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Systems and process are a startup’s friends


Systems and process set you free. This is hard to imagine for most startup businesses as they cope with the chaos of a little bit of success, rushing from urgent to urgent, forgetting that if they worked on a process then perhaps the issue could be solved.

Shark Tank Australia Season 2’s very first pitch was impressive: there was no doubt that Mick understood the value of systems and process in a startup business. Mick presented his On The Go Custom Sportswear enthusiastically, professionally and with passion.

He had placed importance on setting up the infrastructure from the very start, including surrounding himself with people with vast business experience. He had taken the time to research and find the systems to suit his business, reading reviews about their effectiveness and application. This investment in time can really pay off as you try to scale the business.

It is hard to play all the roles one needs to play. I remember my own experience — one moment I was the product manager, the next the customer experience executive, and often even the bookkeeper. (I had done accounting at university so at least I knew a debit from a credit.)

One thing I have learned along the way is to take a step back and work out what the best use of my time is. Where is the greatest return on my time invested? And what are my key strengths? But when cash is scarce and you cannot afford to outsource, you need to find the systems that make that job easy, whether it is a marketing system or an accounting package.

If you have a business (and have read Ready to Soar already) then this exercise might help you work out what sort of systems you need to invest in. Think about what you spend your time on this week (you might need to keep a diary)… On Friday afternoon sit down and review where you spent your time. Divide the list into two columns: those things you love doing, and those things that grind you to a halt i.e. those things you loathe. Basically it is your Love/Loathe list…

How could you do more of the things you love and less of the “loathesome” activities? Is there a system or process that could take care of some of the things on your loathe list…

For instance every small business owner I know ‘hates’ chasing money, that is the outstanding invoices — is there a system that will send trigger-based reminders to those customers? I know there is cloud-based accounting software such as QuickBooks Online that does exactly that.

The selection of systems, processes and outsourcing is all about playing to your strengths, and using technology to make sure you maximise your time doing the things that grow your business.

Often when I meet a Shark Tank company the first question as part of the due diligence process is to look at the books. If they show me a spreadsheet rather than a nice set of accounts and dashboards (that are produced automatically in these cloud applications), I am going to be less than enthused.

In this very first meeting it is important to show that you know your numbers, and that you present them professionally.

I think Mick and the team at On the Go custom sportswear will have a big future — not least because he has such a sense of humour (how are those mannequins!), but also because at every level he is using systems to look — and be — professional.

No reason why you cannot do the same.


About the author

By Naomi Simpson the Founder of RedBalloon and Redii.