Systemizing Will Liberate You – with Harold Mann

We got into business because wanted to leave our marks on the world and have fun, but instead we’re dealing with the same issues over and over and over.

This program is about breaking free of that dulling repetition. You’ll learn how to systemize your work so it can be done without you. My goal is to liberate you from the mundane so you can have time to plot your next conquest.

To show us how to do it, I invited Harold Mann, the founder of Mann Consulting, a San Francisco-based IT firm that helps businesses systemize.

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About Harold Mann

Harold Mann is the founder of Mann Consulting, a San Francisco-based IT firm that helps small businesses systemize.

Raw transcript

Mixergy’s audio transcription is done by Speechpad

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Andrew: Hi everyone. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart. How do you systemize your business so we can run without you and give you room to come up with ways to grow it? Joining me is Harold Mann. He is the founder of Mann Consulting, a San Francisco based IT firm. He helps small businesses systemize, so I invited him here to teach me and you how we can systemize out own businesses. Harold, do you have an example of what you’re able to do as a result of the systems that you’ve put into place at your company?

Harold: Yes. Thank you for having me on. I run a lot of my business on a day to day basis without getting in the way of my staff, and I enable people who are not particularly experienced in terms of business to do pretty sophisticated business techniques, whether it’s marketing, administration or customer service. That’s something I’ve learned to do over the years because of systems that we have put in place.

Andrew: For example?

Harold: One example is marketing to new prospects. The marketing process actually requires a lot of intelligence, smartness, and strategy, but when you break it down into little components, little decision molecules, it’s not that hard. The entirety of it is hard, and it’s very daunting for businesses. So, the act of just finding companies, sending them something, figuring out who to send to, what to send them, if you tell someone who is right out of school how to do that up front, they’re going to be scared. They’re going to say “I don’t know how to do this. I’ve never done this before.” But if you actually distill it down into little pieces, it’s not that hard. You just have to come up with a system that works, and a system that’s going to enable people to be successful regardless of their experience.

Andrew: I see. So, you have junior, new people in your company actually make the sales for you, because you’ve created a system that they can follow that makes a tough process of taking a stranger and making him into a customer, they follow that process, and that allows them to do it.

Harold: That’s right. They actually aren’t sales people. We actually have no sales people on staff. Our happy customers are our salespeople. Sound clich?©, but they really are, and it’s because of the attention we put into giving them excellent customer service through the systems that we have in place.

Andrew: OK. When I said that you have time to think about growing your business because you’re not doing the day to day stuff like making sales, give me an example. You have 150 companies that are clients of your business?

Harold: That’s right.

Andrew: How many phone calls are you making out, then?

Harold. We’re calling them all the time to ask if they’re happy with our work, but the key . . .

Andrew: What about you personally? What’s your connection?

Harold: I speak with them all the time, but the key metric for me is that only about two percent of the calls coming in to our company are for me, and my name is on the door. That to me is an achievement that’s one of my…you know, people talk about what makes you happy about running a business? For me, that number is one of my biggest achievements because it means I can be on vacation with my family, or I can work on the business rather than in the business. That, for us, is key measurement of, are our systems helping? Which is, can this brand run without me?

Andrew: All right.

Harold: This works for one-man shops. That may sound impossible, but you could be a one person shop and still have systems in place to run your business better.

Andrew: OK, and I’m going to get to that in a bit. I want to find out how even a one-man shop can do it, and why you’d want start out, even when you’re a one person organization, implementing the tactics that you’re going to teach here today. Give me an example of what life was like before these systems. Tell me what got you to say, ‘enough already, I’m not going to do everything, and I’m not going to allow everything to happen on it’s own, I’m going to systemize it so that it gets done properly, and it gets done by other people.’ What got you to do that?

Harold: Well, by nature, I’m a lazy person and that, so anytime I did something or something needed to be done, I would always ask myself, do I have to be the one that does this? Is there anybody else who could do this? Or am I the only one who can do this? And every time I asked myself that question, usually the answer is someone else can do it, if dot, dot, do, and what happens after that ellipses is the system, and the system needs to satisfy a certain number of things. Does it achieve your goals in terms of quality?

Andrew: Let me hold off on that, if you don’t mind. I want to make sure we stick with the process. I want people to identify with the problem, because right now, to be honest with you Harold, I get excited about this. You get excited about it because you feel the benefits of it. My audience is thinking, ‘systems? I want to find out how to get more traffic to my site. I want people to download my app, how to deal with my developers. I want them to feel the pain of not having a system so that they can identify with it, and then pay attention the next hour or so where we teach them how to create a system. So if you have an example of how you felt it, we’ll be able to identify with it, and if you don’t, I have tons of examples because, as you and I talked before the interview, this is an issue that’s critical to me.

Harold: OK. Well, the most painful moment for us was in the dotcom boom and bust, where I had a lot of young, ambitious people getting unusually amazing job offers elsewhere, around 1998, ’99, 2000, and leaving the company. And so that turnover, which was something like 90 to 95% turnover, just enormous turnover…

Andrew: Wow.

Harold: …we lost almost all of our corporate continuity, our folklore. Nothing was passed down to the new generation of employees, and the old adage of what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger is so true, because what I had to do then is figure out how do I make sure that our business can withstand that kind of huge impact in the future if it ever were to come up again? So that was the catalyst for a lot of this change. Does that answer your question?

Andrew: It does, and I’ll tell you that one of the reasons that I want to do this, actually, is that I found myself saying, no one else can do a pre-interview but me. It’s, Mixergy, is me essentially, and if I’m inviting somebody here to do an interview, I need to do a pre-interview. No one else can do it. No one else can edit the interviews but me, because I know what part needs to get cut out and an editor might not know it, and so I was doing the editing. I said, ‘nobody can communicate with a guest before and after because it might seem rude and they might not do it right’, and so on. The courses, I said to myself, ‘it takes maybe five times going back and forth with a course instructor to shape the course’, and I said, ‘I know what my audience needs. Nobody else can get it right. I better do it.’

Now, if you’ve kept track, you see that I’m already handling I think it’s six things in addition to doing the interview. In addition to reading the book for some of my guests because they happen to be authors. At some point I found myself in the office at 9:00, and I’m staying until 10:00, 11:00, and I’m thinking, ‘for what? To book guests?’ And I said, at that point, ‘I need to learn how to systemize things.’ We now have a system for doing pre-interviews, and you went through part of it. Now I’ve hired somebody to help me do it. We have a system for putting courses together and our course leader now are going through it, and things that I didn’t think other could do, like communicate with course leaders and shape what they’re going to teach, it’s now being passed to others. It’s freeing up my time now to think about what’s next for us. How do we increase sales, or how do we bring in new guests, and so on, and that has helped me tremendously, but, I think I’ve only made maybe 25% progress. I still was in the office on Friday until 7, 7:30 when I had a date with my wife. And that’s why when I reached out to you it wasn’t just an ordinary interview request if you remember. It was a cry for help. It was somebody helps me to structure the rest of this stuff, so that I can focus on what’s important, like, having conversations like this and allow the rest of the business to grow and then give me a little bit more time to think of what’s next and how to grow it. That’s what you and I put together in the pre interview and I know we’re going to be able to do that.

We’re going to be able to help others in my situation. If you’re not feeling it, if you’re in my situation right now and you’re not feeling it yet, remember what I just told you when you’re at the office at 10:00 trying to do something that really someone else should do, if you are honest with yourself. Harold, in order to systematize this and get the level of freedom that you’ve got, you said one of the tactics we need is to look for warning signs by asking questions. Give an example of how you find warning signs, how you identify signs of what needs to be systematized?

