Posted by & filed under Accountant, Growing Your Firm Podcast, Team Management, Workflow Excellence.

Ron Saharyan is the co-founder and managing partner at Profit First Professionals. He came on the show today to talk about something called the Clockwork Strategy, which is all about process and workflow and automating your business, making it more scalable, hassle-free, and a better tangible asset.

In this episode of the Growing Your Firm Podcast, David Cristello and Ron Saharyan discuss:

  • Taking a four-week vacation as a business owner
  • Helping employees take ownership of their assignments
  • Using procedure documents to help employees take ownership
  • Learning to accept mistakes
  • Using a grid to prioritize service packages and clients

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 The Clockwork Strategy

Imagine, as a business owner, taking a four-week vacation, a complete unplug from your company. You’d be away from the phone and email, confident that your employees are handling everything exceptionally well, leaving you to enjoy your much-needed R&R.

Does that sound like a fantasy to you? Most business owners would probably agree, but the Clockwork Strategy makes such a thing possible. Let’s look at 4 key steps Ron mentioned in this interview, as well as another hot strategy that can help business owners make better sense of the services they offer and the way they prioritize their clients’ needs.

But first, let’s talk about why a four-week vacation is such a powerful milestone for business owners.

Why a Four-Week Vacation?

Even if you don’t plan to ever take four weeks off at a time, it’s a great idea to consider if that would be possible in your company.

Why four weeks, and not one or two? Because a shorter time period wouldn’t fully display how automated your company is. In four weeks, you have a complete list cycle in your business, so to speak. Bills have to be paid. Projects have to be started and/or finished. New clients must be onboarded.

If a system is deficient in some way, it will likely break down in four weeks. Think of the business owner taking a four-week vacation as a litmus test to see how much of the company’s tasks are being bottlenecked through that one person at the top.

The whole idea of Clockwork is to remove that bottleneck, allowing the business to scale while becoming less stressful for the owner.

So what are the four steps to automating your business? It all starts will how you think of yourself as an owner.

Step 1: Rethink Your Role

Many business owners busy themselves with putting out fires, helping their employees, or giving personal care to their biggest clients. In other words, they busy themselves with things others could be doing.

If you are always running as an owner, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a control freak. As Ron admits himself, sometimes your desire to help others ends up transforming you into a human bottleneck.

The default for many businesses is task-management. That means the owner goes to work in the morning, goes to work, and figuring out what you and others in the company are going to do that day. Even though it’s unintentional, the effect is an exhausting cycle of micro-management, and the owner ends up being pulled in too many directions at once.

The solution? Move from a task-oriented managing position to an ownership-oriented system. You, as the owner, are responsible for guiding your employees to take ownership of various assignments.

In other words, you make others responsible for their jobs, allowing you to take a step back.

Step 2: Make Others Responsible

Teaching others to be personally responsible and take ownership is not easy. It’s a paradigm shift that many just aren’t used to because they are likely used to a task-oriented style of delegation.

The secret is allowing them to design systems and processes themselves. Encourage them to take the initiative. This empowers them, and they often respond by doing a much better job than they would have otherwise.

Simply let your employees know that they are responsible for an entire process. Charge them with a set of parameters. Give them an objective. Allow them to tweak the system, to make improvements, to take responsibility.

This won’t happen all at once, of course. But, as employees come to understand that they are personally responsible for a certain outcome, they will feel empowered, get creative, and leave you out of everything but the highest-level stuff.

In the episode, Ron talks in more detail about how to encourage key members of your company to take ownership, including helping them to make suggestions on how to improve how things are done.

Once that process is in place, you can further automate your business by building systems to train others as they come into the company.

Step 3: Create Systems to Train Others

To make your company more scalable, you want to have systems in place to train new employees to also take more responsibility.

In addition to that, having key members of your business create systems helps them to take ownership themselves.

It generally starts with a Word document, a list of steps, like a standard operating procedure. That written document can then be accompanied by videos explaining the system in more detail.

This really helps employees take ownership of the systems they do each day. They’re sharing their system in written and video form. They’ll want to show the very best system possible.

So if an employee has been reluctant to take ownership, if they’ve been holding back making suggestions and becoming more responsible, then having them make training documents and videos can help them make that leap. They’ll want to tweak and redo parts of the training materials so that they are sharing the best system possible.

As a side benefit, creating training materials like these really helps generate a sense of community, as members of the company share and train others. They’ll want to take more ownership of what they do because they want to impress their peers.

As your employees make suggestions and training materials, as they are empowered to take ownership of their jobs within the company, you as an owner can take a step back and stop being the bottleneck of the company.

The next step involves a temptation you’ll likely feel at this point: trying to deal with mistakes you see your employees making.

Step 4: Learn to Embrace Mistakes

Mistakes are inevitable in your company. The sooner you realize that, the better. Your employees will make mistakes, and, perhaps, they’ll make more mistakes once you leave them to work more on their own.

After all, the task-oriented system you had before was mistake-proof, right? Not at all!

It’s good to keep in mind that you, as the owner, make just as many mistakes as anyone else. In fact, because the employees you hire are more specialized, you may make even more mistakes than they do.

So it’s important to not freak out every time someone messes up in your company. Did the mistake really cause major, irreversible damage to your business? Not likely. Can your workers learn from those mistakes and improve over time? Probably.

So learn to let those small mistakes go. Seeing employees mess up will provide temptation for you as an owner. You’ll want to step in and help, micro-managing once again. But remember, doing that will just undo all the hard work you’ve put forth to make your business run on clockwork!

Prioritize Services and Clients

A final, great tip Ron made at the end of the interview involves using a grid to prioritize both the services you provide to clients and the clients that deserve more of your attention.

You’ll have to listen to the interview to get all the details, but the grid basically details all the services your company provides and what clients make use of what services.

From there, you can decide was service packages you should be offering. What services are the most-asked-for? What services have the best systems in place, making them easier for you to provide?

By dividing up your services into set packages, you can now prioritize clients. Clients that pay more for luxury packages would take priority over those that pay less.

With systems like these, you’re better able to streamline your business, making it more scalable and hassle-free, helping it to run like clockwork!

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