Productive Systems

Systems are a series of reproducible efforts. Some are efficient, and some are Rube Goldberg’s crazy inventions. The person who loses their keys consistently has a system just as much as the one who lines up pens on their desk.

What matters is having productive systems. It’s much better to take action – any action – than to spin in cycles of analysis or preparation.

The one who sells pet rocks is more successful than the thousands of people who have read all the salesmanship books, but couldn’t sell catnip to the cat lady.

“The way it’s always been done” is a system – one that is usually fatal to businesses. Take the time this winter to step back and look at your business with fresh eyes. Go away for the holidays, or even just a weekend. Come back and question why you do things ‘that way.’ If the reason doesn’t support your values, or is no longer practical, then devise a new system.

It’s the distinct combination of systems that make up your business; everything from how you make decisions to corporate culture is defined by the systems you use.

Most companies in the Rogue Valley don’t have a way to maintain all the running systems. Instead, HR is in an Excel file on one computer, and vendor contacts are kept in a file drawer, and sales are kept on another computer, bookkeeping is only on QuickBooks (and only one person knows how to run it), and there isn’t a disaster recovery plan at all. Imagine having all that information, in one place, and accessible from anywhere. It’s pretty awesome!

The tool that organizes all these business systems is an Enterprise Resource Planning solution. With it, you can align your customer database, key metrics, HR, vendors, inventory, and bookkeeping. An interactive dashboard gives you a daily snapshot and reports.

But like anything else, there are drawbacks to all this awesomeness. The first is cost, which can be prohibitive. The second is also not trivial: GIGO. There is no point to collecting any information that does not drive sales.

However, ERP solutions for small and medium businesses are becoming more accessible and more affordable all the time. Studies have shown that inventory reduction is anywhere from 15 – 30%. Management time on HR and accounting goes way down. But the biggest benefit is the feeling that you really have an eye on the whole business, and that all the various parts are truly integrated. This is especially noticeable in companies that have had a growth spurt, and “the way we’ve always done it” is getting in the way of even more revenue.

Your business is unique and in a distinct phase. If you’re growing, and the systems aren’t as cohesive as you’d like, look into an ERP. You may have to plan for the investment, and get some help implementing it, but it could push your efforts to a whole new realm.

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