What are Business Systems?

Staci Clarke, the “Maximizer” helps us to understand what business systems include and why they are so important.

Dotty: So I am dying to know, you say in your bio, you’ve been helping people for 25 plus years. How did you get started on your journey?

Business Systems: A Conversation with Staci ClarkeStaci: Well, first of all, that’s an old number. It’s actually been probably over 30. I’m what I call seasoned and marinated, but not done yet. I got started right out of high school. First of all, I started with technology, and I got involved with technology when I got my first computer at 13. That was over 40 years ago.  I got my first computer and fell in love with technology, and anything and everything related to it. I started showing people how to use technology. I started building computers – building, you know, literally building them from the very beginning – connecting computers showing people how to use them. Even with some of the large computers back in the day, the enterprise computers, where clients were spending hundreds of thousands of dollars. But believe it or not, they didn’t come with great documentation, so I’d be showing them how to actually use it. I’m a quick learner. So yeah, there are so many things that I’ve done in way of technology.

Then, later on, we’ll talk about how that really parlayed into what I do now, which is systems.

I just started because I had a passion; I had knowledge and interest and there were needs, and I started helping folks with needs.

I came from a family of entrepreneurs – the family that raised me – and I was in foster care. So the family that raised me had businesses, but I’ve really been an entrepreneur at heart since I was a young child. I just had a mind that made me look at things differently. It made me curious about things. I found myself even giving advice and ideas to folks who were in business. As a very young child, I specifically remember instances of doing that.

Dotty: So have you ever been employed by somebody else? Or have you just always been self-employed?

Staci: Well, I didn’t listen. Let me just be very honest with you. As many people know who are self-employed, you absolutely do things. You do gigs, you do things in-between. I’ve done temping where I’ve worked for various companies. Then temporary spots and I’ve even done what I thought might have been longer-term spots. Sometimes it just didn’t work out because really, I am an entrepreneur. When you are, it’s very difficult to work for others. But you find ways to be self-employed and still offer your services sometimes, to companies doing things that may not be what your business itself does. But they’re skills you have that you can use to earn income as you’re growing and going along.

Dotty: So the takeaway from that for the people listening is if you’re wanting to be self-employed, and you’re not right now have hope. It can happen, and it sounds like you might have gone back and forth a little bit throughout your career, and that’s okay.

Staci: Yeah, so I would never say back and forth because it would always be the things that I’m doing and pursuing, and whatever else I needed to do to earn an income. Tt was never back and forth, but in addition to. I’ve been in business in some form or another for over over 30 years, at least.

Here’s another takeaway. No matter who you are, or what stage you’re in, you should continue to pursue your dream and your passions. Be smart enough, if you have the opportunity and need to, to finance those dreams from someone else’s pocket. So that’s what the job sometimes is: It’s an opportunity to earn income, so you can use it to invest into the process that you’re building for yourself so that you can generate even more income and more opportunity and have more impact.

Dotty: That’s a smart thing to say, thank you. That is a great takeaway for all of our listeners.

Staci: Well, you and I had a conversation just before we went on, and I would love to share. This is not about becoming self-employed, but whether you already are, or you’re looking forward to it, one of the things that I would strongly advise people not to do, first of all, is not to compare yourself to others.

More importantly, to not look at others and decide that you understand what’s going on for them. Because as we were discussing, everybody looks at everybody else and thinks they have it all together. They’re doing all these things that they have to do, and all those things that they say you’re supposed to do, and they’re making it work. They’re doing it in conjunction with all the other things going on in their lives, and it’s just rolling along smoothly.

It’s really not like that, that’s just not what really happens. So that’s actually a big piece of advice: Don’t assume you understand what’s going on for other folks, and what they’re able to manage, and don’t compare yourself to them.

What are Business Systems?

Then further, since this came up already in the conversation, I’d like to share, that is the area in which I help business owners.  I am a systems Kahuna. And I really believe that systems are just pre-decided actions, right? These are the things that you know you should do in order to get the results that you want. So you determine that in advance and you create these frameworks. That is one definition of systems. One of the things that I’m doing now is offering people an opportunity to work with me in a way that allows them to not be so overwhelmed because that’s what happens, you think you’re supposed to be doing all these things.

