Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Real OZ

By Rich Schefren

All along their journey, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion hear about the great and powerful Oz.

If only they can reach him... All their deepest wishes will be granted.

They brave the Wicked Witch of the West... and flying monkeys... and sleep-inducing poppies to see him. And when they finally reach the Emerald City, Oz is just as fearsome as they imagined, with a booming voice and a giant head shrouded in smoke.

I'm talking, of course, about the cinema classic The Wizard of Oz.

You've seen it. So you already know what happens next to poor Dorothy and crew.

While they're all quaking in their boots (or ruby slippers, as it were) Dorothy's little dog, Toto, tugs at a side curtain to reveal the REAL Oz - a stocky little fellow with a bushy moustache and a bit of a stutter.

I caught this scene again recently while my daughters were watching the movie on DVD. (My youngest loves it, though she's a little scared of The Wicked Witch. And it got me thinking...

All of the most successful people I know in the Internet marketing business have their own "man behind the curtain." That person takes care of everything behind the scenes, making sure the business is running smoothly on all cylinders and not missing a beat. And he's vital to its success.

I've got my own version right here at Strategic Profits. He's my COO and partner, Brian Johnson.

If you've ever been to one of my events and seen a pale, dark-headed guy running to and fro with a walkie-talkie and a look of complete exhaustion, that would be Brian. Brian's involved in every decision we make, and his tireless efforts and pit-bull tenacity have played a major role in the success of Strategic Profits.

While I'm doing my work as the "face" of the company, I trust Brian to take care of everything else. Basically, all the stuff involved in day-to-day operations falls on his plate first. And I must say, he does a phenomenal job. I honestly don't know where I'd be without him.

As I said, all the top people I know in this business have their own Man (or Gal) Friday.

People like Mike Filsaime, who's got Tom Beal... Jay Abraham, who has Spike Humer... and Jeff Walker, who has Jon Walker. But that's just to name a few. Many others work tirelessly behind the scenes to help generate multi-millions for their companies.

So what does this mean to you?

That's easy. You should already be thinking about adding someone like this to your own business.

I know, I know. You're saying, "I'm just a one-man show, Rich. How can I add somebody to the mix when I'm struggling to make ends meet as it is?"

A while back, I asked the Internet marketing household names who "appeared" on a conference call what their biggest constraint had been in growing their businesses, the overwhelming majority made this confession:

"I was trying to do it all myself. And burning out quickly."

It wasn't until they started hiring people - beginning with a "man behind the curtain" - that they experienced the tremendous growth and prosperity that put them over the top.

Now, most of them have a full staff to do all the annoying busywork that was holding them back. Which means they can concentrate on the most important matter at hand: making more money. And to say it's worked out very well for them would be an understatement.

But don't rush to hire the first person you come across. Here are a few suggestions for finding a winner...

* Make Sure You're Compatible With Each Other

This is very important. Remember - you'll be spending an extraordinary amount of time together, so you need to be able to communicate without cringing. And even if the person comes highly recommended with a long list of top-level experiences, none of that will matter one iota if you can't stand being in the same room with him.

* Get References - and Lots of Them

You don't know this person, but his friends and former employers do. So make sure you talk to them before pulling the trigger. Find out about his work habits and personal issues. Ask how he resolves conflict and why he left his former position. Because, believe it or not, people have been known to stretch the truth on a resume. So dig deep. You'll be surprised by what you find.

* Establish a Trial Period Before Hiring

In the marketing world, what do we do when we have a brand-new campaign? We TEST it. Hiring a right-hand person is no different. Make sure he knows he's working on a trial basis (90 days is usually enough) and that, at the end of that time, you'll decide whether to continue the relationship. And have everything in writing, so there's no confusion later.

Follow these guidelines when hiring your "man behind the curtain," and you'll be well on your way to seeing your company explode with monumental growth and record-breaking profits.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Three Hours a Week to Creating a Business That Runs Like Clockwork

By Rich Schefren

Have you ever said to yourself:

* I'm tired of having to do everything myself....
* I need to figure out a way to make more money...
* I wish I could find a way to work less and make more....
* My business is consuming my life - I have almost no free time...
* I can't seem to find the right type of people to help me grow my business...
* I wish I could spend less time putting out fires and more time growing my business...

