How To Use Systems (Without Turning Into A Heartless Zombie) By Mark Silver
You can tell as soon as you pick up the phone before the other person has even said anything. That little silence, the clattering in the background, tells you that it's a telemarketer on the other end of the line, and there is nothing they have to say that is worth your precious time.
The business that hired the telemarketing firm is trying to achieve their goals using systems. Many of the systems large companies use that we come into contact with like automated 'help' lines, telemarketing firms, spam-like mortgage offerings that feel completely devoid of heart and personality.
With those experiences, it's easy to have strong opinions about using systems, and to avoid them like the plague in your own business.
Don't let a world full of bad apples keep you from the sweetness, and support, that is possible with systems.
Systems help you stand up.
The word 'system' comes from two Latin words: 'syn' and 'histanai' meaning to cause to stand. Merriam-Webster (www.m-w.com ) defines system like this: "a regularly interacting or interdependent group of items forming a unified whole."
Kind of like your bones, muscles and brain all working together to help you stand up. Or your heart, mind, and soul working together to show your family how much you love them.
If you have Thank You cards, address labels, and postage sitting in your desk, and every time you write a card you put it out for the post: that's a system. And whoever the lucky person is who receives the card is grateful, whether they know it's a system or not.
Like the body, systems have conscious and unconscious parts.
Chances are you don't think much about breathing. You breathe in, you breathe out. Your heart pumps, and the blood and oxygen go 'round and 'round, keeping you alive moment to moment.
Thankfully, you don't have to pay conscious attention to that system: "Okay, right and left atriums: pump! Right and left-ventricles: pump! Okay, diaphragm: tighten and flatten!" Try directing all of this, dozens of times a minute.
Wouldn't leave a lot of room to get much else done, would it?
Are you thinking about every breath your business takes?
I'm betting that there are plenty of places in your business that could use a system to help you stand up. How about getting bills paid? How about keeping your office stocked with business supplies?
A system can be as simple as having a stack of blank inventory lists of what your office needs to operate smoothly, a monthly alarm in your calendar that reminds you to take ten minutes and check your inventory, filling out your inventory list of what's needed, and scheduling a trip to Office Depot, or ordering what you need online.
Voila! A system has just handled your office needs, and now you won't ever be stuck at 10pm at night before a big deadline with empty printer ink cartridges.
That's fine for office inventory, but what about the telemarketing call we received in the beginning of this article?
A 'heart-less' system is a zombie.
Systems are, by nature, repetitive. By handling the repetitious aspects of your business, they can leave you time and energy for truly enriching, heart-centered interactions.
The telemarketing company unfortunately thought everything about the call is repetitive, and doesn't allow for real human interaction. As a result, there is no space left for us to engage with the telemarketer as a person- they become a zombie. And who wouldn't hang up on a zombie?
'Zombie' refers to a corpse that has been re-animated by evil powers. If you are going to systematize your marketing, which I highly recommend, you'll want to identify which actions are repetitive, and which are creative and unique. But, to avoid creating a zombie, you'll want to do more than just systematize the repetitive. You'll also want to bring your presence to the unique, and put your heart into both.
Everything in this world has a spiritual presence to it, which means that no system, engine, or machine need truly be 'cold and heartless,' as one client put it. Your veins and arteries aren't just tubes, but they are imbued with life. The same could be said of your autoresponder, accounting software, or email.
Take a moment now in your heart and ask to be shown the presence and life within some part of your business that you consider to be zombie-like: 'cold and heartless.' Once you recognize the life that is present within your business systems, they will function more effectively for you. And your customers may enjoy them more as well.
Sounds simple, but it may not be obvious.
Keys to Heart-Centered Systems
* Pick one thing you'd like to happen more often and more easily.
Taking a moment to breathe and check in with your heart, identify some place in your business that you know it would be really helpful if it happened more often or more easily. You may have several ;), but for now, just pick one.
* What are all the bite-sized pieces to it?
Even if it's a list of 20 things, break it down into little bite-sized tasks. For each task, identify if it's a repetitive task without much creativity or personal touch needed (applying postage, for instance), a task that needs creativity once, but then can be repetitive (a welcome letter you mail out, that can be copied), or a task that needs creativity every time (responding to a personal request for help from someone).
If it needs creativity every time, you can't systematize it. But, the rest you can put into a system that delivers, does, or reminds you to do the task in question.
* A Heart of Business Example.
We decided, for several reasons that have to do with both supporting people and supporting the business, that we wanted people to actually read and use the free workbook we give away: Getting to the Core of Your Business.
We also knew that many people would download it, but forget about it.
There is no way that I could possibly follow up with each subscriber personally to remind them to check out the free download. However, what I did do was go in my heart, and ask for what was one bit in the free workbook that would be very helpful to someone who was relatively new.
When my heart was clear with that, I wrote a -very- short email, and put it in our email autoresponder system. After someone has been subscribed for two weeks, the email goes out automatically, reminding the new subscriber how to get the download, and to look at a specific page, for a specific bit of help.
We get thank you emails all the time from folks who have received that email, and enjoyed what they read there.
Although the email goes out automatically, without me thinking about it (heart- pump! diaphragm- breathe!), the responses that come back fall into the category of needing creativity every time.
So I respond to those emails personally, quite happily. If I had had to think about every step until that point: manually adding someone to the subscriber list, sending them the free workbook, sending them the reminder email- I would be exhausted, cranky, and unable to do much else in my business.
But, because the rest of it is in a system, and Heart of Business is off the respirator and breathing on its own, then I do have spaciousness and creativity available to respond with heart to those who do write to me.
Your next step: What is one heart-centered system you can add to your business this month?
About the writer: Mark Silver is the author of Unveiling the Heart of Your Business: How Money, Marketing and Sales can Deepen Your Heart, Heal the World, and Still Add to Your Bottom Line. He has helped hundreds of small business owners around the globe succeed in business without losing their hearts. Get three free chapters of the book online: Heart of Business