The Virtual CPA Success Show: Episode 37
In today’s episode we are joined by Jody Grunden and David Jenyns, author of SYSTEMology to discuss why processes and systems play an important role in the success and growth of a business.
We will learn more about what David does and how his book helps business owners create time, reduce errors, and scale profits.
Jamie Nau: Hello, everybody and welcome to today's episode. This is a topic that I'm really excited for and a guest I'm really excited for. We have David Jenyns here, who is the author of a book called SYSTEMology, and it's something that we at Summit are big fans of. When we read the book, it was one of those books where you're just nodding your head the entire time you're reading saying, yes, yes, yes, we need to do that. Both Jody and I read the book and how to get in touch with David. So welcome to the show, David. Just give us a brief introduction to yourself and a little bit of background on the book.
David Jenyns: Yeah, thank you. I appreciate the warm welcome. I help business owners step out of the day to day operations of their business. I know most business owners, they can't step away from what they do for more than a couple of days without everything falling into a screaming heap. And that was me as well. I owned a digital agency for over 13 years. And it wasn't until the final few years that I realized how trapped I was. And then I wanted to make some significant changes. And once I sort of went through that journey in that process and removed myself from the operations, hired a CEO, then I thought, wow, this is a problem that hasn't been addressed or solved very well. I wanted to see if I could bottle what I'd done and then more importantly, see if I could teach it. That's really what ended up forming the basis of SYSTEMology and this whole idea. It's the system for systemizing a business. I say it's an extension of the myth. The myth builds the case for systemizing a business and then the system already shows you will how to. What’s step one, step two all the way through.
Jamie Nau: I know Jody will talk to us in a second here, but it is something that has motivated us and inspired us in the beginning of Summit. I have been here the whole time, but it's something I read even prior to coming to Summit, a lot clicked with it. So do you want to talk a little bit about our past with E-Myth and kind of the connection there?
Jody Grunden: Yeah, sure can. It's kind of funny because when we first started, I had this book and I read it and loved it. And this was before the practice even started. Adam and I came on board at the same time and I gave him the book and said, hey, dude, we're going to do this. And so he read it and he's like, wait a minute here. So that means you're not going to do any of the work. No, no, no, no. You know, we're going to build something bigger than us, you know, because at the time it was just the two of us and we wanted to build a bigger firm, you know, something that we could eventually pass down or sell or exit in some way. We didn't want to be the Grunden Hale Show, or the Hale and Grunden Show. So that's when we started from the very beginning and we thought, hey, let's make this Summit CPA, something bigger than the two of us. And then from there, everything that we did, we wanted to make sure that it can be repeated so that we weren't stuck in that day to day, you know, day to day journey that you had talked about in your book where you're the person doing all the work. We wanted to make sure that, yeah, we could do the work. We understand how to do the work, but make it repeatable process. And so from the very beginning, that's how we started, and everything we did we wanted to make sure, hey, can this be repeated? Can we step out of this? And it was pretty hard to get there. You need to do the day to day stuff, you think all the clients are relying upon you and they don't want to leave because of you. And then once you step away, you realize that's not true. They want to stay because of the company, because of the process you put in place. Yeah, they like you and they like talking with you and that sort of thing. But it was the whole encompassing thing that they really liked. And it took us a while to actually break away to where we weren't meeting with clients. Now today, neither one of us I would say don't meet with clients. I meet with like four clients a month, and they're my friends and relatives and stuff like that. There’s now a whole lot that goes into that, not with the day to day stuff that we used to do where we're meeting with clients, 40 - 50 hours a week. You know, that doesn't happen because of processes, systems and that. I tell all CPA firms when we do our talks that there's three things that make a company and they ought to be working in harmony. And that's tools. You have to have the right tools in place. You have to have the right people in place. You have to have the right processes in place. And the systems are a big part of those processes. I truly believe that all three have to be in harmony in order for it to be a successful company.