Harold: Yeah, that’s critical. There are obviously ones you feel everyday, but there’s other ones you may not even notice. You almost get use to it. The longer you’ve been in business sometimes is the harder it is to see these. Sometimes the shorter you’ve been in business, the harder it is to even think about these. Obstacles are, there are some obvious ones, you missing your child’s school music event, when you notice yourself typing the same email to your staff six months or a year later because it’s a new group of people, when stop enjoying what you’re doing, when you come in you’re basically dreading having to do five or six things because they all landed on your lap and you’re the only one that you believe can do that.

So, these obstacles are all around you and all you really have to do is stop working for a second and look and see, well, what’s the problem. Every time you feel that anger where you’re about to write off a big email to a co worker or to your entire staff saying this is a problem, we can’t let this happen again, don’t bother with that. That’s actually a complete waste of time. It’s a waste of time because first of all you come across as an annoying nagging boss. I’ve lost many good employees over the years because I was that guy.

You’ll also fix it only in that moment with that group of people. So, suppose you invest in a system to help you do all of your pre booking and just invest in that one person, you interview them, you talk with them, you train them. When they go away that whole system is now gone. So, yeah, you had a checklist or you had a system, but it was like an ice sculpture. It was beautiful while it lasted and then it melted and now it’s gone.

So, these obstacles, these problems are there all the time. All you’ve got to do is say what is that feeling I’ve got, that anger, that frus- . . .

Andrew: Frustration and one of the frustrations is that the internet . . . There we go. We lost you there for a moment. You said look at the feelings that you’ve got and that frustration and that’s the sign that something needs to systematized?

Harold: That’s right. Imagine a restaurant tour who has insist that every meal be perfect. They’re almost guaranteeing that they’re going to be a tiny restaurant unless they figure out what systems can they put in place to ensure that they can scale that business, that they can grow that business, so that they don’t have to be the ones that put the parsley on the side of the plate before it goes onto the table. Right?

There’s a difference between a small sweet restaurant in the neighborhood and then like a Wolfgang empire where it has his name on it. Some people would say, well, maybe he lost some of his quality on the way, but others would measure that in different ways. It depends on what you want your brand to be and how much you want it to be a lifestyle business or maybe something that can live on without you haven’t to physically work it every single day.

Andrew: Frankly, if it’s a lifestyle business, one of the benefits of a lifestyle business is that you have a lifestyle that you get to enjoy. If all you’re doing is working on it, you don’t get to enjoy that lifestyle that you’ve sacrifice [inaudible] to get. All right, so, the first thing you’re saying is look for warning signs. Warning signs like are you in the office too long, are you constantly angry that you’re getting the same issues over and over again.

Most people if they’re in the office for too long might say, ‘I’m a super hero.’ You’re saying, ‘No. It might just mean that you don’t have a good system to pass on the work to other people.’ If they’ve got a lot of stupid questions coming to them via email they might say, ‘The rest of the world is not nearly as smart as I am. Why do I have to keep dealing with these idiots?’ You’re saying, ‘No. You’re the idiot. You’re the one that’s making a mistake by not systematizing a solution for it.’

Another tactic for identifying these issues that could be systematized, as you’ve mentioned we don’t notice them, is you say give bonuses to employees for identifying things that suck. What do you mean?

Harold: Yeah, I encourage my staff. I say I will give you a bonus if you can come up with a system in office that sucks and if you can make a recommendation on how to make it better. But they’ve got to say. Anybody can complain about their office. You don’t get paid on that. What you get a bonus for is if you can come up with a way to make it better. The problem is people get into auto pilot. They just come into work, and they do their thing, and if it means it takes eight or ten clicks to do something, they just do it.

But if they’re doing eight or ten clicks because the system is fundamentally clogged or convoluted, then you say, “Hey, what do we need to do to make it better? How can we simplify this?” So, I can give you examples or however you want to go.

Andrew: Yes. I’d love some examples of that.

Harold: OK. Here’s a very simple one. We have a system in our office to print an invoice, and you can either print a reminder invoice or you can print a regular invoice. So, at most companies that would be a two step process. If it’s the first invoice, send it. If they haven’t paid, then send a reminder invoice. The problem is someone has to then make that decision and then decide, which one do I send. And they might send the wrong one, and clients do not like getting a reminder invoice when it’s the first one. That’s a rude thing to do.

It sounds like a simple example, but we made only one button that just says “print invoice”, and the computer decides have I already sent it to them. And if I’ve already sent it to them, then it says, “Hey, by the way, we’ve already sent this. Do you want to send a reminder instead?” And then, the person gets asked that. They don’t have to make that one little decision in the middle of their day, which is what kind of invoice should I send?

Again, this may sound like a tiny little thing, but you do enough of these and you send enough invoices, then we never have to worry about accidentally sending a client a reminder invoice and upsetting them because people don’t like getting a reminder invoice for the first time.

Andrew: Right. They really don’t. It’s such a small thing. It’s basically different verbiage on the exact same material, but it comes across as insulting. If I go that, I’d think, hey, I’m not someone who doesn’t pay his bills. Why are you calling me that?

Another thing that you say that you do is you print out the screens that your people work with. Tell me why.

Harold: So, a lot of the times you’ll see systems are created for a good reason. People have these brainstorming meetings, and they blue sky it and they have a developer build them a huge database or system in place. But then when you watch people work, it turns out they are only using a button up here and, maybe two buttons down here, and they ignore everything else.

Everything else was there for a good reason, but over time they just didn’t use it. So, what I do is I print the screen out, and I go over to somebody and I say, “Do you use this? Do you use this?” And we go over every single part of the page, and if they don’t use any of those things, I get rid of them so that all they’re looking at are the things that they actually use. And people end up liking that interface better. What that means, they have less trepidation about going to their screen and new employees don’t have to navigate the things that you’re supposed to ignore.

If you just eavesdrop on a new employee orientation, if you have a lot of people, you’d be horrified. They’ll say things like, “Oh, don’t click that” and “Well, we don’t use that”. What they’re doing is they’re basically spending half of the training to teach people how to circumvent the system. So, that’s why we print it out, we make sure that it is only what they actually use.

Andrew: You said that you did that, and you found a few shockers. Do you remember one of the shockers when you printed things out, when you printed out a screen shot?

Harold: We schedule our consultants to help small businesses with their IT work, and so we typically do morning and afternoon appointments. The account managers put in 8:30 to 12:30 or 1:30 to 5:30. Remember, they are doing this all day long for 150 companies every year, thousands of people, a lot of activity

And so, if it’s a morning appointment or an afternoon appointment, we have little buttons that say a.m. – p.m. Over time as the training went on, people stopped even training on those buttons, it turns out. And so, now they know that if they press “a.m.” they don’t have to type in 8:30 to 12:30. Again, this may seem like small stuff, but what happens is a new employee starts, and they accidentally type 12:30 a.m. instead of 12:30 p.m. And then, the next thing you know the person is booked for, instead of four hours they’re booked all day because of that little typo.

By giving a system that just says, is it a morning or an afternoon appointment, little shortcuts, we got rid of that problem, and now we don’t make those same mistakes.

Andrew: One of the things that stands out for me with that and for systems in general is you’re often sacrificing by saying you can only do a morning appointment or book our people for an afternoon appointment, you’re missing the granularity of being able to book someone between 10 and 11 or 9 to 11 or anything like that. You’re saying, there are only morning and afternoon meetings.

Tell me about the sacrifice that we have to accept, or do we have to accept it?

Harold: In that case, a lot of these we do an 80-20 Pareto principle on. If 80% of the time we are going to use those buttons, we put them in, but we allow you to override them.

In some cases, systems do need to make some tough calls, and that is generally where you get a lot of pushback. There is going to be some person in the back of the room-and I am sure there is a particular Myers-Briggs category for that person-who says, “No, no, no. We can’t do that because,” and then they go and give you a laundry list of the exceptions, of why that is not going to work.

As a group, you need to decide, or even as an individual, you need to decide, “Where am I going to draw the line?”