As a matter of fact, it’s not your fault because there are people out here who are telling you, “You have to do this, you have to do that.” You know what I’m talking about, right? Like everything from, the funnels and the Facebook Lives, and the Instagram Stories. Then there’s doing the stuff in terms of the business: The administrative stuff, the books, and the leads, and all these things that everyone says you need to do. I think the overwhelm comes in because people are trying to do all of it. They think they have to do all of that, and they think they have to do all of it at the same time, and they have to do it the way that they think everyone else is doing it.

That is an area that I work with clients, and of course, in the end, I’m going to share my information to talk about how I might help some others who are struggling.

I would just really want people to not allow themselves to be overwhelmed, but to focus on what’s right for them because that’s another thing: We’re all different. We work differently. We need different tools, we need different systems, and we need different levels of systems.

I have a thing that I call no tech, low tech, and high tech. Sometimes we have to decide what the situation or circumstance calls for as well.

Dotty: I did hear something in there. One of the – I call it truths and myths about self-employment – is that we wear all the hats. In the beginning, that’s true, but as your business grows and matures, you have to know which hats to let go of, and which ones you can streamline and make run more efficiently. That’s what you help people with, right?

Staci: Absolutely. Funny, you mentioned that. So one of the things that I often share with my clients is this: Sometimes you do find yourself in a position that you have to wear every hat in your business, but the most important thing you can do when you are doing that is to be clear about what hat you’re wearing, at what time, and what’s required for that role at that time.

Not only is it important for you so that you’re being effective in how you’re using your time, but down the road, when you are able to delegate and to have different people in your business helping you, you want to know what is expected and required from that role.

One of the things that frustrate me more than anything is when people bring team members in and do not have a system in place for that role. They just wing it. That’s not how it should work. You’re bringing someone in to help you with your business. They need to be able to operate, while of course giving input and sharing feedback, but operate and run your business according to the systems that have been set up that are right for your business and the results that you want for you and your clients.

Dotty: So can you define something for me?

Staci: Sure.

Dotty: What is a system?  So that doesn’t necessarily mean an actual filing system. It could be a lot of different things, couldn’t it?

Staci: Yes. Systems mean processes or procedures. Like I said before, it’s about making pre-determined decisions about how things should go. So it’s the workflow that has to happen in order for you to get some particular results. I think that in my life: I say that everything is or should be a system. There should be a system of everything, you know, from perhaps the way that you sweep the floor, or when you sweep the floor, versus when you mop the floor. I think that all of those are really part of a set of habits, routines, systems, frameworks – those are all words that can be used, but it’s really a set of processes and procedures to get to where you want to go.

It is an approach. So I tell people, the four core areas that I help with systems for my clients, and then there’s an underlying system, or set of systems, that I think is really most important. I help people with financial management systems, digital marketing systems, administrative and operating systems, but underlying all of that is what I call mindset systems. That is about the approach. It’s about how you think, how you look at things. It is your perspective really, that anchors you, and determines how you’re going to look at and handle everything else in your business and in your life.

Dotty: I’m really interested in that particular part, and what is it that you can do, or offer to help people with their mindset?

Staci: Let me share my approach. We go back to foundational concepts – your values and who you are – and ultimately, who you want to become. That is the first thing that you should look at when you’re determining what your vision should be for your business. My tagline is “Be aligned, be productive and be maximized.”

One of the first things that I like to do is make sure that my clients are sure that their values and their vision are in alignment. In other words, everything that you do. That’s why I always say I help clients to maximize their business and their life. The truth of the matter is that even though some people talk about separating your business from your personal life, it really is all the same.

Who you are as an individual should be reflected in your business and your business is only a vehicle, a tool that you use to move you along in your life journey, so it all has to be in alignment.

That is one of the things that I start with when it comes to mindset, is helping them to stop and look at that. Be clear about their own personal values and their goals, and then making sure that they are in alignment with one another so they can move forward. It avoids a lot of conflict and confusion later.

