What I Learned from a (German!) McDonald’s

And it’s something that, honestly, I’m not really that proud of…because many of you think of me as a pretty adventuresome person, right? And to a great extent, that’s true.

Unless you’re talking about food.

Because the truth is, I’m anything but adventuresome in the kitchen.
In fact, I’ve eaten at McDonalds in eight countries.

Eight. Countries.

I know. Pitiful. Right?

But here’s why.

When you’re traveling in a foreign country, everything from reading road signs to a cereal box can be intimidating. A lot of that is what makes travel so much fun, but it’s challenging, as well.

And oh my goodness – restaurant menus are the hardest. Sometimes I have absolutely no idea what I’ve just ordered until it comes back from the kitchen. Sometimes, the surprise is quite pleasant.

Sometimes, not so much. :)

But a meal at McDonald’s is essentially the same anywhere I go in the world. With slight variations depending on local culture, I can predict almost exactly what to expect when I walk through the Golden Arches, anywhere from St. Louis to Shanghai.

That’s one heck of a System.

A top notch, effective system that works.

Everything from the way the food is purchased, prepared and served, to the pricing structure, to the restaurant look and feel, is standardized in one way or another.

In short, I know what to expect every time I do business with that particular company.

Can your customers say the same thing about you?

Do they know exactly what you deliver, and how? Are they clear on how you work and what your policies are? How are payments handled? What are your after-hours contact options?

Providing a quality service that is reliable and predictable for your clients and customers is one of the best things you can do to build trust with those who buy from you.

On the other hand, do you have a process for enrolling new clients, delivering your services, and closing out accounts when they’re complete? What about bookkeeping, records, and marketing?

That may sound a little overwhelming – but it doesn’t have to be.

In fact, having reliable, predictable ways of managing your business is one of the best things you can do to protect your sanity. :)

Just this week, one of my clients called to talk over a proposal she was creating for a new customer. Having real people with real needs in mind as she worked helped, so she took her time to think through every detail about how she wanted to work with them.

What she created was perfect for the situation at hand, but it also provided an opportunity. If she turns that proposal into a template, it will become something she can easily adapt to other clients as well, saving herself a ton of time and effort in the process.

Putting core systems in place is absolutely key to managing your business as it grows.

That said, systems by themselves won’t do you a bit of good if they don’t work.

Start noticing this in your own town.

You’ll see it everywhere.

Which restaurants are you more likely to visit, because you know the food is always good, and you know you’ll get in and out quickly, even during the lunch hour rush?

And which ones do you avoid, because you never know how long it will take, or how good the food will be on any given day?

How about your mechanic?

I bought a full set of of new tires last year at a local tire store. After shopping around for some time, I chose them not because they necessarily had the best price, but because their entire system of service from start to finish was so clean, quick, transparent and reliable that I knew I was in good hands.

In other words, I could trust them.

An effective system serves your business, AND your clients and customers.

An ineffective system drains your energy, wastes your time, and costs you money.

So take a few minutes to think about some of the ways you do business. What’s working for you?

And where do you struggle?

Wherever there is stress, odds are good, that’s where you’ll find the lack of a system.

So, starting there, keep the following points in mind, and explore ways to streamline that process or replicate that activity.

Common traits of INEFFECTIVE Systems

  • Similar situations are handled in completely different ways at different times.
  • You often feel like you’re winging it, making things up as you go.
  • You have inconsistent results. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.
  • There’s no clear starting or ending point to what you do or how you do it.
  • There’s no clear process to follow as you take care of key activities or clients.
  • Things tend to feel frustrating, confusing or tiring. You often spend too much time looking for forms, supplies, or information you need.
  • No one’s clear about what/where/who/how something gets done.

On the other hand…

Common traits of EFFECTIVE Systems

  • You handle certain situations in ways that are predictable, consistent and repeatable, meaning, things happen pretty much the same way every time.
  • You have clearly defined, clearly stated, easily identified results that you target and reach.
  • There are clearly defined roles and responsibilities, so that everyone in your organization knows who ‘owns’ that task or area.
  • Problems and detours are quickly managed and resolved.
  • There is a clearly defined process that is easily taught and delegated.
  • And preferably, you have it captured in writing as a standard operating procedure (SOP) for your team!

I spend a LOT of time with my coaching clients helping them see where a system could make their lives easier. As your business grows, this will become more and more critical to your survival.

So choose one area to focus on for now, and see if you can’t tweak that thing in a way that will work for your clients…

AND your Self.


Photo Credit: Matt Chan on Flickr

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