Some companies will say, “We are just going to say yes to customers, no matter what,” and then they spend the rest of their time managing all those exceptions.

Yes, there will be situations where you have to decide, does this mean we are not going to allow certain things? Then it is up to you as a company to decide, are you comfortable with that.

I have a vendor that requires that we pay them online, and I would imagine they get a lot of pushback from certain companies that say, “No, I want to send you a check.” They made a decision operationally-and this is a publicly held company-to require that people pay online. If you really want to work with them, you will do it, and that makes their operations run a heck of a lot smoother, I am sure.

Andrew: I see. I am willing to make those sacrifices, actually, as a business owner. I am willing to lose out on a little bit of flexibility to have a whole lot of system, organization, and predictability and a process that works, so that I can think about what to do next, and I can think about how to tweak it, but not have to deal with issues all the time.

One more thing about giving employees bonuses for finding things that suck- because I would like to now do this-how do you figure out what size bonus to give for the size issue that they discover? Is a big issue that they discover worth more money? Is a small issue worth less money? Do you give them for every issue they discover? How do you…

Harold: I have to say, unfortunately, over the years, I still do not get the kind of volume of feedback where I have had to tier it or make a lot of different versions of it. The reality is, even in my own business, which is highly systematized, my employees-like most employees-are busy just doing their job, and they are not pulling back, evaluating, and rethinking their job.

If you read the E-Myth book or even The 4-Hour Workweek, it is all about really examining your business. A lot of companies, a lot of employees, do not do that, so I do not have a lot of data points to which I refer.

I suppose you could, with the employee, try to come up with the lifetime savings as a result of that system, and somehow come up with a commensurate bonus, but I really think the key is to tap into that frustration and find out, “Why you are taking so long to do this, and does that frustrate you?”

The reality is, most employees in this country do not care. It is just their job. They are going to get paid the same whether or not they do it in eight clicks versus one click, so there are not a lot of incentives for them to change that, but I know business owners want the systems to run
better, and, in this economy, you have to have systems that run well if you are going to scale your business, or even maintain your business.

Andrew: I work with a great assistant, Andrea, who helped me book the interview here with you. I am thinking, “I do not know what process she goes through to book you,” because we set it, and I forgot it. To revisit it with her to figure out where the problems are would mean that I would have to see it through her eyes. I would like to be able to say to her, “If you can find a way for us to skip a step, I know it will mean less work for you, but I have to show you my appreciation for doing it because it is going to be easier for us-one less place where we can make a mistake. It will be great for our guest, and, overall, it will make for a simpler system for the business to implement in the future,” so that is why I was asking about that.

You are saying, “Andrew, do not worry about them catching too many issues like that, where you end up going bankrupt because you have to keep rewarding people for finding issues. They are not finding that many. Just find a system, go with it, and come back and revisit maybe later.”

Harold: Yes. Just remember, what we are talking about here is extremely unpopular. It is unpopular to do for your staff; it is unpopular for them to want to do. People do not spend time on this, and yet they wonder why it takes so long to get certain things done. When I have an idea for a project, I have incredible shorthand in my businesses. I send off the name of the company to a coworker with a couple of key acronyms, and those acronyms automatically expand using one of my tools to tell them exactly what to do. If they do not remember, it includes a link on how to do it themselves, and they can watch a video on how to do it, and then it just goes, and it goes because I took the time to figure out what is the least amount I need to do in order to make this thing happen, and how much do I need to be involved in this step of the way? It turns out, when you look at it, you do not really need to be involved that much more. You should be able to say, do a pre-interview with this person, and just know that it is going to happen.

Andrew: I have got you. Alright, let us break down some of what you have said so far. Shorthand: you use programs, and we will talk more about your tools later on, but you use Text Expander, right? You are a Mac person?

Harold: Right. Yes, that is one of them.

Andrew: What does text expander do?

Harold: It is very simple. You type in a couple of keys, and then it expands it to whatever you want, so suppose I do a Mixergy Thank You. Suppose I worked for you and I wanted to do a personal thank you to our guests. I might make a text expander that was M X T Y for Mixergy Thank You, and that would expand to either the text to the customer, or, maybe if I am a manager, maybe if I am you, I would have it say, “Hey, Andrea, please send a thank you to this person, and here is what I would like to say, and if you have forgotten how to do it, here is a link to a video where I teach you how to do it,” so even if she has a follow up question, she can retrain herself on that process again. Simple stuff, but if you are doing it all the time, then all you type is M X T Y, and you can just fire those off all day long for as many guests as you need to thank.

Andrew: Alright. You told me the notes-and you were great, by the way about sending me a PDF with some notes in preparation for this interview-you said, use Text Expander on Mac. On Windows, you said you recommend a program called Texter, T-E-X-T-E-R. The other thing you said in here was that you show a video to the people who you work with. You have it always
saved in your Text Expander, so when you have to ask for something, first of all, you just type in a couple of letters, and that request is expanded, but you also include a link to a video where they can see how it is done. Talk to me about using videos to share processes.

Harold: Right. This is huge, because-I do not know if you have ever tried to do documentation, but if you ask people to write up documentation on a process, some of them will go white in the face, because that means they have just lost the afternoon, because they want to make sure every single thing is perfect. Those folks will generally need hours and hours to do what is otherwise maybe a thirty second process when you actually do it. Guess how long it takes to do a screen recording of a thirty second process?

Andrew: Right, right.

Harold: It takes thirty seconds. It is great. It is a one-to-one thing, and people can do it. The neat thing is, when they can annotate it with their voice, they can do a voiceover, and show you what is going on on their screen. You have seen this on many websites-screencasts-and you build up a little library of them. The really cool thing is, it does not have to even be you, the business owner, that does it. Once you have an administrative person on staff, have them make the screen recording.

First of all, they are going to get really into it, because it is them being able to train, and them being able to do something with new technology, and, you will learn how they know it. You are the first audience of that video. Once you watch their videos, if that works for you, you give them some feedback if it does not, and build up a library. Now, if you do not mind them being public, put them on YouTube. If you want them private, put them on an intranet. There are a lot of techniques for that, but the key thing is, do not just teach that one person. Have them teach everybody who is going to do their job in perpetuity, and that way when they are bugging you for a promotion, then you can say, “Well, who is going to do your job,” and they can just say, “I can hire somebody to do my job, and I have a whole library of everything I do so they can start on their own, and I already have my successor groomed,” so it even helps them get promoted.

Andrew: You know what? I love doing this stuff because it is just so easy to pass it on. If someone is not around, I can always take that how-to and give it to the next person. If Andrea happens to be away-and so far, she has not been away even one day, but at some point, she is going to take a day off-I can say, “Ari, here are the how-tos so that you can respond to this.”

Harold: By the way, warning signs-nobody talked about warning signs before. If there is anybody out there who is petrified of losing an administrative person in their company-suppose they walk in and give two days notice-if you are petrified of that, and you do not have documentation of what they do on a given day, this is a kind of tool that is going to make you more tolerant, or more prepared for that kind of possibility. If you lay awake at night worrying about losing that person, put a system in.

Andrew: I have an advisor, Bob Hiler, who just keeps pushing me to systemize and document everything so that we have a real business here and not just a collection of things that Andrew does, and that other people sometimes do. He reminds me of the movie Coming to America, where one of the characters in that movie ran a restaurant called [??], and had this manual from McDonald’s in his hands and he said “This is the playbook because he could basically duplicate the McDonald’s business with that playbook.” And Bob says to me, “Andrew, when you create your systems, make them so good that people want to steal them because they could operate the whole business based on that.” Just organize it like that. And we actually, in order to achieve that goal, we’ve been using something called…why am I forgetting the name, it’s a great company, Skitch [SP]. We do videos sometimes, but the problem with videos I found is that it’s hard to edit within them. If you miss a step, you have to go back and re-shoot the whole thing. So we do screenshots with arrows and text on them. That takes longer than video. Do you have a preference? Is video better? What do you do with video when you have to edit it? How do you combat the issue that I have?

