Implementing business systems, so you’ll never have to struggle with spreadsheets

This guide is based on Mixergy’s interview with Nick Green.

Nick Green struggled when he used a Google spreadsheet to manage job applications, so he made the hiring process more efficient and used it to hire about 500 branch managers per year. It was all done by creating business systems, so we invited him to teach you how to do it.

Nick is the founder of Ivy Insiders, which is an education startup that provides test prep and college admissions services to high school students around the country.

Here are the actionable highlights from the interview.

1. Identify workflow problems so you’ll know which processes need systems

Nick found that the software used to process Ivy Insiders’ mailing lists was inefficient, so he created a workflow diagram of the process that showed which steps could be systemized.

Take Action:
Assess your current processes, identify those that could be more efficient, and use software like Microsoft PowerPoint, Word, or Google Docs to create workflow diagrams.


2. Create a hypothetical workflow so you can have a model for your new system

Nick summarized each stage of Ivy Insiders’ mailing list system, then created an ideal workflow for the process.

Take Action:
Evaluate the steps in your process, write down the ideal steps for each, and create a diagram of the hypothetical workflow that will serve as a model for your system.


3. Choose a suitable platform to make your system run smoother

Nick moved Ivy Insiders’ mailing list process to QuickBase, which provided metrics and simplified the mailing process.

Take Action:
Research appropriate platforms and, based on your needs, decide if you’re going to create your own system, use an off-the-shelf app, or build a hybrid solution.


4. Customize your platform to improve compatibility with your system

Nick created a customer relationship management system with sorting features for Ivy Insiders’ branch managers, which were similar to color-coding and other features on his Google spreadsheet prototype.

Take Action:
Start building or customizing your system on a simple platform, create a prototype system and run tests to identify useful features, and implement them on your chosen platform.


5. Document processes to save time on user training and troubleshooting

Nick used Google Sites to create a company intranet for branch managers, which included training and marketing guides, an error tracker, and an announcements section.

Take Action:
Set up a company intranet using an app like Google Sites, and create manuals and guides that contain process steps and troubleshooting information about your systems.


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6. Get feedback so you can tweak and improve your system

Nick used feedback from branch managers to tweak Ivy Insiders’ dashboard, which went through one hundred iterations before the final version was released.

Take Action:
Get feedback by doing interviews or surveys using services like Zoomerang, SurveyMonkey, or Google Forms, track your users’ actual usage using Google Analytics, and tweak your system based on these.


7. Create systems that cater to your customers to increase usability

Nick created different systems which had varying degrees of complexity and user-specific features for Ivy League undergrads and for Ivy Insiders’ outsourced data partners.

Take Action:
Consider the education level, level of expertise, and possible concerns or problems that your target users might have, and address them when you build your system.


8. Keep your system simple so users will want to use it

Ivy Insiders’ branch managers complained that the room rental tracker was complex, redundant, and time-consuming, so Nick simplified it to make it easier to use.

Take Action:
Only introduce features that are needed, simplify them when possible, and act on user feedback to address issues and tweak your system.


Want to make sure you get results?

Written by Hazel Chua, based on production notes by Jeremy Weisz

  • Sameh

    I agree with this .

    I have learned that by working the system will make it easier for outsourcing also some tasks . Or make doing the job for the staff easier and increase the effeciency for the resources .

    It helps in budgeting the enterpruneur time effectively .

    Thanks for the interview it is valuable and practical . I like the way that you turn it to action list .