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Building Better Business Systems

Every business need systems. The question isn’t whether or not you need them but what they should take. How formal do they need to be? Should they be written? Can I use video? Do I need lots of checklists and forms? 

In this interview, John discussed how to work out to implement systems that your team will follow to benefit themselves and your business.

Greg: Thank you, everybody, for taking a few minutes out of your busy days to spend with us to watch Momentum Talks. I'm Greg Gunther, Director and Co-founder of Your Business Momentum. Today, we have John Tonkin from Brain in a Box. Welcome, John.

John: Hi there, Greg. How are you?

Greg: Yeah. Excellent. Thank you. Welcome. Good to see you again. And before we get started, though, I'll just give a quick introduction to John. After a background in corporate, John started his first business back in 2000, and where he was focusing on business systems consulting, and in 2006, he launched Brain in a Box Pty Ltd. And he has a strong methodology and focuses on collaborative development, working with a client now with clients across Australia and extending into New Zealand and Malaysia, Brain in a Box has worked with over 300 clients from startup right through to multinationals. So thank you once again, for joining us, John.

John: My pleasure.

Greg: So the purpose of Momentum Talks is to share valuable content with business owners and to introduce specialists who can help overcome the challenges in your business. Today, we're going to be talking business systems. So John, maybe just explain for the people watching and listening, John, the services that you actually provide, and what might you be known for best, do you think.

John: Okay, so Business Systems is the broad heading and for us, that means that we're going to come in and capture the way you do everything in your business. So to the people side of it, we're not talking about the computer software, although obviously that has a place in your business, where more or less, not more or less, we are more talking about the way you, your team interact with the pieces of software you use and the people you sell to or buy from, you know, systems that title together, people are using the system. They also use computers or whatever else you may have.

Greg: And John, I know you've been doing this for a long, long time. Now, as I said in the intro, you know, what, if people were to describe what you do, how might they actually paraphrase it, do you think.

John: We come in working with the team, we capture what they do using flow charts, the way they do it. Before we actually start mapping the flowchart, we make sure we're really clear on what the risks are the things that could go wrong in that process. So we can make sure we build them out of the process, we're also looking at the benefits that are in that process because we want to make sure that we achieve every one of those.

Greg: Yes.

John: After that, we map the process using little custom post-it notes, which are the standard flowcharting figures, then we have a flip chart with the draft process mapped into the flow chart, we take a photo of that took a photo of the risk and benefit sheet that we call it. And then our team then map the process into Lucidchart, and then typically publish that straight into a Google site we've set up for the customer.

Greg: Yeah, I've been through the process with you, John. Oh, you know, it's this whole concept that you talked about with risks and benefits. You know, I think it really does cut through in terms of, you know, where a lot of the weaknesses fall with businesses and their systems and processes.

John: Yeah, I think the other major thing about the focus on risks and benefits is one, it's the only reason why you are in business, you're only in business because you manage the risks more set more effectively than someone else doing the same thing. And you're perceived by your clients as achieving the benefits more effectively than somebody else doing the same thing. Right at the heart of your business. And when we're looking at a process, it'd be really easy to map it to flow chart it and then put it into Lucidchart and publish it. And it'll look really pretty, but it ends up being could end up being what I call pretty rubbish. So it looks pretty, but it's still got all the problems in his head before. So focusing on the risks and benefits early, we can build them right out of the process.

Greg: Okay. And you might have actually segues nicely into the next question. I've got the John like, what would you consider may, you know, two or three major problems that these business owners confront?

John: An assumption that everyone knows what to do, because they don't complain, or they don't make a noise, sort of the reverse of the squeaky wheel. Though there's no noise, we assume that everything's running smoothly, it makes effectively, but it's not efficiently. So in other words, it's not using the resources, the best way time, effort, money. And so it could be stuff happening that you would never want to happen in the background. So one, you're not sure how the business is going, two, you could actually have processes happening, unofficial or informal processes happening, which go against the rules in some way, the rules being legislation, standards or your own values. On top of all of that.

Greg: Yeah. And I imagined and all that time, John, you know, it could create a lot of inefficiencies as well, like you probably really trying to get consistent results. But the consistency of your outcomes/outputs would be variable, I would imagine.

John: Yeah, inefficiency is one of the big drivers. So we have an exercise that's on our website, the cost of inefficiency, where you can go and calculate exactly what you're inefficiency is costing you and something as basic as spending a half an hour a week that we shouldn't spend on during that another half hour there, that's one hour a week, that's 50 hours a year 50 a year is more than a week, happy to take a week salary wages or whatever and drop it down a hole, I suspect not multiply that by all the other things in your business. When we do that exercise, we find that the business owner reports something like $100,000 a year plus, now that's a significant amount of money. And it isn't money that you're not making it's actually money that you're making. And then trying. Yeah, the cost of inefficiency is a major cost that most people don't look at.

Greg: Yeah, that's a great point you're making there. So John, what would be you know, one action, you think that a business owner could actually take towards solving some of those problems.