I've heard all of these complaints time and again from overworked, over-stressed entrepreneurs.

The fact is, all of these issues are easy to fix. That's because they are the result of a business that's lacking systems. A business that's fully dependent on one person - YOU - for everything.

Installing systems inside your business... Standardized procedures for everything from customer service to marketing to product creation... Is the best way to eliminate all those problems.

Today, I want to give you everything you need to know about systemizing your business. I want to show you how to identify which areas to systemize... How to develop and write the systems... And how to implement them in the easiest way possible.

Once you have the right systems to run your business... And the right people to run your systems....

You'll be free to enjoy your life and do whatever you want to do.

A Few Hours for Just a Few Weeks

Now, I know... Organizing and systemizing your entire business may seem like a Herculean task.

But that's not the right way to look at it. It only requires you to make a small time commitment for just a few weeks.

Now, don't get me wrong. It'll take more than just a few weeks to have your business completely systemized. But, once you begin systemizing your business you'll actually free up lots of time. In other words, invest one to three hours a week to begin systemizing your business. Within a few weeks, you'll have already freed up more time than your initial time commitment to systemizing.

Let's take a look at the five simple steps you'll need to systemize your business. You're going to be amazed at the impact a few systems can have on your company.

Step #1 - Identify the Tasks to Systemize

Right off the bat, I suggest you keep a list. Call it your "Fix-It List." Write down everything that goes wrong inside your business that needs to be fixed. In an un-systemized business, problems occur all the time. So make sure to keep your list handy. It's important to write them down as they occur so you don't forget about them.

I strongly suggest you start your systemizing efforts here. For each problem you should use the Frustration Elimination Process I wrote about here.

Once you've eliminated the consistent problems in your business, you should create the following four lists to illuminate the next areas of your business to systemize:

1. Your most time-consuming tasks
2. Your most stressful tasks
3. Your most profitable tasks
4. Your most important tasks

Try to come up with at least 10 answers for each of those lists.

From these different lists you'll be able to choose the tasks and procedures you want to systemize first. I recommend you start with the most important parts of your business. To determine which one to start with, ask yourself this question:

Which problem or challenge, once eliminated, will reduce the most problems, free up the most time, and make the most money?

Step #2 - Determine Who Is Going to Create the System

If you work for yourself it should be pretty clear who is going to design the system... YOU!

But if you already have a team working for you... Then you've got an important decision to make.

When I began systemizing my first business, I felt compelled to do much of the documentation myself. It took me months to see that this was unnecessary. I caution you not to fall into the same trap.

What I'm sharing with you right now is a system for creating systems. Once you train your team to apply it, they'll easily handle 90% of the systemization work in your business.

Ideally if a task or activity falls inside the area of responsibility of a team member, that person should create the system. For example, let's say you want to systemize a marketing task. If you have an employee in charge of marketing, then you should make him or her responsible for developing the documentation for creating the system.

Step #3 - Record the Steps, Standards, and Guidelines

There are basically two steps to creating a system that standardizes and documents how work should be done in your business.

First, you decide on all the key elements of your new system.

Here are the five key decisions that must be made to design an effective system:

- Decision 1: Who Should Perform This Procedure?

If you don't define who is responsible for executing a procedure, by default you're responsible for it.

Ideally, you want to assign procedures to specific roles, not to specific individuals (i.e. the system should be executed by the receptionist, not Sally). Over time, you'll have all the responsibilities documented for each specific role in your company. If a person leaves and you need to hire a new employee, you don't have to change your entire policy and procedure manuals.

For any systemized procedure that requires several team members to complete, it's important to list their roles as well. This way every member of the team will be aware of what every other member of the team is doing.

That means they'll know who to expect a hand-off from... What they're expected to do... Who they need to hand it off to... And what that team member will be doing with it. The whole thing is designed to be a well-oiled machine.

- Decision 2: What Results Should This Procedure Produce?

Specific, measurable results make your entire business predictable. The only way you'll ever get predictable results is if you make your expectations clear, and design systems to achieve them.

Plus, as your business grows, your managers or leaders will have clear standards to evaluate an employee's performance.

And by clearly identifying the result the system is designed to achieve, you'll easily be able to identify whether the system is still relevant, useful, and effective when revisiting it in the future.

