility as well, going about getting outside funds, giving away some equity, and that is how you find that infrastructure growth I kind of spoke about before.
But if you want to be a bit more managed with that, then there are times when you say, “Sorry, I can’t take on more business right now.” And again, as an entrepreneur, a start-up, I know how hard that is to turn away income. It is one of those things—I’ll get off topic a little bit here and I might rant a bit. But this is something that I don’t know how to answer.
A thing that I’ve been having in my mind a lot is that you can listen and take as much advice as someone can give you, and they do say that the best road to success is on someone else’s shoulders. Leaning on someone else’s experience and doing what they say. But I really do believe there are certain things in business and particularly in life that you are not going to understand, you’re not going to internalize until you experience the pain.
And as much as someone can sit here and say to grow your business, sometimes it is better off to say to a client, “Sorry, I’m not going to take on your business even though I would love it because my business can’t handle it,” even though that money would pay for a holiday with family that you would really love to go on, it is extremely hard to say, “No, I’m not going to take that income and have that holiday that I need or buy the new car,” or whatever it might be that you need for your family for a small-business owner.
Inevitably, you take that client on. You go through the pain of not being able to service that person. You go through the pain of not only losing that client, but under-servicing a current client and end up losing to clients and have a lot of pain. That is when you get the lesson. I don’t know a good way to do that, maybe I should’ve spoken to that about Peter.
Maybe we can get Peter Shallard back on the show again and talk about that sort of experience. But as much as I can sit here and say there are times you need to do that, I know people are going to listen and go, “No, that is crap. How can I say no at that time?” It’s really hard to do that and I don’t know the psychological lesson around that. But I do think that sometimes you have to experience stuff before.
As much as I can tell you and give you advice, you just need to experience some things before you really internalize it. And those things are probably different for everybody else. Some people listening will go, “Yeah, yeah, I get that. I will say no to certain clients so I don’t scale too quickly.” Whereas, others will listen to other episodes and go, “No, I am better than that advice.”
They will go ahead and have a crack at the opposite of what we’re advising. Then they’ll obviously feel the pain and get the experience that way, and that is the way they get that particular lesson. It’s a little bit of a left-hand tangent turn, which we often do here on the show; but hopefully, that resonates with a few people. I’m not quite sure if that resonates with your experience at all, Dom.
Dom: Oh, absolutely. I am somewhere down the middle of the two types of people you described there. I like to think that I’m able to learn from other people’s mistakes without recreating them. But sometimes some lessons that are hard to take in. And that one, that particular one, was hard for me. Because, especially when you are new to business on your own, when you’re just starting out, it’s your first time around, then that is a very difficult thing to take on, this idea that you can turn down business.
Pete: Well, particularly if you are treating revenue and profit as a scorecard.
Dom: Yes, and so many people do.
Pete: And that’s a very fair thing. Again, this is a really hard one to say; I think I wrote about this in my first book. What’s the purpose of starting the business? What is the real core reason you started your business? For most people, when you actually sit down and drill it down, it is lifestyle is why they started the business. They don’t want to have to work for ‘the man.’
Riches and profits are a secondary thing because it is the riches and the profits they think will help them fund the lifestyle. But there are so many businesses out there that have scaled up rapidly, that are just spitting out cash. But the owner doesn’t have any time to spend it because he is too busy on the hamster wheel trying to keep the system going that he scaled so quickly, which is not scaling the right way.
And realistically, yeah, you can say he is winning that rat race because he is working for himself and he is generating all this money. But that was not the gold that she had when she started that business. The goal that she had when she started the business was that lifestyle. So scaling and growing in a controlled way, if you think about it sometimes, actually gives you the outcome you want without necessarily the profits that you thought was the correct scorecard.
Dom: Absolutely. Really, you are talking there about scaling small. And you are right, it is a very important part of the stuff that you wrote in your earlier book. That you have to realize why you did it, and you basically have to remind yourself why you did it so you can scale small. I have come across a number of businesses that have a very strange mathematical difficulty, and that is that they’ve grown, they have taken on more people. But their net profit is less than when there were one or two people in the business.
