A Holiday Gift Even Mr. Scrooge Would Love
I guess thinking about systemizing your holidays might sound a bit, um...austere? Not really warm and fuzzy, festive or spontaneous—maybe something Mr. Scrooge would appreciate?
Many Christmases past—when the economy was booming—it seemed there was never enough time for the truly important things I wanted to do; not if I was going to make sure our print orders got out on time. I was always too bogged down in day-to-day operations. But, that was before I encountered the Ghost of Christmas Future, repented of my disorderly business practices, and started systemizing my business—even how we managed the holidays!
The holidays are not only a special time to spend with family and friends, but also a time when many business owners want to express thanks to their customers in a meaningful way. But, the way it always seems to happen is that a week or so before Christmas an employee has to be sent scurrying out of the office to buy some quickly chosen cards or ready-made baskets of this or that, with little thought or preparation. Then the mad dash to a jammed post office!
The sadder thing is, some companies fail to get anything special for their customers because they simply run out of time. Now that seems more like Scrooge to me!
So, what prompted me to write about this blog so early in the holiday season?
Today, as I began writing this article, I received an e-mail from “Jennifer,” my Production Administrator, who was setting up our annual meeting to plan and decide how to thank our customers this year. Wow, at first glance it would seem Jennifer is already full of Holiday Spirit and cannot only manage our production, but remember even small details like Christmas cards! Not to downplay Jennifer’s considerable know-how, but TRUTH is...she was prompted by a cold, spiritless system.
Now wait a minute...
We have GREAT customers, and we’re thankful for them! But, like you, we are busy people, and we don’t want to lose sight of the most important people in our business—our CUSTOMERS! So we created a system that won’t let us wait until the last minute.
How does this system work?
On our Production Administrator’s Daily Routine Checklist (under the title November), there’s a PROMPT telling her to meet with the President (me) and our Bookkeeper about Christmas gifts and cards for our customers. On the Bookkeeper’s Daily Routine Checklist, there’s a PROMPT for her to print out certain reports from our customer database for this annual meeting, and another PROMPT for her to print out labels for mailing our Christmas cards and gifts.
Since our bookkeeper only does the label printing once a year, it’s hard for her to remember all the steps for how to do it. So—adding to her holiday cheer—on her Daily Routine Checklist right next to the prompt for printing Christmas labels, there is a Reference Number (actually, the document number of a procedure) with step-by-step instructions on how to do the label merge from our customer database and print out the labels.
Now, this doesn't appear very technical or impressive at first glance. But, if I were to spread out, end to end, all the Daily Routine Checklists used by key personnel, Quality Control Checklists for all our processes, all Preventative Maintenance Checklists, Procedures, Policies and other documents—you would see thousands of PROMPTS to do THIS or THAT. Nothing is ever just forgotten!
What are the THIS and THATs?
These are the hundreds of “little” details that owners and managers typically carry around in their heads—the way their business or department operates from the time they turn the key and open for business until the time they leave at night. Yes, many business leaders leave late at night because THEY are the system!
All of the aforementioned prompts dance around (like sugar plum fairies?) in their heads all of the time, as they trust them to memory, rather than systemizing and delegating these details to SOMEBODY, using the TOOL of written procedures that could help take care of details automatically and in a timely manner.
These owner/managers are slaves to being onsite for long hours, so their employees can plug into them for the information needed to do their jobs. These same owners keep training and retraining employees, over and over, wasting thousands of hours when they might rather be at home on a long winter’s night.
Systemizing just that one simple procedure—how to print out Christmas labels—has saved me, personally, a couple hours each year. We have had that procedure in our System100 for over 10 years—that’s 20 hours of savings. At first glance, that doesn’t sound like much, until you add up all the hours of savings from literally thousands of prompts and processes in the other documents referred to above.
And how about the money saved?
You know on second thought, maybe this IS an idea for Mr. Scrooge!
Did I mention? Great systems work!
Philip Beyer, founder/president of Ebiz Products LLC and founder of Beyer Printing Inc. in Nashville Tenn., is a chronic entrepreneur, business systems analyst and consultant. Author of "System Busters: How to Stop Them in Your Business" and recipient of an InterTech Technology Award for the design and development of System100 business process management software. Beyer speaks to business owners across the country on how to bring lean, sustainable order to their businesses. Contact him at (615) 425-2652.