Centratel’s Strategic Objective
Note to Centratel staff: The Centratel Strategic Objective is the basis for all corporate and individual decision-making.
Clichéd mission statements that declare, “We want to be the best and we want our customers to be happy” don’t provide meaningful direction and do little more than make company stockholders feel good for the moment. And voluminous multi-year work plans can’t account for the day-by-day changes in our industry.
Instead, the Centratel Strategic Objective precisely describes our market and direction, as well as who we are and how we function. It reminds us of what is most important and it gives us an overview of general strategy.
By following its guidelines, growth and success will take care of themselves. In the spirit of simplicity, we limit the length of our Strategic Objective to one page. We’ve modified it through the years, but the fundamentals have never changed.
Statistically we are the highest-quality telephone answering service in the United States.
We understand that every result is preceded by a 1-2-3-4-step process. It is within these processes that we spend our time, as we relentlessly “work” the systems of the business to perfection.
Our guiding documents are this Strategic Objective, the Centratel Thirty Principles and Working Procedures.
Centratel’s primary 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.
Through intense commitment to our employees, we will contribute to the success of our clients. The consequence of having loyal, smart, hard-working, long-term, and well-compensated staff is unmatchable quality service to customers.
Our business is complex, with many human, mechanical, and computer systems in simultaneous motion. Success depends on refined communication and organizational processes, dedicated staff, documented point-of-sale procedures, first-class office space and equipment, rigorous quality assurance with continuous measurement, assertive innovation, intense planned maintenance/system-improvement, aggressive and measured marketing, and relentless attention to detail in every nook and cranny.
Competitive advantages include a near-flawless level of message processing accuracy, products designed around the unique needs of the customer, thoughtful customer service that is immediate and consistent, the latest high-tech equipment, and personal/corporate integrity. We use extraordinarily efficient communication tools and protocols. We constantly refine and improve all internal systems and mechanisms.
To grow, we proceed with an “if we build it, they will come” philosophy, juxtaposed with assertive marketing efforts.
Although we tightly direct Centratel’s operation through guiding documentation, we will modify that documentation immediately if an enhancement can be made: “Our operational framework is rigid, but that framework can be modified instantly.”
We segment responsibilities into specialized “expert compartments” with appropriate cross-training among departments. We have backup personnel for all positions.
Primary vertical markets include medical, veterinary, home health/ hospice, funeral home, HVAC, property management, hi-tech, 24/7 on-call, front office/virtual receptionist, and utility.
(For help with your strategic objective, go to www.businessdocumentationsoftware.com.)
Centratel’s Thirty Principles
- Company decisions conform to the Strategic Objective, Thirty Principles, and Working Procedure documents.
- We are the highest-quality answering service in the United States. We do whatever it takes to ensure the quality of service to our clients, employees, and vendors is impeccable.
- We draw solid lines, thus providing an exact status of where things stand. Documented procedures are the main defense against gray-area problems.
- “Get the job done.” Can the employee do his or her job, or is there always a complication of one kind or another? This ability to “get the job done quickly and accurately without excuses or complications” is the most valuable trait an employee can possess.
- Employees come first. We employ people who have an innate desire to perform at 100 percent. We reward them accordingly. The natural outcome is we serve our clients well.
- We are not fire killers. We are fire prevention specialists. We don’t manage problems; we work on system enhancement and system maintenance in order to prevent problems from happening in the first place.
- Problems are gifts that inspire us to action. They are “red flags for improvement.” A problem prompts the act of creating or improving a system or procedure. We don’t want setbacks, but when one occurs we think, “Thank you for this wake-up call,” and take assertive system-improvement action to prevent the setback from happening again.
- We focus on just a few manageable services. Although we watch for new opportunities, in the end we provide “just a few services implemented in superb fashion,” rather than a complex array of average-quality offerings.
- We find the simplest solution. Ockham’s Law, also called the Law of Economy, states, “Entities are not to be multiplied beyond necessity. . . . The simplest solution is invariably the correct solution.”
- The money we save or waste is not Monopoly money! We are careful not to devalue the worth of a dollar just because it has to do with the business.
- We operate the company via documented procedures and systems. “Any recurring problem can be solved with a system.” We take the necessary time to create and implement systems and procedures, and in the end, it is well worth it. If there is a recurring problem, a written procedure is created in order to prevent the problem from happening again. On the other hand, we don’t bog down the organization with processes and procedures targeting situations that occur only once in a while. Sometimes we elect to not create a procedure.
- “Just don’t do it.” Eliminate the unnecessary. Many times, elimination of a system, protocol, or potential project is a very good thing. Think simplicity. Automate. Refine to the smallest number of steps or discard altogether. Would a simple “no” save time, energy, and/or money?
- Our documented systems, procedures, and functions are “off the street.” This means anyone with normal intelligence can perform procedures unassisted. The real-world evidence of this is we can hire an individual off the street who has good typing skills and have him or her processing calls by the second day. For this result, protocols have to be efficient, simple, and thoroughly documented. (Before we implemented our systemized training protocol, it would take six weeks to train a TSR.)
- Do it NOW. All actions build on “point-of-sale” theory. We don’t delay an action if it can be done immediately. Just like any major retail outlet, we “update inventories and databases at the exact time the transaction takes place.” There is no paperwork floating around the office after a physical transaction. We ask, “How can we perform the task NOW without creating lingering details that we must clean up later?”
- We glean the Centratel mindset from Stephen Covey’s books, including The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, First Things First, and The 8th Habit. As well, we consider Good to Great by Jim Collins; The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber; and Awaken the Giant Within by Anthony Robbins.
- We pattern individual organization upon Franklin-Covey theory. We use organizing mechanisms that are always at hand. We prioritize, schedule, and document. The system is always up-to-date and we use it all the time. (For Centratel, this is Microsoft Outlook.)
- Sequence and priority are critical. We work on the most important tasks first. We spend maximum time on “non-urgent/ important” tasks via Stephen Covey’s time-matrix philosophy.
- We double-check everything before release. If a penchant for double-checking is not an innate personal habit, then it must be cultivated. Double-checking is a conscious step in every task, per- formed either by the individual managing the task or someone else.
- Our environment is spotless: clean and ordered, simple, efficient, functional. No “rats’ nests,” literally or figuratively.
- Employee training is structured, scheduled, and thorough. Assertive client contact is also structured, scheduled, and thorough.
- We are obsessed with deadlines. If someone in the organization says they will be finished with a task or project by a certain date and time, then he or she commits to finishing by that deadline (or, if legitimate delays intrude, advise coworkers well in advance that the deadline is impossible).
- We maintain equipment and keep it 100 percent functional at all times. If something is not working as it should, fix it now—fix it now even if it’s not necessary to fix it now. It’s a matter of good housekeeping and of maintaining good habits. This is just the way we do things.
- Mastery of the English language is critical. We are aware of how we sound and what we write. We do whatever we can to improve. We are patient as a coworker corrects us.
- We study to increase our skills. A steady diet of reading and contemplation is vital to personal development. It is a matter of self-discipline.
- As opposed to “doing the work,” the department manager’s job is to create, monitor, and document systems (which consist of people, equipment, procedures, and maintenance schedules).
- The COO (Chief Operating Officer) oversees department heads and overall systems. It is the COO’s job to direct, coordinate, and monitor managers.
