Meet Elle Roberts, an online business manager and the founder of Rare Seed Agency. She works with small and medium business owners to create business systems and regain control of a business running amok.
Elle most loves working with business owners on a mission to help the world, who are stressed and overwhelmed by a business that feels like a runaway train.
By reining in systems and creating structures, Elle empowers her clients to once again focus on fulfilling the mission they are on in the world, and get back to doing more of the work they actually love doing, without burning out in the process.
Elle knows that effective systems are the key to freedom and creativity because of what they ENABLE you to do in your business. And, as part of this Spotlight Series interview, Elle shares insight into how you can better utilise systems to create more freedom in your business.
Let’s dive in….
Firstly, what is your definition of “Systems?”
Systems and processes are the structure of your business. All businesses have them – you just might not be conscious or intentional about how they work and how you document them.
When a potential client contacts you asking how you work and how much you charge, you have a set of actions you take to respond to that and pricing details you send to them. That’s your “system” for dealing with enquiries.
Often, “systems” can sound tricky and overwhelming to people. But the hardest thing about understanding them is honestly how SIMPLE they are. They feel so simple, it’s hard to see the value in creating documented systems and processes.
How can systems create freedom and creativity in business?
The thing I love most about setting up strong systems in a business is how much it increases productivity and eases the mental load or decision fatigue of running a business.
Consider for a moment how many decisions you make on an average work day…
If you have a pre-planned, pre-written response to that enquiry you don’t have to THINK hard to respond. You don’t have to type out the same information you’ve typed out five times already this week.
Most of all, you don’t have to worry that today (because the kids are sick or you’re rushing to the next meeting), you might have left out some critical information.
You can feel confident because you planned it ahead of time. You’ve checked it, you’ve had it proof-read, and you know it answers most of the likely questions someone will have.
Even if it saves you just five minutes of typing and ten minutes thinking and checking, imagine how much free time that gives you over a month or a year to use on more exciting, creative, and fun aspects of your business?!
What are your Top 5 essentials for creating business systems that work effectively?
1. Simplicity – you want to document what you ACTUALLY do. Don’t make the system complicated because it feels like you’ve aced the system. Creating process and workflows that are as simple as you can make them feels counterintuitive but that’s when they are the most helpful.
2. Checklist – your systems and procedures should be like a checklist so that anyone new coming into the business could follow them and complete the task. The steps that are obvious to you can often be missed and that leaves gaps because someone new won’t see the same parts of the system as being obvious.
3. Review – have someone else review them. Have someone talk you through your processes and explain to you the system as if it was their own. If they can’t, that means there is information missing and you need to fill in the gaps that saw them stumbling.
4. Revise – business shifts and changes regularly so it is important that you keep your systems up to date to reflect where your business is now and how you operate. Don’t spend so much time on systems that you forget to run your business but do make it an ongoing and regular part of your operations – it is not a do once and forget about it sort of thing.
5. Purpose – don’t create systems to say you have created a whole lot of systems. Understand the benefits to your business of being more systemised and having things documented. Celebrate the successes along the way! As you build each system into a strong foundation for your business, stop and see how that’s helping you function better as a whole.
What key things often “break” business systems?
There are two things I see all the time that has people coming unstuck when it comes to systems and procedures!
- Over complicating them in the first place;
- Setting them up and never touching them again.
Remember – keep them simple and easy to follow. And keep them updated so they are usable and useful in the day-to-day running of your business.
What are the tell-tale signs that business systems are broken and need work?
If you are:
- feeling overwhelmed
- dropping balls
- missing opportunities
- feeling spent or frustrated in your business.
I can guarantee you need to take time out to look at your systems and how they are working or not working.
As I said at the beginning – we all have systems in place. It’s just whether or not you’ve been intentional about what they are or if they’ve just happened on their own!
A less obvious key is if you’ve hit a profit ceiling and you can’t see a way to make more money in the business. Often that means you need to go back to the foundations and look at things flow, how you operate, etc.
In your experience, how effective are automated systems?
I love automation when automation is appropriate. The more you can do without it taking time from you, the better.
But never rely on automation alone.
You need to have checkpoints in your system so you can be confident the automation is working as it should and ways to know quickly if it’s not.
Also, automation will never replace the human touch.
So if you automate the messenger chats you send out to new subscribers, for example, make sure you or someone on your team is monitoring that for any questions, enquiries, etc that your automation is not set up to handle.
