Build a Business that Works for You

Do you work for your business or does your business work for you? 

I think all business owners and entrepreneurs could benefit from answering this question.

If life were to catch you off guard, or perhaps if you wanted to take a couple days or months away from the business would it continue to thrive? Would it just survive? Or would it shrivel up and die?

Life is unpredictable, and we probably started a business to create freedom and flexibility in our lives. So this is another reason why systems are so important: documented & duplicatable systems keep you from becoming a slave to your business, so you can have the success and freedom that you work so hard for.


1. Remember Why Your Started

We want our businesses to provide maximum value and impact, in a consistent and seamless way and we can accomplish this by building businesses that are independent and intentional.

Why did you start your business?

Many people would say they wanted to create a better life. A life with more time, more money, more flexibility, more freedom, and more fun. 

Yet, many business owners find themselves working tirelessly, and often end up with the complete opposite. Don’t feel bad if this is you, because at one point or another all entrepreneurs get lost like this, so they are pushed to figure it out if they want to succeed and evolve.

It’s crucial to regularly come back to the center and remember why you started. It’s important as well to regularly evaluate the purpose your business was supposed to serve in your own life.

Remember that your business is there to serve a purpose for your life too, not just everyone in and around your life.


2. Create a Business that Doesn’t Depend on You

The key to growing your business is structuring it in a way that it won’t depend on you.

You want a business that works to serve your life, delight your customers, and engage your team. The goal is a business that can be independent and grow in alignment with your vision and values with or without your supervision.

Developing systems that clearly describe how your business will look, act, feel and perform can help you accomplish this. Think of this like your business blueprint.

Having clear guidance ensures that in the event that you are not active in the day to day operations of your business, your team will confidently know what to do thanks to clear intentionally prepared systems.


3. Get Systematized

Once you are clear on why you started and what your business’s purpose is, then you can start focusing on developing the systems to support & maintain that.

Systemization is about freeing up your business from being dependent on any one person. This makes sure that your customers’ experience doesn’t change as your business may grow, expand, and evolve.

Business Systems & Business Processes: What’s the difference?

A Business System is like an overarching or core element that you are looking to implement in your business consistently. A system helps your business run like a well oiled machine.

Business Processes are the building blocks that make a business system effective. The processes are all of the things you do in order for the given system to work.

Business Processes can also be known as standard operating procedures or SOP’s, and are commonly used like checklists. Essentially any process can be given to an employee and completed without training. Processes are known to consistently improve customer service & customer experience.

The system is the goal, and the processes are what make the system effective, so all must make sense & work together.


Why Systems are Essential

Systems are essential for expanding your organization, improving business functions, adding new people and products, growing your revenue, improving profit margins, escaping your business temporarily, and even your final exit of the business someday.

Systems are often up for debate among many small businesses leaders because some find developing these systems to be redundant, time consuming, and boring. Especially, when there is a seemingly endless list of other tasks to do first.

Many small business owners are stuck in a difficult position. A position in which many don’t have the time to work on their business because they are too busy working in it.

They also can rarely take time away because they haven’t been able to develop the systems and processes needed to run smoothly on auto-pilot. So not all business owners are able to navigate their way out and some become stuck-shackled to their business.

Which leads me to the conclusion that there is a false lack of urgency around business systems, which makes sense but it can be costly.

How Systems & Processes Can Save Your Business

  1. Can save you valuable time
  2. Can save you on labor costs
  3. Can prevent errors & inconsistency
  4. Can bridge communication gaps
  5. Can provide you leverage & scalability
  6. Can make your business a more valuable asset in the future
  7. Can increase consistency, efficiency, and effectiveness
  8. Can build your authority & credibility

There are plenty of benefits that strong systems can provide, like enhancing employee buy in, and building a community of supportive followers that trust you.

Even though systems are overwhelming and time consuming, they can be the key to unlocking the full potential of your organization.


What Business Systems are Most Important?

Technically, anything in a business can be systematized but there are really four foundational types of systems to implement regardless of industry, or the current size of your business. These are always a good place to start.