Because once you start growing your staff, you start growing your overheads and your responsibilities. And as you say, you end up potentially on this hamster wheel, running to keep the business going now because you are employing other people and you are paying their wages and their overhead associated to maybe bigger office space and etcetera, etcetera.
You do have to stand back, you do have to look at what your goal was when you started, and evaluate and say to yourself, “Is this thing that I’m going to do to scale, whether it is to take on this big new contract or look at a new product line or whatever it is, is that going to take me away from the school?” Because, as you say, and it is a mindset thing.
I’m very big on mindset just lately because it is important; mindset is a really important thing. The Peter Shallard interview really spoke very strongly to me. I do think that if we can get Peter back on and ask him some of these questions, it will make some really interesting content. That mindset of chasing the profit when the reality is, as you say, most people are after the lifestyle; and one does not beget the other necessarily.
Really off on a tangent briefly, one of the best examples of that I saw was kind of these simple napkin math that Tim Ferriss did in The 4-Hour Workweek where he just says, “You think that this lifestyle costs this much, so you think you need to earn that much. But if you look at what you can get this lifestyle for and how you do it, then you realize that you don’t have to do those things you thought you had to do.
You don’t have to turn that profit. You don’t have to have that many clients or have that scale of business or whatever.” So, it is a really big thing. I think, really, those two points that you made in your little segment there, the one of ‘prepare for scalability before you need it,’ and, ‘do it consciously with a goal in mind,’ is probably everything that you could possibly say.
Those are the two best pieces of advice. It’s exactly where, going into this and thinking what do I want to say if somebody asked me what would I say, those are the two things that I would say. Because a lot of people do; they are afraid of that first point. Sorry, you were going to say?
Pete: I was going to get a bit more granular and more practical for people as well, rather than just give context and strategy. People then say, “Well, how do I go about getting ready to scale? What do the actions look like?” Let’s GTD [Getting Things Done] this; what do the actual actions look like when you’re getting ready to scale? I don’t want to just talk theory and not give anything practical in the show. You spoke to it before as well.
One option is to, as you are saving files and putting folders together on your computer; and this is very granular. I know a lot of the listeners and a lot of people in the Preneur Community have online businesses. It’s a big portion of the listener base. Their business is inside their laptop. That is their company, that is their whole business, that is their infrastructure. So, that is really important.
You wouldn’t start a retail store without a great front end, which is the equivalent of a nice website. You wouldn’t start a manufacturing company without having a good warehouse or a logistics, and that is the structure of your computer. You want to make sure that your file structure is right. I’ll put my hand up; I know that I’m not the greatest at this, definitely not historically. I’m getting better. When you’re saving files on your computer, do it properly.
Don’t just have your My Documents and save every single file into My Documents so you just have one folder with 500 files in it. Actually use a folder structure. And I don’t know if I’m going to put you on the spot here, Dom, but are there any quick tips you can give about folder structures and filename conventions, just to give that grand lesson there? And I want to talk about some process map stuff as well.
Dom: Yeah, great, this is my subject, as you know; you’re not particularly putting me on the spot. Whenever you and I work on a project together, I am the guy who puts together the final name strategy for it. I mean, the best thing you can do is – and just to slightly digress to come back; a lot of people, you focus on the computer.
But as long as the process is solid, the actual technology can be implemented further down the line. We are talking about folders and files and names and labels and things; but folders and files and names and labels have existed for hundreds of years. They are just now, we’re putting them on a computer.
The irony is that if you had a desk in front of you, and you had physical folders and physical pieces of paper, you would see it get out of hand. You would see it and you’d see the problem immediately. The computer kind of lets you get away with it and hides it away almost invisibly in that My Documents folder, people just carry on and carry on.
Pete: Yeah, there’s no physical manifestation of the issue.
Dom: Yeah, that’s right. There is no real physical manifestation. We are not saying, “Quick, computerize everything,” if you’re not ready to do it. And also, don’t go crazy and spend thousands on systems that aren’t necessarily what you need. It’s all about just the systems and processes, and the basics. This system that I use came from a bunch of guys I worked with for a while.
