How To Systemize Your Business So It’ll Stop Sucking Up Every Minute You Have – with Sam Carpenter

How do you systemize your business so it’ll grow without sucking up every ounce of energy you have?

Sam Carpenter used to run himself ragged as the head of Centratel, one of the largest commercial telephone answering services in the nation. Then he discovered the power of systems and everything changed.

He even wrote a book about systems, a book which I devoured, before urging him to do this interview. The book is Work the System and he’s currently offering it for free on WorktheSystemAcademy.com

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Sam Carpenter, Work the System

Sam Carpenter is the author of Work the System: The simple mechanics of Making More and Working Less.

 

Raw transcript

Mixergy's audio transcription is done by Speechpad

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Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart and the place where over 600 entrepreneurs have come to tell you their stories so you can go build your successful company and hopefully do what today’s guest is doing at some point in your career and come back and share what you’ve learned with others.

So how do you systemize your business so it will grow without sucking up every ounce of energy you have? Sam Carpenter used to run himself ragged as the head of Centratel, one of the largest commercial telephone answering services in the nation. Then, Sam discovered the power of systems and everything changed as you’ll hear in this interview.

He even wrote a book about systems, a book which I devoured before asking him to please do this interview with me. The book is called “Work the System”. I hope it’s coming in the right way and not backwards. “Work the System, the Simple Mechanics of Making More and Working Less”. Sam, welcome.

Sam: Thank you, Andrew. Glad to be here.

Andrew: Does the book come in backwards to you by the way?

Sam: No, it looks good.

Andrew: And it looks good on camera. You know what doesn’t look good on camera is this button up here. I think I need to relax here for this interview. Can you tell the audience the cycling story so they understand the problem and the opportunity behind systems?

Sam: Sure and that was in the book, in the preface, and it was just an anecdote and I’m sure readers didn’t know where it was going when it started, but I’ll run through it quickly. I cycle quite a bit and I was on a trip called Cycle Oregon, which is through the eastern Oregon back country for a week.

This was about 6 years ago and on the last night, there’s 2000 of us and we’re camping in wheat fields and parks, small town parks and nobody had cell phone coverage and so the last day after 7 days of hammering 75-100 miles a day everybody is really tired. There’s a tent city set up in the small Oregon town and the next day everybody is going to go back to their lives.

My friend, Steve, and I were walking through this, what I call a sea of tents, and we heard some guys talking and it just drilled into my head. There about 6 guys talking, they’re all drinking beer, and one of the guys said to one of the other guys, I’ll bet you’ll have 250 voice mail messages and everybody laughed.

Another guy said to this young man, and he was probably 28-30 years old said I’ll guess 150 and they’re actually betting how many voice mail messages this young guy would have when he got back. I went on and I switched the story and talked about my own situation saying that my life had been like his very much, but the next day as I drove in back to Bend, which was about a 250 mile drive.

I listened to my voice mail and I had one message in there from Andi, my COO, who I can see right down in the office down there working right now as we do this interview and she said, hey everything’s great. Drive home safe. I’ll see you when you get here. That was all I had. I’m the CEO of the company, and I’m sure that guy was a department manager probably somewhere.

And so, I drew the contrast between him and how many emails he had. I don’t know. The contrast was his whole world came to a halt. The building and the creating and the advancement of whatever he did stopped dead when he left, and mine just kept going. I say in the book: in my head as I hung up with Andi, I knew everything was fine, and I knew the profits had been rolling in every day as I was gone.

The interesting part, I made a short statement there, my life was just like his not too long before, and so I had an insight and I developed that insight to the point where my phone hardly ever rings and things continue on to that day. I have four corporations now and an international non-profit. It’s the same thing. My day is a pretty easy day because of this technique. And mainly, we’ll talk about it, mainly because of a change in mindset and how I perceive the world.

Andrew: Right. And we’ll teach that mindset. We’re also going to teach the systems, how to systemize to get this. What I want to emphasize to the audience is the reason I asked for this story is not because I want to tell you at the end of this interview you guys are all going to be able to go cycling or have more free time to hang out.

You will have that, but really my goal in life isn’t to help you go sit on a beach or go cycle more. That’s not what Mixergy is about. My point behind that is to say that if you have the kind of free time to take off and go cycling and still have your company run and have the profits come in, as Sam said, then it means you have the free time to think about what’s next for your business. It means you have the free time to think about your business. It’s not an obligation and a job that never stops, like a conveyor belt that keeps sending work your way but as a creative opportunity to build something that’s really meaningful, to build something that you’re running and that isn’t running you.

Sam, you were, like a lot of people in the audience, you were like I was when I first read your book. Can you describe to people the way you were before you systemized? I want them to see how painful this is, to recognize that they also have this kind of problem, too. And then, we’ll help them get through it.

Sam: It’s painful to talk about it. [laughs] So, there’s this term, workaholic. I’m not crazy about that term. Sometimes, people work 80 hours because that’s what they have to do. That doesn’t make them a workaholic. But that caricature of what a workaholic is, is what I was like. I was literally working 80 to 100 hours a week for 15 years, a decade and a half, 80 to 100 hours, no relationships. I was a single parent of two kids, believe it or not.

I was very sick. I was on all kinds of antidepressants and so forth. I was just a nervous wreck, and my financial world was on the verge of destruction. In fact, as I describe it in the book, my insight came about a week before I was going to miss a payroll and lose my entire company that I had had for 15 years. If you can just imagine a nervous wreck, physical wreck, and then multiply that by ten, that’s what I was. It was a horrible time.

Andrew: Now at midnight, I’m in bed. I’m sleeping. What did you do back then at midnight?

Sam: That night, I’ll never forget it, I asked myself finally after all these years because I knew I was going to lose my business. I had always been pulling the rabbit out of the hat, so to speak, for all those years. I knew I was going to lose my business. There was no question in my mind, and I relaxed and I asked myself: what did I do wrong? I’ll take the blame here. I’ll take the blame. What did I do wrong?

There was no clear answer, but what happened was I had an image, and I think it was a visual image, and maybe I was dreaming. Maybe, I was awake, and maybe, it was sort of metaphysical and all that. But what I saw was my business was a collection of systems. It wasn’t a big swirling, confusing mass. It was a collection of very logical systems, and they were almost laid out on a table in front of me as I lay there in the dark, and I could see them separately.

This is how we answer the phone. This is how we make a sales presentation. This is how we do payroll, and, of course, there were dozens and dozens on this little table in my dream or my vision that I was having. Immediately, I realized that that was the truth of the world. It was the truth of me physically. It was the truth of my relationships with people and the whole world around me was that our lives are not static and they’re not a swirling confusion.

Our lives are a collection of systems, and when you see those separate systems you could take any one of those systems and make it perfect, and you do that with documentation. Boring, but true. Sorry about that. At least in a business situation. You make that perfect, you get everybody to help you make it perfect, and then you proceed with that system exactly in that way.

For instance, just answering the phone. We have a nine-step procedure for answering the phone at the front desk. Everybody does it that way, it’s 100% the best way to do it, and we’ve taken an organic system and made it mechanical, and made it perfect.

What I did was I perfected one system, then another, then another, as if they were on a conveyor belt. I went through all the systems over a period of 18 months, maybe 2 years. As I developed this process, it was a bit of a stumbling thing. But we made all of our separate systems perfect, put them back together, and have a pretty perfect business.

We are the best in the country. I have 2 thousand competitors. Statistically, any variety of statistics, you can’t match what we do here. It’s a really, really high 40% profit margin. It’s really a great business.

What I did, in a nutshell, was just one system after another, and perfect them.

