how to setup procedures easily

Even though my business has over 150+ systems, I personally wrote fewer than 20% of them.

Follow these tricks to get systems setup as fast as possible.

Where Most Business Owners Fail

Usually an entrepreneur will see the value of checklists and put them in place quickly.

Or they’ll read a great book like The EMyth or Work the System, get excited and start writing out checklists and procedures.

But then they run into one of the following problems:

  • I don’t have enough time to write all these procedures
  • It’s impossible to write a procedure for every single situation – my business has too many curve-balls or my business is too creative to be reduced to steps

…so they just assume “my business is different – systems just won’t work”, and give up.

Back to the grind :(

The Holy Trinity of Systems

When you understand the Holy Trinity of Systems you can be one of the few business owners that makes the leap…. successfully.

You just need these 3 crucial ingredients:

  1. Decision-Making Guidelines
  2. Procedure for Making Procedures
  3. The Right People

1. Decision-Making Guidelines

You’ll write your 20-40 Decision-Making Guidelines (DMGs) in a single document, ideally in Google Drive.

They’re the recommendations / guidelines outlining how you want people to act in your business.

The better your DMGs, the fewer procedures you need to write, and the fewer steps you need in each Guideline.

And with DMGs in place, your team can still take action and help you day-t0-day, even when they hit curve-balls that DON’T have a written procedure.

DMGs are your “catch-all” when there’s no procedure in place.

Example from “The 4-Hour Workweek”

You’ve probably heard of the bestselling book The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss.

He explains how he was getting a TON of emails – over 1,000/week – from his customer service team, and it was getting harder and harder to answer them all as his business grew.

Exasperated, one day he told his reps:

Hi All,

I would like to establish a new policy for my account that overrides all others.

Keep the customer happy. If it is a problem that takes less than $100 to fix, use your judgment and fix it yourself.

This is official written permission and a request to fix all problems that cost under $100 without contacting me. I am no longer your customer; my customers are your customer.

Don’t ask me for permission. Do what you think is right, and we’ll make adjustments as we go along.

Thank you,


Instantly he slashed the volume of emails he was getting from over 1,000 / week to fewer than 20 / week.

This is what we call a “Decision-Making Guideline”.

Example from My Marketing Company

Filip from the Czech Republic wrote us.  One of our podcast episodes wasn’t playing properly and he was a little upset – he was looking forward to hearing it!

To be clear – I have NO procedure in my business that says “What to do if a guy from Europe writes to say our podcast isn’t working”.

Nor will I EVER have that procedure.

My assistant Sarah received the message.  She quickly thought through our DMGs.  She remembered:

1. You are an ambassador of me, Tim Francis: I am a responsible, caring, and courageous gentleman.  I expect you to act accordingly.  I expect you to respect and demonstrate tolerance for cultural, political, racial, and lifestyle differences in all those you come in contact with.  TFM is not a place or channel to voice your political, racial, religious, or lifestyle thoughts or judgements.  Nor is it a place to promote your other interests, business opportunities.  Not to our clients, not to me, nor to your other team members.

She immediately wrote Filip to apologize for our error and let him know she’s fix the issue and keep him posted.

Then she referred to…

9. How We Handle Mistakes: As long as all team members are following (in detail) our in-house documentation and instructions, all mistakes are blamed on system weaknesses NOT people weaknesses.  Mistakes aren’t encouraged, but we DO embrace them when they happen.  We work as a team to figure out the system weakness and fix them once and for all.  We do NOT repeat mistakes.  If a mistake occurs: 1) put out the fire, 2) immediately fix the system weakness that caused this fire in the first place, then 3) – once approved by a supervisor – distribute the new, improved Procedure to affected team members.

Sarah then found the issue, fixed it, notified Filip everything was working, then updated the procedure so we’d never have this problem again.

When I found out about all of this, I thanked Sarah for honouring #23…

23. Our Work Reveals our Character: For example, sloppiness and laziness reflect on our character.  So do perseverance and caring consideration.

2. Procedure for Making Procedures

Well, it sounds ridiculous and kinda circular, but YES I’m suggesting you creating a Procedure on how to make Procedures.  (Click HERE to download my Procedure for Making Procedures (lite) version into your Google Drive.)

As in, tell your staff:


  • what tools to use (ideally Google Drive + Teamwork PM)
  • how to format document (bold? 12 point? etc.)


  • what goes in the header
  • why we have a mini-description at the start
  • how we keep track of the “version”

Writing Out Steps

  • when to use step-by-step, 1-2-3 type procedures
  • when to use guidelines
  • when to use checklists

…etc, etc, etc……

Now that your staff knows how to write procedures, they can take care of it in your place.

