May 15, 2015
By Jacki Hart CLM
Prosperity Partners Program Manager

Jacki HartThis month marks the start of the 2015 system test for your business. Regardless of the sector in which you’ve chosen to hang your hat, we are all very, very busy. There are rarely enough hours in the days of the week to complete everything demanded of us, and to the best of our ability.

May is the month where systems are tested, and resources are stretched thin. The obvious pool of resources we need at this time of year include cash flow, production capacity, catchy product displays, timely inventory, administrative support,  technology to aid the flow of information (in every direction), our market share, our client base, our creativity and the talent of our people.

The less obvious resource we really need is the one that most of us work hard at improving in our off season: systems. More than any other time of year, it is now that our systems are put through the rigours of every test.

Consider for a moment this comment from Ron Carroll, author of Profit Acceleration System.

“Each customer contact is a moment of truth, a time when the relationship can be won or lost. Customers do business with companies that consistently meet their expectations — that deliver explicitly on their promise. Effective systems ensure that nothing is left to change and that customers get what they wanted and expect every time.”

Systems are typically designed to help manage all of the moving parts, people, plants and promises. The end goal is to provide consistent customer experiences, consistent delivery on promises, and consistent profit for the company.

Many of you have worked on improving your systems by categorizing them by using Prosperity Partners Pillars. LO provides us with hundreds of learning opportunities every winter (chapter meeting presentations, Congress conferences, symposia, winter workshops, etc.), all of which are organized using our pillar system. From government compliance and training, to budgeting and financial planning, marketing, managing people, improving technical knowledge and leadership skills, we all have access to great information.

What we often don’t do, as a result of taking seminars and courses, is make sustainable change to our systems. Making change stick is difficult. And this month, when the rubber hits the road, testing your new policies, processes, people and profit projections, the success and sustainability of change is hard to measure. That is unless you’re prepared to create a metric to assess where you’ve achieved improvement, and what still needs work.

How can you measure the success of your improved systems? It’s easier than you may think. I’ve said many times to participants in our Prosperity Partners seminars, “If you’re aiming at nothing, you’ll hit it with huge accuracy.” So, simply write on a flipchart page or handy sheet of paper, how you anticipate things will look and sound like when things are going smoothly. Refer to this list often.

What if you’re not seeing those positive signs? Here’s some suggestions:
Create an accessible place where you can quickly jot down and dump your observations over the next month or two (use a notepad or Word file on your smart phone or tablet, a journal, a large empty glass vase or jar). By having a quick and easy way to capture observations in the midst of this peak season, we’re all more likely to remember what isn’t working very well (and the problems seem to dominate my thoughts less at night when I know I’ve earmarked them for improvement later). Personally, I like the glass jar approach. I can see a collection of thoughts growing by the number of notes I chuck in there every week on my way out the door.

Next, book an appointment with yourself for a FULL-DAY in July or August. That’s the day you will commit to work with yourself, on your business, and review the ‘slips, trips and falls’ of your systems. I tape a note to the outside of my systems’ jar with this appointment time, so that every time I toss in a note, I am reminded to keep that date set aside for working on my business. The reason I recommend doing this mid-season is so that you can assess what’s really in need of fixing, and can prioritize some solutions to implement for the remainder of the season.

Keep your appointment time, and spend the day away from distractions (NOT at the office) by treating yourself to a business lunch. Focus on prioritizing your biggest system failures, and work on solutions.

Organizing your challenges into categories can help to set priorities. Our Prosperity Pillars are Financial Health, Sales Success, Customers for Life, Leadership, and Operations.
Landscape Ontario offers many opportunities to improve systems. There are also resources available outside of LO to create systems for various (or all) aspects of your business. These include:  horttrades.com/safety-resources-2 , horttrades.com/HRToolkit, lstraining.com, jplbiz.ca, and golmn.com.

Also, the Landscape Ontario Peer-to-Peer Network is offering a Face-to-Face focus group session on Aug. 19 in Milton on Developing Internal Systems in Your Business. Go to http://gfl.me/x2uV for more information or to register.

The Peer to Peer Network is a LinkedIn forum for LO member business owners. To join, go to http://gfl.me/x2vv
 
Jacki Hart may be reached at info.peertopeer@landscapeontario.com.