- We avoid multitasking activities. When communicating with someone else, we are 100 percent present. We give full attention to the person in front of us (or to the task at hand). We focus on listening and understanding. Read the classic Treating Type A Behavior and Your Heart by Meyer Friedman. “Mindfulness” is paying complete attention to one thing at a time: read Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
- When in the office, we work hard on Centratel business. We keep our heads down and we focus, and in turn the company pays very well. That’s “the deal.” The workweek rarely exceeds forty hours.
- Complete means “complete.” Almost or tomorrow is not “complete.” In particular, this is germane to administration staff’s use of task functions.
- We strive for a social climate that is serious and quiet yet pleasant, serene, light, and friendly. Centratel is a nice place to work.
Sample Working Procedures
Here are sample working procedures from Centratel, exactly as we use them as of the date of this printing.
The format of all working procedures should be the same, so it is important to establish a set template for all to use. We’ve created a software platform that has set templates for all three primary documents, ensuring consistency, privacy, and protection of all documents. (See Appendix H.)
Note to reader: The following Daily Deposit Procedure was reduced to twenty-three steps for a number of years, but in 2011 we added a check reader so our receivables manager would no longer have to physically deliver checks to the bank. This latest system improvement also adds up the checks into a total amount, saving even more time. With this additional subsystem, the procedure is now at forty-two steps (eight of the forty-two steps are to cover the rare times the “batch totals” don’t match due to an input error). So, with this system improvement, there are more steps in the working procedure but lots of saved time for our AR manager Teresa (at least three hours per week). Also, there is less liability as there is no longer any street time involved in making the deposit. It took a total of four hours to install and debug the check-reader system and tweak the working procedure. Yeah!
This explains how we process payments into TBS for any account as well as the instructions for depositing the checks into the Centratel bank account. Generally you will process deposits on a daily basis. If we didn’t receive many checks in the mail you can hold them until the next day.
- In TBS, under Activities menu, select “Maintain customers.”
- Click on Tab 8—Billing history. (During deposit this is helpful to see running ledger of the client to verify amounts, credits, check numbers.)
- Click on Activities menu, select “Enter Payments.”
- Select “Direct Entry.”
- Select the hand to the left of the “Cust Ref” box, and toggle until you find “Account.”
- For each separate payment, enter the 4-digit account number, and the account will automatically be pulled up.
- Enter the amount of the check in the “Payment Amount” box, using the decimal point. (Verify that the amount is paying the account balance or most aged invoice balance. If not, keep track of those accounts, so they may be reviewed later for discrepancies.)
- Tab once to the “Check Number” field, and type in the check number. (If there is an excessively long check number, only enter the last five digits.)
- In the “Payment Type” field, select appropriate payment method. If it is a money order, enter “M.O.” Note: If payment is in the form of cash, type the word “CASH” in the Check Number field.
- Click the “Post” box to apply the payment. Once posted, it will clear the screen, so the next payment can be entered.
- Continue until all payments have been entered.
- Double-check each check has not been postdated and has a signature.
- When all payments have been entered, select “Payment Register.” This will show all payments entered on this deposit transaction.
- Click bank icon to pull up Fiserv Web Capture login screen.
- Use credentials assigned.
- First Interstate Bank main deposit screen will come up, Click on “Deposit Capture” located at top left tab.
- Enter deposit amount from batch total in TBS.
- Select account field: pick Centratel Check from drop down menu and click “OK.”
- Click “Create.”
- Place checks in scanner furthest track with checks facing the wall. If large batch (over 75), scan in groups until finished.
- Click scan.
- Once checks are all scanned a User Actions box will appear and click “Capture Complete.”
- Next the screen will look like example below:
- 1) Image of last check scanned.
- 2) Deposit information box.
- 3) Check list status.
- 4) Deposit amount you entered when creating batch.
- 5) Total amount from check scanner.
- 6) Exceptions: Checks that have errors, missing amount, routing, and account numbers missing.
- 7) Exception tab.
- If any exceptions, click on tab and make changes needed.
- If Deposit and Checks total and exceptions are completed, submit deposit.
- Back on the main screen, click on Summary report, and generate PDF report.
- Print this report, and attach to batch report in TBS.
- Log out of program.
- In TBS under “Payment Register,” select “Bank Deposit.”
- Verify the deposit date in the window. Click the green check mark. A window will open. For the Title, type in “Deposit” and the deposit “date” (6/7/18).
- PRINT THIS DOCUMENT!! This is the best print of this document. However, if you don’t print it for any reason, you can print any day’s deposit record, although you need to print two reports—one gives you the detail per customer and one gives you the total—the two should match. To print those reports—in TBS under “Miscellaneous—Payment Register Summary.” (Click detail for account names.)
- After printing the document, close the window. It will ask “O.K. to deposit this payment batch?” Select “Yes.”
- Attach both printed reports together.
- In the bottom left-hand drawer are slips of paper. Write date and attach to the checks.
- File the batch in the front of the box.
- Enter the amount of deposit in “Daily Receivables Journal.” I:\ Daily Receivables (password is “cash”).
- File the report in the appropriate folder for the month and year of the day’s deposit, file cabinet is in the Office Manager’s office and in the top drawer.
*If you need tech support for the scanner, call bank for assistance
Steps to Finish Deposit manually:
- Run an adding-machine tape of all payments entered. (Checks, cash, money orders, etc.) Be sure the adding machine tape and the total in “Payment Register” match.
- Complete a deposit slip for First Interstate bank for all payments. The deposit book is located in the left middle drawer of the Office Manager’s desk. (Checks, cash, money orders, etc.)
- Stamp all checks with “Centratel” First Interstate deposit stamp on the back in the endorsement space provided. The stamp is located in left middle drawer of the Office Manager’s desk.
- In TBS under “Payment Register,” select “Bank Deposit.”
- Verify the deposit date in the window. Click the green check mark. A window will open. For the Title, type in “DEPOSIT” and the deposit “date.” PRINT THIS DOCUMENT!
- After printing the document, close the window. It will ask “OK to deposit this payment batch?” Select “Yes.”
- Have another management staff member verify that the adding tape and the printed deposit report amounts match. He or she should initial by the total deposit amount on the deposit report.
- Enter the amount of deposit in “Daily Receivables Journal.” I:\ Daily Receivables (password is “cash”).
- Deliver the deposit to the bank, complete with all payments (checks, cash, money orders, etc.). The bank clerk will provide you with a receipt of that transaction. SAVE THIS!
- Attach the deposit Payment Register from TBS to the deposit receipt from the bank.
- File the initialed report in the appropriate folder for the month and year of the day’s deposit. File cabinet is in the Office Manager’s office and in the top drawer.
E-mail Signature Procedure
Your signature on your e-mails should conform to the following standards. Use 10- or 12-point type in your choice of Arial, Times New Roman, Verdana, Tahoma, or Garamond typefaces. You may do it in black or dark blue. List your information as follows:
- Your name
- Your title
- Telephone numbers
- Fax numbers
- Web site address Example:Jim Jones
Telephone Service Representative Centratel
Tel: 541-385-2616 or 888-482-4393 Fax: 541-388-2351 or 800-330-7303 centratel.com
To create your e-mail signature in Outlook*:
- Open Microsoft Outlook
- Click on “Tools”
- Click on “Options”
- Click on the “Mail Format” tab
- Click the “Signatures” button
- To create a new signature click “New,” or to edit an existing signature, click “Edit”
- Enter the information as listed above
- Click “OK”
- Click “OK”
- Click “Apply ”
*I’ve added this procedure for those who use Outlook.