Andrew: All right. I’m going to break down how you did this. We have a system here, and it’s [??] at Mixergy where we take books like yours, we break them down into ways that we can teach them here to an audience, in about an hour. By the end of this hour, my goal is to have people actually be able to use what you teach.

By the way, I’m holding up this book, this book was a present from you to me, but I told you that I bought the Kindle version of this. I bought the Kindle version of this, my mentor Bob Hiler bought the Kindle version, and over a weekend we read it, and we started talking via text about how we can use it at Mixergy. You’re now giving away this book that I bought?

Sam: Right. You can go to workthesystemacademy.com, and this is our new product that came out, actually right now. If you put your name and address, and your name and email address in, you can download the pdf, and if you share it with your friends on Facebook, or whatever your social media is, you can download the audio, too, for free. It’s a giveaway, in trying to promote our academy product.

At that workthesystemacademy site, there’s a lot of information on what the academy is. Basically, what it is is an in-depth, fix your business in 30 to 90 days program. There’s 24 videos in there. It’s interactive. That’s why we’re doing it.

Andrew: All right. I even bought a second copy of this book to make sure we had someone who could outline the book for us. Alex Champagne did this the other day. I now have the outline. I’m looking here at everything in my notes. We’re all ready to roll with this.

The finished product, let’s start with the end in mind. The finished product that I give my employees, or the outsourcers that I work with, that is called the draft working procedures, right?

Sam: That’s good.

Andrew: I’m sorry, it’s called the working procedures.

Sam: Sure. They are a draft. In fact, they’re always in draft, but we’ll get to that.

Andrew: OK.

Sam: But you’re correct.

Andrew: What exactly does this look like at your company?

Sam: The working procedures?

Andrew: Exactly. What are we talking about? Are we talking about a physical book that you hand your people? What shape does it take? What’s in it? I want the audience to know how you do it, so that they can create a similar one for their business.

Sam: I started this book as a manual for my staff.

Andrew: OK.

Sam: It turned into a book for anybody. Everybody knows what’s in the book. Everybody knows it’s precisely how we run the business. There’s a strategic objective that gives us direction. We’ll talk about that. There’s the operating principles that give us general guidelines for decision-making, and then there’s what you mentioned, the working procedures.

The working procedures, let’s just keep this simple, is the nine-step procedure for answering the phone at the front desk. We have one for our sales presentation, and everything else. These working procedures, people aren’t walking around my office reading what to do next. Nobody ever does that. They all know what the working procedures are, by heart, because they use them over and over again, every day.

What happens is everybody in here, it’s a bottom up, everybody in here creates the working procedures, then passes them up to me. Now, I may devise one, and it’s been awhile, but my managers devise new working procedures, or revise working procedures, pass it down, and pass it back up. Everybody is fully invested in the rules of the game here. That’s key, to get everybody to climb on board.

So, I have a group of people here. I asked seven managers, six of them have little more than high school educations. My COO, Andi has a degree in political science. It makes it real simple to understand for anybody. You don’t need an MBA to do this stuff. I don’t have a four year college degree. I have a two year college degree in forestry, for crying out loud.

Andrew: What this is it’s a book, and we’ll talk about whether it’s physical or digital. It basically breaks down all the big tasks at your company in a step by step fashion so anyone at the company can open up the document and look step by step at how to do the job and do it.

Sam: That’s it.

Andrew: That’s it.

Sam: One, two, three, and I fight with people when we do consulting jobs. We’re doing this Six Sigma lean thing and we’ve got the little yellow triangle with the arrow going over here to the rectangle that’s red, and down here it’s very complex. We create working procedures, and this also is key in a one … first we do this, second we do this, third. One, two three format so anybody can create the procedure.

It’s absolutely congruent with reality because that’s how things progress. If you see your business as a collection of recurring systems, they all happen over time; first, second, third, fourth. This is real gut level base mechanics of how the world works.

Andrew: Here’s how we do it at our company. This interview is going to be edited by Joe, who happens to be in Guatemala. Joe has, basically, a picture book that says step one, download this using cyber doc, and then there’s a way to download off of cyber doc. Second step is open up screen flows. Third step, and we just drag and drop.

If there’s someone who wants to know how to edit their interviews, all I have to do is send them this document, and if there’s any change that we make, like if I use new software, I just go in, edit out the section that’s related to that software and give him a new document with the change, and bada bing, bada boom, it’s all done. That’s the goal.

We want everyone who is listening to us to be able to do the same thing with every task at their company, true?

Sam: That’s it. You know what you just did as you described the part about changing your working procedure, you worked your system. Your procedure was your system, you had a change, you went in and you worked it. That’s all we do here is work our systems. The results take care of themselves.

Andrew: Your composite procedure is how long?

Sam: I think it’s about 32 steps right now.

Andrew: What do you say to someone who … Well, first of all what is the benefit of having this 32 step procedure for, basically, putting a check in the bank? Most people would hear that and say: tell your people they have the sensibility to take the check, put it in the bank. Don’t give them multiple steps, dozens of steps.

Sam: Well, that’s what we did, and we had horrible mistakes.

Andrew: Like?

Sam: Well, we lost a deposit on the way to the bank. It got caught under somebody’s car seat, a $3,000 deposit. Back then, that was a lot of money. It’s a lot of money now. [laughs] But, we were making mistakes so we had, at the time, 600 accounts. The dentist in Virginia’s payment was going to the psychologist in California’s account, creating two problems.

We were having all kinds of problems because everybody was doing it the way that they thought was best. So, the alternative to that and what we did, in a nutshell, was put all of our managers together, let’s all decide the best way. We’ll put it down on paper. We massaged it for a few days, maybe, eight hours of my time. And then, we had one error in that whole thing for 12 years, and we’ve updated it constantly. We’re constantly working the system.

The big thing here though, Andrew, is I was spending two hours a week doing the deposit for 15 years. I was helping. I did most of it at first, and then I was helping two hours a week. When I was done with that procedure and it was 53 steps back then, and we honed it down with good software and being smart over the years, I never did it again. So, for the last 12 years I saved myself two hours a week. It’s about three quarters of a year of 40 hour work weeks.

That’s a perfect encapsulation of what we did throughout the company was get our organic flowing, problematic systems and turn them into mechanical, and then my staff is all invested in making the mechanics better and better and better. They’re working the system, and now I work two hours a week.

Andrew: I see.

Sam: Yeah.

Andrew: Now, you mentioned that you have this 53 step process at first. You’re constantly tweaking the system, too. And that’s really why this doesn’t become a bureaucracy where the system is so brain dead that it’s out of touch with what’s going on with your company and out of touch with how the world changes. The reason that it’s not a bureaucracy is that you’re constantly tweaking it. How do you tweak it properly?

Sam: Well, we have our offices … This is interesting as I look over my computer here, Andrew, and I see Teresa down there, three offices down, because we have windows between our offices, very private offices. What she is doing right now is, we do this interview, is she is doing the monthly billing. Her procedure is twenty pages long, single space, and she goes through it, line-by-line, and as she goes through it and produces the numbers for last month, which i will see in another hour or so, she makes changes when they need to be made, there might be some new information, there might be something she thinks of, she is constantly improving it.

She goes through this procedure once a month. It takes her about four hours. She never misses a thing. She says, I have never done this, without making at least half a dozen improvements in this particular procedure. And when she is done with the billing and they all go out and she can relax a bit, she will go back to her database, and upgrade that procedure, just to be a little bit better for next month’s billing, and that is it. That is a nut-shell illustration of what we do. We are working our systems and that is exactly what she is doing.