  1. Marketing System- You use this to generate a consistent flow of leads into your business. Nearly half of small business owners run marketing entirely on their own and most of these do so without a plan. Without a plan, your results will be completely random and uncontrollable. Marketing is a journey that you need to guide your prospect through in order to reach your desired goal. So creating a marketing plan and systematizing that will ensure that your efforts are the most effective.
  2. Sales System- Used to nurture leads, follow up with them, and hopefully convert them into paying customers. Here you will want to build on their interest in your offer, and really push the benefits of taking your relationship to the next stage. Your ultimate goal in this phase is to build relationship and establish trust.
  3. Fulfillment System- This system focuses on the reason you want to turn your customers into lifelong supporters, fans, and friends. You want to increase the chances they will buy from you again, and refer new business to you more regularly. Here you’ll want to think about how you plan to deliver a memorable experience, and how to foster an environment that keeps your customers coming back for more.
  4. Operational/Administrative Systems: these systems are regularly procrastinated or pushed to the end of the list. This is mainly because these are less exciting and more tedious systems to develop. Once you develop the systems for everything behind the scenes, then your business will change entirely. These activities take place on the back end of your business and include things like planning, goal setting, project management, communications, scheduling, maintenance, book-keeping, taxes, payroll, etc.

How to Easily Make Sense of a New System

These 4 simple elements can help you breakdown any essential task into a duplicatable system with less confusion & overwhelm.

  1. Process: Step by Step Actions
  2. Tools: Required devices, apps, software, etc. needed to complete objective
  3. People: The Person or People involved in each step of the process
  4. Strategies: The tactics, tips, or techniques you use

Example: Publishing This Blog Post

  1. Process: Research, Title, Outline, Write Draft, Revise, Create Graphic, Schedule, etc.
  2. Tools: Google, Google Docs, Word Press, Canva, etc.
  3. People: Me & One other person, etc.
  4. Strategies: SEO, List Building, Copywriting, Creative Writing, Graphic Design, etc.

Scaling a business is all about creating duplicatable systems that anyone in your organization can understand, implement, and improve upon with time. Once you are able to step back so that you can create the systems that your business needs to thrive, you will certainly reap the rewards of a business that works for you.


Inspiration for this blog comes from the highly valuable book: The E-Myth Revisited.

To learn more in-depth about topics like this every month join our community, attend a Boss Board, apply for the incubator program, or reach out with any questions!

What Is Partner Marketing and Is It Right For My Business?

Partner marketing is a marketing strategy involving the strategic collaboration of two businesses, or between a business and an individual that has a solid personal brand, in which both work to accomplish mutual goals together.


Benefits of a Marketing Partnership

  • Increased brand awareness 
  • Improved Clarity of Brand Identity
  • Works well as a B2C or B2B Marketing strategy
  • Broadens the purpose and scope of your marketing strategy
  • Can save time and money
  • Expands your target audience
  • Extends your Marketing Budget and Capability
  • Your giving added value to both audiences

Let’s establish that partnership marketing is kind of a broad term that includes many different categories underneath it. 

So we are going to uncover some of the popular types of marketing partnerships, what they are good for and whether or not they could be a good strategy for your business to implement.

Remember when pursuing potential partnerships, to first consider your future vision and goals. This will help you choose the partnerships that will most likely lead to mutual success, while also benefiting and connecting to your target audiences.


Most Popular Types of Partnership Marketing

  1. Affiliates, Influencers, and Ambassadors

A partnership with bloggers, social media influencers, and other content creators who your audience trusts within your niche. 

These kinds of partnership marketers will promote your business on their own channels, and then place the links to your business on their website, blogs, profiles, etc. . This means that when a person makes a purchase using an affiliates link, you will pay the affiliate or influencer a commission of that purchase.

This is best for companies that have high retention rates, mainly because they are more likely able to afford to pay their affiliates a commission every time they bring in a sale. 

Brand Ambassadors are similar, but their purpose goes a bit deeper. They intend to form a relationship with your audience, in hopes to influence them to take a desired action. They do so by sharing more authentic stories and experiences they have had with your business or product on social media.

Affiliates and influencers on the other hand, usually focus more heavily on making as many sales as possible. So while similar, they do have their differences. Making it important to establish goals and expectations early on, in order to know which is best for you.