TSRs: Bidding on Shift Blocks
This is the protocol for filling an empty shift block. Also, it is an opportunity for any TSR to indicate a preferred schedule block, even if their desired block is currently filled.
- A new shift block opening will be announced by e-mail to all TSRs. If a TSR is on vacation, management will make every attempt to reach the TSR, informing them of the new shift block availability.
- There will only be one bidding period and it will be at least 48 hours in duration. A deadline date/time will be given.
- To apply for a shift block, a bid must be submitted by e-mail to the Call Center manager within the bidding period. No late bids will be accepted.
- If a TSR bids on a new block and is ultimately awarded that block, their old block will become available. So, for any TSRs who would like a different block, even if that block is currently filled, he or she should indicate their preference so that if their desired block becomes available in the bidding process, they will be considered for it.
- A TSR’s current schedule block will not change unless he or she bids on another block. In other words, TSRs who are happy in their existing schedule block do not have to do anything during the bidding process: TSRs who do not bid will not, under any circumstances, be changed to another block. In doing nothing, a TSR’s block is absolutely secure.
- TSRs should not consider their bid officially accepted until he or she receives notice from the Call Center manager that it has been received.
- If two or more TSRs bid on the same block, the block will be awarded based on seniority.
- If there is still an open block after the bidding deadline has passed, we will look outside the company for a new employee to fill that block.
- In accepting a new shift block, a TSR will be ineligible to bid on another shift block for a period of three months.
Filming an Interview
Here is a working procedure that we created in a matter of just a few minutes as we began to create marketing elements for our new Work the System Academy product. I add this rough-hewn draft to show that it is not necessary to be an experienced professional in a given endeavor in order to produce a procedure that will be entirely useful.
Three Cameras: Basic Setup
- At the site, allow at least one hour for setting up.
- Camera 2 has host audio. Camera 3 has guest audio.
- Use two light umbrellas: one between camera 1 and camera 2, and the other between camera 1 and camera 3.
- Cameras are to be set up out of harm’s way so they can be easily monitored from behind.
- Host framing (camera 2): vertical second button down/slight space overhead, with horizontal spacing at 60 percent left/40 per- cent right. Can be framed to shoot slightly upward.
- Guest framing (camera 3): vertical second button down/slight space overhead, with horizontal spacing at 60 percent right/40 percent left. Can be framed to shoot slightly downward.
- Camera 3 option: include back shoulder of host.
- Carefully gauge backdrop so there is no vertical line converging with the host’s or guest’s heads. Is anything else distracting in the background?
- Do the cameras have fresh batteries (transceiver and receiver for each camera)? It is the director’s job to make sure all batteries are fresh. The major danger is losing audio.
- Do a sound check.
- All cameras should be connected to AC power, if available.
- All cameras operate unattended. Do not adjust zoom. Do not touch. Do not walk in front of running cameras.
- The guest and host should remain in the same position in their chairs for the duration of the interview.
- The guest and host should not slump back in their chairs. They should stay upright or slightly forward. (A fish-eye lens makes whatever is closer look bigger.)
- Turn all mobile phones off (if there are any landlines, their ringers should also be turned off).
- All three people must start the cameras at the same time.
- Use 1-2-3 countdown to simultaneously start cameras.
- Each operator must confirm that camera startup was successful.
- The director steps between the host and guest and does a single hand clap to sync the audio.
- The host and guest must not speak (make sounds of agreement, laughing, etc.) while the other is talking.
- In an informal setting, the production people are not to drink alco- hol. (Perhaps it is OK for the guest.)
- The production people are not to do anything that interrupts the flow of the host/guest dialog. They should keep their movements and chatter to a minimum; each should sit down, relax, and qui- etly monitor their own camera.
Summary Overview of Working Procedures, from the Employee Handbook:
To Centratel staff: We base Centratel’s mechanical functioning on written working procedures. With hundreds of human and mechanical operating processes in action at any one time, keeping Centratel organized in any other way would be impossible. Working procedures guide everything from an emergency relay for a TAS account, to how we deposit payments in the bank, to job descriptions for staff members. Our comprehensive Employee Handbook is, in itself, a working procedure.
Strict adherence to our written procedures is critical, but we counterbalance this strictness with our eagerness to make instant adjustments should the environment change or if one of us comes up with a better idea. Whatever your position with Centratel, if you have a suggestion for making things better, pass it on! If it’s good, we’ll change the written procedure and implement it immediately!
Exact yet easy-to-modify procedures provide a huge degree of freedom to the individual staff member because the guidelines eliminate guesswork. Answers and instructions are right there.
Implementation of the WTS Method in Your Business, Certification
Work the System Enterprises transforms companies and business owners’ personal lives, using the WTS Method as the framework. To take the next step toward a business that depends (far) less on your direct 24/7 execution, and (much) more on scalable systems and processes, go to www.workthesystem.com. We offer coaching, consulting, live events, certifications, masterminds, and so much more, created specifically for business owners who are ready to make the leap.
And understand that you’re not alone on your journey to becoming an efficient, growing business. One-on-one, we’ve revitalized over a thousand businesses just like yours. (See Appendix E for Case Studies.)
So, if you’re ready to graduate from being the hardest-working employee in your business to being the leader of a thriving enterprise that functions perfectly without your every-minute presence, reach us at www.workthesystem.com.
Sixteen Case Studies: From Chaos to Control
By Josh Fonger
Note: These are real-life case studies. The presentation of each follows the same format: First, an overview of the business owner’s business and life before implementing the WTS Method. Second, a description of the transformation. Third, life after implementation.
Industry: Private Medical Location: Texas, USA
From “In-the-Head” to “Managed Systems”
I own and operate a physical therapy center. When I first learned about Work the System I was working fifty-plus hours a week, between treating patients and managing day-to-day operations. My wife was pregnant with our third child and I needed help. I had read E-Myth, so I was familiar with systems thinking, but had not developed protocols within my practice. Then something horrible happened that forced my hand: my office manager gave her two weeks’ notice. She had been with me from the beginning (in 2006) and had all of the business workings in her head. We scrambled to get as much of her knowledge down on paper as we could. It was a frantic two weeks.
I decided at that moment that we would learn more about building and maintaining systems in our practice so I wouldn’t have to go through that pain again. I heard about WTS on a podcast, read the book, and then went through the WTS training program. Now we have our systems documented, which makes training current and new staff easier. And it serves as a great reference for tasks that are not performed on a regular basis. We review the systems on a regular basis to make sure they are up-to-date and continue to be the most efficient way of doing things.
By documenting our processes, our overall volume of business has increased along with our revenue. It is easier to delegate tasks and ensure that the job is getting completed as planned, with minimal supervision.
Now that we have our systems documented and the staff trained, I can take time off from the practice without worry. I am able to spend more time with my family with less stress about how the business is running when I am gone. The WTS Method is the missing link that has allowed me the opportunity to work less in my practice and more on the business while having my income go up.