Andrew: Okay, and as they are doing it, the people who are working the system, are improving it, what do you say to someone who is listening to this, who says, you know, i could see the outsourcers in the Philippines who don’t know how to do my business, really enjoying a check-list that has fifty three steps, but the guy who I just hired out of college, or the guy who I hired, because he is an expert, has five years experience out of college, he is not going to deal with the check-list, he doesn’t even need a check-list. It is too constraining. What do you say to that?

Sam: Do not hire that guy or get rid of him.

Andrew: Why?

Sam: Because he has got to follow the procedure, and remember, this is not a hand-me-down. This is people wanting to do the procedures from the bottom-up. Now, this young guy comes in and he gets it, say he reads part one of my book and totally gets it, he will be excited about creating the actual procedure himself, and then will pass it to a few other people in the office, we all agree on it, and everybody agrees we are going to do it exactly this way.

But here is the caveat, everybody understands if one of us comes up with a tweak that needs to be made, we meet changes instantly, the database is changed and it is upgraded. And our friend, just out of college, who doesn’t want to do it, and if he gets it, he will be so bought into the process, he will see the results, and he will be making, my people make double what they would make, than any other call center here. They only work forty hours a week. There is none of those sixty-seventy hour weeks.

Once he sees how it works, then they are totally bought in, but you really got to make this distinction between some kind of a military hand down, you know, kind of, not goose-stepping, you will do it this way, to the people that are doing the work, actually creating the procedures and moving them up the chain, ultimately to me, not everyone, but through my managers, to make sure we are all headed towards the same direction. And now we are talking about the strategic objective and the operating principles, which we will discuss at some point here.

Andrew: Okay. In fact, let us then, what do we go to next? How about we go to the mindset? What is the mindset that we are bringing in here? And what is having that slightly elevated, outside a slightly elevated perspective, have to do with the mindset?

Sam: Well, okay. Good. Let us go back to my midnight epiphany, where I saw my business as a collection of systems. If I was looking down on a table, I was outside of it, I was upstairs, a little bit, looking down, okay? And I could see the systems down there, and i could reach down, outside the slightly elevated, and manipulate those systems, and I am not in the middle of it. I am not in the middle of everything, and that is key, that we remove ourselves from the chaos, and look down on the chaos and get it straightened out. You cannot straighten it out if you are in the middle of it. If you want to have a life, if you don’t mind working a hundred hours a week and getting sick, fine, stay in the middle of it, or losing your business, or even losing your marriage or health, it does go over to those areas, but you got to get outside, and see yourself down there, with your systems, it is mandatory. It is the first-third of my book, three part book, is that you have to get this vision of seeing that life, truly is not a snap-shot, but is things moving around, always flowing, but separate from each other, so they can be worked on.

Andrew: Sam, I am imagining someone, who might be listening in our audience, whose hope, well his business is sucking up every minute of his time, because he is the salesman, no one else knows how to sell the way that he does, because he has a rapport with people and now he is listening to you and saying, alright, I am willing to even try systemizing my charisma, or systemizing whatever it is I do to sell. The first thing he’s doing is he’s looking at his job and he’s saying, “When do I have enough time to come up with this new perspective? I have to make phone calls every day.” In that hectic chaos of trying to figure out how to close this sale, and then tomorrow try to figure out how to close that sale, what do you want him to do if he’s separating himself, and he’s stepping outside and slightly elevated with his perspective?

Sam: OK, this individual may truly be gifted. Truly gifted, which makes him a perfect candidate to start writing it down, and so you have to find the time to do this, and what I tell people is, “Yes, it’s hard. I know you’re working all these hours. So was I. I know what it’s like. But I put some of the fire-killing aside. I found the time to spend eight hours in a three day period to save myself two hours a week for twelve years.” And so there’s what we call “heavy lifting,” and in the internet marketing world you see these products out there, and there’s no problem. “Buy my product. It’ll be simple.” And my partner Mike Giles [SP] and I made this decision right at the beginning, because I insisted on it and he agreed, that there is some heavy lifting at the beginning. So this fictitious salesperson just has to find the time to start writing down the steps, and not of the whole sales presentation, but little pieces of it, and you start having success and literally within a week or two, maybe three weeks, you start to see some savings and some organization, and then you get radically enthusiastic about it and you dive in full bore.

Andrew: I see, so definitely you’re saying that he’s not systemizing his whole sales process, but maybe after he closes a sale he has some routine where he writes out a thank you note and sends out apples or cookies or whatever it is, or maybe he goes online and activates whatever it is that he just sold them. That’s what he can systemize and then hand over to somebody else using some kind of checklist.

A: Yes, ultimately hand it over, probably.

Q: OK.

A: Yes, you’re correct, but not this minute. Probably put the pieces together, start to get a whole, and ultimately get a good picture of what’s it going to be, and then start handing them off in a rational way. And we always start our consulting clients, for instance, or somebody I’m talking to on the phone, by finding something pretty simple, and know what the simplest one is any office is how you answer the phone at the front desk. Just to get a little practice.

It takes no time at all to go to your front desk person and say, “Write down in steps how this goes.” She says, “Well, first I tell him who we are.” “No, no. Exactly tell me who you are. Step 1: You pick up the phone. Step 2: What is what we call your ‘answer phrase’? Do you have a smile on your face?” Is there a way in a written document to get somebody to put a smile on their face? Yes, you say, “Put a smile on your face.” And if you put a smile on your face physically you’ll sound better. And it’s nine steps, and so we have our first-timers here who have read the book and like the book and get the book to just take a few easy ones. Don’t take a whole sales presentation.

So maybe this fictitious salesperson would, after he’s done making the call, just take a small piece of it and write it out 1, 2, 3, and then live with that little 7 step process or what it is, or 13 step process, for a few days, and every time you go back on it you say, “Well, I could have worded this different. I forgot this step,” and you keep perfecting it, tweaking your system, and perfecting your system over and over again. You start small, get some success, and then you bore into it, and this idea of “I don’t have time,” that just goes away because you find time, because of the excitement of it all.

Andrew: So you start with the smaller things, not necessarily the highest value things, but the smallest and easiest things. You write the systems, then you use the system for a while, and then after you have all these systems put together, or a bunch of them, then you start to look at how to pass them on intelligently?

Sam: Well, yeah, and I pass them on one at a time. I don’t collect a mass of them and put them on. Here’s what I would do: I would start with how to answer the phone at the front desk, or even if you’re just a one-man band, how you answer the phone, and the questions you ask. Write that down, write that down, write that down. But let’s say we’re in an office. I would perfect that with my people and I would put it into play right away so we see instant success, and then I’d work on the next one.

I’m really against multitasking. I’ll work on one procedure at a time, 100% focused like Teresa down there right now. She’s not talking to her family. She’s not working on this other thing over there. She’s in the middle of her 20 page process, and she paying 100% attention, and that what she’s done when she has the time is she’ll focus on tweaking it 100%, and then she’ll put it away for her own use in the next month, but if she gets run over by the literal or, as we always say, the figurative truck between now and the next billing, one of my other people can just go into it and do it with no problem, walk right through it and get it done.

Andrew: All right. I want to come back to this idea of off the street and how that helps us think about the way we create these procedures. Let’s go on to the next step. So, now you have the right frame of mind. You know where the end is, which is this document that you give people and you keep tweaking. But in order to get to that document, you’re suggesting that people define and create a strategic objective first, before they do anything else. Is that right?

Sam: That’s right.

Andrew: What is this document?