They managed their jobs with literally physical envelopes that were printed on the outside that they wrote on by hand with a Biro, and they put the elements of the job at hand in these envelopes. Then they physically move the envelopes between the letter trays that you see, the old-fashioned letter trays, like the in tray and the out tray kind of thing.
That was their system and I just replicated their system on the computer. So, one of the things that was cornerstone to their entire system was allocating some kind of identifier to every client, and it’s as simple as three letters. Now, the three letters that I use are the first letter of the first name and then the first two letters of the second name.
No great secret, but every file I ever create that has anything to do with you has PWI at the beginning of it. Now, if that file gets dropped, lost, attached to an e-mail, filed in the wrong place – you name it; as long as that file exists somewhere, I can find it because it has PWI. And PWI is a three-letter code unique to you. If I come across somebody else whose letters make up PWI, then unfortunately, I’m going to have to pick another letter or something.
I have a record of what all those codes are for all of those clients. Then, I have a second-level code which is a three-letter code for the project. We talked briefly at the beginning about Profit Hacks, and I will just open that loop up again just to put it in people’s minds for when we do talk about it. All Profit Hacks materials are inside my system, anyway. PWI with a dash, and then PRH for Profit Hacks.
It could have been PHA, I guess, but it just happens that it was PRH. So, PWI-PRH. PreneurCast is PWI-PRC. Literally, every single file and the whole folder structure and everything, is organized around that. I have a client folder, and inside that PWI, Pete Williams client folder; and inside of that, I have a folder for PreneurCast, a folder for Profit Hacks, a folder for the 7 Levers of Business, a folder for Preneur Platinum; and then I organize below that.
And even just that top level of organizing by client and then by project, or by sequential job that you do for that client, you could just have that client code followed by a four-digit number, which is just the next job you do for them, and the next job, and the next job, it organizes things to a reasonable level of granularity. You don’t have to get obsessive about it. That will manage most people’s filing systems quite happily.
For anybody that has regular work with a reasonable number of clients, and you’re away. If you only have your own projects, it is still worth creating those folders and maybe having that three-letter code for the project internally. So, Pete, on your computer, you might have a projects folder; and in there, you might have PRH for Profit Hacks, and you might have PRC for PreneurCast, because it is just internal to you.
Pete: Yeah, IT for iTelecom.
Dom: Exactly. It’s just a way of just segmenting things out. The other thing on that, before we go onto the other point that you wanted to make, is even if you spent one Sunday afternoon thinking through this and setting these folders up, one of the things that applies to so many other things that we talk about in PreneurCast and has so many things to do with organizing and just taking action in doing things, is that the easier it is, the less friction there is for you to do that thing, the more likely you are to do it.
And in the case of filing, if you spent one Sunday afternoon, you can even sit in front of the Olympics or whatever you choose to do; get a little Word document open or a Google Docs spreadsheet, whatever; and go through your client list, make up the codenames, and create the folders. The next time a new piece of material comes in for that client, you have automatically got somewhere to put it.
You have a bucket to place it in, a place to capture it, and an idea in your mind about how to name it. And if those names are logical, you don’t even have to look at your reference; you just do it. And that’s it. That can be the beginning of you organizing everything and just moving forward. The classic example is the next person in on your team, you have to be able to tell them where to find something. Right now, I’m away from my home office.
Right now, I’m away from my home office. I’m traveling for work. I am at a completely isolated location. I have one computer in front of me. There is no possible way I could carry every piece of work and every client file because they are huge, so they are back in the home office. But I know, literally, I don’t need to sign on to my home computer. I don’t need any technology at all.
I can send one e-mail and I can say to somebody back at the home office, “Please give me the file for this.” And I don’t even need to tell them where to look, because that process has already been organized. Everybody knows that. That’s how we file things, so I don’t actually need to give a precise description of where the file is or even what it is called. The system is in place and everybody knows what it is.
It’s easy for them to go onto that machine, to go into the central hard drive, go through the directories as I’ve just described to you, find the file and then get it to me. And that productivity increase, that lack of struggle for everybody else, that reduction in friction is phenomenal for productivity and for scalability. Literally, it took me 15 minutes to train someone and test their understanding in that entire system, last time I brought someone onto my team.
