Traders rely on charts, historical data and patterns to predict when to buy into the market and what prices to pay for their stock.
Well, guess what?
PestBusters (a pest management company), also uses charts, historical data and patterns to predict pest infestations so they know when to implement preventive measures and what proactive steps to take.
This is just one example of the many systems that PestBusters uses to help the staff do their work more effectively and efficiently.
As Thomas (Pestbusters founder) says, “When you have systems in place, no one can say that they don’t know what to do at any given time. They will also know the quality standards and the targets that they have to meet.”
There are many different kinds of systems that you can use to run your company, like marketing systems, operations systems and training systems. At its core, a system is basically an established standard operating procedures (SOP) that shows a person the sequence of actions they need to take in order to achieve certain goals.
Systems, whether small or large, work harmoniously together to achieve a certain goal. When you have systems in place in your business, it will be easier for you to grow the business and ensure its continuity and progress even when you are not around to oversee the operations.
Let’s use what Angelo Augustus of Pertama Holdings (Harvey Norman) shared about the company’s profit sharing system as an example:
“We have a profit sharing system for our store managers and senior buyers. The incentive for the managers is that the more money they make for the store, the more money they will make for themselves. So there is no limit or ceiling to their income.
And we are very transparent with our staff about our costs and our profits. Our managers know exactly what’s happening in the store and in their department. They know how much rent we are paying, the costs of our electricity bills and advertising, the operational costs of the warehouse; everything.
Because these guys know all the figures of our operations that means they should also know how much money they must make on a daily basis to turn a profit. The profit sharing system also cultivates a sense of ownership among the staff. They will tend to treat everything in the company as their own.
For example, they will not be careless and uncaring about the stock or waste paper or the printer toner because they know that all these little things count towards the company’s bottom-line, which in turn, affects how much they will make at the end of the month.”
Based on Anglo’s description, we can extract a few key learning points on the benefits of using systems in your business:
- Increase productivity
Systems provide people with guidelines and measurable goals. Having clear directions and set goals will give your staff a sense of purpose and achievement, which will motivate them to perform better.
- Require less supervision
Systems are like invisible department heads: they lay down the objectives and make the staff accountable for producing the results. At the same time, it is a detached and rational process of evaluating work performance because personal egos are not involved.
- Facilitate delegation
Systems enhance the delegation process as the managers can easily assign simple tasks that don’t require their personal involvement or expertise to other people.
- Develop independent decision-making among the staff
Systems can be set up with flexible parameters so that staff can be creative in their efforts, as long as they achieve the results and goals that have been set within each procedure.
- Inculcate a sense of ownership and teamwork
Systems require the participation of all members of the team, without which, the final goal will be difficult to achieve. So each member has the responsibility to do their part so they won’t let the team down.
- Ease of duplication and transfer of “successful” results
Systems that have been proven to be successful can be easily duplicated in new teams, new office branches, new companies and even in new departments, with some modifications, to produce the same kind of results that others have shown possible to achieve. This is because with systems, the collective knowledge, methods and attitudes of the successful team are transferred to another entity.
Another good example of how systems have helped great companies become better and grow faster is the fast food chain industry.
These companies have made systems into a science and broken it down into such simple, effective procedures that they don’t need to rely on highly skilled people to run their restaurant operations.
Take a look at the people serving you and the managers who are running the place: many of them are in their late teens or just barely into their 20s but yet the operations runs like clockwork.
That’s because systems enable companies to turn their business into money-making machines and package it like a “business opportunity in a box” product.
The System Of Systems
Our aim in talking about systems is to show you how easy it can be to come up with a system and how important it is to implement systems in your business.
Think about a system as a series of different work processes that you can implement in your company so that it can run on autopilot on a daily basis, even when key personnel are not on site to oversee the processes.
Let’s look at two examples of how effective systems—whether carried out by a “lone ranger” business owner or an SME—can help a company fine-tune its operations and allocate resources more efficiently.
In this first example, I’ll share about how I created an almost automated marketing system to help a client generate leads and close the sales from those leads. This particular client approached me for help to promote a course that he had conducted a few times over the years.
He wanted to increase the scale of the course and was looking for better sign-up rates.
After asking the client some questions and looking around in his niche market, I came up with a strategic differentiation for the course, wrote a small display newspaper advertisement and a follow-up special report, crafted a short message to be recorded on the answering machine when interested parties called the number listed on the advertisement, and designed a simple system around these elements.
First, his client placed the advertisement in the newspapers. In the advertisement, it’s stated that a valuable special report will be given away to those who were interested to find out more about the programme.
When people call the number in the ad, they would be answered by an answering machine with a short recorded message that affirmed them for taking action and reiterated the value of the special report message and asked them to leave their contact details and fax number so that my client could fax them a special report.
Those who called would receive the special report within the same day. The special report was done in such as way that it also sold the programme for my client.
With this system, there was no need for any cold sales calls or to handle any client enquiry because all the commonly asked questions were answered in the special report.
The only part that required personal involvement from the client was the faxing of the special report to people who requested for it, which was actually done by his wife.
Cheques started coming in the mail to this client with very little involvement with the prospects. He only got more involved when prospects became clients.
This system generated the client a 55 per cent increase in sign ups as compared the previous year that the client ran the course, despite an 84 per cent increase in the course fees!
Let’s dissect the system further so that you can see how you can adapt and replicate something like that in your business.
- Determine the results you want to achieve.
