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Janine Bolon: Hello, and welcome to The Thriving Solopreneur. And today I have David Jenyns with me and in case you have not read this gentleman’s book, it’s called SYSTEMology: Create time, reduce errors and scale your profits with proven business systems. So a man after my own heart as you know, I was an analytical biochemist for years and years, I’ve worked with automation and robotics and people wonder how can I do all the things that I do? They want to know how David can do all the things he can do. And we’re here to talk to you today about his book called SYSTEMology because it is through business systems that you can really thrive.
So, in 2016, David successfully systemized himself right out of his business. He’s one of Australia’s most trusted digital agencies, which was melbourneseoservices.com What did this guy do? Well, he fired himself and he hired a CEO. And he stepped back from the day-to-day operations of that business. And through the processes he used and the systems, he became a devotee of those systems. And he founded systemHUB and SYSTEMology.
Today, his personal mission is to free all business owners worldwide, from the daily operations of running their business, all I can say is hallelujah. So today, the topics that David is going to talk to us about is how he was able to fire himself and hire a CEO and move to the beach and tripled his income at the same time or triple his bottom line, then we’re going to describe a little bit about the seven myths of business processes and why people fail a lot of times when they’re trying to do these things, how you go about finding and recruiting players for your teams, and what most business owners never understand about scaling their businesses. So we’re going to talk about all that. David, thank you for joining us from the land down under.
David Jenyns: I’ve been looking forward to this episode.
Janine: I know, me too. I went on vacation just so I could read your book. It’s a joke. I have headed to Cheyenne anyway, but I did read his book on the way. So I think the number one thing is tell us what does it mean, to have business systems? Let’s just start with the basics. And we’ll go from there.
David: Yes. So the way that I think about businesses, business is just a collection of systems. So when we say what is a business system? A business system is a set of steps that when followed, they create a consistent outcome. And a lot of businesses, they just have a way of doing things, team members have a way of doing things. Business owners have a way of doing things. Some of its documented, some of its not. But there’s still a way of doing things. So building up your set of best practices. And that’s what I’m talking about building these business systems is by identifying the most important ones capturing those so you develop a way of doing things. And so you can produce consistent outcomes that aren’t dependent on a particular person, whether it’s the business owner or anyone else for that matter.
Janine: Well, you and I were both talking before the show is most business owners can’t even think about stepping away from their businesses for a few hours, much less a day, or you start talking about, “Oh, yeah, I stepped away from my business for four days, and people will look at me, just a gag.”How did you do that? How can you do that?” And of course, as you and I both know, it’s through systems. So talk to us a little bit about how business owners kind of get it wrong when it comes to systemizing their businesses? What are some of the traps that they set for themselves unknowingly?
David: The biggest one that jumps out is I think a lot of people have some misconceptions or some baggage or thoughts about what they think systems are. And when I say what is a well-known systemized business, what’s the first business that comes to mind? Oftentimes, it’s McDonald’s. Or it might be something like Amazon or Netflix. But if we use McDonald’s as a great example, because that’s like the poster child of a systems-driven business. And what happens is the business owner looks to Mcdonald’s to say, Oh, that’s a systems business. And they look at where Mcdonald’s is today.
But systems like Mcdonald’s have been building these systems over the past 60 years. So to try and look at what they’re doing today is not where they got started. Today, McDonald’s has a system for absolutely everything in their business down to taking out the trash, how to flip the hamburgers, how to clean the grill, how to turn the tap of water on like, everything extends to my new detail to the point where they have a thing they call hamburger university where they take people through these big thick manuals and people have this picture in their head that that’s what a system is detailed.
My new bullet points explain everything so that a 15-year-old kid off the street can come in and flip hamburgers. But again, that’s where they got it to today. But it’s also not where they started. Like if you pie the movie, something like The Founder, that’s a story about the McDonald’s brothers and Ray Kroc, and how he built up McDonald’s and very early in that movie, the first system, I remember them going out, they walk out onto a basketball court with a piece of chalk and they start mapping out the floor layout of the McDonald’s store. And they go, “Oh, should we put the fryer here? Or do we move the drinks machine over there if the drive-thru needs to be here?” And it was so raw and fluid, that first sort of basic system that they were getting into place. And I think that’s definitely where a lot of business owners go wrong. They try and make them just perfect, where sometimes you just capture what you’re currently doing or figure out who on your team is doing something to a good standard, capture that and get everybody up to that standard. That’s definitely one of the big ones. Probably the other big one that jumps out is they also try and do it all themselves. They think business owners can’t help themselves to think that they should do the documentation, or they should create the systems and the processes. But most business owners, they don’t even like systems and processes. So they’re probably the worst people to be doing it. But they’re definitely two of the biggies.