Affiliate marketing programs usually work best for ecommerce, beauty, apparel, tech, health, and subscription based businesses.


  1. Strategic Alliances or Strategic Partnerships

These are carefully considered partnerships between two individuals or businesses that share the same values, visions, or goals. 

In a successful strategic alliance each partner is able to:

  • Increase their resources
  • Expand their audience
  • Strengthen their brands
  • Accomplish mutually beneficial goals
  • While still remaining independent.

If you’ve heard of co-marketing, affinity marketing, outsourcing partnerships, or even equity alliances, each are variations of a strategic alliance.

These types of partnerships are known to work beneficially for any type of business. As long as the partnership is formed with good intentions and careful consideration.

Since these alliances do tend to be long term in nature, there are some commonalities that make them so sustainable.

Some Common Traits of Successful Strategic Alliances:

  • The strategic partnership is essential to the achievement of a main business objective.
  • The partnership is indispensable in creating or maintaining any business aspect that functions as a competitive advantage.
  • The partnership improves the ability to overcome competitor threats.
  • The partnership builds, supports, or maintains strategic decision-making.
  • The partnership significantly reduces risk.

3. Nonprofit Partnership Marketing

Many brands like to form partnerships with a non-profit organization, and for good reason.

This is great because it benefits the non-profit, as they gain a new avenue to raise money and awareness for their cause, while the business gains points and credibility in the eyes of their audience too.

Non-Profit Partnerships can be one of the best opportunities to grow your brand’s impact, awareness, and trust. 

Your audience will certainly recognize when a partnership is established only to advance your business status, while lacking true compassion and empathy for the cause that you now claim to support.

Prioritizing good intent will ensure that whichever partnership you choose, will be carefully aligned with your purpose, values, and vision.


Important Questions to Ask When Searching for A Strategic Partnership:

  1. Is the potential partner’s audience similar enough, but not a direct competitor?
  2. Will both audiences benefit or gain something from this partnership?
  3. What could this partnership accomplish in order to provide maximum value to both of our audiences?
  4. What strengths and weaknesses do both partners bring to the table?
  5. Have I done my own research on the potential partners audience?
  6. What Benefits or value can I offer in this partnership?
  7. Do my values and visions align with theirs?
  8. Have both partners discussed and identified relevant mutual goals, and established what each partner can realistically accomplish within this partnership?
  9. How do we plan to track the progress of this partnership?
  10.  How do both parties plan to support each other throughout this partnership? This helps you make certain that everyone involved is satisfied with the direction of the process as it progresses.

Leading with good intentions and maintaining communication can be the key to forming a long-lasting and beneficial strategic alliance. Partnerships should be a clear two-way street.

Strategic partnerships are known to be massively beneficial to grow the awareness, impact, relatability, and overall success of your business.

Understanding Negative Capability: How Being Comfortable With Uncertainty is Your Greatest Asset as an Entrepreneur

The atmosphere of collaboration and teambuilding can feel uncertain and ambiguous at times, causing it to be overwhelming and challenging for many people. Which is part of why the discomfort of collaboration can unfortunately lead many people to avoid it all together. Luckily there’s a solution.

There is a concept called “Negative Capability” that was initially coined by Poet John Keats when describing writers like Shakespeare and artists like Picasso who were able to work within high levels of uncertainty and doubt, and even find a way to delight in it and produce incredible work.

Keats used the term to describe one’s ability to accept not having an immediate answer, and being willing to explore how something could evolve before a clear outcome appears.

This concept not only applies to writers and creatives, it applies to business, our personal struggles, and even our collaborative relationships too. 

So we have put together a quick explanation of how negative capability can welcome curiosity, focus, and resolution in your life as a collaborator.

Regardless of industry, this skill can help you boost your team building and collaborative processes exponentially and all you need to do is look within yourself.


What Negative Capability Looks Like In Action:

Negative Capability is the advanced ability to accept uncertainty, mystery, doubt, and ambiguity. Often in entrepreneurship, we lack a template, or instruction manual to follow step by step for our ideas. Yet we still manage to enjoy the journey and many of us even have a tendency to delight & relish in the sense of feeling lost. That’s in essence, part of the experience of utilizing Negative Capability.