Harold: Look, you can get extraordinarily [??] videos, or you can do written notes. The key thing is to do something. I think that there’s usually an authoring bottleneck, where people spend so much time authoring it. Remember, there’s a shelf life on these things. So if you’re a dynamic company, we’re a mature company, we’ve been in business. This is our 20th year in business. But we are constantly changing our systems. So if you build something and then that’s subject to change, I wouldn’t invest too much in the authoring process if you are going to have to then redo it the minute your systems change. So make sure that whatever you’re coming up with is something that what the shelf-life is going to be worth the authoring time.

Andrew: Gotcha, gotcha. So, for example, we are going to change the way we edit these interviews maybe in 4 months because there will be new technology or new version of our current software. Don’t try to make text that you can then edit and change for five months from now. It’s not going to be applicable. Do a quick a video, get it up there. You’re right. All right, I see the point. And in your tools, the tools that you sent me, you recommend something called, Jing. Do I have that right? J-I-N-G?

Harold: Well, Jing is a tool that you just record your screen. There are many of these out there. Snaps Pro is another one on the Mac. Jing has one for video, I mean for Windows, as well as Mac. There is a tool called, that I just heard about recently, called Charm, which basically allows customer service people to go through a large number of processes of responding to customers in a quick way. So, that looks pretty impressive. I actually haven’t used it yet, but the idea is a very good one, which is most of the time you are going to be saying this or this. Here’s some tools to do that, so you can just get through this as quickly as possible. Really advanced companies will roll their own CRM solution, and then there’s everyone else. And everyone else comes up with a lot of very rote, or mechanical process. And there are ways to speed that up.

Andrew: Got it. OK, basically, do a screen cast of what your doing, put it in the library so that anyone else that wants to do it, can watch you and do it right alongside of you. And the program that you mentioned, Charmed [SP], you gave me the URL for that. That’s Charmhq.com for anyone who’s watching us and wants to try it out for themselves. OK. You say when you’re on vacation, it’s a good opportunity to look for things that need to be systemized or improved. Why? What are we looking for when we’re on vacation and how do we handle it?

Harold: Well, one of the things we are looking for when we’re on vacation is not being interrupted while we’re on vacation. And the whole idea of vacation is almost a joke to some small business owners. So, one of things you want to look for is what’s stopping, what’s coming to a grinding halt while you are on vacation? What are the things that people are feeling like they are unable to proceed with? And encourage them to say something to do. Encourage them to speak up about it. A lot of times they are not going to want to bring it up because they may not want to be a bother. But really, you want to know about those things. And then, when you find out what those things are, then you have to go through a series of the five lives, and some of the other tools to then figure out how did it get to this point. And then how do we avoid this, so that the next time I go on vacation, I can know that we are doing fine. I don’t have to worry about the place coming to a screeching halt.

Andrew: That is a great opportunity to look for issues. I’m trying to think what issues we had when I went on vacation last time. It’s things that just deviate from what we ordinarily do. And we just need to, when I’m away, not deviate too much and focus on what we are doing well.

Harold: I’m guessing when you are on vacation, you may not be grooming future interviews. That may come to a halt.

Andrew: That’s fine.

Harold: So you might want that to keep moving forward even while you are on vacation, so that by the time you’re back, you’ve got a whole list them ready to go and they are all queued up. That’s the kind of thing where the business could keep moving forward, even if you are out of the office for a week.

Andrew: Right. Pre-interviews still happen. Going through the list of potential interviewees, and finding guys can still happen, and so on. You mentioned in the beginning that you don’t have to wait until you have employees, or ever have employees in order to systemize. And we keep talking about Andrea and your system with all the people that work for your company, but even someone who’s just a one-man operation can start. Tell me about that.

Harold: Right. So, when I first started my business, it was just me in a one-bedroom apartment, actually it was a studio, and then it became a one-bedroom apartment, then it was a two-bedroom apartment, then it was an actual office, but the entire time I was doing it, even before I had my first employee, I was thinking about systems and departments. And if you act as though you are a larger company, it is much easier when you get busy and when you hire that person to then become that larger company. So, it may sound silly but when you are a small one-man shop and a one-girl shop, put on your accounting hat and be the billing department for that moment when you’re coming up with the billing process.

By the time you then hire someone to do that, you’ll have a department process for that. You’ll have a system already built for that and it’s very easy to just say, “Well, I’m on the only one who does that, so I don’t have to build a process.” And, again, one of my clients is this doctor and he just has to do all the billing himself because he got stuck because in the very beginning of his business, he was the one who did the billing and he never thought about it as a system and it was infused with so many decision points that he then became of the mentality that he could not give away the billing portion of his business. And that, of course, affects his ability to grow his business.

Andrew: Let me ask you something? How are you doing on time? Do you have another 20 minutes to give us?

Harold: Yeah, sure.

Andrew: OK. Great, because I’ve got so much and I’m trying to think, “Do I skip this or do I not?” All right. So now it means that I don’t have to skip anything. Another tactic is to ask the “five whys”. What are the “five whys”?

Harold: Yeah, and I was really amused at Eric Ries, in a recent interview, was talking about “five whys” and how it is something that Toyota uses. I’ve been using “five whys” and not knowing it was actually coined and used internally at Toyota. “Five whys” is very easy. You keep asking why until you get down to the essence of the question. So I can give you an example, if you want.

Andrew: Yeah, please.

Harold: So, I had a new employee, new to the area, moved to San Francisco and scheduled one of my consultants for two appointments, one in the morning, one in the afternoon. The middle of the day, the consultant says, “By the way, did you know that you only gave me 15 minutes to get to an office which is 45 minutes away from my morning appointment?” Now, 90% of the country would likely say, “Oh remember to check, make sure that the locations are close together when you’re scheduling.”, maybe 95%, and the word “remember” is the key thing. When you hear that word, there’s a system that’s screaming to be made right there. So . . .

Andrew: Why? By the way, well, there I am, asking you why. But why is that? Isn’t it enough to say to the person who’s booking the calls, booking the meetings, “Look: if you’re scheduling someone in one part of town in the morning, don’t schedule them in the other part of town in the afternoon. As long as you remember that basic, simple rule, we’ll never . . .

Harold: Sure.

Andrew: . . . have a person who has to screech through traffic to try to make an impossible meeting.”

Harold: That’s right. And I hope that person is with you for many, many years to come, but if you are like I was, and had unbelievable turnover during an unusually turbulent time, then that little discussion you had with them goes out the window or maybe they forget about it because they’re having a bad day. So, when you get that feeling in your gut like, “Why is my guy late for this appointment?” You first ask yourself, “Why did this happen?” Let’s say it happened because Jenny is new, OK? Well why did that happen? Well, because she doesn’t live here, OK? Well why did that happen? Well, because she hasn’t been here long enough to know, you know that one’s going to be many more than five whys, but the reason is because the system allowed her to put in two back-to-back appointments without thinking about the location. So why did that happen? Well, because she didn’t know.

And then at that point you say, “OK, well, and why did that happen? Because the system doesn’t figure it out for you.” and that’s when the light bulb goes off. I have this great programmer working for me and I said to him, “Hey, you know what would be really cool would be is if you could have the system take the address of the morning appointment, plug it into Google, take the address of the afternoon appointment, plug it into Google, have Google tell you, using their API’s, which is free, how much space is between them and then tell you, right away, ‘According to Google, this will take at least 30 minutes. Are you sure you want to schedule these back-to-back?'” And, I’ll tell you, I obsessed about this one because I never want this to happen again. And, fortunately, I had a great programmer who did this for me, that you can get on oDesk or find one of them yourselves to do this kind of thing. And now I never have to worry about that again, for whoever I hire in that position, they could be from Des Moines, Iowa, it doesn’t matter. What that means is that they can come in and start working and the system is going to figure out the distance and the system is going to avoid us, accidentally having that happen. And that for me is time well spend because it means, we never have to worry about that one little problem happening again.

