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What's in a System?

Constant systems improvement is crucial to a company's success as it grows and scales. However, what does that process look like and how can you avoid the pitfalls along the way?

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Every company has some sort of system in place to manage their workload. Sometimes these systems are inefficient and time-consuming. Others are streamlined and automated. 

One way or another, the efficiency of each and every system deeply impacts the success & profitability of the company. Thus, constant improvement of those systems is crucial to every business as it grows and scales.

Let’s take a quick look at the systems journey small businesses go through: specifically the types of systems they utilize along the way. 

What’s in a system?

1. One-off tasks: This is the system everyone starts with. With this project-oriented system, each task is a stand-alone task that is checked off your to-do list for now, unless or until it comes up again later. Your to-do list becomes a mix of miscellaneous tasks that are not necessarily related to one another and don’t have a clear pattern. 

This system often works for a while for a one-person or a small team. However, it has a lot of inefficiencies that will reveal themselves over time, especially as the team or the company starts growing. 

  • The wheel must be reinvented every single time because there is no documentation of how each task was done previously.
  • There is always the threat of forgetting something, missing deadlines, or mis-prioritizing tasks.
  • Each team member has their own mental checklist and there isn’t one centralized place for all the company’s tasks.
  • Each person will develop their own way of doing things and inefficient habits can form.

2. Checklists: This is the logical next step once the one-off task system stops working and it becomes obvious that documentation is needed. The tasks are organized into categories and checklists (either paper checklists or spreadsheets) to ensure that tasks won’t be forgotten and will be completed in the correct order.

However, just like the previous system, this system has its flaws.

  • There is an assumption of skill and experience. Checklists do not provide any details on how or when to do the tasks. 
  • There is still the possibility of missing deadlines and making mistakes.
  • There is no easy way to track the progress of a paper checklist and ensure it is completed on time.
  • A paper checklist cannot include all the tasks needed for all possible scenarios without becoming cumbersome and unhelpful.

(At this point in the systems journey, a company might go down a side track: writing a huge policy document to attempt to supplement the checklists. This is a band-aid approach and will not fix the problem - these documents are rarely read, get outdated quickly, and are too much trouble to update to make them effective. Also, note that they can’t be automated.😉)

3. Processes: This system is when the magic starts to happen, taking the traditional checklist to a whole new level. Carefully thought out and constructed processes incorporate instructions, email/text templates, task due dates and reminders, and all possible scenarios directly into the checklist (not in a separate policy document which is rarely read and even more rarely followed).

With this system:

  • Anyone can step in and perform any task or process at any time, with no previous training or experience. 
  • Managers can see at a glance everything that is going on and what is off track. 
  • All the most common scenarios are documented.
  • Less time is spent in writing and rewriting the same emails over and over.
  • The process is easily updated in real time. 
  • Tasks are assigned to the correct team member(s) every time.
  • The correct tasks appear or are hidden automatically as appropriate

LeadSimple’s Systems Management tool is designed to support this type of system for property management companies specifically.

  • Pull your data from your property management software automatically (less data entry!)
  • Conditional logic to document all possible scenarios into the process
  • One centralized place for all the team’s tasks
  • Dashboards so managers can see everything that is in progress
  • Track task completion automatically (who did it and when)
  • Track all communication with owners, tenants, and vendors in each process
  • Automatic task assignment & reminders

With all of those issues addressed, more attention can be given to the big picture and to proactively improving the customer experience within each process. 

At this point it's time to automate the processes even further! This is where you can go wild with Zapier integrations, document generation, sending emails automatically, and so much more.

The Automation Trap

Did you notice that the above progression focuses on improving the flow and execution of processes before incorporating automation?

When creating their systems in this order, companies can avoid the “automation trap” mindset. This approach focuses narrowly on ways automation can save time on tasks that the company is currently doing, without asking the question first: “Should we be doing it this way in the first place?”

Ask yourself: if your current system is broken or flawed, will automating make it any better? 

Automating a system highlights every inconsistency, inefficiency, and problem with the system. This is why it is better to focus on improving the system all the way to its core rather than trying to take a shortcut straight to automation.

Automation doesn’t make a good system. Automation requires a good system. 

If the process doesn’t work well manually, it won’t work automatically. It’s the quality of the system itself that will make automation work, so crafting a great process is well worth your time over automating a broken one.

What’s next?

Take a look at the three approaches to systems I outlined above. Where is your company at?  Where would you like it to be?

Then, set aside time for constant process improvement. Think outside the box and never stop asking: is there a better way to do this process? How is our approach here slowing us down or going to cause problems if we doubled our door count? Can we rethink this?

Only then will it be time to automate your company. Then, with LeadSimple’s automation capabilities, your newly minted processes will speed up your day to day work tremendously.

Worried that you might not have the time or experience needed to get your processes in order? That’s what our consulting team is here for! We will walk alongside you on this systems journey, helping you craft your processes, and building them into LeadSimple so you can start feeling the benefits of streamlined processes. Schedule a discovery call today!


Aimee Berkompas

Aimee is the Content and Customer Education Manager at LeadSimple. She creates training, educational, and other content to help clients achieve success in sales, operations, and the health of their business. When she isn't working, she enjoys the outdoors, crafting, family time, and learning new skills.

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