Janine: I have to agree. And just to step back a little bit on systems, please realize like in the day of the Roman Empire, I love I did a lot of military history growing up. And one of the things I absolutely did not know was that every time they got ready to camp, the army would send out what they called their engineers or their architects, and they would run ahead of the army, the full-fledged army, and they would make sure that they set up camp and I didn’t know but they set up camp, identical at every location where they ever stopped for the night. And this is a system but they didn’t come to it overnight. They had to learn over time. How do you take a centurion? Or how do you take 100? Guys, and what’s a battalion all that kind of stuff, all the different numbers that they had legions, yada, yada? And then how do you break it down to do that? So that when I was reading your book, forgive me, my military history kicked, and I’m like, “Oh, my gosh, he’s done that!” You start off very fluid, right? You don’t try to make the system perfect. Right off the bat. You just have one, just having one. And then you start you mentioned that word documentation. Now, in America, a lot of us immediately go to standard operating procedures or SLPs. And they don’t realize that’s like your McDonalds. That’s way down the road. To start off with, you mentioned documentation, what does that look like, dude?
David: Yeah, the easiest way to think about it is capturing the knowledgeable person doing the task and in whatever form and method is most easy for that person. So it could be a zoom video, it could be a loom video, it could be a recording on an iPhone, it could be creating a checklist or like like you want to do it whatever is easiest for that knowledgeable person to get something out, I generally like to just record it as it’s happening. Because then that way, when someone watches that recording, no matter how rough and roar it is, they’ll still get a sense of, “Oh, this is what it takes to complete this task.” And that’s really just version number one, and you can then start to iterate on that. someone watches the recording, and then pulls out the key steps, and starts to list down the five steps that were followed in the video underneath the video. Then next time someone goes through those five steps and says, “Oh, I have a question on step number two.” “Okay, well, let’s add that in as a bullet point now, that then explains that for the next person who comes through it.” So they’re these organic, growing documents, they never completely done. And it’s just capturing a moment in time. And it’s about just getting someone up to a certain standard, it doesn’t have to be perfect. These are usually internal documents anyway, that I’ve seen outside of the business. So we kind of that by producing them to that standard, it also makes it much more accessible for the whole team. If you create these fancy documents with flowcharts that are meticulously documented these McDonald’s type SOPs. That’s very intimidating for most team members to think, “Oh, I have to create that?” Whereas if we just kind of go, “Hey, just a rough and ready zoom video.” And that uploaded into place that’s infinitely better than nothing and that starts to develop your way. And that’s really what this is about. It’s about capturing your way of doing things.
Janine: And I’d like to go back to how you were able to fire yourself and hire a CEO. Because of the systems that you talk about, Michael Hyatt also talks about when he describes to business owners when you need to start hiring VAs, virtual assistants, or personal assistants, and how you as an executive are required to come up with the systems that you need to hand off to your virtual assistant. And it was through this little book that he had your world-class assistant that I learned how to hire mine, but then she and I started creating systems. And we were having to do what you just talked about over the shoulder tutorials to each other because we were using totally different software packages to handle the workloads that we both had. So I love that aspect. So talk to us a little bit about 2016. I mean, did you just have an epiphany? or what was it that drove you to say, “Okay, I’m going to fire myself, hire a CEO move to the beach, and things are gonna be okay.” I know there’s a story there.