Sam: It equates to the Declaration of Independence here in the United States. What it is, is here’s where we’re going, folks. This is what we’ve got. This is not what we’re going to do sometimes. These are our strengths. You don’t usually list you weaknesses, but you plow ahead in a certain direction in a general way, and I always tell people to put it on a single page, don’t go to two pages.

What usually happens is you get three, four pages, and they’re putting some of the elements of the other documents in the strategic objective, and that’s not what you want. In the back of the book, the appendix of my book, I think it’s Appendix A, is the [??] strategic objective, and I encourage our listeners to plagiarize it.

Andrew: You do? You’re OK with them copying and pasting this.

Sam: That’s fine.

Andrew: Well, at least, the ones that they believe in. Here are some of the statements. We are the highest quality telephone answering service in the United States. One sentence. Next paragraph. Our fundamental strategy is to relentlessly work the systems of the business to perfection. Next paragraph. Our guiding documents are the strategic objective, 30 principles and collection of working procedures.

Let’s go to the end. We segment responsibilities into specialized expert compartments with appropriate cross training. What kind of statements are we looking for here? Is it all: we the people of my company organize ourselves using systems, or are you saying that we should say things like: we the people of Mixergy believe that education breeds results which makes things happen. You’re shaking your head.

Sam: That’s the soft stuff, and that’s the classic mission statement. We endeavor – the word endeavor is always involved. We endeavor to provide the best product, and I’ll have all our customers be happy, and our customer service is going to be wonderful.

You happened to mention some of the more general aspects in there, but if you read some of the others to our listeners, there’s things in there about what our vertical market is, our strategy for marketing and some really specific – they’re general, but more specific things, less feel good stuff. It ends up feeling good if you do it right, but its aim isn’t to get everybody roused and excited. That’s not the aim of it. The aim of it is to give everybody direction.

Andrew: Here’s one, for example. Center tells offering is 24/7, 365 telephone answering service for business and professional offices throughout the United States. Peripheral services are voice mail and paging for the central Oregon region only. So, you’re limiting what you do, and you’re explaining specifically what you do.

So, this is what you want us to do. We pull out a piece of paper. We start writing these statements about what specifically we do, what we stand for, and then eventually we want to come up with just one document that’s our Declaration of Independence. It’s what we stand for, but not a wishy-washy, goody two shoes, feel good, rah, rah, mission statement. Did I use all the mission statements possible to put down a mission statement?

Sam: You put that so well.

Andrew: Right. So, that’s the first thing we do. Before we do things, we want to know what are we doing them for. What do we stand for? First, you’ve got the perspective, then you set out your Declaration of Independence which says, We the people of Mixergy create interviews and courses, whatever, etc.

Sam: Yeah. Yeah.

Andrew: This time you liked it. The first one you didn’t like what I said about Mixergy.

Sam: No. No, that’s good.

Andrew: That’s good, yeah. I’m getting it.

Sam: The main thing is you’re heading everybody in the same direction, and you’re getting a little specific about things but not real specific. As I said, if you put it together well, it will make your people feel good, but that’s not the purpose of it. I’m a very mechanical guy. You want everybody headed in the same direction, and I have an illustration in the academy product that my wife, Linda, put together. She’s a graphic artist. It’s a circle and arrows pulsing in and out in all directions. That’s not what you want your company to be, and these arrows represent people and energy.

You want everybody headed in the same direction off into the horizon because that’s the most efficient thing to do. That’s the purpose of the strategic objective, to get everybody flowing in the same direction.

Andrew: OK. Next step after mind set declaration of independence. Now we create a constitution as you call it. The constitution is the general operating principles. What’s that?

Sam: We’re going to get to the working procedures where you give specific instructions for doing certain functions within the business. You can’t do that for everything, so you have some general statements. We have 30 of them. We call them our 30 principles. Appendix B back here. I won’t look them up right now, but ‘Do it now.’ is one of them. What does that mean? That means that if one of the people in the office wants to put something off until next week, but they perfectly could, well, do it now. They do it now. It’s just a principle, and we all agree on that. I haven’t had much turnover, but new people who come to work for me, read through the principles. We say, ‘Do you have any problem with any of these? Because if you do, we need to talk about it before you take the job.’

But, they’re pretty benign, the kind of things most people would agree on. The office will be kept neat and orderly. We will make all of our decisions based on the documentation of the business. There are 30 of them for what I call gray area decision making. So, if you find yourself where the strategic objective isn’t giving you guidance, and the working procedure isn’t giving you guidance, you know these basic fundamental principles that we try to adhere to. You make a decision based on that.

Andrew: Here’s on that I told you Alex Champagne[SP] in the audience went and organized your book that he and I agreed would help the Mixergy audience. He pulled out this, principle number 8: We do just a few services implemented in a superb fashion. He suggests that I asked you how that connects to cell phones.

Sam: OK. Remember I talked earlier, we don’t multitask. I know, you’re talking about the incident in the book about us getting rid of selling cell phones. Is that what you’re talking about?

Andrew: Yes. Why did selling cell phones make sense? And why did this keep you from selling cell phones?

Sam: So, we’re a telecommunications company. Centratel sells answering service, 24/7 answering service. We answer for doctors and veterinarians and funeral homes. We also sell pagers, which were a big deal 20 years ago. We still sell them. They’re not a big deal anymore. We also sell voice mail. For a long time we sold cell phones too. Hey, it’s telecommunications. But, what we found was we couldn’t control the cell phone companies and the quality of their customer service. Because we want to sell just a few items and have them remarkably high quality at a reasonable price, we couldn’t get the cell phone companies to coordinate enough or do what they need to do. They’re huge monstrous companies.

Instead of fighting that battle, we don’t sell cell phones anymore. We dropped the whole thing, because we insist according to this particular principle that everything that we put out there is really, really good. It turns out that if we can control 100% of that product development and product presentation, then we can make it perfect. We can’t sell an outside company’s stuff, because so often it isn’t very good. We went through several cell companies, and it was the same with all of them.

Andrew: So, I can see how that would make clear decisions quickly and everyone understand why you made that decision. You don’t seem like a guy who’s just striking down a new employee’s idea of selling cell phones. Tell me if I’m using this right, here are Mixergy. As one of our general operating principles, we are a teaching company where entrepreneurs teach entrepreneurs. The reason I think it’s important to make that statement is if someone says, ‘You guys should have a job board.’ Well, that doesn’t really have anything to do with entrepreneurs teaching or teaching at all. The answer is ‘no’. We should focus on what we do. If someone says, ‘You guys should create software.’ We’re not a software company. We’re a site where entrepreneurs teach other entrepreneurs. What do you think? Am I understanding this right?

Sam: That’s exactly right. What you said about entrepreneurs teaching entrepreneurs, that should be in the strategic objective, that part. It can also be an element of one of your operating principles. Then, you expand on it. You might even give those examples to let people know what you mean by that. Now, if some of these peripheral services serve the purposes of what you’re trying to do ultimately, Andrew, then should happened. But, if they’re dragging down your main purpose, you’ve got to be a little specific about your main purpose. You don’t have to say” I want to be a $10 million company in eight years or anything like that. The bottom line will take care of itself, but you want to be pretty specific.

Now, when you say entrepreneurs teaching entrepreneurs, you want to say how you’re going to do that, and that needs to be in the strategic objective. And you need to talk about, in the operating principles, where that stops. At what point do you stop?

And so, you do have to kind of … the operating principles and the strategic objective, if they’re put together correctly, you’ll still be tweaking them six months from the day you started them, even a year or even two years. I remember tweaking my strategic objective a couple of years ago, and that was year 13. So, these documents flow a little bit, but nothing like the working procedures change from moment to moment to moment. But you tweak them as the environment changes, and you tweak them as new ideas emerge.