When you are designing a system, first think about the specific result that you want to achieve at the end of it all. In the case of my client, let’s call the person “A”, it was to increase the number of the sign ups for his course. Similarly, if you put out an advertisement, think about the results you want to get from it and that will help you to come up with the different steps and procedures to include in the system.
- Maximise the resources used in each procedure.
As A was running the business by himself with only one assistant at that time, I had to think of a way to eliminate unnecessary actions that would take up his client’s time like doing follow-up calls, answering questions about the course, et cetera.
That’s why I included the offer for the free special report for people who were considering about signing up. By having them call in for the special report, we were achieving a few goals.
1) “A” would be getting the details of a list of qualified prospects that he could market to later.
2) The special report was an extended version of a sales brochure, which would help convince the prospects to sign up for the course.
3) By calling in and leaving their details to get the special report, the prospects would have already overcome the inertia of inaction, so getting them to take the next step in signing up for the course would be much easier.
When you set up a system, you have to think about it as not just one action but a series of actions that fit into a larger, holistic system that produces a predictable result.
For example, placing an advertisement is just one single action within the larger marketing system. You have to create supportive actions around that single act to get the most out of that action, like including a call to action in the advertisement, offering a special gift to get the customer’s contact details for your database, and so on and so forth.
Just remember that each action has the potential to generate a reaction that can enhance your system to achieve better results.
In this second example, we will look at how Thomas, founder of Pestbusters (a pest management company) incorporates historical data and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to keep the competitive edge in PestBusters’ operations.
Over the years, PestBusters has conscientiously collected volumes of data on the company’s pest management methods, results achieved, clients’ input and feedback on their services, reports on pest activities by the technicians and so on.
All the data and information was kept as historical references, which became a valuable resource for the staff in their research for finding new and innovative ways of pest management.
Then about two years ago, PestBusters devised a data analysis system that translated the data and information into KPIs that were then used to generate specific action steps to improve their service and operations standards.
As the entire system is very comprehensive and complex, we extracted one important segment to show you how you can use customer feedback more effectively in your business operations.
PestBusters issues a booklet to all of their major clients so that their clients’ staff can log their feedback and complaints in it. At the end of every month, the information recorded in the booklet is compiled and faxed to PestBusters’ office.
A staff member from the Operations Department then analyses the information and compiles it into distinct categories like monthly customer feedback by team, overall customer feedback for the present month compared with the same month in the previous year, specific feedback on a particular pest activity according to individual client, and so on.
The categories are presented in the form of KPI bar charts so that it would be easy to see, at a glance, which team was getting the most complaints, which team was improving the most, which pests were most active in which months, et cetera.
The Operations Manager and executives then present the charts in a mass meeting to all the operations staff, from the Quality Assessors (QA) to the Team Managers to the technicians.
From there, the different teams will then sit down with their team supervisor to decide on a specific course of action to improve or better their performance based on the KPIs that were presented to them at the meeting.
The teams will then do up an action plan, which contains details like the proposed solution and the proposed review date to check on the effectiveness of the solution.
The action plan is submitted to the Operations Department for approval—as some procedures may require client notification and consent before it can be carried out—and implemented as soon as possible. And every fortnight, PestBusters’ Quality Assessors (QA) will conduct a random check, which may consist of an entire day of inspection, of the client’s premises.
It is a random check because the QA will inspect different locations within the client’s premises during each fortnightly visit and file a report containing their assessment of the team’s operations and job performance.
Based on the QA’s assessment, the Operations Department will be able to verify that action was taken on the client’s feedback and this information will also be taken into account when the KPI charts are done for the following month.
In addition, the QA’s assessments include grading on the staff’s performance in other areas as well, such as their personal grooming. As mentioned previously, Thomas is extremely particular about the image presented by his staff and so the QAs will inspect whether the staff was clean shaven, wore black socks and polished shoes, and whether they submitted and filed their reports to the clients, et cetera during their visits.
This ensures that his staff maintains a high level of excellence and image that properly reflect the PestBusters brand.
At the same time, the staff will be rewarded with a monthly monetary incentive if they perform well in all these different areas of their work and their personal grooming.
That means they have the opportunity to earn more than their fixed salary at the end of every month if they adhere to the standards required.
Based on this second example of systems, we can extract a few key factors are important for creating effective systems in your company.
- Ensure action is taken
The sole purpose of setting up systems in your company is to ensure that goals are achieved and that quality standards are met. In PestBusters’ case, the technicians and their supervisors are required to come up with and file their action plan immediately after the meeting.
- Institute a checks and balances step
The client feedback booklet and the report by the QA perform as the checks and balances procedures of the system. You should implement a form of such checks and balances to ensure that quality standards are met. It can be as simple as incorporating a checklist at the end of every procedure so that there is a certain standard of accountability.
- Reward successful implementation of action
As the constant quality checks that come with instituting an effective system in a business operation can sometimes be taxing for the staff, you can turn it around by providing incentives when your staff performs well. That will motivate them to perform at their peak and support the successful implementation of the system in their work processes.
Thomas reiterates, “All the systems we implemented in PestBusters have helped us track how work is being done in the company and pushes us to maintain excellent standards in our work.
Take the People Developer Award that we received from SPRING Singapore, a government agency that promotes enterprise development, for example.
Winning that is a testament that when you have good systems in your company, you will be able to attract the attention and recognition of external parties.
We were awarded with that because we have proven through our training systems that we are serious about training our staff because we can track their training hours, their learning progress, their level of competence after the training sessions, their implementation of their new knowledge, et cetera.”