Industry: Mental Health Location: California, USA
From Complexity to Simple Efficiency
I am the CEO of a children’s mental health nonprofit organization in Orange County, California. As a licensed psychologist, I developed an interest in adverse childhood experiences and the mental health problems they can cause, which led me to WTS. While we were operating as a team, there was ambiguity when it came to following consistent processes. For instance, there was one point where we had fifteen different templates for timesheets. Another low point was when we were using a highly inefficient audit tool that involved paper slips and multiple departmental checks. That was when I realized that things needed to change dramatically.
I first came across WTS when the book was recommended to me by a member of an entrepreneurial group I belong to. When I read the book, it was like a light bulb had turned on in my head. The point that really resonated with me was that businesses that are process-driven are sustainable and scalable. That was when we started systematically documenting all our processes and policies. Then I connected with Josh and found that we could actually have someone affiliated with WTS come and help us with the documentation on a project basis, which was ideal! For every system, we reminded ourselves of the Strategic Objective of the business. That helped us build the roadmap and make our systems much simpler and more precise.
Today, we have processes—working procedures—in place that allow new employees to learn the ropes and execute their tasks immediately after they join. Everything is documented, and we have our Strategic Objective and Operating Principles to guide us. Plus, we have a knowledge-based software system so that the principle of continuous quality improvement is built right in. We can now serve our clients better and interact properly with our funders—because the systems we have in place drive more efficient outcomes. In the last five years, we’ve grown enormously as an organization—and it’s thanks to the terrific team behind WTS.
Industry: Online Training Location: Tasmania, Australia
Dividing Family and Work Time
In 2003, my work took me to Mexico where I started teaching English and loved it. The internet was still growing back then, and I decided to use it to market a little book I had written on learning Spanish. Today, I have a team of people that use a curriculum I’ve designed to teach Spanish all over the world. I’ve always enjoyed trying new things, but it got to a point where I was spending long hours at work and doing tasks that I didn’t enjoy. At one point, I recall reading a bedtime story to my daughter and then immediately turning to my laptop to send out emails. That was when I realized that home and business were becoming too intertwined. Something had to change.
I first heard about WTS through an online interview with Sam that I found. I joined the WTS training program and then had private sessions with Josh. With his help, I was able to put systems in place that freed me from doing things repeatedly and allowed me to delegate tasks to people who could do them faster and better. The basic principle I followed was that if I had to do anything twice, further duplication could be avoided by creating a system. This approach helped me recover my freedom.
Today, we’re a team of five and we’ve built up scalable systems that have made us much more efficient. I don’t even need to manage the systems anymore—I’ve hired a systems person for that. The things I do now for my business are mostly creative, always adding something new to what we offer. I also have more friends now and can spend more time with my two young children. There’s a clear divide between work and parenting, which is how it should be. I’m extremely grateful to Josh for the vision he shared with me and the direction he gave us.
Industry: Property Management Location: Illinois, USA
Going for It!
I have a property management business in Chicago. We’ve been doing well since we started in 2004 and there was never a year that we didn’t make money. One problem we dealt with as a start-up was that we were always too late to hire. We would be six months behind, and then we would scramble to find someone. Also, we never really seized the opportunity for growth. We almost never ran financials or did budgets. It came to a point when in 2014 my partner and I asked ourselves whether we would rather fail trying to grow a “real business” or look back years later, regretting that we never tried at all and just played it small.
I first heard of WTS when someone in one of our local chambers recommended the book. I downloaded it and read it twice straight off the bat. I also downloaded the audiobook version later and loved it. Apart from the book, what I loved was the WTS podcast, where business owners talked honestly about the mistakes they had made and what they learned from them. Especially we learned the importance of building procedures. The book refers to creating processes that someone “off the street” can come in and immediately follow. WTS helped us learn this way of building procedures.
Today, we have a forty-strong team and our business has tripled in size. We’re working on speeding things up now by bringing in people as needed.
My own role in the company has less to do with management and more to do with business development, which I love. My partner and I are both riding the dream with our company. As an entrepreneur, it’s important to have a love for learning. That’s something I’ve gotten really good at over the last few years, and it’s what keeps us going. WTS helped us a lot in that regard.
Industry: Engineering Location: New Zealand
Time Savings and Greater Capacity
I’ve been running my engineering business for seven years now. We do consulting work related to building (structure) science—we visit clients in different cities and analyze how energy and heat can be used more efficiently. I’ve always enjoyed solving problems, which is why we’re a consulting firm. Initially, I was executing projects and also bringing new clients in, and after a while it started to be more than I could handle. It got to a point where I was unable to meet some of my commitments even after I’d told my clients that I would do the job for them within the time period they needed it. That was when I knew that things had to change.
I first came across the WTS Method through the book. It resonated with me, so I signed up for the WTS training with Josh. The first time I put together a process, it felt great. It was a small process—just turning a small task into a proposal for a client—but it ended up saving me over an hour for every proposal I wrote. I also ended up standardizing a lot of my proposals into templates, to save even more time. I’m working on a pricing process as well, one that someone else can take care of entirely without my intervention.
Today, I have a team of five people working remotely. We have detailed processes that we follow to keep things going smoothly. With our clients, too, we now have a comprehensive process to move from initial design to the final certification—like a life cycle for each client project. This is more convenient for the client, and more profitable for us. We’re no longer falling behind on commitments, and we have enough people to help us now.
Industry: Pet Hotel Location: Minnesota, USA
From Organic Dysfunction to Selling a Machine
I recently sold my high-end pet resort near Prior Lake, Minnesota. It was a business that I built from scratch. It offered luxury boarding and lodging facilities for dogs. Initially, our business processes were fairly “organic.” It was the learn-as-you-go approach. I didn’t have any managerial experience, so adding staff and managing employees became a challenge. Then around 2009–10, our business suffered a serious hit. I was in survival mode. I had to cash in my 401K, even borrow money from family members. That was when I realized that I was failing because of my approach—and that when it came to operating my business, organic wasn’t the way to go.
It was soon after that I saw a video interview with Sam online and learned about the WTS book. I read the book, and then, in 2014, I signed up for the WTS training program and started looking at the strategic side of running my business. One of the changes I made was to involve my team members early on when I was building procedures. As the team expanded, we brought in more experienced managers and contractors who could use our procedures and add their own modifications. Another change we made was to have a schedule in place. We broke each day down into short time periods and laid out the process of how that day would go. This brought consistency into the business.
I was fortunate enough to be able to sell the business recently and transition into my next opportunity—becoming a certified Business Systems Professional under WTS, while also doing small business consulting. When we sold it, the pet resort had grown to around forty employees with about 1,500–1,700 active customers. What’s more, while I had brought in a lot of systems and processes, we’d managed to keep some of that organic feel that we started with. By the time we sold the business, I wasn’t involved in day-to-day processes anymore. The systems were doing all the work, which is what made us a success story.
Industry: Content Creation Agency Location: Colorado, USA
Building an Asset That Lasts
I’ve been in the digital marketing space for over a decade now, primarily in SEO consulting. I started my company—my content production company— around six years ago with a friend, and one thing I noticed was how hard it is to provide standardized services to different clients across vertical markets, or even different clients in the same vertical market. On top of that, some clients would just stop paying and there wouldn’t be enough cash reserves, which meant we would have to lay off people. My wife wasn’t working at the time, and we had a young child to support; I was out of touch with most of my friends and family. It was a rough time. Ultimately, my friend and I were compelled to split the company and I started writing SEO-driven content on my own for marketing software companies.