Pete: I think part of that, which we touched on before in terms of scalability, is process maps, systems and things like that. If we haven’t spoken about it before, if you are a new listener to PreneurCast, well, welcome to the show. But check out ScreenSteps. It is a fantastic piece of software that is cross-platform. It works on the Mac and the PC. Really cool news though, is one of our head developers recently got a MacBook Air and has gone Mac, so I’m very excited.
I’m slowly changing my office from PC to Mac which is very cool. ScreenSteps is a fantastic application which is very frictionless, low friction, that allows you to easily create systems and process maps while you’re doing a particular task or step. I encourage everyone to check that out. As you are doing projects right now; even if you don’t have team members but you have that foresight to think that, very shortly or in the near future, you’re going to have to scale and grow your business.
Start doing these process maps now. So as you’re doing a task and have a little bit of time, spend an extra 10% of that time to actually do that project map, that process map. Because when you get to that new stuff you have this influx of sales and influx of customers and this need to scale fast, you don’t want to have to put the pause button on and spend and invest all this time in training. That is really important to get that done first while you have the capacity and time right now.
Dom: Absolutely. That is a great point. We have talked to a couple of people, we have coach a couple of people on doing this. There are a lot of great (I’m going to use this word) ‘hacks’ to help you speed that process up, of creating the process maps or describing the processes to people.
One of the best ways that I have found is to have somebody, if you can, watch you do the process and make their own notes. But if they are not available to do that – because if they make their own notes, you can then get them to write up the process map themselves, which will consolidate it in their minds and it means you don’t have to do it.
Pete: Yeah, exactly. That definitely does work, having to scale in retrospect. If you are doing this after the fact of hiring someone else or things like that. I know someone who has done this exceptionally well – David Jenyns, a good buddy of mine. What he does is when he needs a new process done in his business, rather than him learning it, he pays someone else to do it. And part of their job requirement is to write up the process map. He just takes that process map and then hires someone to do that on a rinse-and-repeat basis. He does that very intelligently.
Dom: And from Dave I actually took that process exactly and I have implemented that in my business. Some of my staff, that’s part of their job description, to work out how to do things, to write it up and then to allow me to use that process map somewhere else. But you did point out there that that’s a retrospective technique, a technique upfront.
ScreenSteps is a fantastic way, a fantastic tool. It is a very friction-free tool that sits on your computer and enables you to very quickly take screenshots and write a little description with it to make a document that you can then archive and send on to somebody or just refer back to it.
Dom: It’s a great tool, personally because I am who I am and I do what I do; I bypass all that and I will just turn on my screen-recording software which is ScreenFlow on the Mac or Camtasia on the PC. If it’s anything that can be done on a computer, I just turn that on, record myself doing the actual task and talking through it as if I’m talking to someone, and then I just save that movie file.
Pete: It sounds kind of weird for people to be doing this. Isn’t it better off that extra 10% of time that I could otherwise invest in doing a process map, wouldn’t I be better off investing that in trying some little thing to get a new customer or a new client? Realistically, when you really think about this, if it takes you right now 20 minutes to do a particular task, it might take you an extra four minutes to write that process map up because you were already in the flow.
Really, what are you going to get in the extra four minutes if you invest that somewhere else in your business? By the time you open up AdWords, log in to try and tweak an advert, four minutes is going to be neglected and negated in just organizational stuff. You won’t get any real value out of those four minutes if you invest it somewhere else.
But if you invest that at the end of a current task, you’ll actually get some good ROI on that time. So hopefully, that gets over that mental friction that a lot of people will have. It’s like, “Well, hang on. Why invest that for minutes? When I can invest it somewhere else?” Let’s wrap up the show today and just leave everybody with that question.
Take the time to think about right now what things, what tasks, what steps, what bottlenecks are happening in your business right now that would fall apart and implode if you doubled the input into that particular process. If you doubled the amount of clients, if you doubled the dispatch, if you had to ship twice as many products next week, if you had to receipt twice as many deliveries in your business. If you’re an online business, delivering twice as many eBooks or things like that, there are no scalability issues there, which is fantastic.