How this will likely play out in your business is:

  1. problem pops up
  2. you or staff works on a solution
  3. establish best solution
  4. staff understands solution, then writes it out

You may or may not be involved in the solution, but you are NOT the one writing out the steps.

Often I’ve shot a 5-min video describing my desired solution / outcome, then sent the video to my VA and she’s written out the steps.  Gold.

3. The Right People

For on-going team members (not one-time project contractors), we want someone who has these qualities (most important first):

  1. Love checklists and working in a structured environment
  2. Excellent attention to detail
  3. Tech-comfortable (would be able to navigate Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, MS Word, WordPress fairly easily, even if they haven’t used those tools before)
  4. First language is English (or whatever your first language is)
  5. Based in U.S. or Canada (or close to where ever you are located)

They do NOT need to be a college graduate, award-winning employee or anything like that.

They *do* need to have any other specific credentials / training specific to their role.  For example, if you want an in-house graphic designer, you probably want someone who already has skills with Adobe Photoshop or InDesign.

Changing People – Just Don’t Do It

See how the above person is instantly setup for success within a systemized business?

They’re predisposed for success.  Not only will they accept the structured environment of a systemized business, they’ll appreciate it!

Skills you can generally teach.  WordPress, Aweber, Infusionsoft, etc, can be taught quite easily to the above person.

But try to hire an Aweber expert who hates checklists and you’ve got a world of hurt coming your way.


How To Hire VA

Use my “Perfect Job Posting” to get a winning applicant.

In Summary

So now you’ve got systems-minded people running your business.

When a curveball comes up that isn’t covered by a procedure, your team still has guidelines on what to do.

And when a weakness is revealed, your team knows how to create and modify procedures so you don’t have to.

The “Holy Trinity of Systems” has saved my bacon more than once, and has saved me literally HUNDREDS of hours.

Leave me a comment with ONE Decision Making Guideline you can implement with your team immediately.

Tim :)

P.S. Not sure how to start your Procedures for Making Procedures? Download my copy here so you can copy and modify to fit your business’ needs.

Best Project Management Software Teamwork PM + Google Drive

For online and computer-based businesses, the best possible combination of tools is Teamwork PM + Google Drive.

Best Project Management Software

Keep track of your people and projects easily with Teamwork PM.

I’ve tried a BUNCH of different Project Management software tools like MyProjectPlans and Basecamp.  Don’t get me started on Basecamp.  Basecamp SUCKS.

Teamwork PM is fast, flexible, and comprehensive.

Copy and Paste Tasks

Regularly building websites for clients?  In my marketing company we had a 106-day system for creating websites.  For each web project we took on, we just copied and pasted the entire 106-day series of tasks for each new client.

Regularly doing mini-projects like uploading podcast episodes, editing YouTube videos, or blog posts?  Your VA will follow (approximately) the same 5 – 20 steps every time.  Again, just copy and paste inside of Teamwork.

Built-in Billing

Thanks to Teamwork’s built-in billing feature, my VAs invoice me in under 7 minutes each month.

Less hassle for them.

And I’m not paying them any longer than I need to while they invoice me to pay them!

Rapid Assignment and Re-Assignment

Teamwork makes it super easy to change dates of tasks, assign to VAs and re-assign if roles change or the team changes in size.

I had a VA suddenly quit.  I simply re-assigned her tasks to another VA.  Took 10 minutes with no disruption in work-flow.

Obviously Teamwork PM isn’t enough to have this level of systemization.  You also need to write out procedures.  Download my free Crash Course and Cheat Sheet to see what I mean.


Writing Procedures

Do it all in Google Drive.  (Get a head start by downloading my System Template into your own Google Drive.)

Just do it.

Easy Sharing

Google Drive makes it suuuper easy to share procedures with teammates when they need them.

Security and Permissions

Share documents only with those who need to see them.

Don’t want one VA seeing how much another is paid?  No problem.

The “Permissions” level is also crucial.  When you give “Read” access to a new VA, they won’t (accidentally) trash your beautiful procedures.

When you’ve got a trained, competent VA on your team, you can give them “Write” access to literally write your procedures *for* you.

Suuuper Fast to Search and Find Procedures

Google is the world’s #1 search engine, right?

They’ve applied a lot of that technology to Google Drive.  Need to find a procedure?  VERY FAST to us the Google Drive Search bar.

(Although you shouldn’t have to search too hard too often if you’re using my method of naming and labeling documents, found inside my Systemization Crash Course and Cheat Sheet.)