David: It’s funny, I looked back over my career, and only in hindsight, I realized, like I had all of this programming for the idea of systems. In my head, I used to be in the stock market, education space. And we used to help people design trading systems, which was a set of rules that someone would follow. And I also owned a rock and roll clothing music store for a little while there that we ended up franchising one of the stores, so we ended up creating systems and processes for that. But something strange happened when I started my last business, the digital agency, I thought, “Ah, this business is different. This can’t be systemized because it’s fluid and online, things are changing so quickly, Google’s always changing and why we would want to write a system that very quickly becomes out of date.” And then I started to think things like, we’re a digital creative agency, I don’t want to put systems in place because it’s going to remove the creativity. And I don’t want my staff to kind of feel constricted by systems, I thought we were going to need hundreds of systems and all of this baggage that appeared out of nowhere, even though I’d seen systemizing before. And what that did is it trapped me in the digital agency probably for about 10 years too long. Because it wasn’t until we found out we were pregnant. And then, my wife and I were reflecting on the work that I was doing. And I was just doing incredibly long hours mornings, late nights weekends. And I just said to myself, I don’t want to be that dad who’s always too busy, who’s not present. So that was that turning point. And I felt like I had a timeline, we had nine months to get myself organized. And I kind of went back into my memory banks and realized that the systems were the way out and that I needed to retest a lot of those assumptions. And I just really did some focused work with a lady that was inside the business. So we kind of elevated her up into the CEO position. And she really took charge. And I started to really think about how can this business work without me, I’ve seen other digital agencies that we’re able to do this as well. So I know it’s possible. And I was going to have it happen for me and I had this pressure to do so that was really a focused effort. And probably, after about 12 months or thereabouts, we got really the guts of it going and Melissa was then just running that business. And then I took some time out, I took a year out. And that gave me a chance to kind of reflect on what am I doing what my What am I passionate about? What do I really want to be doing because Melissa was looking after that business? And that was it that time that this whole idea of SYSTEMology that’s where that kind of was given birth as well, just in that space. I think that’s what a lot of business owners really need because they’re so consumed. Its systems create space for the business owner. And the business owner does their best work and has their biggest inspiration and insight and can take advantage of opportunities when they have that space. It’s just most business owners never find that space. They’re just busy, busy, busy, busy, busy. And there are always things to be done. And it’s a to-do list that they never get to the bottom of. But systems are really the only way to create that space.
Janine: And I like what you were talking about some of the baggage that we bring in. First of all, you have to believe that your vision for your business is achievable. So you were like, “Okay, I need time with the family.” I have got to find a way to get out of this day-to-day rat race that I’m in. That was the same thing I had for my own business was I was like, I have to figure out a way because I refuse to be that kind of mom, you were saying, “I refuse to be that dad.” So we were like, “Yeah, we’re we’re solo entrepreneurs or we’re we’ve got a team of people around Those that are helping us, but we have to make the choice.”
So number one, you have to believe that it’s possible. Number two, if you’re in a highly creative space, it’s very easy to make the assumption. “Oh, but my business is different. I can’t do that.” So that was… I don’t know about you. But that was the biggest hurdle for me. Because I was in such a creative space, I didn’t know how to create some of the systems. So do you want to talk a little bit about folks who are in the creative space that it’s like, believe it or not, there are systems there? How did you walk through that space?
David: I definitely got some of the biggest insight in that with a sister company that we set up under the digital agency. So we set up a video production business. And we had quite a lot of our clients are asking for videos and things like that. So I said, “Okay, well, let’s set up this company.” And I didn’t know how to get behind a camera and shoot and edit. And I didn’t know any of that part of the business. And I thought, “Well, I can still build this business.” But I built it from day one without me working in it. And I remember the very first shoot, I went on with our videographer, and we spent 45 minutes in the car with him, saying to me, “Oh, I hope I pack the spare batteries. Do we email the client to remind them not to wear checkered shirts? Because it doesn’t look very good on camera? I didn’t bring that second lens. Oh, did I get that cable? What have we figured out what the shot list was? What are we doing?” And the entire time was just all these add mini-type stuff that really should have just been taken care of. And over the course of the next couple of months, one of the first things I did we put a proper checklist together. So when he was in the studio, he could fully plan and organize and make sure he was ready for a shoot. And I remember six months later, we jumped in the car and I went on another shoot. And the experience was completely different. We spent the entire time talking about how he imagined the shoot would go what scenes he wanted to capture and what the storyline was all of the most important creative things, he’d created space to be able to focus on those. So a big part of this idea of allowing for creativity is systemizing everything around the creative process, all of the things that have to happen, shed ruling and making sure that your invoice correctly, and making sure that the clients are well briefed and like a bunch of these sorts of things can all be systemized and the way that you set up projects and how you start getting everything, the footage ingested onto your computer when you’re ready to start editing. So by the time you sit down, you need to edit, you don’t have to worry about where things are and how things are organized. And then that actually makes you more creative. So that was a big insight for me to kind of go, we really can systemize everything around. And then we create the space for the creatives to do their work. And that video production business was where I got some of my biggest insights because I wasn’t the core person delivering the product or service. And I took a step back. And then I looked at, at how that business could run without me doing the work. And then we took a lot of those lessons and put them into the digital agency where other parts of the business, I was the SEO guy, I was the copywriter, I was a little bit of everything. And that’s also a big part of the problem. A lot of solo entrepreneurs, when they get started, they get the business off the ground, and they become the person doing the work. And then they form all of these habits. And the hardest transition is to go from you doing everything to start to bring in some of these team members and delegate and step back. Because all of those habits have been formed at that point in time. And that’s a big part of what system ology does, it’s to try and help you bridge that gap.