Andrew: When you told me that I thought, I don’t have a developer who would customize a calendar solution for me, based on that. But I challenge myself to think of what would I do in that situation, given the constraint of a lack of a programmer at first, especially before I figured out this actually worked and helped out.

And I thought, what I would do, maybe a simpler solution for me would be to say, two hours between meetings. Until we find a system that can figure out when a meeting shouldn’t be scheduled back to back, I’ll give my guys two hours between meetings, one for lunch, one for phone calls, or something like that, that doesn’t have to be coded in.

But the big take away that I took, was still valid which is, systematize it, don’t count on somebody remembering, frankly, I could not not remember. Or I have a guy who I have worked a long time, he might not remember. But if it’s in the system, and the system is designed to avoid these problems, it won’t happen.

Before I go on with the next one. When I put out this call, I said I need to learn about systems, I’m looking to do an interview on them. I got one of the deadest responses that I have ever gotten to calls like that. Most people don’t appreciate the value of these stuff, they don’t find it exciting. Derek Sivers, the founders of CD Baby, famously got excited in my interview here and talked it. But with his exception, I don’t remember anyone talked about it.

What is it about you, that made you say, I liked this stuff, I cared about it, and I actually be willing to do an interview with Andrew, to talk about it?

Harold: I’ll go back to the word, unpopular, this is an unpopular topic. I think because, people don’t get excited about, simply finding their job. Should they get excited about it, aspirational.or a concept, but it’s hard, it’s hard work. You actually have to stop what you are doing and really re-envision it, re-invented.

For me, I love it, I love building systems. Why don’t people do it more? I think it’s because, it’s not always easy, It requires a lot of thinking and jobs are hard, and to ask them to remember to remember to do things, that’s not the fix. A lot of people use those. It’s almost like empty calories. Like fast food. If you have something in your office that reminds you to double check or triple check something, that’s a warning that you’ve got a problem, that may seem like your system, to double check it. That’s a band-aid, that’s not the fix

Andrew: Double check this. is not a system, why is that not a system. Why isn’t in the system to say, ‘Andrea is responsible for this’, ”Arnise is responsible for double checking’.

Harold: Oh, if it’s two people that’s better. But if a single person is double checking, how much are they going to really locate it differently the second time.

Andrew: I see.

Harold: So yeah, double checking if it’s two people that’s a check and balance system, That’s definitely a good one. And by the way, you said, ‘What about people who don’t have a programmer?’

This don’t have to be super complicated. Suppose it’s an excel document, which has a simple link to a Google map. Where automatically, it just holds up, using a macro, holds up the two Google locations for the new person. Maybe that’s in and of itself going to help.

Andrew: I see. Yeah, that’s sound like a good use of concatenate that concatenate feature of Excel.

All right, what else we have of here.

Deal with obstacle. So we talked a lot about these tactics. Inevitably a person listening to us, right now, takes into his company, someone’s going to say. ‘Ah, that’s just too much’, or ‘That’s not for our dynamic company.’ Or come up with some reason to poo poo it.

Tell me about that? What do we do with that?

Harold: Well, first off be prepared for it. I go into the companies all the time and help them run more efficiently.

I mean, we’re very lucky, we get to go into so many different businesses, and see them use their computers. Often, they’re using the computers like adding machines and typewriters.

The realities are, they can’t run more efficient by putting in systems. I once run into a 300 person company, and I found that they were wasting about 4 mandate’s a month on this one process. And I said I can cut it down, they can reduce, the amount of work that was necessary. And the CFO said, ‘Uh, we get compensated, by our client, on head count. So that’s not going to help is’.

So even the CFO, of this company, was against the idea of improving the system, because there revenue was predicated on head count. Eventually they came around and we did it. It was a very good and successful thing.

When you see theses obstacles going to be there, people are going to resist you. And what you want to show them is you’re making their job easier. And by making their job easier their job will not be as boring, it will not be as repetitive. A lot of the things people don’t like about their jobs is the repetition. Some people will just whistle while they work, and they don’t care if it’s 8 clicks or 1 click or 15 clicks – and those people are going to be – ultimately those people are going to have a hard time finding jobs, because business today is all about adapting and pivoting and reacting and being agile. So you’ve got to try and make your job run better. And that’s what your boss is going to say: ‘Wow, you’re making your job run better; that I like to see!’

Andrew: And you know, when you get into it, it does become fun. I’ll share a quick story with you. We had this system for creating a new blog post. We’d say – and we documented it – we said, ‘Go and hit the new blog post button, you’ll end up with a blank field. Go to the HTML and then type in this, or copy and paste that in, and then check this other box over there. And then you also need a new template, so you check the template.’

And we thought about it; once we got into the excitement of creating systems, we said, ‘Oh wait – there’s a plug-in that allows you to duplicate a blog post. What if we install that and then we create a template blog post that basically says ‘put header here’ or ‘put the interviewee’s name here;’ put the Wistia video there; put the MP3 there,’ and so on.

We create just that template and we take the link that says ‘duplicate that blog post’ that the plug-in enables us to do, and that’s all we tell the person who has to create a new blog post to click on! So now we took 20 steps (or however many it was) and we made it one. Just click this and you have a brand-new blog post based on the template that has everything in it that you need to do. Perfect; it’ makes life so easy and fun to find.

Harold: Here’s the thing you want to do when you’re working on that process, because it’s an iterative process. You want to make a Google Doc called ‘That Checklist’ or ‘That Process.’ And then every time – you want to watch carefully the next blog post entry. Everything that is wrong about it, or everything that is problematic about it, you want to go into this checklist and add these line items to it to figure out how can you avoid that decision or that decision from recurring.

So when I work on projects with my team, every single setback: ‘Oh, we didn’t know this,’ or ‘We didn’t ask this’ – goes into the template so that subsequent ones are going to be that much smarter. The problem is people are just trying to get the job done so they’re not going to stop and do this. As a business owner you’ve got to stop them and say, ‘STOP: Let me put this in the template.’ Or you just tell them to put it in the template, because in that moment that’s when you know ‘we need to make a change to our system.’ Right at that moment. You will not remember to do it later.

Andrew: You know what? Actually you’re right, because one of the systems is that we say, when you intro an interview in the text only hyperlink to one thing. Some of these guys who I interview have 50 companies that they work with, and we talk about it in the intro. I don’t want links to 50 places. The guy only wants one link to his Twitter account or his blog or whatever, his company.

And I did a blog post here; I hit ‘publish’ on a blog post that was created earlier today, and I saw, ah, already linked to multiple places. I’ll break those links, I’ll feature just the one and I’ve got to remember to come back and tell her – and I forgot!

So now you’re saying go back to the document. Now if I do that – go back to the document and make it clear that you only link to the one most important thing for the guest so we can focus the clicks, she has to remember to go back and check that out. How do I remind her, or how do I get her to do it?

Harold: That’s because you’re not doing enough with the Five Why’s. So why is it that you only want one link? Because you don’t want to have too many . . .

Andrew: Because guests want to focus on one thing. Like, you are not going to want me to send people – my guest, I don’t know you well enough – you don’t want people to go to your Facebook profile.

Harold: Right.

Andrew: You want them just to go to your website.

Harold: So, all right. Why does your employee need to ask that? Why can’t that be part of a pre-interview questionnaire that the guest fills out which says, ‘What is the one link you would like us to promote on your behalf?’

Andrew: You’re right. What I do is I just say, ‘Make your decision based on what company they’re with now.’

