Dave is the principal operations consultant at the Crysler Club and host of the Everyday Business Problems Podcast. Entering entrepreneurship after spending nearly 20 years working for a publicly traded corporation, Dave quickly realized there was a tremendous need within small businesses to have access to the tools and support that were commonplace in a large corporation. Dave developed his operations framework to help small business owners reclaim their life and grow their businesses. Dave, welcome to the show.
What are some key areas that business systems connect and how does that work?
From my standpoint and what I like to talk about from the operations perspective are four core areas. Which are planning, people, process, and technology. No matter if you are dealing with a challenge in your business or you are working on planning to have future growth, either the challenge or what you’re trying to tackle is going to be in one of those core four areas. And so, I like to talk about them in that particular order. I will never change the order of them because you can’t have one without the other and if you start to layer in technology before you do appropriate planning or have people or have a process in place, it’s a little bit like putting the cart before the horse, as the saying goes.
Do you see how people might want to change the order a lot?
Yes. Very often. When you’re up against a challenge as a business owner, or if you’re on a leadership team probably, the two quickest things I see people fill the gap is with people and technology. And what happens most often is if you’re filling the gap with people first, without doing the prior planning and if you don’t have documented process even though that comes after the people aspect, what tends to happen is that you have fairly underutilized people. So, we hear a lot of people talk about the efficiency of processes and what they’re doing throughout the day. But the thing that a lot of people don’t talk about is the utilization of those people, right. So, when you’re filling the gap with a person or multiple people, because you’re overwhelmed, or you’ve got too many things on your plate, you’ve got too many processes or responsibilities tasks that you’re responsible for without a well thought out plan or documented processes in place, more than likely, you’re going to be wasting a lot of time with those people and there’s a lot that goes to that. Over the course of time, if you continue doing that, it’s going to have an impact on your culture and many other things. So, I don’t want to get too deep into that, but that’s kind of problem number one if you’re going to fill the gap with people. Problem number two is if going to fill the gap of technology without again having the planning people process part in place, what often happens is that over the course of time, the leadership team business owners, they’re going to be pretty unhappy with the overall implementation of that technology. It too often fails either during the initial implementation or over the course of time, because again, you’ve not had a well thought out plan going into it and maybe that seems a little arbitrary saying that because people I will often hear, now we’ve evaluated ten to different software, we’ve gone through all of the sales demos and so on and so forth. But what I’m really talking about from that planning standpoint is understanding, 1. Your business model; and 2. Your business processes; and how you can, by understanding those, leverage that technology to automate and streamline what you’re doing. So again, it gets back to increasing the utilization of the people that you have, and if you’re freeing their time up, ultimately you can take those resources and redeploy in other areas, hopefully generating additional revenue, or what have you.
What is the best way to get started in systemizing your business?
The best way to get started is to make a conscious decision that that’s what you want to do. I think that understanding where you’re at today and we do have some tools available to help you do that, but to get a pulse on where you’re at today in terms of those planning people, process and technology; when you understand where you’re at today, and you understand the goals that you have in terms of what you want your business to be like, that could be more locations that could be just a straight increase in revenue. It could be adding a product line. There are a bunch of different goals that you can line out for yourself but understanding where you’re at today how those kinds of core four areas work with each other to get you on a path of systemization to all ultimately achieve the goals that you’ve now set forth.
What are some things that we should avoid when creating these business systems?
I think the one thing to avoid is taking all of the work on yourself. It’s one of the areas that I think, from a leadership perspective, people can often struggle with. And I know I did, right. Like I can always speak to my experiences personally growing up in an entrepreneurial family and entrepreneurial environment, my dad was a second-generation business owner and that business had been started in the seventies. So, if you think back to that time, it was kind of, as I jokingly say, ruled with the iron fist, right, as top-down leadership “do as I say”, there wasn’t a lot of collaboration, there wasn’t a ton of engagement and empowerment happening. Even though those things were still talked about, and you knew that as a leader, as an owner, you had to develop people, all those things, right.
So, as I got leadership roles and kind of more and more responsibility, especially early on in my career, I kind of took that into those leadership roles early on, especially, and while I did have some limited success, I’ll call it with different systemization efforts throughout those leadership positions. It wasn’t for me until kind of the unlock of what could happen in terms of moving the needle further faster when you started to empower and engage the people around you. So, lately, I’ve been talking about this collective brainpower component, but what I’m really talking about when I say that it is empowering engaging your team, the people that are doing the heavy lifting, that’s the best place to start when it comes to systemization and planning and understanding where the bottlenecks are in your business. So, that’s the thing to avoid.