Janine: It is really the primary determinant of your success, where you become the rate-limiting factor. And that is what will cause you to fail if you do not expand your growth, right. And that is through those systems. So on-page, I’m looking at the paperback book of SYSTEMology. But on page 193, you have this beautiful list of the myths of business systemization. And so we’re not going to go over all seven, I’ll list them off, but you tapped on a few already. But number one right at the top is you will need to create hundreds of systems to systemize your business it’s the amount of work like a business owner is already overwhelmed. And so you start talking about building systems and their head spirals out of control almost blows a gasket because they think oh my gosh, you are asking me to systemize the thousands of things every decision that I make a day. So talk to us a little bit of doubt, talk us down off the ledge of that little explosion. As we go through is the number one myth.
David: This is a big one. And what it comes back to the idea of the 80/20, there are probably about 20% of the systems that deliver 80% of the result for the business. And I developed a method we call the critical client flow. And it’s about mapping both the customer and business journey to deliver a core product or service. So how do you grab someone’s attention? How do you handle the incoming inquiry? How do you sell them? How do you take a deposit? How do you onboard them? How do you deliver the product or service? And how do you get them to come back? And I say, “That’s where you start.” And if you’ve got something that in that critical client flow that you’re avoiding, or that you know is a problem area, start there, because oftentimes, the business owner might be avoiding things that they don’t like, maybe they don’t like getting the client project set up, or even overseeing and running the project, maybe they don’t like the selling. So they spend all of their time focusing on marketing. And they just really, they haven’t got salespeople live there more very good marketers and order takers, like, figure out where your blind spot is, and where you’re weak, and then capture that first because then you can start to get someone else to handle those pieces. But there’s probably maybe 10 to 15 of those core systems, that if you capture really would change the game in your business, and leave all of the other things that come later, how do you hire staff? How do you, onboard staff? What’s your finance systems, your management systems, like there’s a bunch of things that you can systemize, but just focusing on that one core thing? How do you deliver your core product or service, and from start to finish grabbing someone’s attention to delivering and getting them to come back, identify that systemize that, and then you’ll have a game-changing moment like it’s that that that changes a business owners perspective in life when they get that done, and they can deliver value to a client that they haven’t been involved in?
Janine: And that is wonderful because you’re helping build that business so that you can start stepping away and that, like I said, first of all, you have to believe you can do it that is even possible, which you know, you have several people that have been able to walk away from their businesses. And then once you have that vision, and then like you said, “Give yourself anywhere from nine months to 18 months to start building and working every week, those little steps at a time to get yourself there.” So the other one that I loved this was myth number two, which was the business owner is the only one who can create the systems. I busted out laughing when I read this because I thought I bet you there are a lot of people out there that think it’s only the business owner that knows what’s happening in their business, not necessarily true unless they’re a solopreneur. So talk to us a little bit about how you came to that one.