Andrew: Before we go to the next big actionable idea, I’m thinking of what the skeptic in m audience is thinking right now which is this. They’re saying, all right, you convinced me on systemizing, great. You showed me how to create a procedure manual. You called it the working procedures or draft working procedures, terrific. I can see the value of that, and I will even get my hotshots to do it because they’re hotshots, they’re going to create better procedures.

But when you get to the Declaration of Independence and Constitution which are your terms for respectably the strategic objective and the general operating principles. When you get to those, it seems like you’re distracting me from my business. It seems like you’re getting me into this la la land of journaling and coming up with big ideas but not anything that I can act on. Bring them back. How is this actionable? You’re shaking your head because you’re too practical to send people into la la land with a journal.

So, how does this fit in? What’s the purpose of this, and what’s the result, more importantly, that the audience is going to get if they create their strategic objective and their general operating principles?

Sam: Well, I went from 100 hours a week to two hours. I’m way up in the top 1%.

Andrew: Isn’t that just because of the working procedures that you put together for people?

Sam: No. You have to have direction so everything flows in that one direction. It’s strictly efficiency. There’s no mysticism or woo-woo here at all. It’s total efficiency and practicality, according to the mechanics of how the world works. The point is: we go back to the starting point here is that the world is composed of systems, and they don’t always relate to each other. Oh, we’re all one. Let’s drop some acid and understand how we’re all one.

Yeah, great, on a molecular level. Sure, we’re all one, but in the practicality of everyday life, we can take elements out of our life, these processes, and make them really, really efficient and then keep them that way and get everybody to apply them in that way, and then you, the owner, don’t have to do it. All you do is monitor things, and believe me, the staff will buy into this. The staff will be as enthusiastic and pumped as I am right now talking about it. My whole staff is that way. We’re really a special company here.

Andrew: I’ve got to tell you, Sam. I was actually watching you guys. It took us, maybe, 15, 20 minutes to set up, and you had a couple of people that you were talking to. I was watching the interaction before the recording started and see: what is the office environment like? You asked an IT guy to come in, and the person who you asked said, “I’ve got him right now.” There’s a lot of back and forth playfulness there which made me feel like it’s not like working in a textbook. It’s like living in a fun environment where everything is clear.

Sam: You know, I don’t come in here all the time, and mostly when I do it’s because of the academy product. But what I tell my wife, Linda, as I leave the house – it’s about a five mile drive in here – I say to her, “Well, it’s time to go in and harass everybody. It’s time to stir the dust, and I’ll go into Andi’s office and give her a hard time. And you heard her giving me a hard time.

Andrew: I did.

Sam: She was just kidding, and we were just kidding. We were batting things around. It’s a very light and carefree office. It really is. It’s not at all what you’d think: mechanized and you’ve got to follow this step and all that. It’s just very relaxed. Everybody here makes a lot of money, and they have a 40 hour work week, and I send them home and I say, “Do not work at home”. Some of my managers do because they want to. They want to check up on something or whatever, but they go home after 40 hours, and they =’ve got their life with their family.

Andrew: I’m circling in my notes here. As we’re talking, I take notes and I’m circling the note about monitoring and coming back in and making sure the systems work. Let me go on to another concept, another big idea from the book that I brought up earlier which is the off the street people. Who are the off the street people, and why are they important as we create our procedures and systemize our business?

Sam: We have this term; I came up with this term, “off the street”, somebody off the street. I visualize going down the steps here and out in the street and find somebody who, maybe, is not on drugs and they can type. And they could probably do 90% of the work in this office. I could bring them up the steps, say I’ll give you 200 bucks to sit here today and go this. They could do it because the procedures are written for people off the street. That’s how simple they’re written.

We talk about our president’s speeches are geared toward eighth grade people, people with an eighth grade education. Well, it’s kind of the same thing. We make the procedures really, really simple so almost anybody could do them.

So, I don’t have an office full of rocket scientists here. Oh, they’re bright, and the IQs of my management staff run to around 130 or 140. That’s all true, but everything here can be done by somebody else who, maybe, has a good IQ and can type and isn’t on drugs. Anybody could come in off the street and do it, and that makes it easy to get the job done. You don’t have somebody disappearing again, run over by the literal or figurative truck and have everything come crashing down.

It also means everybody in here, if they get bogged down with something, there’s help. There’s four of them. They’re not the only one that knows how to do it.

Andrew: It means at when you’re creating your procedures, the procedures need to be so simple and so step-by-step clear that even a person off the street with reasonable intelligence can take over the system and do it. Even a person with reasonable intelligence in my audience can come into your office and answer the phones properly if they have your procedures.

Sam: I can’t add to that. That’s exactly right.

Andrew: Let’s see. What else is there? You know what? Here’s a note. Stop multitasking. You keep saying this. Why is multitasking a problem? And that’s another problem with systems. I don’t do everything step-by-step-by step. Sometimes, I start off and then I go do something else, and then I come back to the next item on my list. Why is that a problem?

Sam: Because it’s inefficient. And this is mechanical, and this is about efficiency. Multitasking means you do three or four things at the same time, and none of them are done very well. Congratulations, you’re a juggler in the circus, and that’s about where you’re going to end up.

So, I’m mentoring a friend of mine in Costa Rica right now, in fact. He’s starting to create a blog, and he’s got some special talents in writing, and he said to me the other day as we were Skyping, “You know, I’m working on four different essays right now for my new blog.” And I said, “Whoa! Wait a minute, man. What do you mean you’re working on four?”

He told me and he says, “I’ve got so much going on in my mind.” “No”, I said, “You need to create an outlined with all of that stuff that’s going in your mind and work on one at a time.” I said, “I’m just saying that’s what works best for me. I went through that. Try working on one. Try living one of these blog posts in your head for a week, tweaking it, tweaking it, tweaking it, even while you’re out surfing. Whatever you’re doing, it’s in the back of your head and work on it and massage it and give 100% attention to perfecting that blog post or 100% attention to creating a working procedure.”

Focus, focus, focus. Do not multitask. It’s just inefficient.

Andrew: Do you have an example of something that you’re able to do better because you stay focused where other people might get distracted?

Sam: Writing.

Andrew: OK.

Sam: So, I can shut myself away in my office at home; I have a library. I can close the door, sit down and focus for an hour. But, guess what? I can do that in a coffee shop, too, with all kinds of noise around me. But you know what? I’m not having the little thing come up in the corner of my screen. I just had an email come in, and I’m not going over here and I’m not going to do that. I’m focusing, focusing, focusing.

And then, when I’m done with that, I multitask and go through my inbox and clean up some stuff, but I’m focusing on that. And then, if I’m out skiing, cross country skiing, that’s what I’m doing. I might put some good music on, but that’s what I’m doing and any thoughts of business that come into my head I try to push them away in a meditative way. I focus on what I’m doing. I focus when I drive.

My wife, Linda, is talking to me. I’m looking at her in the eye, and I’m not doing the other stuff. If somebody walks in this office and I’m typing away, they’ll stand there. I don’t even have to say it anymore. I’ll finish typing and then we’ll talk and they’ve got 100% of my attention. It’s efficiency.

That’s what calms your head and, Andrew, before we were talking about reading. You read a lot, and I read a lot. What I said to you is that I read for meditation, and I’m reading some fiction right now. I’m not going to take something to the bank with this, but it focuses my mind. It calms me down. It gets me down on one story, and there’s nothing else interfering.

It is no important not to multitask, and that’s one of our operating principles, by the way.

