If You Build It, They Will Come...Maybe
By Jayme Broudy, Contractor's Business School
Dear Jayme: I've built some systems for my company but nobody uses them. How do I get my people on board? - Bart
Dear Bart: Years ago, on a visit, we decided that my 85-year-old mother-in-law needed a VCR. Yes, I said years ago! We took it to her apartment, hooked it up, and left very proud of ourselves. Over the next months we sent her some tapes we were sure she'd like. Six months later we returned to find the tapes neatly stacked, unopened, on top of the VCR and its remote stashed in a drawer.
You know where this is going: we had assumed that once she had the VCR and the manual, she'd learn how to use it but she never did. The system was in place and fully operational but was never used. That's because we didn't finish the job.
The creation of the system is just the first of several steps to having it operate effectively in your business. Here's the rest of the story:
• Formally introduce the system to the employees, making clear how and why using the system will be in their own best interests (Makes the job easier, faster, more accurate, etc.). You needn't be shy about explaining the benefits to you, too.
• Training: Create a training program, make it mandatory, and let them practice. This makes the switchover easier, the resistance lower, the problems fewer.
• Documentation: Write up all your systems and procedures in a standard, step-by-step format. Keep a copy in your files and one at the system operator's location (a 3x5 card would've been enough to operate the VCR).
• Make the system, not you, the operational backbone: When employees come to you with questions, refer them to the systems and procedures. After a while they'll stop asking you and rely on the process.
• Make it the "Law of the Land": It's your company, you set the rules. Everybody does it by the book. Write it into the job descriptions and performance standards. If your current employees won't get with the program, find some that will.
• Monitor and get feedback: Track the results from your systems to see how you're doing. Use them as performance indicators and impartial feedback systems. Use them to identify where things can be improved.
• Lead by example: Make sure you always use the systems and never circumvent them. “Do as I say, not as I do” isn't acceptable.
• Revise as you go: Systems are not “set and forget”. As your business changes so must your systems or they gradually get irrelevant and ineffective (Nana's VCR wouldn't be much good these days for renting movies at Netflix).
It takes time and effort to create a good system and it seems like that effort ought to be enough. But it's not. Carry it through with these steps and your effort will be repaid in better productivity and higher reliability. It'll also allow you to delegate more tasks and create more worry-free time for you.
Contractor’s Business School® is a coaching, training and consulting firm specializing in helping contractors produce more profit in less time. Calling on experience dating back to 1993, the company has worked with hundreds of contractors in many specialty areas to build successful stand-alone businesses. Visit www.contractorsbusinessschool.com, or call (800) 527-7545 to get the FREE CD "10 Key Strategies to Build a Business that Works."
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