But it might be customer support. If you had twice as many customer support tickets every day, how would you handle that? If you had twice as many general e-mails, how would you handle that? Look at, as you’re going about your day in the next 24 hours and as you sit there to do a particular type of task or process in your business, just in the back of your mind, have that thought marinating of, “What would happen if this doubled?
If the amount of workload that I’m dealing with right now doubled, how would my business handle that?” And I think that is just a good subconscious, back-of-the-mind thing. If you start having that thought process and asking that smart question, you will start seeing and make some changes from smart answers that your brain will give you.
Dom: That’s great. It’s such a simple analysis. What would fall apart if you doubled your client base overnight? It’s a great way to look at that business and see where the weak points are, where you need to focus.
Pete: And this sounds really silly; but think what would happen if you had to reconcile twice as many credit card payments in your accounting system everyday? That’s probably the last thing people think about. But if you are being attentive and diligent with your accounts, and you are doing your bank rec every day or every week, whatever it might be, what happens?
Your business might be able to scale from a customer-service and product-delivery perspective. But what about the bank rec? I’ve seen that happen to businesses where they get so busy that they start neglecting their bank recs and it actually causes more issues.
It’s little things like this that you just don’t think about. So as you’re doing everything in your business, no matter what it is, and it’s not just about marketing. Scalability is not necessarily a marketing and customer-fulfillment issue. So many times, it’s the things you don’t think about that when they scale, they implode. Little things like bank recs that you just don’t think about that take time if they grow.
Dom: I love that, actually. That is a really good example. It is one of those positive things that can turn into a negative. I think that’s a great example. And when you find these things, even if you just find one or if you find a lot of them but there is one like that, and it is a process that you can sit down and maybe just spent half an hour, just find half an hour. We talked about CFTs, Critical Focus Time, allocating that time in your day.
If you are already doing CFTs, if you are already allocating focus time to business-critical tasks, then this is something potentially that you could focus on for one of those little periods of time. And you could just make a note about a process. Try and map that process out. You might not get it all done in one session and maybe you have to come back to it.
But that time you spend in mapping that process out now means that when it starts to happen, and you are under the pressure that it has caused, all those other extra pressures that are caused by your business growing (by a sudden influx of business or customers or clients, or whatever) you have got on file, the process.
So when you need to bring somebody in, you can bring them in, point them at that process, and carry on with your day. Speaking back to your four minutes at the end of any task looking for a way of documenting it, that is where that investment of time now pays you off a hundredfold later.
Dom: And on that, that was so much more than I could have hoped for out of that one little comment at the beginning. We are bang on time. Let’s close up for the night—well, for the week, sorry. Hopefully, everybody got something out of that rant, slightly random and wandering chat about scalability.
Quick reminder as always, folks. If you have not already, pop over to 7Levers.com to take a look at our home-study course on the 7 Levers of Business. Leave us a comment on PreneurMedia.tv where you’ll also find recording and transcripts and show notes for every one of our episodes.
Pete: Sorry to interrupt you there, mate.
Dom: Please do.
Pete: We haven’t asked this of people for a while. We’d really love some iTunes reviews. That definitely does help us scale our listener base, so it is a very good input that everyone can do for us. If you do enjoy the show, and you like to listen, the more reviews we get, the more listeners we get, and the more other various things we can use to leverage the show off. If you can take literally 30 seconds, jump onto iTunes and leave us review. It will be a great way of saying thanks to us for doing the show every week, and we would really appreciate it.
Dom: Absolutely. It really does take just a few seconds to pop onto iTunes wherever you are, and just leave us a quick review. Let us know what we are doing right. Let us know what we are doing wrong. There is even the opportunity to make fun of my accent if you really want to.
Pete: Alright, guys. Well, thank you again for another great PreneurCast episode. We will be back bigger and better next week via PreneurMedia.tv or obviously, PreneurCast on iTunes.
Dom: See you next week, folks!
The 48 Laws of Power – Robert Greene
The 50th Law – 50 Cent and Robert Greene
Screensteps – Process Documentation Software
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