Don’t think that you can do all of this on your own. You want to be engaging the people that are doing the heavy lifting day in and day out. They know where the real dirt is; they know what is slowing them down. Don’t be afraid to ask them, don’t be afraid to engage with them and empower them to bring those ideas to you so you can collaborate. And the other part of that is, obviously, don’t be afraid to seek outside counsel. It doesn’t necessarily mean that that has to result in some sort of a paid engagement or anything like that, but there are so many resources available, especially today in the day and age of social media. I produce a ton of content. I have a ton of free resources available. So, don’t be afraid to kind of seek outside counsel. As I tell people, I’ve learned this stuff from doing it, over 20 years directly working in operations and manufacturing facilities; many different ones, small size to very large size businesses. So don’t be afraid to have counsel engage and empower your team. Those are the best places to start and make sure you’re not trying to do all of this on your own. That’s the thing to avoid.
When it comes to a process or a system, engaging your team, if you get their input, they automatically have buy-in as opposed to you coming in and saying, “this is how we do things now.” If it’s their system that they’re creating, or they were a part of creating the new system, they’re going to adopt it a lot faster than if you’re just kind of pushing it in front of them?
Yes, 100%. The other thing about that specifically is when you’re building your business, right, at one point, you personally, as an owner, or even if you’re in a leadership team, we’re probably doing that particular process, and now there are other people doing that process. So, my whole point is, it’s probably changed since the last time you had hands-on involvement, which is just another reason to get the people that are doing that process day in and day out to get their input on it. Because they know to the detail, all of the different aspects, all of the different factors, all of the different touchpoints. The one thing we didn’t talk about, but let’s talk about, internally who their eternal customer is, who they’re receiving information and/or products from, right. So, they have all of that information at their fingertips. Go to the source of truth. It’s the people doing the work every day.
One of the best things you can do as you get into this stuff, as you get into engaging and empowering people, as you start talking about process improvement and ways that you can eliminate ways throughout your value stream. One of the best things that you can do is to start to collaborate across departments. So, oftentimes what would we do is, let’s say we’re working on a process improvement project, whether that was, let’s just say to identify some waste within a particular process, within a particular department. We would take at least one to two people from the prior department and the department following and bring them into those events so we could get that input because it was so critical to make sure that they understood what they were delivering to the department. We were particularly focused on how what they were delivering impacted that department and the same thing, how the department we were focused on the delivery of whatever they were processing, how that impacted the following department. So, that’s an area that, again, as you get a little bit deeper into this tapping into that collective brainpower, and then expanding that into departments touching on either side of the particular department or work center, whatever the case may be that you’re working on becomes really, really powerful stuff.
Can you share with our listeners your most successful favorite networking experience that you’ve had?
It’s interesting for me — kind of my own personal journey on the networking aspect, and hopefully, this is of some value to the people that are listening out there. But I worked in a really big company for many, many years. Nearly half my life, believe it or not, and so, for me, networking back then was all about internal connections, right. We had a company with a total employee number of maybe 3,000 or 4,000 people. So, there were quite a few people internally amongst all of these different business units that were owned by this corporation. So, a lot of my, what I would consider early years was internal networking, right. I didn’t put myself out there to meet a lot of people outside of the organization because I didn’t understand the real power of putting yourself out there and meeting people outside of the organization. So, when I left that environment in 2018, I very quickly realized that I needed to connect with a lot more people and figure out a way to do that. So, when I started networking, I had on LinkedIn. I think I maybe had right at 500 connections or probably even less than that, to be perfectly honest. And it was one, a little bit intimidating and scary because I think when you’re first starting out, especially, you’re like, okay to your point, everybody hears this, but what does that mean. Like, how do you just go out and meet people online, and as I keep hearing people say, like, make sure you add value.
What does that mean? How do you build a genuine relationship when you are talking to them over instant messenger, if you will? So yes, I think a couple of things that help me is treating social media like you’re in person, which can seem difficult to do. But when you think about it, I had a connection of mine kind of walk me through this example and I just thought it was so perfect. But, if you were a business owner that had a storefront, okay, and somebody walked in the store and was just wandering around kind of looking; don’t you think, as a business owner or somebody within that business, you would, “Hey, how are you doing? Is there anything I can help you with? Can I help you look for something?” That would be a pretty typical interaction if you had a storefront, and somebody walked into your business?
If we took that same example and applied it to online if somebody reaches out to you and you just ignore that message, it’d be kind of like you owning a business, somebody walking into it, and you just completely ignoring them. I’m not saying that every interaction is going to turn into a connection or turn into a paid engagement or a sale or any of those things. But I think the easiest way to start networking is to just be human, to show up, to be available, and to put yourself out there and look for opportunities to interact with people. And you do it from a genuine standpoint and it’s okay to just say things like, “Hey, how’s it going? How’s your week going this week? How did your quarter end up?” I think the biggest mistake people make when it comes to networking and even when it comes to sales outreach is trying to hurry the conversation and the relationship to get to a destination. If you just take some time and try to get to know somebody on a genuine level, just like you would at an in-person networking event or as I said, the example that I was taught, I think those are the best ways to get started and to continue. I mean, that’s really what served me over a relatively short period. My network has expanded pretty rapidly.