To understand a bit better let’s discuss the difference between Passive & Active Uncertainty and how it will shape our understanding of Negative Capability.

Passive Uncertainty:

  1. “Fight or Flight” impacts decision making
  2. Typically comes from a place of ignorance or general insecurity
  3. Supports ‘Decisive Action’ that at times can irrationally and irritably reach beyond fact and reason.

Active Uncertainty:

  1. Uncertainty that comes from being without a template to follow
  2. The ability to delight and relish in the sense of feeling lost
  3. Supports ‘Reflective Inaction‘. Which just means to resist defaulting back to defensive routines when leading at the limits of one’s knowledge.

Negative Capability deals more in the realm of active uncertainty. Which is the uncertainty that comes from lacking a template to follow, and from paving your own way in life with little to no direction to help guide your way.

This type of uncertainty is common in team situations and collaborative environments because there are many minds with many different ideas and perspectives, causing a lot of ambiguity.

As a creator, ambiguity is just part of the game and that’s exactly why it’s important to learn how to cooperate with one another.

Which we can do that by suspending critical judgement until the end result & staying flexible to many possible outcomes rather than being overly attached to an early vision of success.


How Does Practicing Negative Capability Impact Your Life & Work?

  1. You’ll feel less hurried and chaotic.
  2. Increased curiosity & desire to discover truth.
  3. Enriched decision making capacity.
  4. Provides an alternative solution to managing stress. anxiety, and overwhelm.
  5. Establishes a mental foundation for navigating collaborative disagreements.
  6. Reduces pressure of fallout from missed expectations and misunderstandings.
  7. Makes a more flexible environment for communication, opinions, ideas & feedback.
  8. Infuses mindfulness and reflection into the work life processes.
  9. Encourages exploration, experimentation, innovation, and adaptability.
  10. Ensures that you don’t prematurely jump to conclusions that may appear more certain, but are in fact suboptimal.
  11. Helps your team remain focused and excited even when a project may be far from its end goal.
  12. Gives you the chance to appreciate fully and experience wholly the things that to others, often appear to transcend logic.
  13. Unafraid of being wrong or making mistakes because you see these as opportunities to grow and gain knowledge.
  14. It encourages the mindset that there are things that reason, alone, cannot always adequately explain. 
  15. Pushes you to remain flexible to many possible outcomes rather than being overly attached to an early vision of success.

So How Do You Practice Negative Capability?

  1. Disregard the need to analyze and control every detail when working within a team, or collaborative partnership.
  2. Practice regularly thinking and playing with new ideas and perspectives without judgement.
  3. Always tell a story with your ideas and vision, because in reality you are the only one who can actually see your vision. Which means you’ll need to get really good at storytelling and really believe in your story too.
  4. Push yourself to explore situations where you are less knowledgeable, experienced, or comfortable and let yourself sit in that uncertainty. Use this to challenge yourself to adapt, grow, and gain knowledge about something that you may not be super familiar with.

Negative capability is a universally accessible mental tool that can help us all grow and continue a smooth transition into a more flexible and collaborative work culture. 

2020 absolutely catapulted this transition far ahead. Which is exciting, but now that the chaos is winding down we are able to continue the transition more mindfully and make sure that all of our collaborative efforts prove to be impactful and well thought out.


If you are interested in learning more about this topic or how to overcome your own collaborative roadblocks:

Reach out to us anytime, or read the book linked below that was used as inspiration for this post!

Concept of “Negative Capacity” excerpted from book: HBR Review : Guide to Managing Strategic Initiatives : Lead with confidence, overcome roadblocks, and put strategy into action.

Customer Service, It’s Kind of a big deal.

Do good customer service

This month’s theme is customer service.

Job definition:
Interact with customers to provide information in response to inquiries about products and services and to handle and resolve complaints.

Sample of reported job titles: Account Manager, Account Representative, Call Center Representative, Client Services Representative, Customer Care Representative (CCR), Customer Service Agent, Customer Service Representative (Customer Service Rep), Customer Service Specialist, Member Services Representative, Sales Facilitator

I’ve compiled my favorite sites, philosophy, books about how a BOSS should look at the customer service job itself, but more so the place of customer service in the culture and marketing of the business.