- Decision 3: When Should the Work Be Done?

The timing and frequency of when a procedure should be executed is often missing from entrepreneurial companies.

Is this procedure something that should be done daily? Three times a week? Every Monday? The first day of the month?

If you don't specify, the odds are exceedingly high the procedure will either be done haphazardly... Or not be done at all. Neither makes your business predictable or moves you closer to the successful business you want.

So, make sure every system developed in your business clearly identifies when and how often the procedure should be done.

- Decision 4: Why Is the Work Important?

Explaining why the work needs to be done helps ensure that team members achieve their goals.

Your team members need to know why something is important. Employees often see only their work process. They don't know how their work fits into the big picture. This makes it difficult to optimize your team's performance.

Another important reason to make sure you document why the work is important (especially online) is that things are always changing. What might have been a good reason for executing a system can change. By clearly documenting the reason the procedure needs to be done, you'll make it easier to determine (later on) if the procedure should be stopped, modified, or changed.

- Decision 5: How Should the Procedure Be Completed?

This step is what most entrepreneurs think of when they think about systemizing. It's where the rubber meets the road... Where the procedure is documented in a "step-by-step" manner. No matter who is doing the work, they can do it exactly the same way each time. And, more importantly, generate the same results each time, too.

If you're already doing the task or activity, the easiest way to record the process is to do the task or activity and record the steps on a piece of paper as you do them.

If the entire process is done on the computer, another way to document your system is to use screen capture video recording software (like Camtasia or Screenflow) while doing the process. Then after you're done, watch the video and record the steps.

If you're not currently doing the task or activity in your business... But you've decided it's something that should be done... I recommend you do some research to determine an exact procedure for completing that task.

When I am creating systems like these, I generally create a rough outline of the steps recommended... Then attempt to execute the process. Often I'll identify missing steps that I'll need to add to my outline when going through the steps on my own.

Documenting Your New System

After you've identified all of the system's key elements, you need to document your decisions. This can include checklists, details, pictures, diagrams, and videos.

Here's where all the steps we just covered come together into a formalized system. It absolutely must be done. Because the steps won't be followed, and the expected results won't materialize via
mind reading, a one-time conversation, or when it is discussed in a meeting.

An effective process must be set in concrete. That means creating it in hard copy. Then publishing it. And then ensuring it is implemented.

A mistake that many businesses make is that they don't have a formalized, consistent way of documenting their procedures. The problem with that is three-fold: First, important information is often missing. Second, it's not as easy to simply pick up a system and follow it. Third, it sends the wrong signal to current and future employees because it's sloppy and disorganized.

By making procedures identical in presentation, their individual instructions will come through loud and clear without becoming confused by various style or tone variations. This is where you come in. It's up to you to keep things on track.

That's why after each system is created and drafted, either you or one of your employees needs to standardize the systemized procedure into a formal document for distribution... And put it into your procedure manuals.

Use digital pictures with call-outs, checklists, arrows, and diagrams clearly defining exactly how each procedure is to be accomplished or what the end result should look like.

Step #4 - Test It Out and Tweak

The first draft of a system is almost always less than perfect. Once a new system is documented it needs to be tested.

I recommend that you test each new system in two ways.

First, have whoever developed the system follow the outlined steps to see if anything needs to be fixed. If anything needs tweaking, he or she can make the necessary corrections.

Next, give the documented system to someone else in your company. This person should have less knowledge than the system's creator. The goal here is to determine whether or not someone unfamiliar with the procedure can easily follow the system. This is normally where glitches will surface. Any issues should be sent back to the creator for revision.

The cycle repeats itself until someone other than the system creator can easily execute the system.

Step #5 - Install and Implement With Training

Now that the system has been tested out, there's one final step before it gets rolled out. That is your approval.

As the owner, you want to sign off on the new procedures incorporated into your business. You want to make sure each system is consistent with your overall vision and values, and in line with your strategic objectives.

Once a system has been approved, it's time to give it to anyone who will be responsible for executing it... And train them in executing it exactly as it's laid out.

The key is to train everyone to use the system. Insist that everyone do it per the company standard - no exceptions, including you. If anyone protests or has a better idea, let them put the item back on the "Fix-It List" for further revision.

