Years ago I stumbled upon an article on Entrepreneur.com. I was in the middle of running a business and always looking for insight into how to improve.
The article talked about successful businesses. The author said that he had researched many businesses and the ones that were successful had one common element.
He said that the successful businesses focused solely on building systems in their business. They would put in place a system to make sure their sales continued to stay high instead of just trying to put more effort in one month to reach a sales goal.
He said that they had systems to manage everything in the business. Marketing the business, there were systems for that. Hiring employees, they had systems for that.
As I read, I started to realize that he was talking about systems in a very broad sense. It could mean that they have a specific process or procedure or that they developed a set of rules around that area or that they had a consistent way of doing something.
But using the general concept of a system, helped to realize that these were deliberately designed aspects, not something random.
He gave the example of McDonald’s. He asked how McDonald’s can open anywhere in the world, hiring entry-level employees, and still be so successful?
He asked if it was because their food was the best. Obviously the answer is no. He asked if they tracked down the best chefs in the world. Obviously not. What, then, could be the thing that helped McDonald’s reach such a high level of success?
His answer was the system. They developed the right business systems that helped the business continue to flourish anywhere. They sold that business system to franchisees that could be successful by simply following the system that they purchased.
This had a profound impact on me. Because I was building my own business I started to look at everything as a system.
I developed a system for how I would sell the services I provided. I developed a system for reinvesting in the business. I had a system for how I ran every aspect of the business.
I started to realize the value of this approach. I had consistency throughout the business. I could improve by seeing something in the process that could be tweaked and then making systematic changes.
So rather than start over every time I hit an obstacle, I simply looked at the systems and made adjustments.
This started a journey in my life that has been incredible. Soon after this experience, I had the opportunity to start a franchise business. I jumped at this opportunity and learned even more about building systems to reach goals instead of just relying on effort.
I took that same approach as I worked with the second largest chamber of commerce and helped build out new programs for them. I took the same approach with a Fortune 1000 company as I led an agile software development team.
Over the years I realized the value in using this approach for my career but I also started to use the same principles in my personal life. I used it to lose over 40 lbs, earn a Masters degree, quit smoking, raise two children, and pay off over $10,000 of credit card debt.
I started to realize that there is a basic framework to using systems to help reach goals. In my personal life it would revolve less around formal processes and procedures and more around habits.
As my journey continued I started to read book after book that touched on these principles of using systems and habits to reach our full potential. I read books like The Success Principles by Jack Canfield, Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life by Dr. Wayne Dyer, Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey and Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki.
What I realized was that the systems and habits approach to improvement made it easy to take any insight and turn that into action and then ultimately results. Instead of hearing a great speaker give advice but not actual follow the advice or reading a book but then forgetting the messages from the book within a few weeks, I could take that insight and then adjust the systems in my life to test out their advice.
The more I do this the more I can start to identify the larger systems in life and realize that life is incredibly systematic. The various scientific discoveries are often just someone learning something new about some part of life’s systems.
As you start to rely on systems and habits to improve, you will start to see the world as a system with many subsystems, all interacting and interconnecting. It starts to make sense of a complicated, confusing life and gives you a path forward to improve and reach your potential.