A couple key take-a-ways:

  • Look at customer service costs as a marketing expense
  • See customer service as a profit generating function and develop appropriate measures.
  • Answer the phones. (emails, chats, comments)
  • Respond as quick as makes sense.
  • You want your customers to be satisfied when buying your product/service — They also need to have a good experience when they need to return or want a refund or have a failure or a complaint.
  • Customer service employees NEED company specific training. Give them tools. Let them know how to solve customers problems.
  • Have a system to get customer service feedback communicated back to development and marketing teams.

Resources:

Derek Sivers – The philosophy of great customer service.

Tony Hsieh – Founder of Zappos – Book called Delivering Happiness

ONET job details — resource for creating job descriptions and analysis.

Project 3810 sponsors Startup Grind OKC in 2019.

2018 was our first year in business here at Project 3810. When we set out with our plans at the beginning of 2018, while we knew what we wanted to accomplish, we weren’t exactly sure what that might look like once we did.

Our first order of business was to connect with like-minded companies and organizations to see what already existed in our OK small business ecosystem.

As a result we learned about Startup Grind OKC and attended some of their fireside chats. We liked the format and liked their values and decided theirs was a worthwhile association we could support, and thus we could both grow stronger.

Project 3810 became a sponsor in December 2018 and are helping this volunteer organization with promotions, donations and much needed man-hours. We are excited to help this format grow. The fireside chat format is unique in that it gives up close and personal access to busy, successful, local founders. Often we are lucky to hear one of them speak to a huge crowd of folks, but the fireside chat formats allows attendees to actually meet him or her and perhaps, just perhaps, form a kinship where a lasting relationship happens as a result. We believe new and early stage startups benefit greatly from being mentored and the Startup Grind model is a vehicle to allow those relationships a chance to materialize.

Meet a founder at the next Fireside Chat.

Read more about Startup Grind OKC here

Evening of Acolades

2018 was our first full year in business, and we’ve been involved with the Northwest Chamber since inception. So, we were honored to be nominated for and to have won the award for Outstanding New Member at last night’s chamber event, Evening of Accolades. We look forward to many future years of success and involvement with the chamber!

Is It Performance or Behavior?

I’m always amazed when the last puzzle piece falls into place.  Ah ha, the satisfaction. 30+ years in business and navigating now 40 employees and yet very excited about this puzzle piece that fell into place recently.

I’m a student of Patrick Lencioni since around 2012 (a book review on that to come later). I have methodically worked to implement his concepts in our business because they make sense to me.  He advocates an approach to the mission, vision, values that connects with me. So, around 2014 we created our core values based on his approach. In 2017, the latest iteration of our core values was rolled out. 

Both Lencioni and Greg Crabtree and other HR professionals alike, suggest that all personnel documents should tie into those core values.  We haven’t yet reached that state. I’ve been struggling on the exact specifics of what that looked like. It just hadn’t all come together yet. 

Currently, we have one discipline system.  Verbal, written, termination. Standard 3 strikes system. Any and all issues use this one system.  We’ve used it. Its worked OK. There’s been sometimes where it just kinda felt like it fell short. But I couldn’t tell you why specifically.

While our current system and process was working, I knew there was something that was incomplete.  I had worked hard to get our HR systems to grow from the mom and pop atmosphere to one of standard processes.  We have departmental managers in place working on developing their teams. Yet, at the heart, there was still some subjective decisions, ineffective hiring, and incomplete employee development.  

In July we transitioned away from our previous PEO to our new one, Insperity. Insperity brings a more established HR approach and systems to our business.  And low and behold, there it was right in front of my face.

The HR system should include two processes.  One for conduct issues and one for job performance issues.   AH HA! The missing piece.

Let me break it down.

Is It Performance or Behavior?

Behavior problems are usually within the employee’s control, e.g., when an employee is chronically late, tells off-color jokes or spreads hurtful gossip. Other examples of unacceptable behavior include: not following rules or procedures, being untruthful, failing to follow instructions and so on.  Core values most generally align with behaviors and attitudes.  

