Trying to run a business without effective systems and structure is a disaster waiting to happen. Having a plan, procedures and team accountabilities helps projects and businesses operate smoothly.
In this episode of The Entrepreneur to Author Podcast, your host Scott MacMillan speaks with David Jenyns, author and founder of SYSTEMology and SystemHUB about how you can set up systems to help scale your business.
In 2016, David successfully systemised himself out of his business, one of Australia’s most trusted digital agencies, melbourneSEOservices.com. Through this process he became a systems devotee – founding systemHUB & SYSTEMology. Today, his mission is to free all business owners worldwide from the daily operations of running their business.
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Please note: The transcript is produced by a third-party company from an audio recording and may include transcription errors.
You're listening to the Entrepreneur to Author podcast.
Welcome to the Entrepreneur to Author podcast, the podcast that brings you practical strategies for building authority and growing your business. And now, here's your host, Scott MacMillan.
David Jenyns is the founder of SYSTEMology, which helps business owners free themselves from the day-to-day operations of their business, and he's the author of the book by the same name, SYSTEMology: Create Time, Reduce Errors, and Scale Your Profits with Proven Business Systems. In 2016, David successfully systemized himself out of his business, one of Australia's most trusted digital agencies, Melbourne SEO. Through this process, he became a systems' devotee, founding systemHUB and SYSTEMology. David, thank you so much for joining us today.
Hey Scott, it's a pleasure to be here.
Now I have to kick things off by saying how excited I am about this episode, and here's why. I can't even remember how I first learned about your book, but I listened to it as an audiobook and then I enjoyed it so much that I then bought the paper back. Not only that, but I then signed up for your software, which for our listeners is called systemHUB, and it's a tool for small businesses to manage process documentation, policies, staff training, and so on. In short, the whole philosophy of Entrepreneur to Author and publishing a book that helps you build your business was really executed flawlessly by you and your team. I think that you're a really great example for our listeners, David.
Thank you for the kind words and hopefully, we can share a few insights for those looking to do the same.
Yeah, wonderful. Why don't we start, perhaps, if you could give our listeners a little bit of a background or about yourself and your background as an entrepreneur?
I've been an entrepreneur pretty much from day dot, and I've been involved in a lot of different businesses. I remember trying to import product from the US and China, and I've had a rock and roll clothing music store, and I was in the info publishing business and in the stock market space, but probably, what I was most well known for was the last business, which you touched on in the intro, my digital agency where I worked in that business for about 10 years.
I got stuck. It wasn't until we found out that we were pregnant that I thought, "Oh, I don't want to be that dad who's always too busy," because I was working those ridiculous hours. I was doing 60 hour work weeks, felt like I was doing mornings and nights and weekends, and my partner, my wife now, I feel for her, but we had that turning point and that's really where I started to think about systemization and how I could step out of the day-to-day.
Yeah, wonderful. Is that really where you came up with the idea of SYSTEMology?
Yeah, it was almost like this transition. I've got it in my DNA. My dad happened to be a systems engineer, so it's funny. He created this thing called The Sheet for my brother and I, which was almost like a system that he invented on how we could earn points for doing different activities around the house, and then at the end of the week, he would tally up all those points and then give us pocket money. I've always had this idea of systems and how to gamify those systems in my blood, but then when I got to the digital agency, for some reason, I thought that business was different.
I thought, "Oh, it's a creative agency where my team's not going to want to follow process, and Google's always updating their algorithms, so what's the point in documenting something if it's going to very quickly get out of date?" I had all of this baggage, which is what trapped me in Melbourne SEO for so long. Then I had that turning point, and then I started to retest those assumptions. It was in the break between having my first child... I ended up taking 12 months off. I had elevated one of the team members who was already in Melbourne SEO to the CEO position so I could step out.
In that break where I had 12 months off, I fell out of love with the digital agency work, and then I started to think, "Well, what is it that I want to do, and where do I feel I can make big impact?" I felt that area of systemization and helping the business owner go from being the bottleneck and getting some of those processes in place was a really under-addressed area of business. That's when the idea started. I had got the software bubbling around as well, systemHUB that you touched on, but there was still that missing piece. It's not a piece of software that magically solves this problem. It's a way of thinking. It's a change in the culture of the way that businesses do work, and that was that turning point for me and what birthed SYSTEMology.
