Tammy was smart, successful, and totally overwhelmed by her business.
She worked 60-70 hour weeks and was the glue that held it all together.
She had also just joined our business coaching program so when she shared her biggest concern with turning over more of the day-to-day responsibilities for her for her then $1.9 million per year service business to her team, I paid close attention.
"David, I just can't seem to get people to use the systems we have. They just all want to do it their own way. Plus, I'm the only one who seems to have any interest in making systems and I don't have time to systematize everything."
Can you relate to Tammy's situation? You run a successful business, but you know that without you in the center it couldn't function. And knowing this, you push to start "systematizing" your business, writing out processes and procedures, but all you seem to get is "policies and procedures" manual that is universally ignored in your company.
One of the most powerful operational secrets we've discovered after decades of helping our business coaching clients build some of the most successful small and midcap companies in North America is a concept called your "UBS."
UBS stands for your "Ultimate Business System," and it is the master system for how you structure, organize, store, access, refine, and, if need be, delete, your company's systems.
More importantly, your UBS is the doorway through which you can move your team to start making systems a daily conversation and discipline inside your company.
Now to be clear here, I am not talking about a policies and procedures manual. After surveying thousands of businesspeople about the usefulness of a policies and procedures manual, we've come to one firm and irrefutable conclusion--no one uses or refers to a policies and procedures manual, especially after the first thirty days on the job (and most won't really even use it before then either!)
Think of your UBS as an organized collection of tools that captures the actual, everyday know-how of your business in a searchable, accessible, and editable way. These tools are held inside a simple structure of file folders, generally on a cloud-based system. These tools include things like your checklists, spreadsheets, proposal templates, training videos, sample marketing pieces, etc.
Without a UBS, likely you'll have a hodge-podge collection of files spread on a dozen different team member's computers (or even worse, locked informally in their heads.)
Your UBS is a way to start gathering into one place your systems, making sure that your whole team has access to best practices and key institutional knowledge that previously was locked in the head of a few key people.
The UBS concept also is the best way to start the dialogue of systems inside your company. You're ultimate goal is to make your UBS a living, breathing way of doing business in your company--an ongoing practice.
You'll know you've won when you regularly hear your team say things like, "Did you add that to the UBS?" and "Great solution to that problem, can you UBS it?"
Here is the simple 4-step process to start building your UBS in the next 90 days.
Step One: Create your UBS's file folder organizational hierarchy.
If you had to cluster all the functions of your business into 5-9 main folders/areas, what would they be?
At my business coaching company, Maui Mastermind, our UBS's main folders are:
1.0 Sales & Marketing
4.0 Executive Leadership
If you ran a medical practice, your UBS Folders might look like this:
Step Two: Pick ONE area to start with, and break that one area down into 5-7 sub-areas.
For example, if you ran a medical group and chose "2.0 HR" to start with your sub areas might look like:
2.1 Recruitment and Hiring
2.2 Onboarding and Orientation
2.4 Benefits and HR Admin
Step Three: Populate this one area, and it's 5-7 sub-areas, with any of your existing systems you already have.
Look through each of your team's hard drives and see what systems you already have. You'll be surprised at how many of these systems will only be known to one person. And you'll be horrified to notice how many out of date versions of some of your key systems people are still using because they didn't know there was an updated version to it.
You might have a scheduling spreadsheet you use to organize which staff are on which shifts month by month, a nine-step checklist to open up your store for the day, and even a database of potential suppliers to get bids from on new product orders.
As you go through your computer and files to gather your existing systems and tools and put them into your new UBS, this is a perfect time to identify which tools are outdated or inadequate, which work well, and which tools your system desperately needs.
Only save to your UBS those documents and tools that you want your business actually using going forward. (You can always store anything no longer current in an "archive" folder in each section of your UBS on the off chance you need to access it later.)
KEY POINT: Rename all files you put into your UBS so that they are obvious and easy to search for them later. Think "google" and key words here. Don't name a file based on what the person who created it thinks it should be, name it in terms of what a new user of that file will search for it under. Standardize your key naming conventions (or start to at any rate) at this point. Are you going to call this type of report a "score board" or "scoreboard" or "dashboard" or...
Step Four: Pick 1-2 systems to build this quarter for this area of the business.
Ask yourself, "If we could only build one or two systems in this area of the business in the next 90 days, which one or two systems would be most valuable to create first?"
Notice that as you involve your team in doing these four simple steps, you have a chance to talk with them about the value of systems, and how they benefit each team member and the company as a whole. Share with them your and your company's commitment to being a systems driven culture, and ask for their help in taking the first key steps to get started on this process.
Then each quarter, repeat steps 2-4.
Over time, this process is magic and you'll find that you consistently make your business more and more scalable and less and less reliant on a few key staff members (including you).
Systems and controls cannot be a fad, but must be an ingrained way of doing things inside your business. If you start the process and don't see it through, your efforts will wither and you'll lose credibility with your team. Your team must see why systems and controls matter to the business, to you, and to them. And they must see you staying the course with making them a fundamental part of your business.
If any of what I shared in this article struck a nerve or resonated with you, and you want to get more in-depth details of how create your UBS and thereby grow your company and reduce its reliance on you, then please join me for a special webinar training I'm doing that's coming up very soon. It's a free web training we offer from time to time about how to grow your company without sacrificing your life to do it.
Now get to work on starting the UBS process in your company.