Systems are at the heart of every successful, scalable company. Systems should be built in layers, starting as early as possible in your company’s growth. New systems will be added and existing systems improved as your company grows. An owner builds systems to make herself redundant—so the company runs without her. Only when the company has systems in place and becomes a machine that works, will it become an asset and not just a job.
Functional systems allow decisions and execution to be pushed down to the lowest possible level. An ideal system would push as much decision making as possible down to the level of execution. In the real world, some decisions have to be made at higher levels, or will be out of momentum, politics, and other inefficiencies. But those can be actively minimized, narrowed, and streamlined with good workflows, adequate playbooks, and regular review.
Most businesses should start the process of systematizing by building a customer contract-management process. Sales are the lifeblood of any organization, and all successful businesses start with a laser focus on sales. It makes sense to improve the efficiency of sales as soon as possible—but not sooner.
This is important. It makes no sense to start building elaborate systems before you have a viable business. Get sales right—this may require some degree of systematization but nothing too elaborate at first—then focus on scaling your sales process with a system.
Other good systems to build early focus on human resources—hiring, retention, and so on—if your organization is labor intensive; marketing—content creation, brand protection, and more; and intellectual property creation and protection, if your company depends on IP.
These are good places to start. Build simple systems. Iterate and scale. This is growth.