Momentum Podcast: 130
Build Deep Processes
by Alex Charfen
A business is nothing more than a series of processes that are repeated overtime to generate a consistent results. It seems pretty simple, why is running a business so difficult?
There is a reason why over 90% of businesses in the United States are sole proprietorship's. Very few business owners ever build processes that are clear enough for them to get help.
By building processes, on paper first, outside of any system, you are building the foundational value of your company. Not only that but you're actually making it easier for you to run.
When you have the checklist or process document someone his been using for a function in your organization and that person leaves, you can quickly replace them. This will build a new sense of security and safety for you in your organization.
You will need it, because when you build a deeper processes, your company will grow much faster and it is much more likely that you will be promoting people rather than having them leave.
Full Audio Transcript
I'm Alex Charfen and this is the Momentum podcast made for empire builders, game changers, trailblazers, shot takers, record breakers, world makers and creators of all kinds. Those among us who can't turn it off and don't know why anyone would want to. We challenge complacency, destroy apathy and we are obsessed with creating momentum, so we can roll over bureaucracy and make our greatest contribution.
Sure, we pay attention to their rules, but only so that we can bend them, break them, then rewrite them around our own will. We don't accept our destiny, we define it. We don't understand defeat, because you only lose if you stop and we don't know how. While the rest of the world strives for average and clings desperately to the status quo, we're the minority, the few who are willing to hallucinate there could be a better future.
Instead of just daydreaming of what could be, we endure the vulnerability and exposure it takes to make it real. We are the evolutionary hunters, clearly the most important people in the world. Entrepreneurs are the only source of consistent, positive, human evolution and we always will be.
Build deep processes. Once your business starts working out and once things start going well, you sell something, you make something happen, it looks like it's going to take off, actually people are coming to you to buy, you need to build deep processes around what it is you're doing that's creating value, so that it can be repeated over and over again. When I say deep processes, I mean a process that's clear enough that if someone left your company, someone else could step in and repeat that process on a day-to-day basis.
In 2007, Cadey and I launched an events company. It was the first time we'd ever done events. It was the Certified Distressed Property Expert, it was an information products company, but we started it by doing events. We were doing the Certified Distressed Property Expert designation. In 2007, we did 12 events. I was the speaker, Cadey was in the back of the room. We had gone from having three 10 million dollar companies to losing everything. This was the business that we were launching in bankruptcy.
We were doing it together, and we were doing everything. We had to almost immediately start building simple checklists just to ... When we went to an event, we had to get through the event ourselves so we understood exactly what was going on. We would realize that we did one thing in one event, we forgot it in the next one. We started building checklists, paper checklists, around everything that we did.
When we'd go to an event, we'd pull out the checklist and we'd use it. When we'd have to change something, we would mark it on the checklist and then we'd go back to the system, whatever it was. We usually just kept them in Word, and we would change it in Word. We, over time, built these processes that got cleaner and clearer and easier for us to follow. We did it as we were going, as we went.
When you're a two person team unit, you don't need to put that stuff in Trello or Asana or anything like that. You can just do it right in a Word document, pull it up and it works like crazy. Then what happened was, in 2008, we did about 12 events. In 2009, we did, I think, 60. In 2010, we did over 200. In 2011, we did over 300 live events around the country with a single speaker, with no backup, and my wife ran all of those events from Austin, Texas with a team that got, at its largest, at its absolute biggest, was five people including her.
The way that they did that was they built deep, I mean very deep, processes. They started with paper and they used the checklist. They wrote out what they had to do. When Cadey first hired her first events person, it was just the two of them and they were running events for me. Then, we hired one other speaker and they had checklists like crazy for that. The checklists that originally were there for when it was just me and Cadey, they had doubled or tripled by the time that it was Cadey and one other person.
Then, when then was more speakers and me and Tony, well we had to get checklists for the speakers themselves. Now, we needed them to know exactly what to do. Cadey figured out this ingenious way that we could run events all around the country. My wife's one of the most intense entrepreneurial operators in the world. She really is. We went from zero revenue to being number 21 on the Inc 500 list and running 300 live events around the country while we were selling information products, while we were running a broadcast studio. She was operating all of it.
The way that she did it was by building deep processes. Let me just share with you how that business grew. Then, we ended up having to hire two or three more speakers. Then, we were shipping boxes out to each place. If you were a speaker, you showed up. There was a box there, everything you needed was in it. You knew who was in the room, you had gotten emails that told you exactly where you needed to be and when. Usually there was a car service for you or we had booked a car that you drove, but you had directions. Everything was taken care of. We literally sent the speakers the driving directions, so that there was never an issue.
The way that they did that was they continued to build deep processes. In fact, there was a checklist just to pack the box to send the speakers. I remember that checklist alone was three pages, and it included instructions like, "Use three pieces of tape to seal each side," because we had had a box blow up. It had affected an event with 50 people in it. We figured out how you had to even pack the box.
The way that you get processes that deep is you do them on physical checklists. You actually carry them around. You get out of the system, whatever the system is you're in, because the system is holding you back. Here's the challenge with Trello and Asana and Basecamp and you just name whatever it is you want to name. If you're doing anything that requires you to do anything other than sit behind a computer, you are selling yourself short on your processes.
If you're at an event and you're following a checklist on your app in Trello and you think to yourself, I need to make sure that we don't do that again, unless you go to Trello right then and make a modification in the program, when are you ever going to make the change? When are you ever going to modify that? The challenge with not having ... At least, print out your Trello board and carry it around with you and make the changes in writing. Make sure that you're using them as paper checklists.
Before you commit anything to a system, use a paper checklist first. If you have a team like we do that's around the world, and you're not all in the same place, like we have people working almost 24 hours a day in their own timezones during business hours, when you have that, you do have to create some type of a system. You do have to get into some type of project management.