I first came across an interview with Sam on a website over eight years ago, and I read the book a couple of times. It was in 2016 that I started the WTS program, and after I got on a call with Josh, I started thinking about how to scale the knowledge I had. I knew a lot about marketing software, and I wrote conversationally—now, I had to think about how to get contractors to write in the same style. My approach to creating new processes was, “How do I take something subjective—like writing style—and turn it into something more objective?” I broke down my writing process into different steps, like keyword research, introduction formats, and conclusion formats, and that translated into a lot of granular outlines and tutorial videos.
Today, we’re a creative agency that produces a very specific kind of content, and we’re up there with the best in our industry. We took the WTS Method and training and went from a startup to a seven-figure business. We have detailed processes and templates for every component of the pieces we write, from introduction to conclusion, which makes things much easier for our contractors and our editors. I’m no longer involved in everything, which is great. It’s like building an asset—we’re making small improvements every year, and over time that’s what is making our business truly valuable
Industry: Education Location: Israel
I’m a karate teacher, and my business has a presence in multiple locations across Israel. I used to be a full-time special education teacher, apart from teaching karate twice a week, and a lot of my time went toward talking to the parents of my students about self-confidence. That’s when I thought of integrating my self-confidence and my knowledge of karate into a process that would help kids aged seven to twelve years old learn martial arts and that also would teach social and life skills. My work life back then was hard, and there were many nights I couldn’t sleep. My low point came when my daughter was born and I realized that I couldn’t afford to have all of our household income depend on me, especially if I were sick and couldn’t work. That was when I first thought of making a living where I wouldn’t have to be involved daily.
I first came across WTS when I read about Sam on social media. I downloaded the book and listened to the audio version a few times over the course of a year. It took me another year before I joined the WTS training program and documented my business idea. In the process, I realized that the work I thought only I could do could actually be taught to other people who might even do it better than me. If I wanted the business to run without me, I would have to turn my creative work into a procedure. Which is what I did when designing my program.
Currently, seventy schools in Israel have incorporated my program into their educational system. Each school has a team of eight to twelve teachers who implement my program with the help of a teacher I hired as their guide. Some of my team members are people I’ve never met, but they’re still doing a great job because they’re following the procedures we’ve laid out. We’ve built a wonderful community of student-coaches that help kids cope with challenges and reach their highest potential. I’m extremely grateful to Sam and Josh for helping me reach a point where I’m working less and having a greater impact on my community at the same time.
Industry: Technology Sales and Installation Location: Colorado, USA
From Stress to Confidence
Our business sells technology equipment to schools, government complexes, and commercial complexes. Initially, my brother and I handled everything, including all the equipment installment. But the business began growing and we had to hire temporary workers—workers who were not always reliable. I was also juggling on-site work and client interactions. I ended up experiencing a lot of stress and was even in and out of the hospital for a period. To top it off, my wife and I had just had our son. Things couldn’t go on that way—I needed physical and mental help to handle all of it!
I first came across the WTS book online and enjoyed reading it. I didn’t fully understand it, even when I signed up for the WTS training program. Then I started doing the one-on-one sessions with Josh and that was when things fell into place. I had created a few systems at first, but wasn’t really “working” them. And then I figured out that I needed to focus on one thing at a time, things that would bring in business, which is what I did.
Today, I run a team of six employees. Things are good at home too—my son is now six. I still wouldn’t say that I’m mega-successful, but we’re for sure getting there. We’re confident about what we do and the processes we have, and we’re constantly looking ahead. WTS helped me be where I am today—more successful . . . and happier.
Industry: Website Development Location: Illinois, USA
Scaling to Happiness
We help wellness entrepreneurs grow bigger, better, and more beloved brands. I’ve been designing websites since around 2005. I started this business with my best friend—a graphic designer—and incorporated it in 2014. Initially, we spent a lot of time spinning our wheels because we didn’t know what to focus on. We were trying to provide everything to all of our clients—websites, social media, branding, email systems, and so on—and it wasn’t financially sustainable. There were panicky moments when we weren’t certain whether our clients would pay us that month. At one point, we were working for one week straight, eating our lunch at our desks and working through the weekend. That was when we realized that we couldn’t be the only ones doing this—we had to figure out how to replicate what we were doing.
I connected initially with WTS because it was available in book form. I’m an avid reader, and I loved reading it. While I already have a lot of systems I use in my personal life, the book helped me see that I need to translate that into the workspace as well. I needed to create simple, logical systems that my team could easily use and replicate. The first thing I worked on was accounting and invoicing, on which I used to spend around sixteen to twenty hours a week. The moment I converted all of that into step-by-step processes, I saved myself fifteen hours a week and also realized that I could hire others to do those processes even faster.
Today, we have a team of eight, both full-time and contractors. I have clear guidelines and clear processes, so my team knows what to do for each task, down to a specific plugin or piece of code. We also have designers using these processes and they’re perfectly in sync. This helps us work easily with remote teams now as well. WTS has helped us scale our business like never before, and we’re all much happier for it.
Industry: Food and Beverage Location: Ontario, Canada
Getting a Replacement
I’ve been running a custom bakery for fourteen years. Since I was little, I’ve always loved baking. Then, when my daughter turned one, I tried finding a fancier cake for her but couldn’t. And there was no one around doing that, so I decided to learn and do it myself. One thing led to another and today, we operate a business out of downtown Brampton, Ontario, and I have a small team that works with me.
When you’re building a team and you have more people coming on, you start thinking that you have to do everything and be there all the time. I felt like I had to watch over my employees to make sure things were happening the way I wanted them to happen. It started to get very stressful with two teen-aged kids, as I was always at work.
I thought about selling the business, but my broker said it was maybe only worth a couple of thousand dollars. I asked myself, “Should I give up or should I keep going?”
That was when I first heard about Work the System. It was in January 2019 from a member of my accountability group. We’re a group of ten or twelve women who meet for a couple of hours every week and help each other out with our goals. My friend shared how she had gone through the WTS Method already and how far her business had grown as a result. I was intrigued. I listened to the book twice while I was driving. A month later, I decided I needed to go in-depth.
The concept of having a “replacement” was a big turning point during my WTS training. I set that as one of my end-of-year goals, but accomplished it seven months early!
Today, we’re in a really good place! Thanks to all the organization and systematization, we are making money and all collecting healthy paychecks. I used to work seven days a week. Now, I work maybe three days and I can take vacation with my family whenever I want. My kids see me a lot more, and they see the difference in me too. It’s been one year since WTS—things have been nothing short of amazing!
Industry: Digital Marketing Location: Oklahoma, USA
From Dread to Freedom
I operate a ten-year-old marketing agency that helps high-quality contractors thrive. I got into marketing the way most people do, by trying to help people. It’s very rewarding to see my clients’ businesses grow, and know I made an impact. Early on, it went so well that I began to hire one or two people because I couldn’t do everything myself. That’s also when the problems started.
