MSQC Series: 3. Systematization
Everything has to follow a pattern
The IRS has been in existence over 100 years now. There is probably no greater example of a systematized organization. Everyone is familiar with the form 1040. It is the individual income tax return, and the form from 1913 looks a whole lot like the 1040 from 2015. Sure, new requirements had to be fit in, but nothing has overwhelmingly changed.
For example, in 1913 there was no such thing as a Social Security number. Did they revamp the entire form to put SSNs in? No. Just made a space to the right of the taxpayer’s name and made a spot for that all-important number. In 1913 there were no individual tax deductions, only businesses got to reduce their income. But when Congress created those deductions, a new form (Schedule A) allowed a detailed recitation of allowable deductions, the total of which was simply placed on a new line under the total income.
It seems obvious that a system, even a despised one like the Internal Revenue Code, makes doing things easier. It makes it possible for different people to accomplish the same goal. It is possible because those different people are following the same system, and the system was developed to accomplish the goal. Without a system, do-it-yourself tax preparation, whether with paper and pencil or a piece of tax software, could never be possible.
The same is true of Missouri Star Quilt Company (MSQC). Their system is simple: Get people interested by showing instructional videos. Make the craft of quilting easier by packaging pre-cut fabric in themed styles so the crafter can get right to the enjoyment of piecing together their art work. And even make available a quilting service that lets you mail your assembled fabric pieces to the company for final assembly of backing, batting and patterned pieces, followed by machine quilting to hold it all together.
The system lets anyone–and I mean anyone–become a quilter. Step by step training, readily available material that’s easy to select and use, and done-for-you finishing. That final part is often the step that brings an eager beginner to a halt, because, frankly, the final quilting is tedious and time consuming. So the system is the thing.
We’ve already talked about part of this idea in the previous article about Unified Business Practice. This isn’t exactly the same thing, but it’s close. The earlier idea is a system, it’s true. But that is a system to draw customers in and give them an experience that they like. It’s simply part of a total plan. More importantly, it makes it easy for the customer to buy.
Here we are talking about a step by step process that can allow anyone to follow the steps and receive the same results. Sure, some quilters have smaller more even stitches (something to be desired I understand), but that is a matter of skill and practice. Anyone following the instructions can piece together the fabric and either quilt it themselves or send it to MSQC for the final product. It means that the customer gets exactly what they wanted to buy.
So how can you make that work in your business? Well, remember our first article on niches? We talked there about the fact that the people you want to sell to are the people who already want what you have to sell. They are people who have already held their hands up and said “I want that.” Now they need to be told exactly how to get that.
If you sell a service or a product, they want to know how to get it or get it done the quickest and easiest for them. If you are selling something that they must participate it to make it happen–courses or specialized services like accounting–they want to be guided. In every case, the customer wants to be told exactly what to do next. That is true if there is just one step (“Buy Now!”) or a series of events (“Click here to fill out the online application”).
They want to see a system. You should be able to write down your system. Even if no one else ever sees it, you should know what your client will do next so you can tell them if they ask.
There is nothing I can think of worse for sales than a potential customer who doesn’t know what to expect next.
Once you have repeat customers, you can shorten the system, of course. If you shop on Amazon I’m sure you have noticed the “1-Click Ordering” button on checkout. That is a shortcut, but still part of the system that Amazon has created for their customers.
It’s equally important for you as your business grows. Michael Gerber’s series of books related to the E-Myth reveals that the secret of moving from being a solopreneur to having a business is the ability to systematize what happens in your business. So once you reach the point that you cannot do it all, you need to have a system in place to use to train new employees so that they can do the same thing with the same results. And if you ever have any plans to sell your business, any new owner will want to see the system you used to become successful enough to be put up for sale.
If you are going to emulate MSQC, then, you need to create a system for your business. Let’s say you have found your niche and pointed them all to your website with a sales landing page. That’s cool.
This is just the start. What happens next? What will happen to them if they click the “Buy Now” button. Don’t make them guess. Any customer will want to know things like: “When will I get it?” “How will it be delivered?” “Will I have a chance to cancel before my card is charged?” “What if I have some questions during the sales process or the delivery wait time?”
And what about your questions–or your employee’s questions when they do the work? It may be second nature to you that you follow up an online order with a phone call to the new client, but is it second nature to your assistant? It is just as important that your work system describes what internal operatives (your and/or your employees) do as it is that the system describes what the customers expect.
A system is different than your personal work habits. A system may be based on your personal habits, but if you are out of the picture your clients will not get the same result they are used to from working with you. And what they are used to is what they are paying for, and what they will pay for again.
So here’s the next step. Right now, before you answer another sales call or set another appointment, write down the steps you will take next. Start with your most basic and common procedure, whether it is how to make sales calls, or how to present your product or service, or how to deliver your product or service. But write one down.
Don’t worry, you’ll get to the others later. But you want to start. Also, don’t worry that you’ll forget something. As you implement your first system, the things you forgot will become apparent and you can insert them as you go. The important thing is to start.
Leave a comment later about how it went. How hard was it to do? What did it teach you about your business? Did it make the process easier or harder? Please, share your experience.