Several years ago, Michael Gerber’s E-Myth publication series became popular because he addressed an issue common to many new businesses: Adapting from the “entrepreneur does everything” by the seat of his (or her) pants, to a systematic, smoothly operating enterprise, modelled on successful franchise or corporate organizations.
At the other end of the scale, however, the stories of businesses crumbling under their bureaucracy and robotic and outdated processes can be retold many times. It seems that you need systems for a viable business, but you also need a system to break, test, repair, and end or develop new processes to keep going.
Add to the problem we need to consider the “shiny new thing” syndrome — management fads, processes or great ideas that are rushed into operation without proper testing or evaluation, or which are stretched outside of their original intent.
I’m experiencing one of these systems challenges now. Over several years, we’ve developed an inexpensive yet effective method of publishing weekly eletters for several regional construction markets.
Through research I discovered the Mailwizz email management program, an incredibly versatile program that is hosted on our own server, rather than the popular “cloud” programs such as Mailchimp and Constant Contact. (Both of these commercial programs — and several competitors — are excellent for most AEC businesses, but our raw database has more than 100,000 email addresses, and we need to segment and manage this data carefully to avoid sending out spam (or being caught in Canada’s extremely stringent anti-spam rules.)
Mailwizz is incredibly inexpensive (a one time $50 fee plus very modest updating charges), and generally does what it should do, but with that low cost, you cannot expect “customer support” or a live technical support department. I’ve learned how to navigate the issues, periodically contracting with specialists who know how to work with advanced database management issues.
The next challenge: We have to generate news stories and content relevant to the regional markets, edit the material, and then put it in the system so that the eletters will work properly.
Fair enough, but in the online world, you cannot count on huge revenue levels, so things need to be done inexpensively, and in a highly systematic manner.
The solution until now: With reasonably good delegation of other aspects of our business, I’ve been doing plenty of jobs that Gerber would suggest in E-Myth should be delegated, especially if we cost the work out at the level we can truly afford to pay. This includes contracting with a person who can select stories and write well in English, but at hourly rates that would be way below North American minimum wage levels. Fortunately, I’ve been able to apply an effective and systematic hiring process with a relevant online service to find the right person for this task.
Now, after training, we get to the administrative problems of editing the stories, setting up and loading them to the websites, and configuring the email program to send out the messages on schedule.)
Ugh. Systems, anyone?
Well, I’ll have to solve the problem soon, because in a bit more than month I’m heading away for an overseas vacation. Of course, there will be Internet virtually everywhere in the world, but reliability may be a real challenge especially in the middle of the southern Indian Ocean (where the Malaysian Airlines flight disappeared some years ago) and Zimbabwe’s more rural areas. I have to set up the team to do this work without my day-to-day involvement and ensure it can operate reliably without me.
But this is the sort of systems challenge every entrepreneur should be happy to take on — because if you cannot escape your business for a proper vacation, you really don’t have things right.
I’ll get what needs to be done, done. And our business will pass another systematization test.
Have you encountered similar challenges?