Harold: Right. So if you do you’ve actually made more work for her because she has to do one more thing. If it’s up to the guest to do, and you give them that information, if they want to be in an interview then you know they’re going to comply with that checklist – then make the guest do it.

Andrew: I see. You’re just blowing my mind here because you just made me realize something. We now have a new system where we’re going to let guests book their own time. They click one link, they go to a sheet, they pick the day that they want. We don’t even have to go back and forth. And then after they hit submit they get to tell us their Skype name so that I can connect with them, and their company name.

You’re reminding me. We should say, ‘Where do you want us to link when we post the interview?’ Then all Ari [SP] has to do is to go to that one link that they want hooked up, and boom, the whole thing is done.

Harold: That’s right.

Andrew: I don’t have to ask the guest; it’s in there.

Harold: You will save a copy of the Google Doc, which is a template that you make, because you are going to work on that template. You’re going to make that template perfect. You’re going to keep refining it. You’re going to save a copy of it and you’re going to invite that one guest to that template, and then you and your assistant and the interviewee will all go to that one document, and you’ll have all the information there. They do the work. We learned this by dealing with applicants. Applicants wanted to work for our company. We’ll hire one out of maybe one-hundred applicants, maybe two-hundred. We were doing all of this work! My employees were typing name, and phone number, and e-mail address, and all of this work. Then I thought, wait a second, why are we doing that? After about four or five why’s, we realized the applicants should be doing the work. They want to work here, have them tell us all the information. Have them fill it all out. Now they fill it all out, and then we just go through it and survey it, and we’re typing in a lot less information. If they want to work here, they’ll do the work. We’ve made that much more efficient simply by asking enough whys. What you did, Andrew, by coming up with those ideas, is what most people do. They say well remember to dot, dot, dot, remember to ask –

Andrew: Right, right.

Harold: – for the one thing. The word remember is the key thing. That’s the warning sign. That’s the thing you want to get rid of with your system.

Andrew: OK. Alright. This is going to make my life easier, and it’s going to make her life easier, too. She just now has one thing that she wants, she’s trying to fit, actually what I am trying to say is this – I could imagine her thinking ‘I don’t know if Harold is still with that last company, or has shares in that last company and wants me to link up to it, or if he’s angry at the last company and doesn’t want me to link to it, because he just doesn’t want to be identified. I’ll link just in case. Better to be safe than sorry’. And if I give her the link right up front, or let Harold give her the link before he even locks in the interview, it saves her a lot of time and saves her all day, the anguish. Alright [??]

Harold: [??] I was going to say, the other thing you might want to think about is, suppose that she did that. Suppose that it linked and then you were embarrassed, or the interviewee sent you a note saying, ‘Hey Andrew, why did you do that? That’s really embarrassing for me.’ The thought process you want to go through then is, how did this happen, and how do I avoid this from ever happening again. If that’s all tied to your assistant really being on the ball, that may not be a system that you can keep in perpetuity.

Andrew: Right.

Harold: So you really want to think about it. Is whatever I’m going to do going to survive her quitting on me, or do I have to then just train someone else how to do it?

Andrew: Alright. I’ve got more here, but let me just say to the audience, if you’re watching at this point, you’re one of the few people, who first of all have got to be in business. Entrepreneurs have no interest in this stuff because they haven’t felt this pain, because they don’t really care about the details of a business. Entrepreneurs, the guys that just want to be entrepreneurs, all they care about is that million dollar pay-off story, or they care about the guy that started with nothing and is on his way to doing – . They don’t care about the real nuts and bolts of really building a business.

So if you’re watching to this point, you are, and I’m so glad that I’ve got an audience of people like you. Second, I hope that before this interview ends you send Harold an e-mail thanking him for doing this. I’m not done with this interview, but I just get excited when I see that you’re willing to give this stuff, that you’re willing to teach, that you went so far as I now have a photo here of your dashboard. Top Secret, I’m not even allowed to show it to the audience, and I completely get it, but the fact that you trust me with this to help the audience to help the audience take a step further means a lot to me. We can’t show this to the audience, but why don’t you describe what I’m looking at, and tell me why is this important for people to have something similar to this in their businesses?

Harold: Sure. I actually love about your show how much people actually do share, and so it was with trepidation that I don’t, I have a lot of secret sauce in our business, I don’t want to give it all away, because we do have competitors. I will say I’m looking at my dashboard right now, and for us what we found was that our business could be distilled down to a bunch of metrics, especially our meetings. You know you have your meetings, your [??] situations [??] tells me what’s problematic, because we’ve figured out what needs to happen on any given day. For example, we need to get back to eighteen applicants who have applied to work for us, and I can see that on my Dashboard. They send in a job, and anybody who applies to work for us is a potential customer down the road, so the way in which we treat them is important. That number is turned red.

Andrew: I see. I won’t reveal the number here, but next to ‘Applicants – Need Action’. Actually, you gave them the number, but it’s red.

Harold: That’s right. There are eighteen people. That’s not OK. We need to get back to people right away to say, if they are not a fit, ‘sorry, it doesn’t feel like a fit’. So that number turns red, and my new employees know to get the red out of that Dashboard. That’s all they needed to know. If they don’t know what to do, then behind that button will be a link to a tutorial on how to do that. The cool thing about it is that tutorial will be written or authored by their predecessor. It doesn’t have to be authored by me. And by-, when I-, and when you let your staff actually build this library and build these tutorials, they really get into it. They like coming up with it, and then, in that process, it reveals all the things that are wrong with that process. So you learn, wow, we really don’t know how to do it. And then you build it.

So, I’ve got-, so at any one day I’m looking at my unused billable hours or the invoices that are past due. I don’t have AR reports. I don’t have AR meetings. I look at the number, if the number’s red, I fix it. That can be a Google Doc with conditional formatting, it doesn’t have to be in the database. I happen to use FileMaker Pro because it’s extremely easy to use and I’ve been using it for many years.

And so, every little thing that I think about in our business, I’ve distilled down to these numbers, ’cause those are really the things I care about. Right? If you’re a business that’s a professional service, you care about unused billable hours. That’s a key thing. So I look at the number. If that number’s green, my staff’s whistling, they’re happy. If the number’s red, we’ve got some problems. We’ve got to figure out how to book our employees. But we’ve distilled it down; we’ve given it a color. People know, get the red out. Or, that’s sort of the dashboard approach.

Andrew: I see, so the way I might handle it now is I would say-, I hate to keep referring back to me, but I need an example. I don’t want to make it just about me, but I’m using me as an-, myself and my own situation as an example for the audience, where Andrea has to CC me on every email so I could look in my inbox and make sure that every single person who’s being booked got the reminder, saying that’s not the way to do it. Have a dashboard that says how many guests are booked, how many guests need reminders, if you don’t have enough guests booked, it goes red, which means that we have to go and actually click the link and see what we need to do to find new guests. If we don’t have enough guests getting reminders, I can just click the link and see what it takes to get more reminders out to guests.

Harold: If I were you and I was, and as I was consulting with you, I would look at the spreadsheets for every guest, and I would have a completion percentage on every spreadsheet, and I would have those all bubble up to a single document which showed me, oh, the Herald Mann interview is 100%, but the interview for Joe Acme is only 27%. And then you know where Andrea needs to work. Where she needs to focus. And just by seeing those numbers, so by bringing those numbers up, all you really care is that those are all at 100% by the time the interview happens. So, that would be a good dashboard metric for you to use.

Andrew: What do you keep all your tutorials in? I’ve had a past, actually several past guests say that they use Google Sites to organize all the tutorials.

Harold: Yeah, we use Google Sites. We like that. We use some of them built into our FileMaker database. We use just contextual buttons. If you have a tool that you are using that authors things, put buttons in right on the screen. You know, Amazon is really great about this. They’ve got this, “What does this mean” link. And the minute you’re using their site and you think what does this mean, you see the line that says, “what does this mean” and you click on it. It’s perfectly contextual and you can do the same thing in your own systems. I have a-, I have question marks in my Google Docs that says, “What does this mean?” And so a new person using it can click on it, and it’ll play a video either from the Google site or from our file server.