Dotty: I would agree with that. I think a lot of people don’t take the time or don’t even know. They never really thought about considering their own personal values when they’re thinking about starting a business. I totally see how, if you’re not in alignment, that is going to blow up in your face later.

Staci: All the time and it shows up in so many ways. It’s just little things – you never understand why things aren’t working out – or why you’re having your own personal resistance to things, or people who are doing work for you – even your clients – are not getting what they want or feeling confused about some of your processes. It really boils back down to that, because who you are, and how you show up affects all of those things.

Dotty: I totally agree. Have you ever had any – I guess what I would call – setbacks in your thinking or anything like that, that you can share with other people that they might be able to relate to? They can think, “Oh, if Staci made it through, we’re good to go.”

Staci: Yeah, absolutely. So there’s a couple of examples. Let me share this with you. I often talk about things from a biblical perspective. I talk a lot about and use examples of the children of Israel wandering in the wilderness. Many people, whether you’re a Bible scholar, or read the Bible or not, you probably have heard about the fact that the children of Israel were glad that Moses came along, and God sent them out of Egypt from slavery, and sent them towards the Promised Land.

I think we all have our own Promised Land. We have things that we are expecting of ourselves, visions, and things that have been shared with us about who we are what we’re supposed to do. Often we find ourselves like the children who are wandering. I talk a lot about that journey. It’s part of your journey, right? So for years, I have also found myself at different times, in different ways, either wandering or just not moving along, I then turn that into an analogy that talks about the kind of vehicle you’re using for your journey.

For many years, I walked through the wilderness on foot. Then I saw myself feeling like, “Okay, so now I’m on a bus.” Then I was on a train because I saw myself moving more quickly, more rapidly to my destination. Then it evolved. But many times, I found myself in places that I didn’t need to be, which is the story of the children of Israel. God gave them a promise, and they really could have been in the Promised Land. Some say days, some say weeks, some say months. Either way, they took way longer.

They said that they took 40 years for something that again, could have taken as much as months to get to where they were going. They didn’t get there because of their own disbelief, because of their own self-sabotage, because they didn’t believe what was given to them, and they weren’t willing to do what was required to get there.

So I use that entire analogy to say that I certainly had found myself there. That’s what I find a lot of entrepreneurs are struggling with. This idea of, “Why am I not getting where I’m supposed to go?” A lot of times, it’s our own disbelief, even in ourselves, or in the possibility. Again, that goes back to the mindset and finding ways to clear our minds and get clarity about what we want.

That alignment and the information we need – the blueprint or the route to get where we want to go – with the right mentoring and support is what will get you there. That is what I found in my own journey.

Yes, I talk about it all the time. It’s a wilderness. Again, we are there sometimes, because of our own doing, not because the Promised Land is not right there in front of us. That’s why we need guides. That’s why we need clarity.

Dotty: Exactly. A short little roadmap of mistakes that various people have made, how they’ve overcome them, and how they’re on track again. I know I’ve made a ton of mistakes when you think about business. You say if you’re in alignment with how you believe, then you can go around that mistake, get back on track and follow down the road to your Promised Land.

Staci: Absolutely. You said that well.

Dotty: Kathy (on Facebook LIVE) is having a technology breakdown right now.

Staci: Well, I’ve had many of those. You are like me: Seasoned and marinated. You’ve been around a while as well. When it comes to technology…listen, let’s start with the fact that, about 30 years ago, I had – because I’ve always been a techie and gadget girl – I had a phone that was about the size of a good thick book. It was in its own pouch, and I had to carry it around on my shoulder. I was a wild child.

Dotty: A brick phone.

Staci: Yeah, exactly those ones. So I’ve gone from that big fat Mac that I had that sat on my desk, to an entire computer with the five floppy disks that you would carry around. It’s about the size of a desktop computer. So I mean, I’ve used everything. As a matter of fact, I was here during, and very involved in Y2K, when that was another bit of technology, where everyone thought everything was going to blow up. I spent a lot of time comforting people and doing all the things that should have been done in terms of precautionary measures, but really just making people feel comfortable that all their data, the important data was just not going to be lost when the clock struck midnight 21 years ago.