To add, you shouldn’t just go out and try to blindly connect with people and try to start random conversations. You want to be identifying people that you can add value to. So, I kind of like to categorize my networking in two different ways. I categorize it in people like yourself. Other professionals who have a deep understanding of some sort of a vertical that potentially is in the same circle as my ideal clients and the other people that I’m trying to reach. And then I have people that are going to be more, let’s call them in the prospecting bucket if you will. That from a surface-level perspective, it looks like there’s some value that I could add to that person into the things that they’re probably going through. So, those are the two ways I like to categorize them. And the last thing I would say that’s helped me personally is making sure that you have, again, doesn’t necessarily have to be this system, but have a system I particularly like to use the CRM, but it could be something as simple as an Excel sheet or some notes, some really good notes. But have some sort of a system in place to be able to keep track of conversations, keep track of key details about people because it’s interesting, you never know where you might be looking at another resource online and somebody will pop in your head and say, oh, man, I have to share this with Lori. I think she’d really appreciate this. Those are the genuine interactions where you either tag, Hey, Lori, you know, I saw this, I thought about you or send you an email or what have you. Those are the types of genuine interactions that build real relationships with people. And that is what we should be focused on from a networking perspective is building real relationships with people just like you would in person. It is really no different.
Another thing I would add to that, oftentimes, you hear people be reserved to get on social because they don’t want to create content. And one of the most powerful things you can do if you’re not interested in creating content is to engage on other people’s posts and you can do that by leaving thoughtful comments. The other part that you can do that again kind of speaks to what I just said is you can tag people in the comments and say, here’s why I’m thinking of you. Here’s why I think this is relevant to either a previous conversation we had or to a project that you’re working on. And not only does that help your own personal connections with the people that you’re potentially tagging, but it also can help you build new connections with the people’s posts that you’re in engaging with. So, you could meet the author; you could meet somebody else in the comments. There are tons of ways to add value, to be engaged without having to necessarily create a bunch of content. And that’s one of the things I hear from people is, “well, yeah, you know, but I don’t want to do any of that.” Okay. Well, here you go. You don’t have to. Here’s a whole another way you could get involved and build your network without having to be a creator.
If you could go back to your 20-year-old-self, would you tell yourself to do more of/less of or differently with regards to your professional career?
I think for me, what I would tell myself is to…when I was that age, I was chasing my goals and my goals at that time were centered mostly around financial success and kind of a level of achievement because I was a very young leader in the position that I was in. And so, what I would tell myself is to be open to new opportunities and to recognize the skillset that you’re building and what you could potentially do with that outside of the immediacy of the goals that you’re seeking. Sometimes I think we get too focused on that, and we don’t open ourselves up to other opportunities. And that’s what I would tell myself if I got to go back and do that. Great question.
So how are you going to have these experiences if you’re not opening yourself up to accepting them?
I would say it’s a real balance there—kind of to your point. You want to be focused on what you’re trying to achieve, and you don’t necessarily want to take a bunch of twists and turns. But the things I think about are trying other things. How do you really know? I think back and say, I really knew what I wanted to do, and here I am doing something kind of completely different than what I supposedly thought I knew I wanted to do. So, when I was chasing after that and achieving those things, yes. I learned a lot. Yes. It’s what shaped me and impacted me today and I’m ultra-thankful for all of those experiences. Even though at the time, I probably would’ve not said the same thing. It’s being open and saying that there are other things out there to look at and to try and to be open to and because at the end of the day, there’s a limited amount of time that we have here. And I think one of the things that’s kind of thrusting what you hear with this great resignation, I think one of the things that are thrusting that forward is the fact that people are recognizing we are here for a limited amount of time, and there are things that are important. And if you want to achieve something, if you want to try something, nobody’s stopping you. Just get out there and try it. A decision today is not permanent unless you make it.
Dave’s Offer to the Listeners:
We offer a free business systems audit. It will help you get a pulse on where you are at within your business when it comes to planning people, processes, and technology. It’s a very fast 15 questions. You can take it in five minutes or less and you will get a personalized action plan outlining at least three steps that you can take starting today: #1, understand where you’re at; and #2, kind of more importantly, what you can do to start getting yourself and your business into the system’s mindset and give you a couple of ideas on how you can get all that started. So, you can get that right from the website.
Any final word of advice to offer our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
I think from that standpoint, my advice is always the same. Just get started. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Treat people like people, and you’ll be amazed at what happens when you do those few simple things.
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