I’d be so stressed out about the business that I’d get migraines. I was trying to do too much myself without really having the proper systems in place to delegate. The stress started bleeding over into every area of my life. Worst of all, I wasn’t able to enjoy my personal life or time with my young family because I was so stressed out about the business. There was just this lingering sense of dread, of knowing there was a mountain of stuff that I could never conquer, and I didn’t have a means or the time to deal with it. It was very discouraging.
My quality of life was suffering across the board and I just realized that the only path out was to be able to delegate. And in order to delegate, I had to be able to give other people clear outcomes, procedures, and paths to follow.
I initially read Work the System three times. I can’t even remember how I came across it, but the “outside and slightly elevated” perspective really resonated. It made so much sense to me, that the world is just a collection of systems, and that you could go one layer deeper to tweak systems to produce better results. When you think about it, it’s a simple cause-and-effect relationship.
The WTS training program went deep, providing the practical information I needed—like the tools and templates to actually make it happen. For example, I created a Procedure for Procedures. After this, I started telling people what we were doing, helping them understand why we were doing it, and then giving them processes to follow—kind of a picture of what success would look like.
This meant instead of having to micromanage everything myself, account managers could step in and do the job as well or even better than me. We’re a marketing agency and we serve a host of clients over the country. But that client work needs to be done methodically instead of just allowing each account manager to do it their own way and hope that they’re doing it right.
Now, I have complete flexibility over my time and schedule. I can be away for a couple of weeks, and nothing falls apart or comes crashing down. Everything just keeps humming along because I’ve got people who make smart decisions whether or not I am there.
Industry: Real Estate Location: United Kingdom
Growing Three Companies with WTS Systems Management Strategies
I started my first real estate company seven years ago. I’ve opened two more since then. Life as an entrepreneur was extremely hectic, to the point where I’d wake up at 2:00 a.m. or 3:00 a.m. because I had a new idea to write down. There were times I would look around and see my colleagues and mentors look so calm and collected, and I would feel inferior. In addition, our business was plateauing. We were all working hard, but no matter what we tried or how many new staff members we brought on board, the money wasn’t coming in. One of the hardest points for me was having to look at my team and think, “I can’t manage you guys!” I used to think that my own passion and enthusiasm for the business would be enough to inspire the others, but I soon realized that it wasn’t enough.
I first came across WTS when someone recommended the book to me. I don’t read much, but I couldn’t put this book down. Then I reached out to Sam and Josh, and they were immensely supportive about the systemization process and then hiring new people to take care of things. We started documenting everything, all the processes and objectives and key result areas, so that my team could just follow the process rather than relying on organic motivation alone. I started hiring more talented people than myself so that they could run the whole show instead of me.
Today, the business has grown three and a half times in size. I focus on running my third company, which deals with property acquisition, and I’ve hired people to run the other two. I’m also coaching mentees now in the same process of building systems so that they can grow their own property businesses like I did. Life for me is now pure freedom—I can now look for opportunities to make a real difference in my community, not just to make more money. As an entrepreneur, I’d say it’s very important to play to your strengths and hire great people to take care of the rest.
Industry: Music Publishing Location: California, USA
Workweek Down by 50 Percent
I’ve been in the music publishing business for twenty-five years. I own a company in LA that signs and develops popular songwriters and artists. Some of the artists I’ve signed are world class, famous personalities. I am like an angel investor in the music world. As a publisher, I give artists and songwriters seed money and help nurture them. If their music is successful, we get paid royalties whenever that music is played (i.e., in the mall, in an advertisement, when it gets streamed, etc.). I have twenty active songwriters, eight content writers, and three legal people whom I manage.
Before I read Work the System, my business was full of chaos, fire killing, and endless work. I was working eighty to one hundred hours a week trying to do it all. My typical day would start early in the morning dealing with the latest emergency with my team in New York. Then around 6:00 p.m. I’d work with my tech team in India. And around 11:00 p.m. it was time for calls with London before finally “calling it a day” around 2:00 a.m. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Day after day. Week after week. It was exhausting and not fun at all.
Then one day, I was at a business mastermind group when someone suggested I read Work the System. As I read Sam’s story about what his business was like before his systems transformation, I could totally relate. I realized I was too enmeshed within the day-to-day operations and I did not have an “outside and slightly elevated perspective.” I “got it,” and I made the commitment to re-engineer my business systems so I could take control of my life again!
One of the first working procedures I documented was on how to get our blog posts published. I wrote down each step—everything from how to choose which writer gets assigned the piece all the way to the proofreading. It was twenty-five steps in all. Then I delegated this to a project manager. Now something that used to consume hours of my time each week takes only ten minutes.
After applying the WTS principles to my business, my work is fun again. We had our first seven-figure year in over ten years in business. Plus, my workweek has been reduced by 30 percent (soon to be 50 percent!). I’m literally working less and making more. My team is happier, we’re better at what we do now, and I’m more excited about the future than ever before! And now I’m the guy who recommends Work the System to every business owner I know.
Industry: Software as a Service (SaaS) Location: Utah, USA
Giving New Life to an Old Business
I am a second-generation business owner in a small town selling software to business owners across the US. Before my “WTS Transformation,” I was working literally every day. When a long-time customer wanted to complain, they talked to me. When we needed to hire a new salesperson, it was up to me. Every new initiative and project in the company—you guessed it—landed on me. Even though I had sixteen employees and dozens of remote contractors involved in the business, I could not delegate anything involving HR, growth, or innovation to them. I was stuck in the business each day, fighting fires while our costs were going up and our sales were flatlined. I wanted to sell the business to finally catch my breath, but knew that my business without me would not be worth much.
Even though I have had bad experiences with consultants in the past, I reached a crisis point where I really needed some help. I contacted WTS and had them physically work with me and the team to engineer a new future. Finally getting clarity for myself and the team opened up a whole new world of opportunities—opportunities I was missing due to dealing with the day-to-day. We developed a laser-focused Strategic Objective, user-friendly principles for decision-making, and developed actionable working procedures so we could consistently scale. My team now has direction and doesn’t need to run everything past me. They are finally fully equipped to get their work done. They actually enjoyed making the business more efficient, which I didn’t expect, and knew that this change was a long time coming.
Now, after only a few months of working with WTS, I finally have my life back! My wife already has two tropical cruises booked on the calendar and my kids see me with a smile again. When I have an HR issue, I know someone will take care of it . . . correctly! Same with customer issues. I even have a rock-star assistant now driving my special projects forward to keep us #1 in our space. When I first thought about making the changes the WTS consultant recommended, it gave me a stomachache. I didn’t think they understood that a twenty-year business doesn’t do well with change. But now, after looking at my financials, I see that my 5 percent growth projections were too small as we are growing at 20 percent. Simply put, when you get out of the way of your business and let the systems do the work, life gets better.
Industry: Public Relations Location: Michigan, USA
Training in Two Weeks, Not Six Months
Our digital PR business is all about introducing inspiring thought leaders to millions of people with the help of podcast interviews. My experience working at nuclear power plants taught me that everything can be systemized. Back in 2014, I hypothesized that we could use podcast interviews just like guest blogs to gain trust. We beta tested it in 2015, and then my company was born. Today, we’re a team of eighteen working with over one hundred clients. We’ve worked with authors, consultants, speakers, coaches, and brands to get them placed on targeted podcast interviews right in front of the end customer.