So the first thing would be to work out what systems are in your business, what systems run your business, it's very easy to go and look at the thing, I'm going to fix that without having thought about it. So we would recommend, say using a basic tool, like a mind mapping tool. Now there are plenty of them free mind is the one we use. And it gives you a great tool for sort of creating a big picture of the business. So you can see every part of the business, all there. So we look at it in terms of marketing, sales, delivery, and admin. But you got that big picture, then you can go through and say, right, where can we get the quickest win without hurting ourselves, is because sometimes people go straight to the biggest areas problem. It's bigger than that their skill, their understanding of systems and they fail.

Greg: Yes.

John: Pick something that is something you can manage something that you can everyone has a fair degree of understanding on and then succeed with that and then move along from there. Second thing would be to capture it in a way that everyone can use. A lot of people talking about systems say are just get it underwrite down what they do. And that's great for about a third of the people who will use the system, as much as the ordinary people. It's not good for the visuals, it's not good for the kind of settings. If we map the process using a flow chart, we find anyone, regardless of language skills, regardless of the skills in that's being able to read and absorb text, because remember, you look at a lot of processes in business, it can do this out. Now if it's one of these, we've got to add that. And then if it's do that, it doesn't take long before you get some complexity into their mapping it visually, somebody can literally trace it along with their finger and work out where they're up to. You just learned all good, I know where I am. Great way to look at the process. But it's also a great place to put all the props, what we call the props there. Like when I get to this step, I need this particular props, there's a video, or a checklist, or a form or a template, something like it so that I can do that step effectively. Everything is linked, everything is visual, it's right in front of me. And right now I can see all the hotspots. But now I can see why it is that we're always get caught just here. I can use this to train the team. And then I can use it to performance management manage anyone who isn't working properly within the process that would agree.

Greg: And I can attest to everything you're saying there, John because we when the advocates and users of your system. And you know we've had many examples where we've identified processes that people are now starting to get on the same page with just simply by using that visual flowchart that you talked about there. You might have actually partly answered my next question, jJohn, no, you know, you talked about Freemind. But are there other sorts of tool systems that, you know, you could sort of tell to the people watching or listening that they could look at?

John: Okay, there seems to be a divide between, say, Office products on one side and Google products on the other. And to favour Google products, generally, although we're not exclusive, because everything interacts with everything. And I can very quickly create a Google site. So that's one of our key tools, with Google Drive as the store the file store in the background, the drive, and then the website, the Google site in the front, we can present any of the information in Google Drive, plus, we can add in our flow charts. So and we can put a video where we can put any tools we want, right there in front of everyone. That's one tool we use. We love everything Google. but not exclusively, the client we're working with last week is Office 365. We still managed to give them everything they wanted. We did use a Google site that we're linking to props, all their checklists and forms in SharePoint. So that's one tool. Freemind is a fantastic tool. So you'll have the link for that it's free, it's absolutely free. It's easy to use. Indeed, I have a worksheet that you could use for that a little "How To" will give that to everyone watching. And then beyond free mind and Google sites and Google Drive, etc. We also use Lucidchart. So Lucidchart is the tool where we map processes because it's easy to map, it's easy to work and make them all standardized. And then it's really easy to publish that straight to a Google site or Confluence. If somebody is using Confluence. We've had clients using that as you know. And so it's an easy tool to use as well.

Greg: And look yeah, again, I can attest to everything you're talking about. It's our own experience, because we work a lot with clients, as you know, and one of the areas that we find is very weak is this whole area and systems processes. You know, everyone's busy, but you know, we just know that you know, there's probably 25 30% of inefficiencies in there, because everyone's just doing it their own way. So, John, that's been tremendous. Thank you. And I'm sure you can actually listen and hear the passion that's coming through and John has for his business systems. And if you need to actually talk to john, please reach out to him. His website is and as John has already talked about, there's a couple of little tools that you can download there. The one I would suggest you go and look for is the one that he talked about with just trying to quantify, we may have inefficiencies there.

John: I'm rebuilding a new website is all ready to go. It's only changed the logo, and I'm there, I've got a new logo. But if you go to the current site, which is an old site, and I'll apologize once, but if you go to that, on the right-hand side, have a look down there. And you'll see the cost of inefficiency. And your cost of inefficiency. It's right there. It's a great little tool. And he makes it very, very clear to you how much it's costing you.

Greg: So I highly recommend those of you watching, listening to go and look for that because I think once you actually do that exercise, you'll realize just the actual benefits of going through this process that John's just described to us. The other thing I'd like you to all do is if you would take just a few short minutes to subscribe to these Momentum Talks. That will ensure that you actually get them each time that we interview. And until next time, next Momentum Talk. We wish you all the very best.

Links to Business Tools

Cost of Inefficiency Calculator: click here.

FreeMind - free mind mapping software: click here.

Lucidchart: Online Diagram Software & Visual Solution: click here.

  • John Tonkin

    John Tonkin

    After a background in corporate, John started his first business in 2000, focusing on business systems consulting, and in 2006, he launched Brain in a Box Pty Ltd. Now with clients across Australia and extending into New Zealand and Malaysia, Brain in a Box has worked with over 300 clients from start-up to multinational.

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