First, have your team write out their processes in a document, use them over and over again and make sure that they're right. Then, take those processes and put the ones that have been used over and over again, edited, written on, updated 10 or 15 times in a Word document or in some type of ... We just use Google Docs. Then, once they're at the point where they're working flawlessly and they've been used three or four times and you don't have to write any changes, then you put it in the system.
Now, that might seem like a lot of work. What is really a lot of work is instead of having the three page checklist that says, "Everything to do to pack the speaker box including use three pieces of tape," when you start your checklist in the system, it just says, "Pack the box." Unless you remember that you have to continue to add exactly what happened in each incident. When the box blew up, you found out about it and you went and changed your written checklist.
You use it in context as you go, so that it makes sense and it continues to work. If you have checklists or processes built in Trello right now, go through and experiment for me. Print them out and instead of following the process in Trello, instead of following it electronically, the next time you go through it, print it out and follow it with a pen in your hand and see how much modification you make to it. This is where you're going to pick up efficiency. This is where you're going to stop mistakes. This is where you're going to stop customer complaints. This is where you stop the noise for you.
Here's the issue. If you have one person who only used one piece of tape and you had a box blow up and you don't modify a process and you tell the person, "Hey. You need to use three pieces of tape," but they don't change the process, when you lose that person, you lose that knowledge. You lose that correction you made. That is going to prevent you from growing your business more than anything else.
The thing standing between you and growing your business is time. It's time. We get taken away from what we do to make our business grow, because we have a box blow up. If you want to grow your business, if you want to take it to the next level, if you want to understand what it's like to get to 10 million, 20 million, 30 million, I've taken a lot of entrepreneurs there. It's been really difficult with those who are resistant or unwilling to either build process or, more importantly, guide their team to do it. If you're the person who has always built the processes in your business and you built them in a system, do the experiment for me. Print them out and start using them. See how many changes and modifications you make. Get obsessed with building deep process in your business around what's really working and build the process for what you need today, use it in context. Then, as your business modifies and grows, you update those processes.
It's interesting. We have this folder on our drive from the events business that Cadey ran. It's called Event Processes and Checklists. In 2008, when we did our 12th event, I think there was two documents in there. They were each probably about two or three pages long. I think there was one about preparing for the event, like all the stuff that Cadey and I had to do before we went to the event. Then, there was one with all the things we had to do when we were at the event.
If I opened that folder today, there's probably 40 or 50 process documents in there. Everything that you have to do to run an event is in that folder. Everything that Cadey would have to do to run events is in that folder. We know that today, if we had to start running live in-person events, we have one that starts next week on Thursday, and that live in-person event is being run with checklists and processes that have been tested over 1,000 times. Over the course of the CDPE designation, we did over 1,000 live classes.
When you consider that you now have an events business in a file on Google Drive, because you build deep process, or now we have an events business on a file on Google Drive, how much money, how much savings, how much time is that going to save us when we do it again? I can guarantee you, we wouldn't have done anywhere near the number of events we did if Cadey hadn't started with deep processes, and continued to drive her entire team to live and work and build the company that way.
Building a business isn't just about building your marketing. That's what so many people today get confused. They think that building a business is all about how much more can you attract into the system you have. I've got news for you. If you don't start changing the processes you have, that's the wrong question. You will eventually attract enough to the system that you have that it breaks. It feels like you're broken. It feels like you're doing it all yourself. You might even grow a little bit of a team and have three or four people and start really feeling like you're doing things right.
Then, there comes the day where you look up and you think, what is going on? Why am I more stressed now when I have more help than I ever have? Why am I more anxious now when I actually have a team? Isn't this supposed to make it easier? Isn't this supposed to make it more fun? I feel like I'm completely drowned in here. Maybe it'll just be easier if I go back and do it all myself. Tell me you haven't had that thought if you're an entrepreneur who has built a team.
I want to give you a clear understanding of the genesis of that thought. There is not enough process in your business for you to be able to replace the people around you, and you will be anxious until there is. Here's the key, every person in a business can build process. Every person that you've ever hired and every person that you've ever worked with has, at some point in time or another, created a checklist.
When you remove the resistance of understanding or managing or having a knack for project management software, which, by the way, confuses the majority of adults, intelligent adults. Project management software is confusing. It's ambiguous. It's weird, don't understand it.
When you remove that resistance, every person in your business can build written process, go through it, perfect it and then, it can go in the system so that the next person can do it over and over again. I still think one out of 10 times, or more frequent, you print it out and you make the changes you need to make. A business isn't your marketing. A business is your ability to repeatedly deliver value over time with increasing amounts of leverage, so that you can do more and more and scale the effect you have and continue to grow without doing it all yourself.
I can tell you that if Cadey hadn't done that for our business with those teams, if she hadn't done that in multiple departments and obsessively held our team accountable to building process, so that if someone left or when someone left, we could replace them, there's no way we would have grown the business we had. With what she was able to build, she had individual events managers that were managing multiple live events occurring around the country, sometimes with hundreds of people, with several independent speakers all traveling from where they live to where the events were.
There were times where we lost someone. I don't mean they died, but they left the company for some reason. Cadey would have a new hire, cold off the streets, managing multiple events, sitting in that same person's desk and with the same level of efficiency and efficacy within a week. She just spent seven days onboarding them around the checklists, so that they would understand what all the words meant. By the time they did, they could go right back to the beginning and repeat the process.
You want to cure entrepreneurial anxiety and start loving your team and understanding how much you guys can really get done and really feel secure as an entrepreneur? Build deep process. If you haven't yet subscribed to this podcast, back up right now when I'm done and hit the subscribe button. I would really appreciate it.
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