The first thing we realized that had to change was the effort we were putting in. We have an amazing team, but they were all putting in superhuman efforts and putting themselves on the line every day. Another problem was that it would often take six months for someone new to understand the system and start delivering value, which was too long.
It got to a point where I felt like everything was on my shoulders. I would look around at my team and ask myself, “Why can’t I find people who do it as well as me?”
And that had an impact on my personal life as well. I used to joke that I worked for an SOB—one who made me wake up at 4:00 a.m. and work weekends and cancel my vacations. Then, I looked in the mirror and realized that SOB was me! I had become a slave to the business, rather than the business serving me. That’s when I realized this wasn’t the life I wanted.
I first heard about Work the System on social media. I downloaded and printed the book and put it in a three-ring binder. And what struck me was that these guys were doing for business what Hyman Rickover did for nuclear power—creating a system and making it reproducible.
Today, I’m a lot more attuned to the importance of systems. We follow a more scalable approach, where we all look at problems as challenges to solve as a team. Earlier, it was about success in our service. Now, after WTS, it’s about success in our systems. And we have amazing, dedicated people working our systems. Plus, new people who come on can learn all about our business in two weeks rather than six months, thanks to those systems.
Centratel’s Procedure for Procedures
It is critical that each document shares the same format and tone. Following is our master Procedure for Procedures, which contains precise instructions for creating a . . . working procedure. (See document at end of this appendix.) This is the “Mother of All Procedures,” the master template for creating the hundreds of working procedures that are necessary for our operation. Don’t be discouraged by the length and complexity of it, and don’t
get bogged down in our technical parameters. Of all the procedures at Centratel, it’s one of the longest and most intricate. Simply consider its essence and then create your own preferred format (or feel free to copy this one). Centratel’s method of operation for all departments is based entirely on written procedures. There are too many simultaneous operating systems, both human and mechanical, to keep things together in any other way. Documented procedures are the bedrock of the company, guiding everything from emergency relay for a TAS account to how we deposit payments in the bank, to job descriptions for staff members, to the most fundamental direction of the company (the Strategic Objective). At the same time, these guidelines allow a huge degree of freedom to the individual. Centratel’s functioning is based on “freedom and responsibility within a highly developed system of systems.”
- Is there a recurring problem or task? Then a procedure is necessary or, if there is already a procedure, and there is a problem, modify the procedure to eliminate the problem or to streamline the task.
- When creating a procedure, get feedback from those people affected.
- Procedures can be changed. It’s a matter of company policy that if a procedure can be improved by modification, addition, deletion, or outright elimination, it will be done quickly and without hesitation: “We operate within a strict framework, but that framework can be adjusted instantly.” However, it is mandatory that the relevant department head be advised of any changes before they are made and, in fact, this person must be involved with the revision and must give final approval to the changes.
- Recommendations should be made by using the Track Changes feature in Word. The date under the title and date in the footer should reflect the day the updates were actually made.
- All procedures are posted on the Procedures drive.
- Upon posting, each affected staff member will thoroughly review the newly posted procedure. Questions and suggestions should be directed back to the person who created or updated the procedure.
- The new procedure will be followed exactly. If there is a problem, we must change the procedure, not work around it!
- Changes in a procedure should be immediately emailed to affected staff. Show the recent modification in blue type, to be removed later.
- Use template on P: drive entitled “Procedures Template” and in the Template folder.
- Create the procedure with an “off the street” simplicity. Be simple, concise, and thorough.
- Remember the overall goal: “Freedom and responsibility within a highly refined system.”
- How much information should be included?
- » For narrative procedures: Add as much information as possible, but do it in a way so that the information is easily found (use alphabetical listings, logical subheadings, numbering and bul- let formats, simple and concise sentence structure, etc.).
- » For charts and graph procedures: Design to be simple, concise, and quick to read. Often it will be necessary to leave out infor- mation in order to make it more readable. Limit the typefaces and sizes, special formats, etc.
- Start with the title, in the Heading 1 style (Verdana bold size 12).
- Follow the title with the date, in the Procedure Date style (Verdana regular 10).
- For subheadings, use the Heading 2 style (Verdana bold size 10); and if further subdivision is needed within those subheadings, use the Heading 3 style (Verdana italics size 10).
- For the body text, use the Normal style (Verdana regular size 10).
- For any bullets or numbering, use the default bullets and number- ing styles.
- Procedures are addressed at the bottom of the last page in this way:
- Select View, Headers and Footers.
- Click in footer.
- 1st line: Choose Insert AutoText – “Filename and Path.”
- 2nd line: Choose Insert AutoText “Created By.” Add your name. You may have to do this manually, depending on what computer you are using and how it is set up.
- 3rd line: Choose Insert AutoText “created on.”
- Enter the date.
- Use italics and bold sparingly.
- Use the 1-2-3-step format when applicable.
- Use bullets or numbers when applicable.
- If there is a relay involved, use numbering and the same acronyms and methodology used in TAS relays.
- Do not assume anything, especially if you are creating a technical 1-2-3 procedure. Every step must be obvious and logical. Do not assume anything. Do not assume the user of the procedure will be knowledgeable or can read your mind: remember the “off the street” requirement.
- General layout: After the title, start the procedure with a concise narrative that provides a quick overall description of the what, why, how, who, and when of the procedure. This is followed, if applicable to the particular procedure, with bulleted or numbered instructions.
- Never title a procedure “Procedure for . . . ” The title must be concise yet descriptive and make sense to an “off the street” staff member. The title must be logical so if there is a need to find the subject, it can be quickly found. Start the title with the subject and then a description defining what the procedure is meant to do (use this procedure title as an example).
- Critical: test the procedure before release! Use an “off the street” subject. This is a staff member who is not necessarily involved with the subject.
Centratel’s Communication System
At Centratel, following the tenets of our Strategic Objective and General Operating Principles documents, we employ the latest communications technology. It’s an interesting paradox: the simple effectiveness of our internal communications hinges on highly complex yet readily available technologies.
Right at the beginning of our transformation, we developed a working procedure for communication for use among ourselves, and for communicating with the outside world. Because it’s simple and easy and fast, our people communicate a lot. Remember that a high quantity of communication leads to a high quality of communication.
With some exceptions, every Centratel staff member uses the same basic protocol. There is no confusion. This procedure has evolved with the technical and even social changes that have occurred in the last few years. Here it is.
INTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS: PROCEDURE AND FUNDAMENTALS
The tools of active communications:
- Voice Mail (VM)
- Email (EM)
- Emailed voice mail (EVM)
- Instant Messenger (IM)
- Text messaging (TM)
- One-on-one via phone
- One-on-one in-person
- Hard copy memo/procedure
What form of communication should I use?
- Routine, not time sensitive: VM, EM, EVM
- Time sensitive: IM, TM, one-on-one via phone or in-person
- “Getting all my thoughts in order” detailed explanations: VM, EM, EVM
- Personal and sensitive issues: one-on-one in person or via phone
- Documentation is necessary: EM or hard copy memo/procedure
- Information is complex/detailed: EM, hard copy memo/proce- dure, one-on-one via phone
- Procedures: Soft copy on procedures drive and hard copy
Point-of-sale communications means, most of all, that when someone asks a question, the response is right now. For instance, avoid saving a message for a future response. If you must delay your reply, immediately take the time to answer the message sender to say you will get back with a detailed answer later (and be sure to provide an approximate time he or she can expect your response). Understand this approach is especially applicable to email: the most basic rule is to keep your inbox near-empty by dealing with the issue now, via the point-of-sale mandate. With all of us playing this game all day long, things move astonishingly fast. Always remember that it’s your job to get the wheels spinning NOW and to keep them spinning at maximum speed.