David Jenyns Yeah, yeah, I definitely couldn't agree more. I'll just preface this, it just started to rain here so you might see some rain in the background. I think all the business owners that I chat with, every single one of them, I don't think I've ever had a discussion where we haven't come to the conclusion that business systems are important. I think every business owner kind of deep down recognizes that, yes, systems and processes help to have things happen in their business consistently to a specific standard without any sort of key person dependency where it always seems to fall short. You know, you kind of go okay, well, if we know they're important, why haven't you systemized your business to the level that you want? And oftentimes there's a lot of baggage and resistance because the business owner oftentimes isn't wired with a systems brain. They're these creative thinkers, big picture thinkers, and they don't love the detail or the process or even necessarily, you know, the managing of the people. It's a different skill set and part of the brain. So while they appreciate the value of them, they come to the conclusion, I'm just not a systems person. I've tried that before in the past and it failed. My team won't follow the systems in the processes or they think in their head systems and processes are these big, thick manuals that sit on the bookshelf that no one ends up reading and it creates bureaucracy. And what's the point of having them anyway? So oftentimes it's a lot of that baggage that really stops them having the success that they want and they know that they deserve, but they just can't make it happen for whatever reason. And that's when they get stuck in the business. They just keep doing what they've always done. Oftentimes just in all of the different departments, sales, marketing, finance, management, operations, and they just kind of getting dragged to wherever the biggest fire is.
Jody Grunden: I mean with us, we're victims of that all the way throughout the process. It's not like we started and we had this great system we created that we just added onto. Like you talk about in the book, you know, we started it. We stopped it. We started it again. We stopped at something new. We use a different software. It was too clunky. So we moved away with it. And then, you know, then we didn't have the right people who pushed up against that. So we ran into a lot of the issues that you talk about in your book. And it's great how you actually talked around those issues. You know, hey, those are just issues. Maybe the right people are in place, maybe processes aren't set. You videotaped them versus writing them down, all the different things you talk about.
David Jenyns Yeah, it's definitely when you're getting going. I always think of it in terms of, you know, trying to make the systems perfect straight out of the gate. No one has time to get these systems just right while they're trying to win clients. They are trying to do the work, managing the team, or arranging their finances, like there's a lot to be done. So it's something, it's an iterative process. I say just capture the best practice of what you've currently got. Figure out who is the person who's answering the front desk phone when it rings and what is it that they're saying and when they do it, who's the best person at doing that? Let's capture what they're doing and bring everybody up to that standard. Figure out who is the best person at the sales process. Well, maybe that's you. If you're the business owner or part of the leadership team or whatever, let's capture that and then bring everybody up to that standard. So one big insight I've had probably over the last sort of six months, actually, it's just sort of been so blindingly obvious to me because as we've started to train, we call them SYSTEMologists, but we are certifying people in our SYSTEMology method. One of the questions that came up was how is this different from Six Sigma, Lean, or some of these other process improvement methodologies? Then I realized, I mean, it's in the name for the other ones. The other methods are process improvement methods. So it presumes that you have a process to improve and you're looking to optimize that. But SYSTEMology is a step before that. What happens if you don't have a system or process? You haven't captured what you're currently doing, or you haven't got a baseline in place? I feel that's where it's breaking new ground, because what we're saying is let's just get version one. What is the minimum viable product, the minimum number of systems that really drives your business? And let's go to work on just those. Let's understand. It's going to be clunky. Let's understand that it won't be perfect. And we're going to improve this over time. We don't want to say we don't want to systemized like McDonald's is today, we don't look at McDonald's today and say, wow, look at how systemize they are and let's take all of their systems and processes. We go, how did McDonald's get started 60 years ago? I remember watching the movie The Founder, and that tells the Ray Kroc McDonald's story. And he goes out onto this basketball court and they get some chalk out and they draw out a McDonald's store and they say, let's not put the drink machine here. Let's put it near the drive thru window. Let's put the fries over here, and let's move the cash register here. And that is the way that a system is built. It starts off very raw. What is the best that we can come up with now? Let's just capture what we're currently doing and then what you're actually doing. Systems, it's not a one and done scenario. We're changing the culture and the way that the team thinks about what they do. We're looking to have them think in terms of systems. And you don't systemize your business for three months and say, hey, I'm done. You're then getting them to think, oh, no, we're always looking for the system solution. We're always looking to improve the systems in the process. And that's why I mean, just before we started recording, I was so impressed. I mean, you had Jamie and you said, hey Jamie is our systems champion, and that's what it takes. You want to have someone who is championing this forward and then getting the rest of the team behind it. And that's when you start to get that cultural change. And then like you've done, Jody, in different businesses, you've been involved it's stuck with you for many years. This is not hey, with systemized. We're now systemized business. We're done. This is how we do things here.