Yeah, that's a really good point. It's easy, I think, not just in this area, but in a lot of areas to think that the solution is a piece of software. I thought you did a really good job in the book of making that distinction between the way of thinking and developing a systems approach to your business, and then, "By the way, here is the software that can help implement that," but making a distinction between the two. Why would you say that systems are the key for business owners in terms of letting them break free of those day-to-day operations?
One of the biggest things is this idea of passing tasks down to less skilled team members. Especially when you're in a small business, your most valuable team members should be working on the highest value tasks and not doing these repetitive recurring tasks that could easily be delegated. Systems and processes and documenting the way that you do things is a way of capturing, "Hey, this is how we do things here." It's a way to then pass some of those essential, repeatable, delegable tasks down to these less skilled team members, which then frees up those higher value team members to work on only the things that they can work on or the things where there is an exception to this system or process.
Because oftentimes, when we create a system or process, we just capture what is most probable, and that is oftentimes what we will train a team member up on if they're brand new. Then the exception gets handled by the more skilled team member. It really is that capturing of IP that enables you to then pass off some certain tasks and that helps you to remove key person dependency, which is really essential for people to step away and the business to start to grow.
Yeah. Yeah. I'm so glad that you mentioned that because I found that that was something that always held me back from trying to develop a system in a business, was this idea that there can be these exceptions. I think I had this impression that everything had to be captured, all the variants had to be captured. I'm really glad that you touched on that fact that it's really the most probable, the most common instance that we're trying to capture, and then it's perfectly fine for the exceptions to get escalated.
With that one as well, there's one extra little piece that jumps out at me there, and it's this idea that just because you don't document something doesn't mean it's going to magically stop happening in the business, because your business is already working. You've already got some smart team members and they're able to fill in the gaps where a system doesn't work. Again, your business is working now, so you don't need to think, "If I don't capture this variation, it's not going to be addressed." What we are doing with systems, it's all about creating an optimized approach to a particular task, and that enables us to perform that optimized central task most efficiently. Then things that happen outside of that are then handled by the variation.
Yeah. Brilliant, brilliant. In 2020, you published SYSTEMology. What was your goal in writing the book? First in terms of the goal for your reader, but also your goal as a business owner?
Yeah. The goal initially was just to crystallize my thought. This is the second book I've written, and then you'll have to excuse me. It's early morning here. I can hear some crazy birds outside. I just heard a finch just then. The goal originally was to clarify thought. I did that with my first book as well. To write a great book, you have to think about it deeply and you have to think about what pieces need to be stripped out and which pieces are essential.
It was a way to really codify my thinking around how do you systemize a business? I did start with the intention of using it to launch this business as well. With the last book, similarly, I wrote a book to really almost be a calling card for our clients and prospects and something that I could get into their hands and then they could go, "Ah, now I get what you do," and then would be more interested in, "Oh, hey, can you help me out? Can you help me implement some of these ideas?"
Yeah, right. The book lays out seven stages to systemizing your business, which I thought was a really helpful framework. Could you talk a little bit about that?
Yeah. The seven stages are... There is define, assign, extract, organize, integrate, scale, and optimize. The first step, define, is all about identifying, well, what are the core essential tasks where you would start to systemize your business? We apply the 80/20 rule here, and we think, "What are the 20% of the systems that deliver 80% of the result for the business?" I really focus in on, well, how does the business make money? What is the primary product or service and whom are we selling it to?
Let's think about, "Well, what systems would be required to make that happen without key person dependency?" That's that first stage, define, and it's usually the first question that business owners have when they think about systemizing, which is, "Well, where do I start?" Then step number two is this idea of assign, and that is, well, where is the knowledge in the business already? So the business owner oftentimes knows how to do a lot of things, if not all of the different areas of business, but you also have knowledgeable team members who know how to do something quite well.
If you have identified that, oh, we need to capture the sales process, and then you have a great salesman or saleswoman, then let's find out what they're doing and bring everybody up to that standard. It's really another place that a lot of people go wrong when they think about creating systems, is they create the system on the way that they would like it to be, and they try and imagine the perfect sales scenario when oftentimes, most small business just struggle with consistency. If you figure out who does it the best, we capture that and bring everybody up to that standard, and you do it consistently, tremendous wins can be gained.
