Using Systems to Improve your Business

Published on 06 June 2019

Elize Hattin and Kylie Ufer standing in front of co-working stations at SmartHub

Systems in business are the key to success, saving you stress, time, energy and money. The sooner a business implements useful systems, the quicker growth will come for that business. In a recent Hub Live, SmartHub Business Manager Elize Hattin sat down with Kylie Ufer from ProfitAbility Virtual Assistance to discuss the systems she uses to make her business a success.

Kylie has owned, operated and managed businesses for the last two decades. Her most recent venture was founding ProfitAbility Virtual Assistance almost four years ago in order to help Small Business Owners to thrive in all areas of their business by using Virtual Assistants to perform business tasks.

Systems are key to how Kylie runs her own business and how her Team performs tasks for their Client’s Businesses. She categorises business systems into three distinct areas: 

  • Hard Systems; which are the physical, non-living things that surround your business, like computers and furniture.
  • Soft Systems; which are the living things that work in your business, such as employees and ideas.
  • Information Systems; which are things like software that keeps track of data and presents us with information about our business.

According to Kylie, using business systems is completely necessary. “If you don’t have a solid foundation to build your business on, you’re not going to be able to scale your business long term. What these three business systems do is work together to provide us with a really solid foundation to build our empire upon and they also allow us to be more productive and efficient, and when we’re productive and efficient we’re going to earn more money in our business as well,” She said.

As an example of how to make systems work, Kylie discussed how McDonald’s created an empire. “The brothers who founded McDonalds started off with just a takeaway shop initially, and what they did was they refined their business to be more efficient by having one employee do one task, whether it was cooking the bun, or turning the patty over, putting on the pickles, putting on the sauce. They made their business systems so efficient that McDonald’s has built itself up to become the global brand we all know and love today.” The systems at work within the McDonald’s empire are simple enough to be completely run by junior employees as well as optimised to maintain consistent standards across all of the McDonald’s franchises world-wide.

Hard Systems

Understanding what different systems are and their purpose is the key to using them to build a foundation for your business that will last far into the future. “Hard systems are the equipment you use inside your business, like computers, a whiteboard, the building you’re in or the furnishings you have. Hard systems can also include things such as branding, your logo and your uniforms,” Kylie explained.

Documenting your hard systems is a simple yet important task. Hard systems are typically a physical asset, and all you need to start off with is pen and paper in order to keep track of what you have.

Strengthening your hard systems is as simple as looking at the equipment in your business and checking if it’s providing your business with value – if it isn’t, Kylie says to get rid of it. “I find a lot of businesses will have old laptops or computers or telephones just sitting in a cupboard somewhere. They still work, but they’ve been replaced with better equipment over time. What they could do is sell those old items off and use the profits from the sale to invest into buying another system that will  give greater value to the business. An example of this could be purchasing a new camera to create a Facebook Live show like the weekly Hub Live. Business owners would no doubt get more value out of that, than perhaps something just sitting in a cupboard.”

Soft systems

Soft systems are the living things inside a business; Employees, ideas and company culture all count as soft systems. It is important for a business owner to decide what the company culture will be like and then to instil that into the team from the start.

Inducting employees is something Kylie finds is often overlooked in small businesses. “I’ve had a lot of business owners say to me, “We’ve only got myself and my husband, we’re just bringing on our first employee, it seems a bit silly to induct one person when we’re only a business of three,” but it’s so important to do that and to teach your new employee what your company culture is, how to complete their tasks and what makes your business unique,” Kylie said. For more information on the best way to induct an employee, check out Fair Work Australia as they have a variety of resources available.

Another part of soft systems is the tone or personality of the business. “We have a particular tone for our business, we always like to be positive and optimistic and always helping small business owners,” Kylie explained, “So all of our email templates are structured with that business tone in mind, and our whole team has access to these email templates to make sure we’re talking to customers consistently each and every time.”

Without this kind of structure and induction, the business’s reputation can suffer. “Imagine if you rang up a business and their general tone was, “Welcome to the SmartHub, you’re talking to Adelae,” and then perhaps Adelae was sick for a day and someone filled her shoes. Without a business system to follow, what would happen if they answered the phone, “Yo, yo, yo, Smarthub!?,”. You’d be devastated that your business was being represented that way, however without a robust business system in place, you’ve got no control over what they do.”

Information Systems

Information systems includes software, things like accounting software or Customer Relationship Managers (CRMs), job descriptions and any system that assists in implementing your strategies and tracking your progress. One of Kylie’s favourite information systems is Asana. Asana is an application that is designed to help teams keep track of, organise and manage their work faster. Kylie uses Asana in her business as a way to store procedures, policies, templates and tasks that need to be completed. “All our team members are able to go straight into Asana, they’re able to follow their workflow and actually tick it off items step by step as they’re achieving particular tasks.”

Part of information systems includes the training of employees. A great way to streamline the training process, according to Kylie, is to document all processes as you do them yourself to create a step by step guide to give to others. “I used to create websites for our clients myself, and I still do create some websites for our clients these days, but now we’ve got another team member who creates most of them for us. When he first came on board, he didn’t know exactly how we created websites, so I was able to just give him the procedures that I had created earlier and he could just follow along, step-by-step, button-by-button, how to create websites for our clients. He does a magnificent job of doing it today and our training time was significantly reduced too.”

Procedures for employees can be created in many ways – while Kylie uses to-do lists, photos to display what standards are expected or a video can also be very effective tools to ensure tasks are completed to the same standard without your intervention. The aim of effective procedures is to leave you, the business owner, with time to work on your business. “At the end of the day, the founder of the business and the entrepreneur are the ones with the brilliant ideas about how to take that business to the next level,” Kylie explained. “Unfortunately, if they’re stuck doing the task, they simply don’t have the time to take that business to the next level.”

Working with the SmartHub

As a supporter of small business, Kylie is a fan of all that the SmartHub has to offer. “The creation of the SmartHub has come at the perfect time. There are so many people in our community that want to start a business and don’t know what the next step to take is. For those out there, your next step is to connect with the SmartHub, who can put you in touch with mentors and members you need to meet to get your business started or to take it to the next level. The support that the SmartHub gives is absolutely second to none,” Kylie said.

If you’re ready to move forward with your business or if you have questions about how the SmartHub can help you, you can reach out to the SmartHub via their Facebook page or by emailing smarthub@rrc.qld.gov.au to learn more about the range of services and membership options on offer.