Jamie Nau: I think the genius of your book is exactly what you said. I am the systems champion here at Summit. But a lot of times, it's where do you start? I have an idea of what I want things to look like, but having a process behind building a system for your business is key. And again, obviously, my favorite part of your book is saying how this is a step by step process. I think the other thing you said, and I try to tell my team this all the time, is perfect is the enemy of good. Like how many times, and Jody, can attest to this when I'm trying to get my team to say, we're building a process for a client and they have something in place, I want to record a video of them doing the process step by step. So it's out there and it's something someone can reference. I don’t know how many times they rerecord that video and say, it is not quite right this month. Let's try next month until I get steps four or five and six cleaned up. And that happens to us all the time. And so I think there are some great points there, because that's what I'm trying to tell my team all the time, is just get something on paper and we'll revisit it every month when we do it. And we revisit it every three months and we'll constantly be going back and making our processes better. So I think that has been key for us. But yeah, I think your process and again, I don't want you to go through all the steps. I don’t want you to give away your book here, but I definitely want you to kind of go through some of the key steps for us.
David Jenyns Yeah, when I wrote the book, I wanted to make sure that it was useful and complete. So whether or not someone ends up working with us long term or not or they just touch the book, I wanted them to go, oh, wow, I really got rewarded for the time that I invested in that book. So definitely just everything's laid out in the book and I'm happy to go through whatever stages here. The biggest question that always comes up is, great, I'm sold on systems, where do I get started? And that's always why chapter one, define, is about getting very clear on what are the 10 to 15 systems that you want to start on. I've got a tool I called the critical client flow. I mean, it's really just an A4 bit of paper that we can talk through. It's like a flow chart where you map the customer and the business journey to deliver a core product or service. But at its core, this whole idea is what is the purpose of a business? The purpose is we want to consistently deliver value to our clients and we get rewarded for that value that we deliver. Now, the goal is to make sure that we can consistently deliver that value without any sort of key person dependency. So if you're thinking about, well, where do I get started? You want to start thinking, well, how does the business make money? And if we can systemized just that piece, it's the 80-20 like, yes, there are hundreds of things you could systemize in a business. You could be doing hiring and onboarding. You could be doing management. You could be doing your finances. There's probably a plethora of things you could do under marketing, but when you kind of just pare it back down, this first exercise, the critical client flow and the person listening to this can follow along and do this. Just get yourself an A4 bit of paper. And in the top left hand corner, write down who is your target client. And the target client is the person who pays your advertised prices, who's a pleasure to deal with, who refers friends and family, who keeps on coming back. And you just say, hey, I want more of those, and the reason we want to narrow in on one is yes, you could probably service a whole variety of different people. But if we just focus on one, when we systemize what a lot of people do and they get caught up in it is they try to systemize for every variation and then that makes systems overly complicated. What you actually want to do is you want to systemize and capture the most probable outcome because you're going to hire great team members. Great team members can handle the exceptions and when things fall outside of your perfect scenario. So we actually are looking to capture the 80/20 of the business. What is the ideal client and prospect? Get clear on who they are. Write them in the top left hand corner of this page. Next, think about what is the primary product or service that you would sell that person. That might be a great gateway to your products and services. So when we ran the digital agency, for us, the first product that we did was a website build, even though we offered SEO services. I liked website build because it had a clear start and end. And it meant that in that time we could give a really great deliverable. We could decide whether or not we liked the client if they got a website with us. They then wanted to afterwards logically think, well, how can I get traffic to it and raise the awareness? So the website build was logical. I remember in the accounting space working with accountancy, that first Gateway product. There's a company in regional Victoria I remember working with and the Gateway product they came up with was an audit. Their target audience were farmers in regional Victoria and the primary product that they first looked at systemizing for this process was a financial audit for their books. And then basically coming up with a plan to get clear on what that primary product or service needs. And then you just move down the page. And as I said, we want to create and map the linear journey of this. So you think firstly, how do you grab the attention of your target audience, so only capture what you're currently doing, not what you would like to be doing? And this goes back to the idea of we want to make this easy on you and let's first figure out what you're doing that's working so we can do more of that and make sure it happens without dependency. So you might go, well, how do I capture someone's attention? Maybe I'll do social media. Maybe I've got referral business, maybe I do search engine optimization, maybe I'm running ads, maybe I'm speaking or appearing on podcasts or whatever it is. Just list that out at the top of what you're currently doing. Then we move down and the next step down is how do you handle an inquiry that comes in? Inquiries come to you through a website or via phone or via email or all of the above. And then we