Part of the process of building a startup is figuring out your systems and processes. Stuff does not just happen by magic. One of the big problems that many entrepreneurs have is that they have a dream. When they have a dream they think that some parts of the dream automatically happen. The unfortunate truth is that things only happen when the entrepreneur’s attention is focused on them.
I was talking with a Malaysian startup on Friday. They have been hugely successful and have set up 3 bricks and mortar locations in their first 18 months. This year they want to set up another 4. What they have found though is that the staff in many cases don’t do what they are meant to do. Why is this? The staff are qualified and well paid. The problem is that there was an assumption on the part of the entrepreneur that hiring qualified staff meant that they would know what to do. They are given broad rules – but this is not enough to get them to do the amazing job that the entrepreneur wants.
Requirements for Startup Systems
When we worked through the problem on Friday one of the key issues was that there were no systems and processes in place. A system is simply recipe. If you take these ingredients:
- Detailed Instructions
- Qualified staff
- Good attitude
- Management review
And then you cook them in the right way you get the outcome that you are looking for. As every corporate oven is a little different you do need to experiment, iterate and refine to get the food tasting great. In this case we don’t have checklists, training, detailed instructions, good attitude, measurement or management review. As a result the outcome for the customer an the business was not what was intended or desired.
This is stuff that is ‘easy’ for big corporations because they have had decades or centuries to refine and optimise the way that things should be done. It is baked into their corporate culture. It is part of their institutional memory. Startups however have to learn this as they go along.
Key Steps for Setting up A Startup System or Process
- The most important first step is that they are aware that they do have a process.
- Usually a great second step is to map out what the process is, how it should work and how you determine whether it is actually working.
That last one is a classic failure. One startup I worked for had some wonderful standard operating procedures. The trouble was that the entrepreneur thought that these were like the Bible and that everyone would follow them. Like the Bible they sat on the side and were only referred to when things went wrong.
This leads me to a final point. Alway build and test the processes yourself to start with. Then work out how to ensure that you can train someone how to do it and set up a way of ensuring that you can QUICKLY and EASILY ensure that they are doing it right. It’s only when you can do this that you should hire someone to do the job for you.
If you are that stage hire a VA to test out how effective the system is. Only when it is smooth should you then hire permanent staff to deliver it.
Full disclosure: Wishup.com wrote an article about me and asked if I could mention them in a blog post. I didn’t get paid and don’t benefit from any affiliate commission. I haven’t used their service so I don’t endorse it