Some people have asked how I got started creating systems and my answer is always the same:
I was raised by an engineer.
Yes, most of this comes naturally but has been practiced by years of training. Today I want to take a real life example of a system I created in high school for a fundraiser project.
Our band and choir decided to sell See’s Candy to raise money. It was simple enough, a candy bar sold for $1 and since the band fronted the money from our boosters all income once we paid back the boosters would be pure profit. A box of 20 candy bars would bring in $20.
The band director had this system:
1. Order Candy
2. Give Candy to Band Students
3. Collect Money
Or, if you prefer the visual representation:
To a systems gal like me that is chaos so I volunteered to coordinate and create a more comprehensive system.
I started by tracking how many boxes each student took to sell which was easy enough since the candy company provided such a form where the student would sign.
Drummer – 2 boxes
Saxophonist – 5 boxes
Flutist – 1 box
Soprano – 4 boxes
Alto – 2 boxes
As the money came in our director would occasionally write down how much money was brought in by each student. Near the end of the semester I started asking for those lists so I could cross reference and make sure all of the money was repaid or candy returned so we could continue selling. Our band director’s response?
“We’ve made enough money; don’t worry about it.”
After beating my head against the wall I handed everything over and focused my attention elsewhere. Finals perhaps. At the end of the semester the band director called, freaking out, and said “oh no! all these seniors have left without paying back the candy money!”
Despite being just 15, I knew that it would be critically important to work with people who were ready for complete systems. Here’s the system that would have enabled a comprehensive and successful fundraiser:
This system reminds me of meeting delusional people who think it’s “so easy” to run an online business.
“What’s the big deal,” they usually say, “you create something and put it on the internet to sell.”
I no longer bang my head against the wall because, unlike high school, I can easily say “go ahead, try that. Have fun.”
I’ve shared before that I was incredibly judgmental about how well programs were run when sold online until I began doing it myself and understood just how many steps there actually are.
And we don’t know what we don’t know.
In candy sales that might mean barely breaking even but in business it can mean huge setbacks and lost income.
My band director is probably like many of you: creative, visionary, right brain thinker. The solution for the director is very similar to the creative entrepreneur: partner with a left brain thinker who can take your vision and put in all the steps, the “how” it will get done and execute the plan and handle all the details.
That’s what I do, and have done now for decades (egads), create system and form around big visions. What’s your big vision?