In your experience, what systems are excellent business builders / growth amplifiers?
The really basic ones. I’m currently working with a business that turns over $1million each year. The things that are keeping this business from doubling that revenue are still the very basic systems and procedures for handling client payments and distributing social media content.
Get your foundations as strong as you can, focus on delivering incredible work to your clients/customers, and growth will almost look after itself.
Why are systems essential for launching and marketing?
Launching especially, but any kind of marketing, can be an emotional roller-coaster! Having systems in place means you can just keep moving through the actions, which helps you to avoid getting stuck when the emotions become overwhelming.
You can make changes to the systems if you need to, but if you have a structure there, you will generally be more considered about deviating from your plan just because day 1 of the launch felt like a flop.
The more systemised (and automated or pre-scheduled) your marketing can be, the less mental space it occupies for you on a day-to-day basis. So, especially if this is a challenging part of running a business for you, setting up strong systems around it can be game-changing!
What business systems do you often implement or upgrade when you first start working with a client?
I try to start with whatever is consuming the most amount of time that doesn’t need to be.
This is often communications systems, which include:
- managing inboxes
- building up canned email responses
- tracking communications such as phone calls, etc against client information
- dealing with enquiries
- engagement via social media
And so on.
What ROI can a systems review or upgrade give a business?
There are definite benefits including regaining time, energy, making more profits, etc. But I honestly believe the biggest ROI is the peace of mind it brings to business owners.
Getting systems in order means they aren’t trying to hold all the things in their heads anymore, and they are no longer constantly worried that if they forget something a client will get missed or the social media won’t be consistent.
Systems and procedures give CONFIDENCE that things are under control.
What are your top recommendations to anyone wanting to DIY systems creation?
- Start small and treat it like exercise.
Don’t try to conquer it all in one day (or even a week). Instead, schedule 30 minutes per week for a regular ‘systems date’ with your business. Build the habit of documenting your workflows and reviewing your systems.
- Talk it out with someone.
Having a business bestie or partner who is happy to work through it with you will help you see the gaps much faster than trying to do it in isolation. You won’t even see the bits you missed because you’re too up close to it all.We generally work long term with clients. But we also offer a review consultation service where we spend 90 minutes discussing your business, what’s working or not working, and give you recommendations on where to start. So reach out if that’s what you need to kick things off.
- Start now.
Do not wait until you’re less busy, got the kids sorted, or make that little bit more income. Not paying attention to your systems is costing your time and money, so start now! Remember I said to start small – it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Take 10 minutes today to just write down the systems you want to review first.
What are your top 3 recommendations to anyone wanting to outsource systems creation?
- Still start small.
Have a conversation with someone who could help you. Better yet, talk to a few people and see who is going to be the best fit for you, your business, and the support you need most. Do not overhaul everything too quickly even if you have the money to invest big.Systems need to be smart and sustainable to be useful. Sometimes you can get caught up in the fancy and flashy but once the system expert goes away no one in the business knows or cares to use it any longer.
- Know the purpose.
What are the benefits you want to get out of building and reviewing the systems in your business? Do not set about building systems for the sake of it. Be sure whoever you work with understands the outcomes you hope the systems will give you in the short term and in the long term.
- Be open to learning and trust yourself.
When we work with clients, sometimes we move them to a new task management tool (always Asana, if I can 😉 ). They need to be open-minded and trust us in order to do that. But sometimes we don’t (even if they are using Trello) because while we know systems, they know their business and what works for their work style, their clients, and their personality.You have to find the balance between being open-minded and letting someone tell you what you need. But also be firm on the things you know are right for you.
How do you help business owners streamline their systems to optimise and grow their business?
I work with businesses in a range of ways starting from a straight-forward 90-minute review and recommendations consultation through to 12-month retainers.
For those clients that need it, I work with a team of amazingly talented women who help me implement the recommendations, and the outcomes we see depend very much on what the client needs most. Sometimes, we focus on documentation so they can outsource to VAs with more confidence. With others, we are building onboarding and sales systems so they can increase profits. While with yet others, we project manage their launches.
If you are feeling overwhelmed and unsupported in your business book a free chat to find out how I can help you streamline your systems to grow your business and give you back your freedom!
Optimise Your Systems with Elle Roberts
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For more business and marketing hacks, tips and expert advice, explore more Spotlight Series Interviews.