That step number two is about thinking, "Well, who knows how to do this pretty well? Let's bring everybody up to that standard." Step number three, this idea of extracting is then how do we get that IP out of the brains of those team members? Because most of those team members are busy. Great team members, just like great business owners and operations people, they're busy. If you say to them, "Hey, I want you to document your process," they'll go, "Oh, yes. Okay, I'll put it on my to-do list." They'll never get to it.
This idea for extract is about making it a two-person job. You've got the knowledgeable person who knows how to do the thing, but then you have a second person who's a documenter and they can listen to the knowledgeable person and watch them as they do the task, and then they can create first versions of that. There's been some significant steps forward in that space with things like ChatGPT and some of the new AI that's coming out where you can feed the videos and the recordings of certain tasks into these AI systems and then get pretty good drafts back out the other end.
Then step number four is around organizing the IP. Where is this knowledge going to be stored? You mentioned systemHUB, but it really doesn't matter what software platform you use, as long as you have a central location where all of this knowledge is stored, the team knows where it is, the team can participate and access it, that's the key. Then step number five is integrate. You want to get all of your team onboard and help them to realize that there is a benefit for them creating systems.
This is not about replacing their jobs or about the business owner making a truckload more money and going on holiday. Some of these things are byproducts, but it really does help team members improve their position and that helps you to get the buy-in. Then step number six is scale, which is all about, well, what are the systems needed to systemize a business outside of the critical client flow? Which is that first step we talked about in step number one, which is things like how do you hire and onboard staff, and what do your finance systems look like in management?
Then the final stage is optimized, which I talked about a little bit earlier, this idea that don't make the systems the way that you would like to be. Capture them the way they are right now. You get tremendous wins there, and it's not till the end of the process that you might then revisit and get a dashboard into place and then start to make some adjustments. Now, I know there's a lot of thinking there, and I compressed an entire book and you've gone through it. I don't know if there are any particular things that stood out for you when you went through it.
No. What I really like about frameworks like this is it really helps the reader to internalize the content that you're teaching as they go through it, because like you said, it's a lot of information. To be able to bucket it into these categories, not only does it help provide a bit of a navigation for the reader, but it also provides that roadmap that they can then recall it when they go back to it. Really appreciate that. You mentioned that this is not your first book. You've written two books now. How do you find the writing process? Is it something that comes easy to you or is it more of a challenge?
It's easy for me to know what steps need to be done. It's just hard in the consistency and the work that needs to be done. When I write a book, I want to write something that's evergreen. I want to write something that has impact. I want something that is well thought through, and that just takes time. My process oftentimes, just because it's easier for me to present and talk through my ideas, oftentimes, when I first get an idea for a book, I'll run a little workshop and I'll invite business owners or my target audience along to it, so it's a chance for me to present the material, find out what works and what doesn't with the audience, and get a little bit of practice on the board.
Then, we oftentimes take the video recording and we get it transcribed. That transcription then goes to a ghostwriter. The ghostwriter then writes up a draft for me, and then when that draft comes back, I end up rewriting it anyway, and I pretty much just tear it to shreds, but I find it infinitely easier to work with something than just a blank page. I find that process works really well for me. SYSTEMology probably took a good year and a half, two years to go through that process and do a bit of backwards and forwards and then work with an editor and then get it just right. I see the process as easy. Everything's easy once you know how, but it just takes work to consistently do it, and that's probably the hardest challenge.
Yeah, that makes sense, but I like that approach of whatever it takes to get that first draft out, and then you've got something to work with. The last episode of the podcast we were talking about, excuse me, you mentioned the ChatGPT, and it's really interesting technology that can almost play a little bit of a role of a ghostwriter in certain instances, but of course, you got to be careful how you use that. What about publication? How did you find the publishing process?
Yeah, I came across a lady who... Because I ended up going down the path of doing self publication. I did look into going through a traditional publisher and had a couple of ins on that, but that whole landscape has just been changing more and more and more. I prefer to have full control of the copyright, what I do with the material. Do I give little snippets away? Do I give whole copies away to influencers? Do I repurpose a lot of that content? How can it get chopped up and reused? There's a range of different things with the audio book and making videos off the back of it that just made me think, "You know what? We're great at marketing. We had the digital agency. I know how to get the word out and how to position things, and I think I could probably do a lot better job than some of the traditional avenues," so we decided to go self-publishing.
