Many business owners hear and read about how systems are essential in business to help free up their time, but they are not sure where to start. I have put together a few thoughts about beginning to systemise a business that will help clarify your mind, if you are in the same position to those business owners I mentioned above.

Firstly, just what is a system? I like to think of it as:

A repeated course of actions – a way of doing things – that bring about a consistent result

A system is not just a list of written steps to be followed in some procedure manual however. Some are, but perhaps think of them as the levers that allow staff to achieve their potential, not just replace them with the lowest cost alternative. They allow a company to grow and people to grow with it. For example, if you have a big boulder to move, you can either use lots of people to start pushing (not all in the same direction probably) or you can get a smaller rock and a long lever and prise it out of the way, using just one or two people. The second method is a better SYSTEM because it can be easily repeated the next time a big boulder is encountered and is easier to control.

What are the benefits of having systems?

  • Efficiency
  • Empowerment of employees to improve their area of responsibility
  • Get new staff up to speed quicker
  • Reduce errors
  • Lowers stress (usually yours)
  • Better serve customers
  • Build the knowledge of the company and retain
  • Adds big value to a business when selling it

As you might expect lack of, or poorly designed systems will tend to give you the opposite of this list.

One of the best ways for people to grow in an organization is to be involved with the innovation and improvement of systems they are a part of. To have the freedom to find the most effective way to complete their jobs BUT fit in with other parts of the wider business without making someone else’s job harder. This innovation process therefore needs to be systemised itself. People up the chain and down the chain need time to examine how a change to the way things are done impact on their area and confirm the suggested change is either neutral or positive on their areas.

An exercise you can set yourself or your staff right now is to come up with examples of systems not being followed. People are usually quick to make suggestions here, especially if they are personally being affected negatively. Have staff list what consequences are happening due to systems not being followed AND ways it could be changed to get better results. Pick one or two of the best suggestions (that will have the biggest impact) and DO IT. People love to see their ideas being implemented.

What can be “systemised”? Pretty much everything in your business, from marketing to sales to operations to administration to management. You may not choose to go down to the very detailed level of how a job is actually carried out, but most common steps above that point can benefit from some sort of systemization; be that a checklist, video example, flowchart guide or written procedure.

Field operations is always a popular area to target as you can see immediate benefits to profitability when systems help minimise errors. Some site operation tasks to start you thinking:

–         Job start-up checklist

–         Project quality checklist

–         Project safety checklist

–         4 week look ahead schedule

–         Project goals & objectives

–         Procurement checklist

–         Subcontract scope checklists

–         Subcontract tracking log

–         Variation document and approval

–         Pre-job start-up meeting agenda

–         Time sheet procedures



–         Standardized project budget

–         Quote comparison spreadsheet

–         Request for information log

–         Weekly team meeting agenda

–         Quality control checklists

–         Equipment maintenance checklist

–         Truck equipment inventory

–         Standardized snag-list

–         Job close-out checklist

–         Field paperwork system

–         Weekly site meeting agenda

–        Project review system

Start with the 80:20 rule in mind. What are the 20% of systems that make 80% of the impact on overall company performance. Start there and then go on to the rest.

Contact me at to start a systems development project in your business and commit to a goal of increasing your freedom as a result.

Andy Burrows –  The Trades Coach