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Build a System for Freedom

By Charles Hopkins Published 04/20/2006 | Entrepreneur
Every entrepreneur knows that setting goals is crucial to business success. If you don't know where you're going, how will you know when you've arrived? Or, more importantly, when you're heading in completely the wrong direction?

If you're the owner of a small business, what is your goal? To make it to the end of the month with enough money in the bank to cover the payroll? To take a holiday for the first time in five years?

Every small business owner should have the same goal - sooner or later, to become independent of the business. Small businesses turn into big businesses only when they are able to operate smoothly without the owner being present. When you can stay away for a week, or a month, or a year, and return to find the business running better than before you left, you have the opportunity to do whatever you like - sell the business and start a new one, retire, buy a yacht and sail around the world.

True financial independence is the ability to live your life doing what YOU want to do. Do you really want to show up for work an hour early every day, leave late at night and never take a holiday, for the rest of your life? Surely not.

What is the key to being able to walk away?

It's simple. You need a system in place so that everyone in your business knows exactly what's expected of them.

When you take on a new employee, how do they learn what they're expected to do? Does an existing employee take them in charge, explaining how things work? How can you be sure that the new employee is learning what you want them to know?

As the owner of the business, it's your job to ensure that a system is put in place as the business grows. The system will ensure that everyone knows what they need to know to do their job effectively.

How do you think companies like McDonald's are able to manage thousands of restaurants across the planet? McDonald's Head Office doesn't sell hamburgers. They sell franchises, and their customers are the franchisees. The most valuable asset they have is their system. It regulates what employees wear, the words they say to customers, how many seconds a patty is left on the grill. to variables within their business, every contingency is dictated by the system.

The system makes it possible for new employees to fit in. They are educated on 'how we do things around here'. They are taught the specifics of their job. They may be required to sign a performance agreement.

In a well-designed system, there is still space for individual creativity. Better ways of doing things should always be sought out and encouraged - and written into the system for the future.

The system provides the framework for ensuring that the business is never entirely dependent on any one person. If you own the business, your future depends on the quality of your system. function SubmitRating(btn) { ratingchecked = false; if (btn.form.aRating0.checked) ratingchecked = true; if (btn.form.aRating1.checked) ratingchecked = true; if (btn.form.aRating2.checked) ratingchecked = true; if (btn.form.aRating3.checked) ratingchecked = true; if (btn.form.aRating4.checked) ratingchecked = true; if (ratingchecked) { btn.form.btnRating.value=btn.value; btn.form.submit(); } else { alert("Be sure a rating value has been selected to continue."); } }