Step #6 - Monitor and Improve

You or a manager should revisit your systems every six months. This way, you can ensure that they are being used properly and are working well. Continue looking for problems to fix... Things that go wrong... And systems that need improving.

One area that you (or your system manger) must revisit is this: Are employees following the systems exactly as they are documented? Your employees will not always want to follow the systems. Over time they may revert to doing things their own way instead of the company standard... If you let them. So don't let them. Simply have someone manage the systems and ensure they are being followed.

As you install more and more systems and train your employees to use them, your job will change. You'll transform from doer to coach... From micromanager to leader... And ultimately from entrepreneur to Founder. You will go from controller of the work... To manager of the systems... To a Founder who owns a business that is systemized.

A Final Warning

A word of caution: Be reasonable.

You don't want to create an unwieldy bureaucracy by writing up procedures for problems that are random or infrequent... Or problems that have little chance of resurfacing. You also don't want to create systems for insignificant activities either.

The danger of systemization is in creating too many insignificant systems... And ultimately being inundated with batches of rarely used procedures. This creates unnecessary complexity due to the sheer volume of information.

A good guideline is to only create systems you're willing to continually enforce. Only create systems you want executed exactly the same way every time. If it's not that important, then you shouldn't waste the time creating a system for it.

A System to Create Systems

What you want to create are the precise instructions for creating systems in your business. That way, you don't have to be the only one creating them. Consider it the "Mother of All Procedures": The outline for the several hundred systems that are necessary for your operation. This document ensures that each system will share the same tone and format.

I suggest you modify and personalize the steps I've just laid out for you. Make them your own. Detail exactly the steps that every system will go through from inception to it being installed and performed inside your company.

Monday, December 6, 2010

One Step Ahead: Curing business 'headaches' for good

7 Simple Steps to Permanently Eliminating the Problems
That Are Holding Your Business Back
By Rich Schefren

The chief cause of entrepreneurial failure is often what I call "death by a thousand cuts:" The relentless blitz of problem after problem caused by recurring inefficiencies and dysfunctional or missing systems.

All of this leads to constant fire-fighting and continual distractions. You end up dealing with the same headaches over and over again.

These time-wasters undermine your efforts to create and sell a good product that has a viable market. They also keep you chained to your business without any chance of ever achieving a true level of success - what I refer to as "Founder Status."

The key to getting rid of your recurring headaches is to find permanent solutions to your problems, rather than just address each problem temporarily.

Today, I'll tell you exactly how to eradicate these recurring headaches for good.

If you understand what I'm about to tell you... If you change the way you approach the problems in your business... I absolutely, positively guarantee you that your business life will change dramatically. You'll solve problems once and for all, your business will gain the momentum it needs to get increasingly better results, and soon you'll have more free time than you can ever remember.

One of the big secrets to true business success is this: Solve recurring problems once - and solve them for good.

I've talked before about how important it is to systemize your business. In fact, you can completely and permanently eliminate headaches by using systems.

So, when something happens in your business that you do not like - customers aren't happy, shipments are late, or bills aren't paid on time - here's what you do. Rather than just taking care of the obvious headache in front of you, do some detective work and figure out the real source of the headache.

In other words, don't just address the headache temporarily. Instead, find the source of the problem and get rid of it forever with a system.

Listen, a problem is not a disappointment just to be corrected and then written off. It's a wake-up call.

Yes, you correct the immediate negative effects. But then you must take a second step. This second step is key: You trace the problem to its root-cause... Then fix the root problem with a system to ensure the problem never happens again.

Addressing the problem and then taking this second step to permanently and systematically fix the cause of the problem... That's what distinguishes the entrepreneurs who become Founders from the entrepreneurs who are stuck in their business or the entrepreneurs who fail.

I want to share a personal business experience that clearly illustrates where you want to focus your efforts in order to achieve the best results.

Hiring an Idiot or a Breakdown in a System?

About six years ago, I decided it was time to grow my online business. Realizing there was no way I could do everything by myself, I hired two employees.

One of my new employees was David. He was a nice guy who knew computers much better than I did.

But things never worked out with David. He made mistakes constantly. He never delivered the expected improvements I was counting on. In the end, I had to let him go. To put it bluntly, I was convinced that David was an idiot.