David: And a big part of it is the business owner wants things done in a certain way. And they’ve got the picture in their head of how it should be done. So they think, “Ah, we’re going to create a system, I want to get it just right, the only way to get it just right is for me to be the one that creates it.” Part of the challenge is the reason the business owner never gets around to systems is that they’re busy. And business systems are important, but they’re not urgent. So you never get to them because all of the urgent tasks always come first. And oftentimes, business owners don’t even like capturing systems and processes anyway, like they’re not a systems and processes person. So they never actually get to it. So a big part of this myth and how to overcome it is to realize that there are people in your team in your world potentially that are doing things to the best standard in the business, maybe there’s someone who handles the incoming inquiry or issues out the invoice or whatever it might be, and just capture what they’re currently doing. Or even what you’re doing, just capture it and then realize it’s easier if you make it a two-person job systems development. You have a knowledgeable worker, but then you have someone who handles the documentation and the organizing of that maybe they watch the video and pull the key steps out. If you split it into a two-person job, it actually makes it a lot easier. And the business owner doesn’t have time today. That’s one of the reasons they’re often the worst to do it. But also your best team members have the same oftentimes they’re busy as well. So part of it is trying to make it easy for them as well. That’s why I say if you make it a two-person job, identify someone in your team that could become your systems champion to really help this, and I know this is sort of… Like you have a lot of solopreneurs in your group that listen to the show.
For those people, in particular, you want to think in terms of systems, but you also don’t need to, over a document, that’s where some people go wrong in their head, if it’s just you, and you’re just getting started. Starting off with a simple basic checklist is a great way to start for a task or a short video without any lengthy documentation, just the idea of capturing So then, when you do get a virtual assistant, it’s much easier to go, Hey, here are 10 tasks that I do. And here are 10 systems or videos that go along with those, watch those. And then next time I do it, you join with me. And then the time after that, I want you to do it. Like that’s kind of part of that process in the system just gives the team member helps them to understand gives them a reference point, so they can go back and have a look at the way that task is done. It kind of just starts the process.
Janine: And I can totally attest to this as being a super successful and fabulous system. Because when I hired my freelance virtual assistant, I did just that I use zoom and loom videos I did over the shoulder tutorials, this is how I’m doing it, this is what’s going on, she then would learn them. And we talked to each other because we were meeting at the time about once a week just to make sure that everything was working the way it needed to since we were producing 16 shows a month. And so then we had a social media person join us, she took those very same videos. And she was the one that built the documentation, the actual checklists, that was my virtual assistant, then trained the next person. And so we’re now three different systems down or three deep into our team building. And all of these people are not my employees. These are all contractors. And it was working just fabulous. So I just cannot say enough about system ology. As we get ready to wrap up, I wanted you to talk to us a little bit about, you need to invest in expensive and complex software. Now, this is a myth. All right, this is Myth number four. And I just wanted to bring this up, because I have actually had people offer to help me with my system so that I no longer have to work so intensely in my systems. And for a mere $20,000, they would be able to produce, I know I’m laughing. I was laughing, too, they would produce 48 shows for me to which I was like, that barely covers three to four months of what I do. So I was like, “There’s no way I’m going to do that.” So talk to us a little bit about, you already mentioned, zoom, and then loom. But talk to us about some of the stuff you did like I was using G-suite for the longest time write a spreadsheet. But talk to us a little bit about some of the stuff you found to be very helpful for your businesses.
David: Yeah, the biggest thing is just keeping it very simple to start, especially when you’re small, you want to keep your cost base low. And there are a lot of great tools, G-suite, you can do so much in G-suite. If you’re just starting out and you’re a solopreneur when you create your systems processes, creating Google Docs and then organizing them in a folder. It’s not ideal as the team grows past a certain point. And it does have some challenges. But it’s a great, easy way to just get started very low cost. So I suppose the big takeaway here is simple is often the best because I think if you can’t master the simple, you’re never going to master the complex. So simple, also, when you think about it, business systems and processes, they can have resistance, or there’s friction there. Even at the best of times, like it’s, there’s still a level of friction there. So anything that you can do that reduces the friction because complex software has a learning curve, it can be clunky, it takes time to get your head around it. And all of that then gets in the way of you just getting down and doing it. So always if you have to default to anything default to simple.
