In the mid-1990’s, I spent my days in our Customer Service office wearing the ‘hat’ of the ONLY Customer Service Representative, while also wearing the hat of Production Manager.
In addition, I had a private office for working ON our business; building and improving our overall business system, along with other business management functions. However, something was still missing in my efforts to turnkey our company.
Consequently, I was stuck—bogged down in Customer Service for about six hours a day, serving clients, taking in orders and doing production management. As the owner, I felt I needed to continue in those roles to maintain control of our company. In other words, when something went wrong, I could be Johnny-on-the-spot to FIX it! Sound familiar?
Sadly, many small business owners feel this way; like nothing can change it! To them, it’s simply “normal”—just business as usual.
The Obvious is not so Obvious to Trench Dwellers
During this time, due to our quality control systems, we reduced our rework in production down to 1.5%. In fact, many other control systems were also working amazingly well. However, for some odd reason, while trying to systematize our company, I hadn’t made the connection that—a job position IS a system. In other words, my role as a Customer Service Rep and Production Manager WAS a SYSTEM; but, at this point, only in my head.
As it happened, a friend observing my tenacious, frustrating at times, systematization for several years, made a suggestion he assumed should be obvious to me. “Philip,” he said, “why don’t you take your daughter-in-law out of production, and give her your job!”
My reaction was like ones I regularly receive from business owners who are trapped in the trenches of day-to-day production…
“Fred, are you crazy?” I protested, “I would lose touch with our customers, and I wouldn’t have the controls I need over production to keep it humming! The quality systems I put it are working fantastically, but I need to be in the action.”
Fred looked at me as if I’d lost my mind. “Philip,” he said, “isn’t FREEDOM from day-to-day operations for business owners the purpose of the systems you’ve been touting? I thought the whole purpose of your SYSTEMS was to afford you more time to work ON your business?”
Pride, Prejudice & Presumption | No Place in Systematization
After swallowing my pride, thinking I was the ONLY one who could do certain jobs, I came to my senses.
“You’re right, Fred!” I remembered the book I had read called The E-myth, and realized I just needed to dig down and do the challenging work of building a Customer Service Representative SYSTEM, and then do the same for all the Job Positions in our business, and systematize them.
After I thanked Fred for what should have been obvious to me, I immediately met with my daughter-in-law and asked her if she wanted my job. That was the second time that day someone looked at me as if I’d lost my mind… “Are you serious?” she said. Long story, short, she agreed to take two of my “hats”— my current positions as Customer Service Rep and Production Manager.
I informed her, it would take about three months to train her, because we were going to map and write down, step-by-step, everything I did. And, I mean EVERYTHING! In short, how I interacted with customers, production employees, and how I dealt with errors and other emergencies. In other words, nothing left to chance!
Jennifer, my daughter-in-law, sat next to me at the Customer Service desk for about 90 days, helping me write down all the processes that made up the Customer Service and Production Manager Systems. As we performed the job, we planned, mapped and wrote down every step. When we finished writing and implementing that comprehensive business system, we both knew we had something special.
My Life Changed that Day | One Business System
I will never forget the day I said, “Jennifer, I’m going to my office; if you need me don’t hesitate to call me.” For the first time, I sat down in my office wearing only my General Manager/ President hats, and realized I had six additional hours a day to do anything I wanted to do.
After about a week, Jennifer rarely asked for or needed my help. To this day, I’ve never seen a more comprehensive business system for service and production working so flawlessly! Most importantly, the systems we implemented, ensured that the company continued functioning, as if I were still in the role of Customer Service and Production Manager.
It was as if I had cloned myself!
Proof’s in the Pudding | The Taste of Success
About six weeks after Jennifer took over my day-to-day operations, one of our top clients called, wanting to have lunch with me. My first thought was, “This guy isn’t happy that I’m no longer personally in constant contact with him and his staff.”
I arrived at the restaurant a bit nervous and assuming the worst. However, during lunch he blurted out, “Philip your new customer service rep is great! She never seems to make a mistake with our orders, and your quality is the best of all our vendors. In fact, many of our staff has been commenting on the consistency of your on-time delivery, quality and service.” He said, “Philip, we’ve decided to start giving your company more of our business.”
I thought of all the work Jennifer and I had done, writing and implementing a Master Control business system for taking in new jobs, to ensure ALL work cycled through production smoothly. We had strategically built a Daily Routine Checklist for her combined roles as Customer Service Rep and Production Manager. Again, nothing in our system left to chance!
We had mapped out Policies for every situation, and Procedures for all the tasks she needed to perform in her new dual role.
Sitting in that restaurant, relieved and for a minute, speechless, I said, “Jim, yes, Jennifer is amazing, and she’s much better than me in the role of Customer Service and Production Management. Thank you, thank you!” I almost floated back to the office.
Did I mention? Great systems work!