I had a friend who recommended this lady, and then she was great. She guided through me through the process. She did the submission through to Amazon. She handled lining it up for me to find a studio where I could do the audio recording and get everything ready for Audible. For me, that probably worked best, but I think part of that has a lot to do with my marketing background, because I know it can be a little bit of a challenge.
A lot of authors, they think once the book is written, that their work is done. It's a lot of work to get the book written, but it's a whole nother thing then to promote it and then consistently promote it. We're still two years since publishing SYSTEMology, and I'm still actively thinking about how do I get on podcasts? How do I get book reviews? How do I get the hands of the book into influencers? That's an ongoing process to really squeeze all of the effort and the work that went into creating it.
Yeah, absolutely. That's really, really well put. I think there's a misconception, too, among a lot of people. They think that even in a traditional publishing deal that you sign a deal, you write the book and then your work is done, but that's really not the case unless you're a big name author like Stephen King or one of those. It still comes down to you to do the marketing. To the extent that you can hang onto that and have the control like you said, I think makes a ton of sense. I think the book speaks for itself in terms of the quality of the publication, quality of the editorial, and how you've leveraged all of your capabilities around it, so absolutely kudos to you. How has the book impacted the business? Has it done what you'd hoped it would do?
Yeah, I feel like each time I go through a system or a process, it just gets better. Obviously, the first book that I had written, I had a chance to test a lot of these things, and I talk about this actually in the start of the SYSTEMology book. I was then asked by a well-known business author just by chance to launch his book. A guy called Michael Gerber who wrote the book The E-Myth had a final book that he was launching called Beyond the E-Myth.
I don't launch books. That's not what our digital agency used to do, but the wife of Michael Gerber happened to see me launch my first book, which, that was my first go. She said, "Oh, I saw what you did there, and Michael Gerber wants to make his final book something that he self-publishes, so he maintains all of the rights, and can you help us launch his book?" I said, "Sure, I'd love to. What a great opportunity." It was just extremely fortuitous.
Again, I got to test that system going through his book launch, so then when it came time to do SYSTEMology again, I got to go through that approach again. Every time, it just seems to get better and better and better. The whole purpose of these books, at least the two that I had written really was to help get the word out about SYSTEMology, get it into the hands of business owners, and then it becomes a gateway into our world. Some people read the book and they get more than what they need and they can implement off the book and fantastic, that's awesome.
Others, they might want a little bit of extra help. Then they outreach to us and they might look at a group program or an online program, or they might work with one of our systemologists to help them roll out these ideas in their business. It's a fantastic lead generator and a pre-sell. Even when we get prospects that might not have read the book and someone's referred them our way, we still like to get them to read the book because it just frames everything up and really demonstrates the value in the work that we do.
It's worked for me, and again, it was quite fortuitous with Michael Gerber, and that ended up being an opening to the book, and Michael then wrote the forward to the book as well, and then really endorsed it. I felt like I got blessed by the original godfather of business systems, which again, has just made it so much easier to open doors. Yeah, so it's probably been more effective than I imagined it would be.
That's wonderful. That's wonderful. I'm a big Michael Gerber fan. I remember when I first listened to SYSTEMology and you recounting that story of how you and he got in touch, that was really, really cool. Yeah, very fortuitous, and you took full advantage. If someone's listening and thinking that systemizing their business sounds like a great idea, what's the best way for people to get in touch with you if they need some help getting going on that?
Getting in touch is probably just systemology.com. If you're new to these ideas though, head to Amazon, or if you're listening to this, you're obviously an audio person, so head over to Audible. We have the audio version of the book that I read, and Michael does the forward and his wife comes on and does a little cameo as well. It's a really great listen. That's the best way to get started. Then, if you want to go a little bit further down the rabbit hole, you head to systemology.com and we've got the YouTube channel, and I engage a little bit on Twitter and some of the other social media like LinkedIn. There's plenty of different ways if you need a little bit of extra help.
That's fantastic, and we'll put as many of those links as we can in the show notes. David, thanks so much for being with us today and sharing your expertise with our audience. It's been fascinating, both with respect to the whole idea of SYSTEMology and systems, but also as it relates to your journey from entrepreneur to author.
Thanks, Scott. It's a pleasure.
As we wrap up this episode of Entrepreneur to Author, remember this, now is the time. Time to write, time to publish, and time to grow. I'm Scott MacMillan. Until next time.