Janine: I totally agree with you. And you mentioned that with your critical client flow over and over you keep talking about keeping these steps simple, do not go into too much detail that was okay, that was near and dear to my heart because I’m like, “Oh if you’re asking me to be attention to detail person, I’m not that chick. I hire that stuff out because that’s not me. I’m a visionary. I’m a big picture person. You start getting me in the details. I don’t care.” Literally, that’s where my care stops at that point. So wonderful. Well, talk to us about where people can go to learn more about SYSTEMology and I would love for you to talk a little bit about the launchpad because I was so very impressed with what you offer people.
David: Yeah, perfect. So definitely, the best way to find out more about the book is just symstemology.com/book that links through to Amazon or audible or however you want to consume it. If you’re listening to the podcast here, you might enjoy the audio version of the book. So you can check out that from the SYSTEMology website as well. So SYSTEMology.com/book, there are just links too if you’ve got questions, or we’ve got YouTube channel with some different videos, and we’ve got a podcast, if you’ve got questions, that’s how we can help there. And in the book, I’ve referenced it, but you don’t have to get the book to go to the launch pad. It’s just systemology.com/academy. That’s just a collection of resources from the book, and some interviews and some template systems just to get people started. It’s kind of like that continuation from the book.
Generally, when when you sign up to that, there’s, I think there’s probably about 10 messages that kind of get dripped out over the course of a couple of weeks. And then after that, I kind of just try and once a month, keep the idea of systems and processes front of mind for you. And then if you need more help beyond that, I mean, the book is useful, and it’s complete, and it gives you everything that you need. If you want extra help, there’s an online program, or you can join a group program where we go through SYSTEMology and apply it to business, or we also have systemologists that work alongside business owners and help to install system ology in their business. So they’re kind of a few of the different ways but most of it SYSTEMology.com/book will get you all of that info.
Janine: And thank you so much, because I absolutely loved your Academy, I signed up, as soon as I finished the book I signed, signed up on the Academy, I was impressed with the way that you dripped messages to us. And so just wanted the listeners to know, he’s not one of those guys, that’s going to be you’re in your inbox every day, three, four times a day, just pummeling you with, “Buy my stuff, buy my stuff”, that’s not what David is about, you will actually get curated content, or you will get content from his book. And then you have options to continually keep going deeper. So you get to drive, how deep down the rabbit hole, you want to go with this. But I just really appreciated how much how many resources you offer us. And all you have to do is just typical stuff, put your email and put your name in there so that they know who they’re talking to. So your email is safe with David. That’s why I wanted to let you guys know, David before we close out anything else you wanted to share with us that maybe we didn’t cover about SYSTEMology today.
David: Look, the main thing, as long as I lit the fire inside the business owner when they live, listen to this around business systems, because business systems, they’re so important. And a lot of business owners if they’re visionary creatives, they go, “I tried to systemize in the past and it didn’t work or I don’t really like business systems.” And then they write it off. So if that’s you, what I want to get you to do is to fall in love with the result of the business systems and to understand that you don’t necessarily have to be doing the documentation, there are critical, an important part of a business that you must master. And I just hope that in this episode that comes across and enough for you to give it another shot and retest some of those assumptions that you’ve got. Because the only way to build a business that extends beyond you and something that hasn’t got key person dependency are with business systems. I think we got that across. But I just kind of underscore it to kind of say, you can do this, you got this.
Janine: So one of the main reasons people go into businesses, they want the freedom, they want the freedom to be able to live life their way, the lifestyle that they have doesn’t fit that nine to five model, but then we get trapped in our own desire to get out of that system, we actually fall into it. And we actually start 70-80 hour workweeks. You’re like “Oh, my gosh, how did I get into this nightmare.” And so one of the things that SYSTEMology offers you is the ability to dig yourself out of there and has the vision for you to be able to step away from the business and hire someone else to do it over the course of about nine to 18 months. It depends on where you are in your business model. So David, thank you so much for sharing all of your expertise with us today. It’s been most appreciated.
David: Pleasure. Thanks for having me. And looking forward to chatting again soon.
Janine: That will happen and this is Janine Bolon with The Thriving Solopreneurs show, talking with David Jenyns, the author of SYSTEMology: Create time, reduce errors and scale your profits with proven business systems. Oh, and by the way, those proven businesses systems are yours. So you have a fabulous day. Don’t forget to keep reaching for the stars as you keep your feet firmly planted on the ground. We’ll talk to you next week.