For a normal, non-systems-perspective entrepreneur, David's idiocy would have been enough of an explanation. The thinking would go something like this: David is an idiot... I can't afford to have idiots working for me... So I need to fire David, and find someone smarter to work with me.

But a system-oriented entrepreneur (one destined for Founder-level success) would look at the whole problem differently. Instead of simply writing David off as an idiot, he would look at the overall business system and answer a few questions. Such as:

1. What was it about our hiring system that allowed us to hire an idiot?

2. What management systems could we create to alert us of David's idiocy earlier, so we wouldn't have suffered the consequences we did?

3. What trainings process should we have in place to train this idiot so either he would develop the skill set we required or we'd have known he was going to be a problem much earlier in the process?

You see, by looking at David's presence in the business as a breakdown of a system or systems, the systems-thinking entrepreneur can identify the root cause of how an idiot came to work for him in the first place.

The normal, non-system-thinking entrepreneur would fire David and immediately try to find a better employee. Sure, this would solve the immediate problem: Ridding the company of a bad employee. But it doesn't get to the root cause; there's no improvement to the business or the overall process of hiring. This opens the business up to a similar problem in the future.

You need to shift your perspective so you can see the systems surrounding you... And realize that every unwanted effect in your business is the result of a missing or faulty system.

By taking this "breakdown in a system" approach, you can make the necessary adjustments to prevent a problem from ever happening again. So the business doesn't make the same mistake again, and you can avoid a future catastrophe.

From this point forward, whenever a problem arises, instead of looking for a person to blame, look for a system to blame.

In other words, don't think about it as, "So and so let me down"... Instead, ask yourself, "What caused the system to deliver this result? Where and why did the system breakdown?"

Believe it or not, just this shift in thinking can set off a positive chain of improvements in your business.

Eliminate Headaches Permanently With the Frustration Elimination Process

If you've been struggling with any reoccurring issue, challenge, or problem in your business... And it feels like no matter what you do... It keeps resurfacing, showing its ugly head... That's all going to change from this point forward.

Now that you know the right way to redefine your problems (as missing or faulty systems), I'm going to show you an entirely new approach to solving problems in your business. And you'll be a pro at eliminating any problems from any business so they never reoccur.

In short, you're about to become more effective at solving business problems permanently.

To solve problems effectively, you must be able to:

1. Identify the real cause - the root cause - of the problem.

2. Create a new system to solve it.

Without a systems approach, most people's gut reaction is to focus on people, behaviors, and events associated with the problem instead. But once again, these are almost never the real cause of the breakdown, they're simply symptoms. Which means anything you do to improve the symptom (instead of the system) will be a band-aid approach at best.

Pay very close attention: The very next time somebody doesn't deliver, or somebody disappoints you, you need to stop thinking that it's that person's fault.

Just to be clear... This doesn't mean that the person isn't responsible for the error or failure; what it means is that if you had the right system in place, the problem wouldn't have happened. In other words, the person who disappointed you wouldn't have had the chance to disappoint you.

If you get this, if you use it to change the way you work, your business life will improve by leaps and bounds.

The Frustration Elimination Process is extremely simple. To show it to you in action, let's revisit the story I told you earlier about David, the idiot I hired when I first got serious about growing my online business.

1. Identify a problem in your business.

The problem is I have this idiot David working for me who's screwing up my business and costing me lots of money.

2. Reframe it as a systems problem - from who to what.

Our staffing system is not working properly; it's hiring idiots instead of winners.

3. Probe, get specific, and quantify to get at the root of the problem.

Let's see....

* Did I clearly define the job and the responsibilities before searching for a candidate?

* Did I interview properly to assess David's skill-set and to make sure it was a good fit?

* Did we conduct a trial run of some sort to make sure he was really what we were looking for, and we were really what he was looking for?

* Was training provided? And if so, how did it go?

* When did the first performance issue surface, and was it handled appropriately?

* And so on...

4. Get clear about the problem.

The real problem is we don't have an optimized hiring system. Therefore we're making costly mistakes.

5. Get clear about the outcome you wanted.

I wanted to hire a great candidate for the job, someone who could easily meet the job's current responsibilities, and become a valuable team member to help get our business off the ground. Plus, the new employee would go through a series of trainings to help get him/her up to speed in the shortest period of time possible. (I would actually go much further here, but you should be able to grasp the concept.)

