Being an online entrepreneur is awesome and comes with a lot of advantages. It also comes with awesome responsibilities. As an online entrepreneur you need to not only do everything, you need to figure out what it is you need to do.
There are so many things to think about online that without this one secret you are almost destined to fail. But, the good news is that with this secret you are literally guaranteed to succeed.
What is this one secret that can make or break an online business owner?
Systems. Simple straightforward, easy to implement…systems.
BORING. I’ll grant you that.
As a matter of fact, we rebelled against systems for years. And then we started making real money.
Some people call them processes. Some people call them procedures. Others still call it documentation.
The point is that as an online entrepreneur, you need to have systems in place that clearly define everything you need to do, when you need to do it, who needs to do it and how it is to be done.
It would be difficult to define which systems are needed by which online businesses, because all businesses are different.
There’s affiliate marketing, product launches, joint ventures, e-mail marketing, article marketing and many others. Some online businesses do them all.
Having said that there are certain business functions that most businesses have in common. For instance:
Either production or fulfillment depending on whether you are a manufacturer or distributor (sometimes both)
- Customer Service
- Accounting (accounts payable and receivable) and Finance (P&L, Balance Sheets and Cash Flow)
- Marketing and Sales
- Management (Staff or outsourced consultants/functions)
- Problem resolution
- Research and development
These should be present in almost every online business. Sometimes they have different names and sometimes you share the burden of certain processes with partners or outside consultants, but they are there. Some people say “fulfillment” while others call it “delivery”. Same difference, different shoes…:)
Systems can come in many different forms:
- Hardware systems can handle capacity, storage and facilitate speed and security
- Software systems can handle much of the load for reporting, communication and follow-thru, automation of customer service and production…
- Flow charts can define the order of processes.
- Process maps can integrate the steps involved and the owners and priorities of the steps in a process.
- Online manuals and other documentation act as references for FAQ’s about processes.
- Visual aids such as white boards, diagrams and videos can be used to visually reinforce processes so they become habits.
When the proper systems are in place they create and reinforce certain behaviors that engage the culture of the organization or the individuals themselves such as;
Focus – People are more likely to know EXACTLY what is expected and when. They are more likely to be highly proactive and less likely to be distracted. You’ll find that more of the right stuff gets done in less time.
Measurement – With solid systems in place you can track the businesses “KPI’s” (Key Performance Indicators) and begin to predict the state of the organization in the future and make proactive adjustments. Profits go up and surprises go down.
Satisfaction – With clear expectations and the ability to be proactive, people experience higher levels of satisfaction and less stress.
Productivity – All these factors contribute to a cycle of higher productivity
Goodwill – This stuff spreads like wild fire through the business and out to the customers and partners.
As incredibly yawn-inducingly, snoozefest producingly, bland as dirt boring that “systems” are, they can insulate any online business from failure and help any online entrepreneur succeed in the most difficult of economies.
Try injecting some systems into your business and enjoy some peace of mind around the corner.
Take out a piece of paper and start scribbling out your business processes and then scratch out some systems to support the processes. Then put some spit and polish on them and come up with your own fancy names.
You know you can sell those fancy named processes later as you perfect them (think of the last few internet products you bought-they either defined, documented, automated or integrated some online processes…didn’t they???)