Andrew: All right. Let’s talk about other tools. First you talked about FileMaker Pro. How do you use FileMaker Pro? What do you use it for?

Harold: So we use FileMaker Pro for almost every operational function in our business, it’s just an easy to use product, it’s very mature. It’s got a web interface if you want. So we basically use it to organize things so that we’re not dealing with a bunch of disparate Excel files. A lot of people use Excel, but they don’t link things together. We use FileMaker to then connect everything up and then it also has these great triggers. It has these triggers that are built into it so that if something happens, something can then happen as a result of that. Suppose the interviewee for you has now reached 100% of their template. You could use FileMaker to then trigger an email that would automatically email you saying, “The interview for Joe Acme is now 100% complete.” At which point you might say, “Joe, thanks so much for filling that out. I’m excited, I appreciate your giving us that information.” And it would automatically CC your assistant, and it would just be a nice personal touch. Those kind of triggers are why we use FileMaker.

Andrew: Gotcha, OK. And I can see how Excel could do some of this stuff, but not as elegantly. Like, in Excel, if you have, if an assistant creates one spreadsheet where she monitors the progress, you can link another spreadsheet to it to keep track of that and trigger things, but not nearly as cleanly as FileMaker Pro. OK. So FileMaker Pro. The other thing you recommend people take a look at is TextExpander, or Texter for Windows. We talked about Jing videos. We talked about Charm HQ. Another item on your list is Drip Marketing. Tell us how Drip Market…

Harold: Drip Marketing is really just a concept. A lot of people who want to do marketing, they do these one hit wonders, but really, Drip Marketing is-, the whole idea of a sequence or a campaign, I know Noah Kagan referred to that in a previous, I think interview, maybe with you or maybe you just Tweeted it. But the idea is, you have a system. And, a lot of companies don’t know how to come up with those systems. There’s a consultant I know named Kendra Lee, who at the KLA Group who does a great job of coming in and helping companies come up with these systems.

Typically that’s for lead generation and some other things. You know, a lot of these tools are available in books like The Ultimate Sales Machine, The E-Myth, Getting Things Done. You know, these are all concepts that are out there, Inbox Zero by Merlin Mann. All of these concepts are out there. The key is to start using them, and if you’re in a collaborative environment, making sure that your team is using them. And if they’re not, pay them, pay them handsomely to tell you why they aren’t using them. And that’s where this concept of the sucking bonus I want to come back to, that’s the key thing because if they’re not using it, then all of this is a waste of energy. Right?

Andrew: Yeah. So, we’ve given them a lot. We’ve given the audience now a lot of tactics and a lot of new approaches to their business. I can feel that, for some people, all that we gave is going to be perfect. Now they have, like, a print-out of the transcript and they’re going to go to town on it. But for others, it’s going to be overwhelming. For the person who it’s overwhelming for, do you have one thing that they could do right now to just get on the road to doing this?

Harold: Well, if there’s something that they’ve identified that they think they want to improve but they don’t know how, they could email me. I can probably give them a quick answer about something to start with.

Andrew: OK.

Harold: They could hire us to help them if they’re a company that doesn’t know what to do. I would say that you actually know what needs doing if you just stop and look at your pain points. So I think for the person who’s not-, they know they want to do this, they’re just not sure where to start, figure out the thing that you dread next going into your business, that the next phone call you dread making. Figure out what it is that you dread about any part of your business, because it’s rare that we like 100% of what we do. And then, go with those pain points, or if you’re about to send off that angry email to a colleague or co-worker, figure out how did we get to this point? And if it’s simply a matter of them not paying attention or not knowing the job well enough, maybe that’s not the fix, to just sort of hit them over the head with that hammer. Maybe the fix is making the system so that they can’t fail.

If you ever go to an In-N-Out burger, the people working there are not particularly old. But that burger is so consistent, that process-, I just sit and I wait and it seems like an interminable wait, but when I sit and wait for my burger, I watch-, they have a naked kitchen, you can see exactly what’s going on. That system is a beautiful, well-oiled machine. Go to a McDonald’s and order on of their new smoothies. Watch that machine. That one machine that breaks the ice, that washes the blender. It’s an amazing engineering achievement. And it’s a system that they came up with to enable them to add a product to their menu that’s not going to then take a register person out of commission for five minutes like it would if you went to another juicing store. It’s really an amazing thing. So I would just say, follow the pain points.

Andrew: And it works for-, you know what? Here’s how broadly it works. I remember interviewing Neil Strauss, the guy who wrote The Game. He is, as many people in the audience know, created a system for meeting women, for getting them to date him. And that system was just flawless, so, not flawless but so, it was so systemized that even if you were nervous, even if you weren’t sure what to say next, the system could help you take-, go to the next step and the next step and the next step.

All right, I’ve got one more question to ask you that I think is on people’s minds. Let me just say thank you to someone in the audience here. Tom Seven on Twitter said, “Hey @AndrewWarner. I’ve listened to at least 200 Mixergy interviews and finally went premium. I’m psyched. Thank you.” And the reason I want to say this is, first is thank Tom Seven for going premium. He went to Mixurgy.com/premium and signed up. The other reason is that, I know there are a lot of people who’ve watched a ton of interviews and they say, “What really is there in the premium service and why should I sign up?” The reason is, well first of all you get access to all hundreds of interviews. We’re talking about 600 interviews. If you loved this interview, we don’t have 600 like this, but we have a ton that are like this and a few that aren’t as good.

In fact, you’re one of the best interviews, which is why I’m-, people can hear my voice, how excited I am about it, Harold. But that’s in there. But even more than that, we do courses where I bring entrepreneurs on to show their computer screens and teach what they do best. So, for example, I had the founder of Reg [sp?] on here, and he showed my audience his websites and he said, here’s how I can improve each one. And better than that, here’s what your audience who’s watching this, who’s taking these courses that are available in premium can do, and he gave them a set of steps that they can take to improve their-, to improve the conversions of their websites. So, that’s just one of dozens of courses, now, that we’re adding, bring in experts who teach you how to do what they do well. So, thank you Tom Savin, for reminding me, and thank you everyone who goes to mixergy.com/premium and signing up. All right, Harold, the question I wanted to ask you is this. You’re going to get emails from people, I don’t know how many, it might be ten, it might be 50, it might be a thousand, I don’t know. What system do you have for responding to all the people who email you now?

Harold: That’s a good question. I get about three to four hundred non-spam messages a day.

Andrew: A day.

Harold: Uh, and I’m, I’ve got some great short cuts that I use in Gmail and some Text-Expander. I’ve got some great shortcuts with my team, so if I delegate something, with a couple of keystrokes, they know what the goal is. So I think it’s about basically just coming up with systems. . .

Andrew: Do you have a system for responding to my audience yet, are or you just going to wait until you get maybe five, and then based on that create a Text-Expander answer.

Harold: No, I’ll see how it goes. I generally don’t like canned responses, I’m not in that sort of echelon of the people who get thousands, and have to give that, ‘I’m sorry, I’m so busy.’ type, I’m not there, but I do, you know, always come up, you know, I’m a lazy person, remember, and I embrace that and I accept that and part of accepting that is saying, ‘OK, What do I need to do so I can not have to do as much work, and I can still give people a good, caring response?’, and often it’s just coming up with some of those ideas. And maybe it’s just a, “Hey, you know what, this is all on my blog post, check out that blog post right here, and that will answer your question.’

Andrew: What’s your email address?

Harold: Uh, hmann@mann.com.

