Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Ideas to Grow - Systems and Scripts

One of our favorite sources for information on owning and operating a small business is Michael Gerber.

In 1986, he wrote a book called "The E-Myth Revisited". It provides some great advice to owners and managers in the world of business, particularly small and micro business owners.

If you are the type of business owner who likes to read for self-development put this one your list, for sure.

If you are struggling with the juggling act that small business owners must be good at.... there is a lot of wisdom to be found there.

One of the pieces of advice that Gerber offers is to.... "operate every business as if it were a franchise". 

When pressed for details, he explains that franchises are built on "systems" and are particularly good at building them.
  • First, because they want.... uniformity across a brand.
  • Secondly, because that is what they sell.... to franchisees.
He goes on to explain that systems are the best way to run anything, because they -
  • Define the right way to do things
  • Ensure things are done they same way, every time
  • Allow a variety of people to contribute to the job, and get a good result
  • Guarantee success is defined before the work starts
  • Permit things to be delegated and taught, uniformly.
What systems don't have to be is -
  • The same for every business
  • The same for every owner
  • Rigid and restrictive
A system can be as complex or as simple as fits your style for doing things. 

But they do have to be thought out and written down. 

Some systems get developed to prevent a problem, while many others get developed as the solution to a problem.

Here are two systems that are of value to every business and can be adapted to fit a wide variety of needs.
  • Checklists - Are the system for "task management". They let you concentrate on results, instead of thinking about "process". They are tremendous aids to delegation. They clearly define what the job done right looks like. They serve as a map, in situations where you are likely to get interrupted before completing the job. Or in situations when many people are likely to contribute to the completion of a project. 
  • Scripting - Is the system for "people management".  My definition of scripts does not include memorizing and using the same words every time. They are dialogues that will help you think thru situations. Allowing you to consider your responses, BEFORE the action heats up. They are particularly useful if there are likely to be a number of "what if" possibilities.
Give a little thought to the things that are hardest for you in your business.... or maybe the things that you enjoy the least. 

If you can improve or solve them with procedures.... then it is a good candidate for a system that is built on a checklist. Start at the top of a blank piece of paper and right down all the steps, necessary for success, in the order that they have to be completed. 

If your challenge involves people....  and what you would say to them. Then you will build your system based on scripting. Divide a blank piece of paper down the middle. Label one side "them" (customer, employee etc.) and the other side "me". Have both sides of the conversation in your head, making notes as you go. Don't be surprised if there are a number of "what if's" and even a number of pieces of paper. People are always more complicated than procedures. And don't be surprised if at the end of your "scripting session" what you end up with is a policy statement or statements. 

There is a funny thing about "dialogues". Exactly what you say, isn't anywhere near as important as being clear on your boundaries for "yes, no and maybe".

We spend a great deal of our life in customer service. People do get unhappy and complain about any situation that upsets them.
  • When I don't know what my boundaries are, all of those dialogues go poorly. 
  • When I know my boundaries, for yes, no or maybe, I can address situations by simply apologizing for the discomfort and then asking what I could do to make it right. 
Almost always the customer asks for something that I am more than willing to give. If not, I can counter with something that is of value to them and reasonable to me. Either way - problem solved.

The end result of all of my "scripting sessions" is always that simple and straightforward.

But I could tell you some pretty entertaining stories about the anguish I resolved and the surprises I got before that clarity was found. 

Better we should go through that discovery inside our own heads (as part of a scripting exercise) than in the real world with real people.

Experience is such a great teacher. It won't be very long before a customer can't conjure up a situation that you haven't been through, seen handled by someone else or imagined yourself. 

If you took the time to "script" your response(s) before it occurred again.... you will be in great shape handle even the toughest ones, the next time they come up.

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