Andrew: I’ve got to tell you. I used to be pro multitasking because I thought I’m someone who needs a lot of activity, and I’m someone who works better with a lot of activity. Then, what I discovered when I paid attention to the way that I work, I found myself, since you mentioned blog posts I’ll tell you, I found myself writing a blog post, and then getting stuck on a word. So, I’d go and answer email. Then I’d find there was a tough email, and I couldn’t say no to somebody who was asking me for something.

So, then I turned back to look at my stats online, because I have to make sure the traffic is coming in. Then I found myself, because the stats stopped being entertaining, I’d go and check on I don’t know what. I never got back to writing that original article, saying no to the person. Nothing got done. What I found was that multitasking was an excuse to not get things done very often. I wonder if the person listening to us finds the same thing.

Sam: I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings out there by saying what I’m going to say right now, but I think this applies, and it applied to me. I was a hero to myself. I could do this. I could fix the computer. I could hire that could go to the bank. What a hero I am. Does everybody notice? No. Nobody cares. I wasn’t getting things done properly.

I became a hero to myself by getting every little element of my life working as good as it possibly can. You can tell by my apartment that I’m really against multitasking. If you want to be a hero and you want to be in the middle of it all. Go ahead. Have fun with that. Me, I’m on a beach on Costa Rica, making way money than I need while I’m not even there. I did that with efficiency.

Andrew: What size revenue, by the way, is your company bringing in?

Sam: A couple of 100,000 a month.

Andrew: And, how old is the business?

Sam: I’ve had it 27 years.

Andrew: And how many hours a week are you spending on it?

Sam: Not even two.

Andrew: A couple hundred in revenue a month.

Sam: Yeah.

Andrew: OK.

Sam: I think I already mentioned my profit margin. Do the math.

Andrew: What was it?

Sam: Well, 40%.

Andrew: 40% profit margin.

Sam: I have more money than I need, man. I drive an eight year old Subaru. My wife’s got an AA[SP] that I just bought her. Eight years is long enough for any car. But, I drive my beat up Subaru, because what I like to do is go ski in the mountains, with my skis that are seven years old. We don’t have a rich lifestyle. We have a modest house. It’s 3000 feet. It’s a beautiful house, but it’s not a mansion. I’ve been in Hawaii with Linda, Mexico with my dive friends, Costa Rico solo within the last three months. I’m flying to London tomorrow to see Mike and hang out. I have the life I always wanted, because I had a strategic objective for my life. I know what I wanted, and then I worked the mechanisms to get the results I wanted. Does that make sense?

Andrew: It does. I have two other mechanisms I want to talk about here. Then I want to ask you to tell people something that I think is going to surprise them. They are not going to expect this about you, but I think it will make everything that they’ve learned up until now feel much more real and much more doable. The two big ones that I wanted to talk on, first of all, are perfection. We’re now systematizing everything in the business. How perfect do we have to get it?

Sam: 98%.

Andrew: Why 98%?

Sam: This is all figurative. Because the time and energy it takes to take an almost perfect system and make it 100% perfect, that time and effort necessary for that extra 2% is a lot in the big scope of things. It doesn’t make that much difference. It would be better to take that 2%. It might take you 10 hours to create a procedure to 98% perfection. It might take you another 10 hours to get up to 100% perfection. That makes it imperfect. It’s a catch 22. You should take that extra 10 hours and go do to this one that’s it at 40% and bring it up to 98% or 90%. I am speaking figuratively here.

Andrew: Do you have an example of someone within your company of someone who’s trying to take something to perfection and really ended up wasting time.

Sam: Sure. Here’s one. I sometimes have to help people with this. Not so much anymore. Somebody wants to write me along email of their exact idea. They spend an hour putting together several paragraphs, tweaking it and getting it perfect. I have guidelines in the appendix of the book about communications. What they should have done if they were following the guidelines that we all agreed on, was send me a voice mail in three minutes of their idea. That’s what I’m talking about. That kind of thing. So, it can be apples and oranges, but it’s the thought process that matters here. Am I spending too much time on something that doesn’t really matter that much? Three minutes versus an hour, that’s a lot of wasted time. I listen to the three minute voice mail and get back to them and say, ‘This and this and this and this.’

Another thing that happened the other day, is one of our new people came up with a whole concept for marketing or consulting product. Another one is one of our new people gave us a whole marketing plan without running it through me first. He spent lots and lots and lots of time doing the little squares, and this goes here, and this goes there, probably hours. He gave it to me, and it was way more than I wanted to do. I like to keep thing simple. He would have been better at 98% perfection and his new idea would have been to sketch it out quickly, run it by me and not spend hours and hours until I OK’d it.

There’s all kinds of ways to apply this, but that first illustration is maybe the most vivid one of not writing a big long email for a concept, but maybe just sending a voice mail, and saving your time. Time is all we’ve got. Everything moves across time. That’s all we’ve got. That’s the centerpiece of the mechanical reality of the Work the System Method, is that things go 1, 2, 3, 4, and that thing time is all we’ve got.

Andrew: First of all, Amen. Second, one item that I circled here, and I wanted to come back to, is monitoring. That’s because I’ve had an issue with this. I’ll create a system. I’ll make sure the persons learn the system, and then I don’t know when to go back, or I don’t have a system for checking back on this. So, people sometimes forget steps, or the procedures get a little bit old. What’s a good way for me to stay on top of it, and what’s a good way for our audience to keep on top of the systems they create?

Sam: Well, this will apply to a lot of people, maybe you Andrew, too. Do you use Outlook, for example?

Andrew: I use Gmail.

Sam: Gmail, OK. There’s elements of Gmail that I think will do this. In Outlook, there’s this functionality called tasks. I can send on to a task, and I did it yesterday for something that I don’t need until I get back from my traveling in two weeks, to be done. I said I need this done, exactly this, on this deadline. Then, her Outlook will keep it there and a kind of electronic tickler file, and it gets done. You have to have some kind of a mechanical simple system to remind yourself that you gave somebody something to do, and remind them of the elements of what that task is.

Andrew: What about the long running processes, like the procedure for editing this interview. The first few times that Joe did it, I stayed on top of it. The first week I watched and made sure everything was OK. But, do I remember a month to go back in? Do I remember two months to go back in? Not really. And, so Joe forgot to say, level the audio or do something else. How do I have a system to go back in and give him feedback and to make sure we’re following the systems that we created?

Sam: Well, you create a task for yourself. I do this all the time. I send myself a task, double check the website. Dan was going to do some tweaking over the next couple of weeks. Go back and check his work. I have yearly things that come up that I go back and update the website for some old dates or essays that need to be updated because of the changing times. We do a lot of mechanical task sending to each other, myself and to ourselves. You have to. You have to have those mechanical things, just like you have to have a mechanical cell phone to get along in life, or a lap top. It’s one of those things, one of those tools.

Andrew: OK. Let me do a quick pitch here, and then I’m going to ask this question that I think your answer will surprise people. The pitch is that I want to tell people about Mixergy Premium. If you go to Mixergy.com/premium, you’re going to get all the hundreds of interviews and now we’re up to over 30 courses where entrepreneurs turn their computers on and show you how to get things done.

Let me tell you a story about someone who actually went through this. His name Nathan Latka. Nathan got fired from a rec job that he had. I don’t know what the guy was doing working at a rec center. But, he got fired from it. He said, ‘You know, I’m going to turn things around for myself.’ He signed up to Mixergy Premium. He took his next part of his life really seriously, and he started out by basically applying everything that he learned at Mixergy premium. This guy, when I first talked to him, he took notes on every course, and he showed it to me.