6. Finish the sentence: "The solution is to install a system that will [outcome desired]."

The solution is to install two systems:

System #1 will locate, recruit, hire, and bring on board the ideal candidate for the responsibilities of the job... Someone who stands to become a valuable team member in our company.

System #2 will begin training the new employee before his/her first day, and then continue on for the first few weeks of employment to get the employee up to speed and productivity as soon as possible. This system will also serve as a confirmation process that the new employee is intelligent enough to stay in the position.

7. Define the specific system solution and assign the task of creating it.

Here in step seven is where the real systemization work is done.
Once you know the outcomes you want the new system (or systems) to provide, you can go about creating the system yourself... Or assign it to someone else inside your business.

As you can see, the Frustration Elimination Process is simple. But it is also extremely effective.

And ALWAYS REMEMBER: The more problems you handle this way, the fewer headaches you'll have in your business.

More importantly, the more systems you put in place, the easier it will be for your business to continually improve, and the less it needs you. Which means more time away from the business, more freedom, and ultimately more life to live.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Find Your Unique Why

By Francis Kong

A newsboy was standing on the corner with a stack of papers, yelling, "Read all about it. Fifty people swindled! Fifty people swindled!"

Curious, a man walked over, bought a paper, and checked the front page. What he saw was yesterday's paper.

The man said, "Hey, this is an old paper, where's the story about the big swindle?"

The newsboy ignored him and went on calling out, "Read all about it. Fifty-one people swindled!"

Looks like the boy in our story’s got potential. Potential to be a crook that’s what.

There is no short cut to success and you cannot cheat your way to being successful long term.

Some people are looking for the “One Big Thing.” Make a lot of money then retire. These people are not achievers. They’re simply lazy.

Denis Waitley says: For the high achiever, it's natural to seek out challenging goals because he or she has an inner, intrinsic drive to succeed. And success doesn't mean pet rocks, get-rich-quick schemes, lotto jackpots or chain letters. High achievers are looking not to receive, but to contribute, to give. They're looking for problems that are personally satisfying to solve. Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey and Warren Buffett, three of the wealthiest individuals in the world, eagerly go to work every day to face the challenge of solving a new and bigger problem. All could be playing Backgammon on a tropical island or two rounds of golf per day.

Since the accomplishment of a difficult task means more to the high achiever than any external motivation, it means that motivation will remain strong throughout his or her career. Think of how much stronger and more permanent such a motivation is compared to one that is extrinsic.

Suppose you choose a particular career because of the money. What happens when there's more money in doing something else? You're likely to abandon one path as soon as another possibility opens up, and eventually you'll find yourself wondering what you're really doing… maybe even who you really are.

Since there is no inner drive to stay on any particular path, the journey will be arduous, and motivation will tend to weaken whenever the external reward seems remote or out of sight. This is especially true with individuals who want a home business with high rewards and minimal risk.

Some people spend their entire lives wandering from one field to another, always looking for an easier way to find that pot of gold, never achieving a significant goal worthy of their inner potential.

I've met many people who fit this description. If they're in sales, they move from company to company, from industry to industry, for one product or service to another. They are very hard to keep on your hand held electronic address book or in your directory of contacts because they are always either coming or going or starting another new business of their own.

When that doesn't work, they get involved in sketchy enterprises, especially start-up-companies offering big, easy rewards, such as a wonder diet company where you can lose all the weight you want by eating anything you want and swallowing one amazing pill a day. They go from one Roman candle to another, from one "exciting opportunity" to another disappointment.

The problem is, money alone does not stimulate intrinsic motivation and therefore is a means, not an end. Money is like fuel for your car. It is not the destination. It is not the journey. It is only part of the transportation system. Make your "why" grab you by your very soul. You'll never be disappointed for very long. And you'll stay committed regardless of "stock market gyrations" or setbacks.

This week, find your unique "why" and pursue it with passion! Discovering your unique why should be the purpose of your life. Letting your unique why serve others is what brings meaning to your life.

Billy Graham says “There is nothing wrong with men possessing riches. The wrong comes when riches possess men.” Guess what the Bible has to say: “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.”

So don’t fall into the trap.