just kind of keep moving down the page. And each one of these is just a box and you don't want to describe the process. You put one or two words in it. We want to, at a high level, capture the way that your business is doing what it's doing and what is the flow look like. The detail comes later. So then the next step is, yeah, what is your sales process look like? Do you hop on Zoom? Do you go out and meet them in the field? Do you first have an initial discovery phone call? Capture what that next step looks like. Do you have a deep dive session or do you issue out a proposal and then we keep moving down the page? Do you have a follow up process? And then when someone says, hey, I'm ready to go, like, what happens next for you? Invoice them? Do you take half the money up front and half on completion, or do you take all the money up front? And then how do you onboard that client? Do you get them to fill out a questionnaire? Do you, a team member, meet with the client to get all of the detail they need? In that example of the accounting space, they would meet with the team and they'd need to get the access to ZERO, who would they ask for that access? They basically had a questionnaire that they would get them to fill out as part of that onboarding and then they would enter them into the project management platform. They used a thing called Carbon to track the whole thing, and they would have these set templates to map everything. And then after that, what's the core delivery now? The core delivery is the primary product or service that we selected. This is where a lot of people go haywire and smoke comes out there because they go off. There's so much here. There's every single detailed step. Potentially, there's going to be so much. So I start off and I say, let's just create a high level process, I call it an overview process which captures the key steps, and I say to them, don't think initially about the person doing the steps. Think about the project manager that needs to oversee this process and understand the key milestones. Just capture that first for your overview. That day stretches that whole process and makes it easy to capture. And then later on, we can create subsystems that explains how to login to ZERO and connect it with your account and how to print out the right reports. Let's save all of that for later. And then the final step is, you know, is potentially a couple steps at the end here. What does the handover process look like once done giving it back to the client? And then finally, how do you get them to repeat or refer friends and family? So at that point, for the repeat, you know, if it's a gateway product, you might then go, hey, we now need ongoing management of your accounts or hey, we've realized as we did this audit, we've uncovered all of these other issues that we can now address. You might be able to say that it's pretty small, but you can say like here, this is just some examples in the book. These are high level critical client flows. You can notice it's only quite small. There's one or two words in these boxes. There's only about 15 boxes on the page. So by doing that process, you're basically figuring out what is the 80, 20, the 20 per cent of the systems that deliver 80 per cent of the result in your business? We're capturing it at a high level. And then I basically say start there when systemizing. And if you want to go a step further, if you've got pain in your business, go to the pain first. So if you say I don't have enough leads, focus on your lead systems. If you don't have you know, if you have problems managing your clients and you've always got these clients following you up saying, where's my work? And maybe you haven't onboarded them correctly and set the expectation or you haven't got your delivery systems right, narrow in on that piece. Stay within the critical client flow. See that almost like, you know, the boundary of a football field and you can play on the field. But where the play actually happens based on where that that pain is. And that exercise for a lot of people is very enlightening. For some people they look at that and they go, oh, well, yeah, I've got a clear linear process. Some people look at it and go, wow, it's really patchy here, here and here. And they immediately go, I now know why I don't have enough leads. I've got one lead generation method. It's called Word of mouth and I don't even really have a system for it. Of course you don't have any business or you might go, hey, we always seem to be getting paid late. And then you'd go, well, I don't really have a point where I'm issuing an invoice and making sure that I follow up to make sure we're paid. And we don't start the work until we're paid. All problems in business can be traced back to the systems level and then you want to go to work on that systems pace to make permanent change, not just solve it once and then it's a recurring issue. That's oftentimes how a lot of firefighting happens in business where you're solving one thing, jumping to the next. And if you're not doing it at the systems level, that fire is just going to come back later. So the critical client flow and I know that was a long winded answer to a very short question where you start. But you can get the book and there's the template in there. You can do it on a bit of paper. Well, you don't even need to buy the book. If you go to a SYSTEMology.com/academy, all of the resources from the book, we just give away. You get that template. I mean, the whole idea here is I just want the business owner to start this process because I know the impact that it has. But I'll take a breath, something kind bubbled up as we went through that.
Jamie Nau: Jody I know you have a reaction. But let me just tell a quick thing about my process real quick. So what I would do, I listen to a lot of podcasts and what I would do is I would rewind what you just said and I would start writing down every word you said. And after about two minutes, I'd be like, what am I doing? I would just go out and buy your book. So that is my process, because every time I listen to a podcast, I catch myself doing that. As we were talking, I'm like, you know, this is my process. This is exactly what I would have done with those like ten minutes you just talk there.
Part 2 coming soon…
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