Performance problems are different from behavior problems because they are not always within the employee’s control. Performance problems, such as poor productivity, usually occur due to a lack of training, awareness or understanding about requirements, and so on.

Ok — so more specifically.  These two types of employee problems require two different methods to address and hopefully correct.

Behavior problems are classified as misconduct and a company can tie their established core values into the behavior category.  Thus effectively giving a means to gauge an employee based on how well an employee aligns to the company culture. Addressing behavior problems, aka misconduct, uses a counseling approach.  The progressive employee discipline –the standard 3 strikes process.

Performance problems however should not use a 3 strikes process but rather a results based metric about achieving the desired performance on a consistent basis. The purpose of a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) is to define areas of concern, reiterate performance expectations, and to allow you the opportunity to demonstrate improvement and commitment. The strategies, actions or tasks to achieve the performance expectations should be clear, realistic and measurable.  

Are you seeing the unique differences between these two employee issues taking shape? Let me know show one other huge difference.

Unemployment benefits.

Qualifying for unemployment benefits is different based on these two distinctions as well.

If termination was strictly for performance reasons and no behavior problems were involved, unemployment benefits most likely will be approved. Performing to the best of one’s ability but not having the necessary skills or experiences for success in the position is an allowable reason for unemployment.  

On the other hand, behavior problems, aka misconduct, are a reason for denying unemployment.  

Management accountability.

I can now see using this to better hold the correct teams accountable for our turnover metrics. Tracking trends in order to improve employee engagement and reduce turnover.  Understanding these two components of a successful employee will ultimately help in choosing employees who will achieve and succeed in your business.

It all makes so much sense and seems so simple now.  How did I miss this last piece of the puzzle? It just goes to show that we don’t know what we don’t know and there’s always more to learn.  Heck, this probably isn’t actually the last piece – but it definitely is a completion of sorts — like finding all the edge pieces.

Keep following your curiosities, keep asking questions, keep implementing new ideas.

Achieving is a balancing act  

If you are struggling making progress on your goals, ask if you tend to focus on one — learning or doing — rather than both.  Do you drift easier towards one side of the scale verses the other? The the side you tip to is your procrastination zone.


The Learner:

Too much learning and not enough doing means you aren’t applying what you’re learning and you aren’t working on the tasks that will get you where you want to go. You instead are avoiding. Put down the book, cancel that seminar.  Now go make that phone call, design that prototype, write that press release, crunch those numbers. Put into practice what you’ve been learning. Try. If this is hard then you are dealing with our old friend fear. Fear that you will look silly or mess up or not do it perfect, or worst still… FAIL. Lower your expectations of perfection and try anyway. As you DO that self-talk of self-doubt will start to change to self-confidence. Trust yourself to use the skills you’ve been learning. Psych yourself up. You can DO it! Go forth and get something DONE.

The Doer:

Too much doing and not enough learning means you might be spinning your wheels and not getting where you really want to go. Allow yourself to see the big picture and formulate a road map. As you stop and reflect, you will realize there are questions you have and those questions are scary. How will you ever find the answers. Doing for the sake of doing is another way to avoid what you don’t know. No need to be embarrassed. There are no stupid questions. Start by writing down the questions that arise while you are still and quiet and NOT DOING. Just write them all down. No judgement. Now refer back to your road map. One of those questions will stir more stress than another. Focus on that one first. Now google that question. Read, research, LEARN. Make notes. Keep reading and seeking until you feel good about what you have learned. Until you realize your question is answered. This answered question will most likely create more questions and that is the idea. Keep on keeping on.

The Summation:

Learners don’t get going and Doers don’t know where they’re going.

The Fix:

Doers — allow yourself pauses and time to reflect.
Learners — allow yourself a chance to get something done.

Get out of the comfort zone you tend to hang out in and find that balance of learning and doing.  Results will not be far behind. 

Balance is allowing time and space to be both a learner and a doer. We need to have both to reach our destinations. We must learn the things we don’t know; and, yet, do the what needs to get done.

Only then can we call ourselves Achievers!