How to carve a pumpkin – or why systems are key!

  photo by ms.tea 

Halloween is just around the corner, which means it’s time to start thinking about carving pumpkins.  I remember learning how to carve a pumpkin around our kitchen table from my parents and older brothers.  There was always an element of creativity in terms of the design and certainly some of us were better than others in terms of drawing or actually cutting, but overall we used a consistent system to create our art.

Now imagine that you want to create a really cool Jack O’Lantern this Halloween, but you don’t have a clear process or system for how to do that.  You’ve seen the end result, but you’ve never actually gone through any steps…and in fact you don’t even know what steps there might be!

Odds are your pumpkin is going to look more like road kill than a cool, scary design!  Without a systematic process, you’re stuck with making it up as you go and even though it’s not that hard (once you know how to do it) there are lots of points where you can trash your pumpkin if you do it wrong.

The importance of a system

When I talk to business owners about the importance of using systems in their business, they usually get a look of dread on their face, thinking about all the work that it will take to create all of their systems.  Although it may be a pain up front – good systems can mean the difference between success and failure in the long run!

A system will keep you focused.

A lot of business owners will ‘do’ marketing without a system – which results in an approach of marketing du jour.  This week it’s direct mail.  Next month it’s social media.  The month after that, maybe it’s networking.  But without a clear plan and a system to stay on track, there’s no clear focus.

A system will keep you consistent

Your clients want your best work, but more than anything, they want to deliver to their expectations…consistently.  That’s true whether it’s you delivering or one of your employees.  Without a system, any consistency is either going to be luck or an awful lot of oversight and rework.

A system will let you improve

Without a system, it’s impossible to make long term improvements to anything that you do within your business.  Without a system, the next time you do something (marketing tactic, creating your product, paying your bills, etc.) you will do it at least slightly differently than you did before – losing the great idea you had for improvement.  With a system you have a clear baseline and improving isn’t a big deal.

Examples of a System

Systems don’t have to be overly complex – here’s a high level description of the system I use to send out my newsletter (register here if you’re not currently getting it):

  1. During the month create at least 1 foundation article in my blog to use for the newsletter.
  2. At the end of the month, copy over the template from last month’s newsletter and update all of the issue specific information (date, etc.).
  3. Add all new contacts collected through the month into the mailing list in Constant Contact.
  4. Create a theme / headline / key message for the month.  Include a quote or two that supports the theme and write the introductory paragraphs and header information.
  5. Decide if the newsletter needs to promote any particular offers or activities (i.e. special offers to clients or prospects, upcoming workshops, networking events, etc.).  Add special promos if necessary.
  6. Create the main article, including a picture and reworking the introductory paragraph from the blog if necessary for readability or length.  Link to the blog.
  7. Create a short article on a business resource that readers would find helpful.  Include image (same size as other images).  Optional – link to the blog.
  8. Create a short article on interesting or fun pop culture topic. Include image (same size as other images)
  9. Review and rewrite close and P.S. to drive any desired actions.
  10. Preview and correct any issues – schedule for the morning of the first Tuesday of the month for delivery.

There’s a lot of leeway for different ideas and creativity within this system, but I could hand the steps above over to someone else and they could create a newsletter that’s very similar to what I do every month.

The system for carving a pumpkin can be equally simple – but using that system will save you a lot of time, heartache and extra pumpkins!

Do you have clearly thought out, documented systems for all aspects of your business?  If you’re like most business owners, the answer is no! – Contact me if you’re interested in learning more about how to actually go about systematizing your business.  It’s the key to freedom and success.

What do you think about systems?  Share your thoughts below – I’d love to hear them.

Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach

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