He said, ‘Andrew, here’s my notebook. Every time I take one of the courses, I take notes and then I think about how can I apply to my business.’ The business he ended up building was, first he was building Facebook fan pages for people. Then, he built a software platform that automatically makes it easy for people to create and manage their own Facebook fan pages – drag and drop, beautiful widgets that you can put in. The site is called lujure.com. He built this thing up, he used the specific things that he learned in the courses in Mixergy Premium, including how to do a webinar and many of the others in systemizing, ended up doing $400,000 in revenue last year.

As a favor to me, he came on to Mixergy to do the interview, and he revealed the number to show that in one year, this is what the guy was able to do. You can check out Nathan’s site at Lujure. If you want to have a similar turnaround story for yourself, go to mixergy.com/premium.

That’s what it’s about, courses where people turn on their computer screens and teach you the processes, the systems that will help you get the kinds of results that Nathan did. As I’ve been saying for a while, we’re going to raise prices, but I keep wanting to assure people, if you sign before we raise prices, the price we have now will be yours forever and you can laugh at other people who pay full prices later on. Maybe not laugh, maybe you’ll support them instead. All right, mixergy.com/premium. Here’s a thing that I wanted to ask you, and I wasn’t sure how to stick it in so we’ll keep it in at the end. In… what is that festival, why did I just lose the name for the festival. The music festival.

Sam: Woodstock.

Andrew: Woodstock! Yes. Where were you in Woodstock and where were you in the Woodstock era?

Sam: That was 1969, I was 19 years old, and I was there.

Andrew: You were at Woodstock.

Sam: I was at Woodstock. Yeah. I’ve met three people in my life who were there also, and we had some nice chats. There were half a million of us there and we run into each other once in a while. Yeah, that was pretty wild, and you remember I talk about it in the book, about systems and how the systems were quickly failing. Three days of peace and music – well, maybe one day, the rest was mud and broken bottles and sanitation problems and bad acid. I was very much into it back then, but as I look back I realize it was a great illustration of how things get real quickly if you don’t have processes and systems in place. Sorry about that, but that’s the way it goes.

Andrew: You know what, Sam, I actually took a different message from it. Did you even say that you dropped acid?

Sam: No, I did not.

Andrew: No, you didn’t. But you did say that you were pepper-sprayed by cops at one point?

Sam: That was the riot I was in two years later in Washington D.C., an anti-war demonstration. It was right after Kent State, actually, it was a mix of complaints. It was kind of a Wall Street, Occupy kind of a thing back in the day when that stuff began. I remember sitting in the middle of this street with Abbie Hoffman on one side of me and Grace Slick next to him. You’d have to be my age to understand, she was the lead singer of Jefferson Airplane, and Abbie Hoffman was one of the Chicago Seven and a protester back then. Those were the good old days, man. I would never want to do it again, though.

Andrew: Here’s what I took from it. It wasn’t that you were walking around saying, “Everything needs to be systemized,” and I guess that’s one of the lessons you took from it, but what I got out of it was: this guy, Sam Carpenter, isn’t he a person who was part of the Young Republicans, who was getting straight As forever, and who always wore the perfect tie with the perfect crease in his pants? No, you’re a guy who likes to have fun, you’re a guy who, as you’ve been saying throughout this interview, you like to ski, you like to enjoy your life, you’re a guy with an open mind to new ideas. This isn’t coming from a place of, “I’m rigorous and I’m dogmatic about the way I live my life and everyone in the world, every reader, everyone who works for me, everyone who listens to Mixergy, needs to be the same way.” It’s coming from an ‘enjoy life’ point of view, and that’s the way I took it and why I was hoping you’d tell that.

Sam: Yeah, that’s really true. I had three jobs in my 20s where my main job, my main task was to clean other people’s toilets. I dropped out of college three times. I never did finish. I have a glass of wine every once in a while, I drink coffee here and there. I have a good time, and I hang out with my friends, and I make lots of mistakes in the course of a day, even. Stupid things. That’s part of being human. I say in the book, three steps forward, one step back. That’s the way it goes. I am not dogmatic. I am conservative, but I was really liberal once. But I’m not crazy about it. I might get into politics, even.

There are different things I’m going to do with my life, but what happens when you get the systems mindset – and I think this is the point, you do make a good point there, Andrew. Here’s the thing. When you get the systems mindset, you go a layer deeper to how reality functions. OK, the results of my life are the result of the processes that led up to those results, and most people don’t see that. When you see that and you get that deeper grasp of how reality works in this world, in this place called Earth, you get a real gut certainty about what you believe. It doesn’t follow a menu. It doesn’t follow a left wing menu. It doesn’t follow a right wing menu. The good and the bad. You get a better gut certainty about how you feel about life, and you’re very courageous about demonstrating it. I said I’m conservative. My five best friends are extremely liberal. You get along with people. They respect you for what you believe. You respect them for what they believe, and you show up to work in your jeans some days, and sometimes you show up in jeans and a tie just because you feel like it.

And you get real gut certain about your life and how you project yourself and where you fit in, and that’s what I feel here at this point in my life is a very gut certainty in what I believe. A real gut certainty that I don’t have all the answers.

Andrew: Right.

Sam: I go through asking a lot of questions. I know I may sound a little arrogant here, but I’m very humble about asking from the people I’m around, and they’re so often correcting me. And I’m so often apologizing for, maybe, being a little callous or not asking how the sick child is and so forth. But you get real about yourself. You get real about the imperfections in the world, and you proceed with a better mechanical grasp of things.

Andrew: Well, I appreciate the generosity that you’ve given me here. It’s now been an hour and a half since we first started talking. I appreciate you sending the book over. And if people want to not do what I did which is pay for the book and they want to go and get it. Do you mind that I keep telling people that they can get it for free instead of sending them to Amazon? No. Where can they get it for free then?

Sam: You can get the hard copy, which is a well put together hard cover book, at Amazon or at my website, workthesystem.com, but the best site to go to right now is workthesystemacademy.com. At workthesystemacademy.com, you can get the full PDF, and you can get the full audio if you follow the directions. It’s very simple, and it will really give a great profile of what this is about.

There’s a series of videos that are sent on with me and my partner, Mike Giles from the UK, and it’ll really give a good synopsis. So, it’s workthesystemacademy.com is the best place to go.

Andrew: All right. And is there another website, too, for your business? Do we want to give that out to?

Sam: Sure, workthesystem.com. Just leave the academy out.

Andrew: Oh, I see. That’s for the book, and the academy is if they want to learn more; if they want to go through the academy and really internalize the book.

Sam: Yeah. The academy is a learning process, as what you do. It’s 24 videos, and you can pay over three payments, the whole thing. But it’s an in depth fix your business in 30 to 90 days kind of a product.

Andrew: One more thing actually. Did the whole book come from … you had 30 people at your company, and you wanted to help them understand your thinking behind the business, and that’s how you ended up with this book?

Sam: I realized I had some fundamentals that I wanted everybody to understand, and I started putting a manual together, and I spent, maybe, a month on it and realized this ought to be a book. I’ve always wanted to write a book. I never knew what I wanted to write a book about.

My mother is an author, and she said, “Always write about things that you can help people with, tangible things. Don’t try fiction. Just try to write something that you know a lot about and you can help people”, and it all clicked together. My dad is an English teacher. Three of our four parents are all alive, and they’re in their 90s. My wife’s mother is still alive, and they all helped edit the book. [laughs] I had professional editors, but they did a lot of the proofreading and so forth. The genetic downfall helped me a lot, but, yeah, it’s an out growth of a manual for my staff. That’s what it is.

