Over the years, the Michael E. Gerber Companies have worked with over 100,000 small businesses.
Let that sink in for a few minutes - that's a college football stadium, filled to overflowing, of business owners.
And we've worked with them.
I've heard a lot of reasons, excuses, and explanations for nearly every possible action over the last four decades and inevitably, the biggest ones were usually rationalized by these famous lines: "I'm thinking outside the box."
Unfortunately, in many of those cases, the owner in question had never taken the time to actually build a box - they had never established systems, they neglected to operate with a vison or purpose or mission, and they had spent comparatively little time to simply document "how we do it here."
In short, they were sure the grass was greener on the other side (and it might indeed have been), but they had never taken the time to care for the grass they could grow right under their feet!
If you're one of the millions of entrepreneurs that worry incessantly about how good somebody else's ideas are working in business, I have to challenge you to ask a question of yourself:
How would you teach a new owner to run your business?
If your answer sounds like shadowing, hands-on, mentoring, or live training, then you don't have a box, you have an idea. You don't have a business model, you have a business plan that exists only to keep you busy and probably provide you with a fraction of the income your company can really make if you actually flesh the model out completely.
So how can you build a box when you're spending 18 hours a day just trying to effectively keep your "business" going?
Start small - what needs to be done each day? Opening duties, closing duties, customer service standards, everything. If a component of your day is spent doing what, in the future, an hourly employee would be doing, then you need to dismantle that "job" and create the standard and system that you would expect a well-trained employee to follow.
Just as importantly, you can never hope to do this in one sitting and you should never think that when it's done, you'll never revise it again. A far better system to document the operating systems your company needs is to do so as you are acting in that capacity. At the same time you are designing and executing the Organization Chart, the job descriptions of the various employees that will inevitably come to work in the business can be written.
What is critical is that you get started building your box so that you can understand what needs to be done in the course of growing your own business, documenting how your company actually works, and - in many cases over the years - coming to understand how you can work more effectively in the systems and programs that you are creating.
Here's a hint - that 18-hour day you wear as a badge of honor for being an entrepreneur? Make the very first decree in your systems-building the implicit rule - when you are working on your business, it is work.
Don't do it after you close, don't do it while trying to be a part of the family - Schedule it and dedicate the time each day to make sure that you're creating the systems you need to succeed.
In other words, build your box and have the ability to know how to rebuild your box.