Andrew: You’ve got an incredible domain name. By the way, I should say to the transcribers, Mann is spelled, M-A-N-N.com, and that’s a domain, not just four letters, but your last name. I wish I had Warner.com, so that I have andrewwarner.com and awarner.com. You have, Mann, M-A-N-N.com or H@mann.com is the way to reach out to Harold.

Harold: Well, two Ms, hmann@mann.com.

Andrew: Thank you, right, thank you. M-A-N-N.com. I made a point of saying it, and then I got it wrong. Um, but I urge everyone in the audience, not to just be in the seats of life in the audience of life, but to actually be out on the field, and the way to be out on the field is to reach out to my guests and say at least thank you, and connect with them, and now Harold’s given you his email address so you can do that, and I urge you to do it, and I look forward to hearing the responses from Harold of all the floods of email that he gets, or maybe even the five good emails that he gets, and I’m going to say thank you first. Harold, thank you for doing this interview, and for sharing so much with us.

Harold: Thank you so much, I enjoyed talking with you.

Andrew: All right. Thank you all for watching, go use it, and let me know what you do. Bye.

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Share

  • Anonymous

    Harold, thanks for the amazing interview! :-)

    I uploaded that clip from Coming To America that I told Andrew about: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XrwZORNA-k0

  • Gerald

    I believe in systems PERIOD….. and everyone in business should believe in them as well to be successful
    ask McDonald’s brothers………Ray Roc….. seen the value in them (systems) Ray pay 2mil dollars back then for the rights to McDonald’s……what is it wroth  NOW……..SYSTEMS…….work if apply the right way….

  • http://mixergy.com Andrew Warner

    That’s what I strive for now.

    To get our systems to be so tight that others want to steal them.

  • http://mixergy.com Andrew Warner

    I do too.

  • -IH

    Harold and Andrew – thanks for this interview- this topic is so important! As someone whose dealt with the pain of broken and/or bad systems, and in fact tried to create new ones from the bottom up myself, I can appreciate how critical it is to have good systems in place. Great job.

  • http://www.JiansNet.com Jian

    Yes, it is all about making the systems work rather than yourself to work. Also, I guess software is key that could automate a lot of daily routines. So a type of leverage other than leveraging employees…Thanks Andrew and Harold

  • Charu

    Awesome. We try to automate a lot of our business.. but this interview takes it to the next level and makes you think more deeply and get to the root of the problem. 

    Premium is the best.. I signed up for it after listening to just one interview. Overall great content!  Thanks Andrew!

  • Justinwmorley

    Great interview!  I think about systems all the time.  I think Tim Ferriss has a quote in one of his books from IBM “It’s all about the system”.  I think no matter what you are doing, creating a system is a great idea.  I really like Harold’s video tactic, that really brings a new dimension to training people.  Instead of long boring videos of the hay day, having short detailed videos that employees create is a great idea.

    Thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/sigler Tracy Sigler

    We are big fans of the E-Myth and systems at our company, but it’s not always easy to implement them. One major mistake we made early on was documenting the heck out of EVERYTHING because we were so adamant about it. In hindsight we can see that a lot of that work was a waste of time. Prioritizing, then documenting, the most frequent, core functions is important, but not until you’re certain something is going to be a very regular part of your business.

    We use a private WordPress blog and tons of screencast videos. Camtasia is what I use but the free tools work fine. We post the videos as “unlisted” on YouTube. That allows us to embed them on our private intranet pages, but they are hidden YouTube and no one can find them unless they have the direct link. We use the “registered users only” plugin to keep the whole thing private.

    Post and video about it here:
    http://avlmarketing.com/1738/simple-small-business-intranet-wordpress/

  • Anonymous

    by the way it was “McDowells” from Coming to America… LOL! great reference though. I will be a premier member soon. Currently putting my “systems” in play financially.

  • http://sami.io Sami Bashraheel

    Harold! You are the Mann! (pun intended)

    Seriously I learnt a lot from this video, thank you.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the wisdom Harold, you are the Mann !

  • http://www.patric-schmid.de patrics

    Hey, thanks for the interview and ideas on automation. You can also use http://ifttt.com/ for some automation jobs. Greetings

  • Christie Scott

    Thanks! Systems = Freedom!
    C

  • http://twitter.com/hmann Harold Mann

    Tracy, that’s a great idea re: YouTube to leverage their infrastructure without making all your “secret sauce” public. Thanks for sharing those ideas

  • http://twitter.com/hmann Harold Mann

    Very cool site, Patrics. If those triggers work, I will be definitely incorporating that into some of our workflow.

  • Joe Adkins

    This was a great reminder to get out of the day to day operation and work “on the business” not “in the business” as the great Michael Gerber talks about in his book E-Myth.

  • cale beltran

    I have watched a few mixergy videos here and there and this one was up there with the best. Great interview, i learned so much about systematizing my business from the word go. Hopefully it will be a lot easier now.  I the gold is not just in the videos with this one but also in the comments.

  • http://www.facebook.com/louwrensoberholzer Louwrens Oberholzer

    I never posted…..today I do….Thanks.  I am about to start a website that will need a lot of systems.  This is what I needed

  • http://www.facebook.com/louwrensoberholzer Louwrens Oberholzer

    I loved the interview.  Just what I needed thanks 

  • http://www.wallstreetoasis.com Wallstreetoasis

    Exactly what I needed…great interview.  Time to get some video screen captures going to get some solid documentation behind tasks that my assistants and interns are doing.

    Thanks for this.

  • Dude

    Excellent interview. Mr. Mann makes the approach to developing systems both lively and insightful. Use the “five whys.” Why not?

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  • matt k

    To add to this article I would like to throw out a website called GVO that has helped me completely automize my small online business. With tools like webinar rooms, email capturing systems, and autoresponders, I can spend my time improving my business instead of answering emails. 
    This is just a tip I want to give to all of my entrepreneurial friends. SIGN UP FOR THIS COMPANY. They have a free trial so you don’t really have anything to lose.The website it:http://mattk9.hostthenprofit.comAnd yes this is my affiliate link because the company also has an amazing affiliate program. I would appreciate it if you signed up through my link, but this isn’t about me. I just felt that it is only right to share my key to success with the young entrepreneurs that are in the shoes that I was in just a few years ago.

  • Miguel

    Awesome interview… People do not tend to think about this much as it is not a sexy topic but is HIGHLY RELEVANT to anyone looking to run a business. The sum total of all the systematizing and efficiencies lead to a smooth scalable business and also leads to workplace happiness (lots of worries for errors disappear with automation).

    In my previous job they ruthlessly automated everything possible thus allowing the employees to be more productive thereby increasing the value of the business as a whole (and making life easy for us in the process!). We didn’t have to remember rules and worry about screwing things up when we released software because tons of checks were in place to prevent errors that were common in an environment free of checks. It feels good to know that this knowledge now exists in the Mixergy archives and is accessible.

    Interviews like these makes me a proud lifetime member of Mixergy and Andrew’s mission. I have learned tons here and always learn more through the interviews and the courses. Interviews like these remind you to build a smooth-as-possible organization so that you can grow gracefully. Thanks Andrew and Harold!

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  • Anonymous

    We made a checklist app at https://howtracker.com with the goal of giving people an easy way to record knowledge in a usable way so that they can actually apply it. We’d love feedback from anyone here that values systematizing recurring tasks – it’s free!

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  • http://twitter.com/AymericG Aymeric Gaurat

    I am looking for feedback on my business documentation app http://documnt.com.
    Please feel free to contact me to discuss how I can make it work for your business.

    Thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/AymericG Aymeric Gaurat

    HowTracker returns an empty page?

  • Anonymous

    That’s weird – we aren’t seeing any downtime issues on our end.  Email help at howtracker dot com if it still isn’t working and we’ll investigate.

  • rachan_m

    Great interview with very practical tips.

    One way I discover “problem areas” in my business is to understand where I am spending most of my time. Then use Eliminate / Automate / Outsource in that order. Then iterate.