Andrew: Well, thank you for sharing it with all of us. Thank you for doing this interview, and hey everyone, thank you all for watching.

Sam: Thank you.

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  • Anonymous

    Great story, very inspiring. There’s so much to learn from successful people, thanks for the article Andrew.

  • http://mixergy.com Andrew Warner

    deleted

  • http://proofreadingpal.com/ Brian Kaldenberg

    This is a fantastic interview. Simply fantastic.

  • http://mixergy.com Andrew Warner

    Thanks Brian. I’ve wanted to have Sam on ever since I read his book.

  • http://PointersToTruth.weebly.com Tiana

    Love! …so many key points. I have a friend who just started a business. I’m always trying to explain to him why systems are essential to help him with productivity. Sam communicates it well, so I’ll just forward him here.

    I’m off to listen to the audio book now. I’ve been making process maps/flow charts for the systems in my little startup. It will be nice to have some more guidance on doing a better job at it; so I’m hyped to dive into this book, yay!

    By the way, I was surprised that Sam made that statement about not meaning to come off arrogant. I found him very likable, genuine, knowledgeable and down to earth from beginning to end.

    Update: loving the book.

  • http://www.HireYourVirtualAssistant.com Owen McGab Enaohwo

    Sam Carpenters book Work The System in my view is the best book on creating systems and working procedures for your business because it is very practical and real. It does not sound sexy to do this but the only way to really get out of the daily grind and clone yourself is to get all you know out your head and document them so that others with the right attitude and secondly skills can handle them on your behalf. (<<<— note I said attitude first because you can train people and improve their skills over time but their attitude is part of who they are and that is much harder to change)

  • Dylan Jones

    I simply can’t express how big an impact both Sam and Andrew are having on me and my business.

    I’m totally burned out at the moment but I devoured your book and I can finally see light at the end of the tunnel. For the first time I’ve been able to document and hand over processes to folks in India, Phillipines – wherever, and they get the job done.

    Long way to go but the big takeaway for me is that when you follow his approach you actually force yourself to look at the business holistically and say – does this really add value? Could this be simpler? Are we making this so complex that it detracts from the community experience?

    Really profound stuff, well done Andrew for getting Sam to contribute like this, I’ll be spreading this far and wide as it’s a game-changer.

  • Anonymous

    This interview was one of those rare ones that combined the psychological/emotional with the tactical – a real gem. Thanks Sam and Andrew, totally amazing stuff.

    I would just like to add: to anyone out there who is either a) daunted by this and thinks that *their* business is wayyy to complicated to do this, or b) thinks that they’re way too small and Sam talks too much about “managers”, don’t listen to yourself! Listen to Sam!

    We’ve started doing a lot of this stuff on our 3 man distributed team over the past 6 months and it really is as simple as just writing down what you do, when you do it somewhere that is searchable.

    Don’t worry about getting it right or perfect or anything, just make a start. It seems fruitless and impossible at first but it really gets easier and pretty soon you start to see the benefits (like being able to take the weekend off :)

    We’re building up procedures for seriously complex and arcane business and support processes – trust me even if your business seems like the most complicated thing in the world, you can just start writing stuff down and gradually it will untangle.

    We’ve started using Backpack for our knowledgebase and procedures (the 37 signals product) but that’s because we’re already using Highrise for CRM and Basecamp for Project Management so it doesn’t cost us extra – but if you don’t want to spend much money but still want a web accessible, searchable way to start writing down these procedures and get the ball rolling, you can get a MediaWiki install (the same software that runs Wikipedia) hosted for less than $10 a month, just google MediaWiki hosting. MediaWiki is a great place to stick this kind of stuff because it’s dead simple to use and also has a search engine built into it.

  • http://twitter.com/ENetw Entrepreneur Network

    Very good interview! A new take on “The E Myth Revisited”

  • Steve B

    Looking back, when would you input systems? Ideally, the earlier the more efficient you can be with everything right? I tend to ‘build out’ systems in my mind before 
    rolling out’ to make sure it’s worth building out in first place. Any thoughts from all you freedom fighters? 

  • Ted

    I downloaded Sam Carpenter Work the System Audiobook on my HTC EVO and the error message reads “Cannot open file”  whats up with that?

  • http://www.HireYourVirtualAssistant.com Owen McGab Enaohwo

    Try downloading them from the UK version of his site. That is what I did and it worked on my Iphone 
    http://www.workthesystemacademy.co.uk/

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  • http://mixergy.com Andrew Warner

    Thanks, Owen!

  • Meredith

    Nice!  As an online business manager – I help people with the systems — but I’m not a systems person — this interview has gotten me motivated to start getting my ducks in a row (and then work on the clients) – THANK YOU!

  • Anonymous

    How do small business owners keep their processes and distribute around the team? What tips do you have for a first time business owner?

  • Anonymous

    Andrew – you mentioned that you have a process at Mixergy for taking a book and breaking it down inside of an hour – so you can teach it to your listeners. That’s a fascinating story right there! Would you be willing to share that process either online or off?

  • http://www.itarsenal.com/ Rob

    I’m with Dylan, these two are foundational pieces of my business education and inspiration.

    Glad to see you’re interviewing around Sam and that you’ve now met Andrew. I’ve worked with both of you and you’re both top notch, I’d recommend you guys to anyone. Sam I’m loving the 3rd edition, much easier to absorb than the first, still great!

  • http://www.itarsenal.com/ Rob

     I consider Sam’s book the evolution of the E Myth, and written in a way that everything is completely tangible.

  • Jeffswaves

    Good call.  I use Backpackit also.  At first I didn’t see how it would help much and now all of my systems are based around it.  It is truly great to have.

  • http://mixergy.com Andrew Warner

    I’ve been seeing founders use Google Sites a lot.

  • Don

    Can’t your employees steal your system and compete against you?

  • http://mixergy.com Andrew Warner

    Usually, idea theft isn’t a big deal, but in this interview you’re right that I should have asked about it.

  • http://www.HireYourVirtualAssistant.com Owen McGab Enaohwo

    Ideas are a dime a dozen, it’s the execution that counts and your employees might not have the insight or drive you have as the Entrepreneur to steal the idea and then execute. So don’t worry. Beside competition helps to build and improve the market.

  • Sam Carpenter

    Andrew: Owen got it right. It’s the execution and the drive (and the leadership) that makes the difference. It’s hard to describe the incredible degree of support and loyalty that my staff demonstrates. That’s the feedback I get from other WTS companies, too

  • Sam Carpenter

    Just keep separate folders (computer or even paper) for HR, Admin, Operations etc. It’s that simple, although there is software out there if you want to get fancy…

  • Sam Carpenter

    Steve: Yes, “do it now.” The idea is to describe a system on paper and then “work it” so great, real-world results materialize from that paper system. I also develop systems in my head before getting them down on paper. Remember to keep them simple, describing them “across time,” with a 1-2-3 step progression (first we do this, then we do that, then we do that…)

  • Sam Carpenter

    My aim with the 3rd edition was to do exactly that, to make it easier to absorb. Thanks, Rob…

  • Sam Carpenter

    Iaindooley: Thanks. Your paragraph beginning with” Don’t worry…”  is key. Just get going and don’t get stuck on the idea this has to be done “just so…”

  • http://callboxinc.com/ Judy Caroll

    Powerful points Sam.  We need to face the reality that it’s almost impossible to do everything perfectly ourselves.  The solution to having a more effective business is by systemizing it. By systemizing our business, we can then break free from the chains that keep us tethered to our desk and concentrate more on more important functions like planning our business.

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