Dotty: So are you a person that somebody would call if they’re having big tech issues?

Staci: No, that’s not my area. This is a good segue into this. So as I said, I started out with technology when I was 13, and loved it. Still love it. I know a lot about a lot of things when it comes to technology, but that’s not the way that I serve clients. What happened is I started out in terms of clients, as a full charge bookkeeper. I’m also a QuickBooks expert. That’s not the area that I serve clients in now. I do financial management systems. We create those for our clients and help them with things that they might need. The point is that what happened was in spending many years with clients as a full charge bookkeeper, and then helping them with some of their technology, what became clear to me was that the real issue was not necessarily all of the individual things that they thought was the problem in their business. The real challenge was those systems – how they did what they did, how they decided day-to-day to run their business. So that’s why I came in with this idea of helping people with their systems, not meaning their technology systems, but the systems of how they do what they do day-to-day.

Dotty: So like the processes that should be written down in a book somewhere, that can be handed off to somebody if you’re hiring an employee or something like that.

Staci: Yes. We call it IT systems of success. We call it their M.O.M. Most of time, you don’t want your mom in your business, but in this case you do. M.O.M is your Maximize Operations Manual, and, yes, it’s written down. It’s put together in ways – remember I talked about the no tech, low tech and high tech solutions? So that’s a great example. So you could have a no-tech solution, you could literally write out your manual and your procedures and have it there in a written format, if that was what was best for you. So that would be a no-tech solution.

A low-tech solution would be, for instance, to type it up in a Word document. Most people know how to do that nowadays. There is a low-tech, a higher-tech solution for that, which would be putting it in a database or in a mind map, where it’s relational. People can search for what they’re looking for. They can go to a particular place to look for something. Things can connect to each other almost like a wiki. So there are a number of ways that you can do it. An example of what I teach people to do is to determine whether they need that low-tech or high-tech solution for their needs in their circumstances.

Dotty: That’s awesome because I have come across clients that are all over the board when it comes to technology and even just how to use it. I remember when I started, I had to teach somebody how to use email.

Staci: That’s important. That’s really important. The easiest way to figure out what your team shouldn’t be doing, as I said, is to first reflect on what you’ve done to get the success in each area of your business that you’ve gotten. If you have not, then you want to create those systems so that you can share them. As a matter of fact, if now’s okay to share, I am about to open the doors for the Systems of Success Academy.

You often find that whether you’re being coached or you’re just listening to everybody online, and all the things that are out there in terms of information, people will tell you what you need to do. Often the frustration is that they don’t tell you how.

So the Systems of Success Academy is going to be a series of live learning labs, where we will be going through and actually going over, with me as the guide, how to do the things that they say you need to do. Some of them will be some of the marketing things that you do from a marketing perspective. How to create a blog. How to do funnels. And of course, everything is WHY, so there’s more to it than just the house. Why and when you should be doing what is the strategy that should be along with this, but how to actually do those things.

This is going to be great for someone whether they want to do it themselves, or if they wish to have someone else do it for them. They will understand what is required, and create a system for their business that will work. So we will be doing that.

In addition, we will be helping people create the actual systems that they will use. So it’s how do I do it. I want to create a system and a set of systems that M.O.M or maximize operations manual we talked about. That will be a part of what they will get, as well as being part of the systems of Success Academy community.

Dotty: That is awesome because I can’t tell you how many different people I’ve come across over the years that tell you what you need to do. No one tells you how you need to do it.

Staci: Exactly.

Dotty: So we are at the bottom of the hour. Thank you so much, Staci, for sharing your wisdom with us. We have learned a lot from you today. Join us next week for Terri Lynn Phillips, who is an automation Queen. She will share her pearls of wisdom as far as automation goes.

AskDotty Podcast

Dotty loves learning from other successful business owners. She freely shares her experiences in business and she interviews other business owners who also share their wisdom.

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