My Personal Inbox and Task List
In early 2014, I developed a dirt-simple personal organizational system in which my task list is incorporated into my Gmail inbox. For me, the simple beauty is that my incoming emails, my delegated tasks, and my personal tasks are all in one place, to be accessed from my laptop, smartphone, or desktop. To delegate a task, I compose it in an email and send it to the recipient, cc’ing myself. For personal tasks, I send the email to myself with the task title noted in the subject window. For tasking myself or others, or to double-check that a task was actually completed, I send myself messages to be delivered back to me at a future date.
It really is that simple. Emails and tasks are in the same place, thus avoiding the trap of a separate task list being shuffled to the back of the bus, only to be occasionally checked. I work hard to keep my inbox at less than twenty messages and tasks. This is my protocol for email. Use it or choose your own, which might include an outside task list and calendar.
Giving (Delivering) a Message via Any Medium
Consider quantity before quality. Centratel’s definition of quality communication emphasizes high quantity. But note that the quantity aspect has more to do with frequency than with volume of content. If there is lots of communication, quality will evolve.
If in doubt about whether to communicate or not, you should communicate.
Rambling dispatches that contain more information than necessary, or messages that keep repeating the same detail, are a waste of two people’s time. The voice-mail medium is particularly susceptible to fatiguing, inefficient messages. But then, sometimes a voice-mail message is faster and more meaningful than an email message. Sometimes a thirty-second voice mail will deliver the same message as a fifteen-minute email. Whatever the communication protocol, remember this when sending a message: “A great message is a concise message.”
Not many people go a layer deeper to think about the mechanics, much less the quality of their communications. At Centratel, since our entire purpose is to provide the very best communication services, we have to be good at it! Much of the reason we are “the highest-quality telephone answering service in the United States” is because we unceasingly refine and improve the communication services we sell as well as our own internal communications. We think about communications all the time. It is a primary system that we relentlessly analyze and refine.
We have many communication tools. At any given time, is the best protocol being used? Before leaving a message for someone, what preparation is necessary for the message to be complete, clear, and concise? While leaving the message, is too much being said, or too little? Are you rambling? Using “um,” “I mean,” and “like” too often?
An effective training process is to record and review conversations with callers and clients. For most of us, there is incongruity between how we think we sound and how we actually sound. Recording our own conversations for self-analysis promotes conciseness, and points out flaws that would otherwise go unnoticed. Here are 90 percent of annoying verbal flaws (I list them in my own personal order of vexation):
- Interrupting, or stepping on the end of the other person’s sen- tences (obviously not listening)
- Up-talking (“Valley girl”)
- Repeatedly adding “like”
- Verbal fry (curiously, a mostly female anomaly)
- Repeatedly saying “um” and “ah”
- Beginning sentences with “so”
- Repeatedly clearing one’s throat
As of this writing, here’s a great recap to most of the above: https://www.businessinsider.com/bad-speech-habits-2014-8
Business Documentation Software
BDS exactly conforms to the Work the System Method. It’s an intuitive platform designed to make it easy for you to create, tweak, store, and distribute your three primary documents (especially including your working procedures).
With the included Quick-start guide you’ll be up and running in minutes.
BDS is simple to use. There’s no fluff or excess. It’s about “bottom-up,” point-of-sale, and constant refinement. Developed and hosted on the Cloud, it is accessible from anywhere at any time.
BDS ensures that your documents are available for use only after they’ve been thoroughly reviewed and approved per your management chain of command. This guarantees that your people are following the most accurate and up-to-date policies and procedures.
BDS’s architecture is engineered so anyone within a department can recommend a system-improvement to a procedure by simply and privately submitting the idea to the department head or administrator.
Automatically via email notification, newly published documents, document changes, requests, questions, etc. are delivered to your preselected staff. No need to constantly check in to see what’s new and what’s changed. An important feature is the administrator’s ability to insure confidentiality of documents between people and departments.
Subscription to the platform is month to month.
For a comprehensive overview, go to www.businessdocumentationsoftware.com.
Note from Sam: In 2018, I gifted ownership of this platform to my long-term developers, Emanuel Gug and Marcello Scacchetti. I receive no ongoing compensation for sales, and I am not involved with the internal affairs of the operation, except as an advisor.
AUDIO, KINDLE, AND TEXT VERSIONS OF THIS BOOK
Text versions of this 4th edition are available via Kindle, or for free download in simple PDF format at workthesystem.com. Find the audio version on www.audible.com. For the hardcover version, go to Amazon or your favorite local or online bookseller.
Sam and/or Josh Fonger will occasionally travel for presentations and workshops. Call 1-800-664-8351 or email at email@example.com.
Pathway One is an end-to-end, full-scale online marketing service designed to optimize online leads and sales for small- to medium-sized businesses: www.pathwayone.com.
Kashmir Family Aid
Just after the October 8, 2005, earthquake that devastated great swaths of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and the northwest frontier province of Pakistan, I traveled alone to Muzaffarabad, the capital city of AJK, the epicenter of the quake. Local Kashmiris housed me as I assisted where I could. Not restricted to a guarded encampment, I was perhaps the only Westerner to roam freely through the region, unattached to an official NGO or the US military. I wrote newspaper articles and took photos in order to publicize the plight of the millions who were homeless, and I gave away cash.
The dazed survivors wandered the tent camps and streets wondering what to do next with their lives. It was devastation, with eighty thousand dead—a disproportionate number of whom were children who had been trapped in schools when the quake struck. Nearly every family I met had lost one or more close family members.
I came home and shortly thereafter created Kashmir Family Aid, a 501c3 nonprofit. Its narrow purpose is to provide assistance to the school- children of the region. I had been to Pakistan several times on business before the earthquake, and I have returned many times since.
Note that Bend, Oregon, and Muzaffarabad, AJK, have become official sister cities.
I have an on-the-ground manager in Muzaffarabad who has been assisting me for the last fifteen years.
Please visit the Kashmir Family Aid website (www.kashmirfamily.org) and view the slide presentations and photos. You will find some of my newspaper articles there too. Will you consider helping us? A school with two hundred students and eight teachers can be totally supported for less than US $500 (tax-deductible) per month, but any donation goes a long way. Thank you.
Despite my feelings that the first printing of the book needed more work, others saw the value of my writing, copying and (subsequently) profiting from it (with the help of offshore copywriters). So, between 2012 and 2016, I fought to preserve and protect my intellectual property in the book. First, I defended against a suspect declaratory judgment action filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida (1:14-CV-21838-UU) and appealed to the 11th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals (14-13776 and 14-14283), with both Courts ruling in my favor. Simultaneously, I filed and prosecuted my own copyright infringement case against Schefren Publishing, LLC in the U.S. District Court of Oregon (6:14-CV-01395-TC), which was resolved in late 2015 with the entry of a stipulated judgment that specifically confirmed Schefren’s copyright infringement by copying and publishing material from my book without my permission or attribution.