What if every decision were simple?
What if your staff didn’t have to bring every single question to you for an answer?
What if you didn’t have to justify and apologize to your clients all the time?
What if your headspace were more available for big projects—or if you were undistracted when playing with your kids?
In this series, I’ll tell you how to build consistent systems—and why you need to do so.
Below, I’ll tell you about the power of consistency.
In Part 2, I’ll tell you the one thing I do consistently that’s made me successful.
In Part 3, Certified Two-Brain Mentor Jay Williams will teach you the three basic systems you need in your business.
On Two-Brain Radio, Jason Rule of Driven Nutrition will tell us how consistency has helped him win the battles in the crazy supplement industry.
And in the final installment, I’ll give you a present.
The Power of Black and White
One of the first things we teach entrepreneurs is to get their systems out of their heads and into playbooks. Every operational procedure, every policy, every best practice goes into the playbook—because your staff can’t read your mind.
And they won’t make decisions on their own. Either they’re not empowered to do so or you’re too scared to let them take chances with your money. That’s understandable. But the secret to entrepreneurial traction is to make decisions once instead of several times. So you have to write everything down. This is the foundation for growth.
Next, you have to repeat the same actions over and over again. Doing things the same way every time makes you predictable and trustworthy to your staff and clients. Excellence isn’t one brilliant performance; it’s performing at a high level every time. Inconsistent excellence isn’t excellence at all.
Making the little decisions in advance will also clear up your brain space for the bigger stuff.
Steve Jobs famously wore the same turtleneck and ate the same breakfast every day. Jobs was avoiding “decision fatigue”: the exhausting toll that little decisions take on our brains, weakening our clarity and resolve. Jobs knew our capacity for making decisions is finite. We have a daily limit. And even little decisions, like what to wear to the office, eat away at that capacity. So when big, important decisions have to be made, we’re not playing with a full deck.
“That Decision Has Already Been Made”
Here’s an example: a client says, “I didn’t show up last month. Can I get a refund?”
If you have a written refund policy, your answer is simple: yes or no. No agonizing, no apologizing, no deliberating, no stressing about it later.
If you don’t have a written policy, you’ll spend all day worrying about the decision instead of thinking about bigger opportunities.
Another example: A staff person says, “Can I get a raise?”
If you have a written policy on staff wages, your answer is simple: “Yes, when these conditions are met” or “Not until you achieve these conditions.” No late nights worrying, no hard conversations, no loss of authority, no apologizing.
Consistency is greater than everything else.
We want entrepreneurs to make decisions once, to get these decisions out of their heads and to free up focus to solve bigger problems.
The Plan for Consistency in Business
Here’s how to make decisions once and move on to other things:
1. Record your standard operating procedures in a business operations manual or playbook. This is a long process, and we break it down into steps in the Two-Brain Incubator. Your goal is to write a book that could replace you: Your staff should be able to refer to the ops manual instead of asking you questions about how to do things. A great ops manual would make your business turnkey: If you were hit by a bus, someone else could read the manual and run your business exactly the way you do.
2. Make your procedures as simple as possible. Reduce every rule to black and white. Remove exceptions and shades of gray.
3. Train your staff to refer to the ops manual to find answers first. This requires discipline on your part: It’s easy, in the short term, to just answer their questions. But this trains everyone around you to ask questions instead of finding answers in your manual, which makes the whole process redundant.
4. Make yourself unavailable. Close your door. Go away on vacation. This is the only way to find the holes in your ops manual. When you return, you’ll be asked questions that will make you think, “Doesn’t everyone know that?” But of course your staff members don’t know the answers. So write them down and add them to the ops manual.
5. When you’re faced with a new situation, make your decision and record it in the ops manual. Having new decisions to make is part of being successful. But making the same decision twice is bad leadership.
6. As you grow from Farmer Phase to Tinker Phase, hire someone to manage the day-to-day operations of your business. This could be a general manager or a COO. The person should wear the ops manual on his or her belt: The job is to ensure compliance, not to make decisions for you. The GM or COO doesn’t need to figure anything out: He or she just needs to keep things black and white and follow your manual.
Every quarter, review changes to the ops manual with your entire staff.
Here’s the great news: You’ll always need to make decisions. You’ll always face challenges. Business will always be tough. But it won’t be impossible. You’ll make progress if you record your decisions.
Every decision you make is a little bit of grit under your tires—but only if you write the decisions down and ensure the rules are rigidly applied in the future. If everything’s in your head, you can spin your wheels really fast without going anywhere.