Are you feeling out of control? Stuff half done, don’t know where you’re up to? Work encroaching on family time, your time?
Whether you realise it or not the solution lies in getting organised and getting your systems up and working properly. This is something I had to learn the hard way.
So here is the story of how I got my first system. Settle in, grab a cuppa, it’s a bit of a long read.
When I started my accounting business things were pretty cruisey and I was on top of the admin. Then I hit my first tax season and it got busy.
I did what I could but struggled to keep up. I was working five and sometimes six days a week on important tax and accounting stuff but the admin was slipping.
One day a client rang up asking for a copy of some paperwork for a loan application. And it wasn’t filed where it was meant to be. When I finally found it (many hair-pulled-out minutes later) it was sitting in a big pile with many other bits of unfiled, unloved paper and I knew something had to be done.
This was a Friday afternoon, late. So I came in on Saturday and did the admin. Spent all day and Scanned and Saved and Filed and Sent and Put Away (and Shredded) and finally I was caught up.
I decided that from now on I’d make Saturdays Admin Day. No half doing bits and pieces here and there through the week. From now on, any admin paperwork would get collected in a tray in the lockable cupboard (secure! and if I needed something I knew where it was). Then on Saturday I’d Scan, Save, File, Send and/or Shred. That way the longest a piece of paper would sit in the office unloved was five days – if it came in Monday it would be dealt with by Saturday. I didn’t realise it at the time but that was the start of my first system.
I was back in control again. I knew where things were up to and I knew when they were going to get done. I started to breath a bit easier.
But it was only half a system. I still had more work to do.
One day I got to thinking I’d really like my Saturdays back. It was nearly a year later, my second tax season, and my son was playing soccer on Saturday mornings. Now I’m a soccer mum and proud of it. I love to embarrass the kids by cheering them on from the sidelines. (Hey, there’s got to be some perks to being a parent!) Anyway, going to work on a Saturday to do the admin meant I couldn’t go to soccer.
So I decided to hire an Admin person to come in a day a week to do all the stuff I was doing on a Saturday. And that’s when I learnt the second thing about systems. You have to write them down!
I was fortunate to get Maree, my Admin lady, on one of those salary subsidy schemes. It cost me less, but I had to train her. She was super keen and a fast learner, which was good. But she hadn’t really used a computer before, which was bad.
So I sat with her and we wrote it down as we went. This was a good learning experience for me, because things I took for granted, like finding the letter templates on the server drive, was something Maree found a little tricky to get her head around. For the record it wasn’t just Maree, every Admin lady since Maree moved interstate has struggled with the setup of the server and its files (which probably says something too…). But it meant that I had to write down exact, step by step instructions on how to do things. We did screen shots too and pasted them into our word document.
Maree asked ‘why’ a lot which meant I had to think about every step of the process and whether it was necessary. A lot of things weren’t, they were just ‘what I’ve always done’. Things done a particular way for a reason that made sense at the time. So we streamlined and improved the process as we went, which was good.
So now I had the second part of my system. It was written down.
And the best part? I could delegate! First to Maree, and when she moved away the next person was able to pick it up and run with it with very little input from me.
Being able to delegate gave me back my Saturdays with my family and I finally get to do all the ‘mum’ stuff I want to.
Of course, I still go into the office on a Saturday (it has better internet than at home) but I do it when it suits me, after soccer, and now I’m not doing admin. I’m doing that other, ON the business stuff, wearing my creative or leadership hats. The kids are older and often need internet for school work (“sure, this YouTube clip is for research mum…”) so I usually have company. But it’s my choice now, and it wasn’t before.
So that’s the story of my first system.
Systems help you get back in control. They’re a way to make sure things are done the same way every time, helping you deliver a consistent service. You know exactly where you’re up to and it’s easy to delegate things.
Having good systems in place will give you time to stop and smell the flowers. Or go to the soccer game. Or sleep in on a Saturday.
Systems have helped me so much with my business and they can help you too.
Listen to your numbers, read their story, and watch your business Bloom.
Listen to your numbers, read their story and watch your business Bloom!