Pre-Formatted Styles

Instead of wasting time bolding, increasing font sizes, etc, just use Google’s built-in Styles to give your procedures an easy-to-read layout.

I use Heading 1 for section headers.

Now you and your staff will build great-looking, easy-to-use procedures without getting frustrated – was that Helvetica, 12 point? Or Arial 13 point?


Ok, so this is seriously black Voodoo – you and your Assistant can literally open the same document at the same time and watch each other type on the screen.

Fire up a Skype call to speak live, and type away on the screen together and WOW you can teach, build, edit together on the fly.

Simply Amazing.

Google Is Massive, Has Redundancy

There’s a Pro and Con to Google being massive.

Try to get tech support on Google Drive and it’s nearly impossible (CON)

Google is massive and has multiple-redundancies, tons of security, and near-100% uptime. (PRO)


The right tools make all the difference.

Google Drive + Teamwork PM is the winning combination you want.  Leave me a comment, what tools are you currently using to keep track of your projects?

Tim :)

P.S. Save yourself tons of time by downloading my Systems Template into your own Google Drive do you can start creating systems in order to free yourself up with time to focus on working ON your business, instead of working IN your business.

Find Virtual Assistant

Finding VAs online is the Wild West.

When you’re looking for a long-term Assistant, you may be tempted to post a basic job description to an online job board.

I’m warning you – don’t do it.

Basic job descriptions are the kiss of death; you’ll get CRUSHED with applications.

I’ve literally sat and hit “refresh” on my email inbox and had new applicants every 5 minutes.

It became another part-time job.

I felt like I needed a VA just to sort through the VA applications!

Somehow you need to find the top applicants, the needles in the haystack, in a matter of minutes, not hours or days.


The Perfect Job Posting

Let’s be clear: typically we don’t need a rocket-scientist as our VA (we aren’t even rocket scientists ourselves!).

Just someone who works and thinks the right way, irrespective of academic or work accomplishments.

We want someone who has these qualities (most important first):

  1. Love checklists and working in a structured environment
  2. Excellent attention to detail
  3. Tech-comfortable (would be able to navigate Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, MS Word, WordPress fairly easily, even if they haven’t used those tools before)
  4. First language is English*
  5. Based in U.S. or Canada*

*Obviously you can change #4 & #5 if they don’t apply to your situation and needs, those were simply my needs.

As you can see, nowhere on this list is “valedictorian,” “Rhodes scholar,” or even “college graduate.”


You Don’t Need It!

Instead, use my “Perfect Job Posting” and instantly find highly-qualified candidates.

My “Perfect Job Posting” includes the following sections:

1) Credibility

There’s a LOT of trash online, lots of Kool-Aid drinking, Biz-op type amateurs who burn-out VAs and online job boards, so proving you’re legit inspires confidence.

I include a few points about me (name of my business, what we do, how long in business).

Then I add a link to my website, then a second link to my “about me” page so they can see a headshot of me and see I’m real.

All of this proves I’m a real, legitimate business owner.

2) Who I’m Looking For / Job Description

I tell them I want someone with the qualities listed above. (Love checklists, attention to detail, etc.)

I also outline what their duties will look like. Do you want an admin support? A project manager? Give them a taste of sample tasks. E.g) I’d like you to handle my email inbox and arrange appointments in my calendar.

I emphasize how important checklists, organization, attention to detail are to me.

Lastly – and please remember this – let them know how much training will be provided. Sometimes online tasks (e.g. update our website) sound really techy and daunting, when – in fact – they’re super simple with a few WordPress tutorial vids. Let them know if you’ll help them get started.

3) Sell them on the job

I highlight how this position is flexible so they can generally work virtually from anywhere they want to go (with a good internet connection).  VAs LOVE this!

In fact, flexibility is the main reason VAs are seeking virtual work in the first place.

I also highlight how my goal is to build an organized, systemized business, and one of the big advantages of that is my business is fairly predictable, thus LOW-STRESS for the assistant I’m hiring.

Obviously, if your position is high-stress, and/or you’re really disorganized, then be honest in your job posting.

In that case, tell them you’re disorganized but looking for someone to help you get straightened out. Lots of assistants (esp the kind I’m helping you find) are excited by the idea of organizing things.

4) Outline Job Details

Tell them how soon I’d like to find someone, how I’d like to start with a 30-day trial, and that we’ll start with 5-10 hours per week (with possibility of going up).

I let them know exactly what the hourly pay is.

5) Explain How to Apply (magic!)

This is where the magic really kicks in!

I tell them exactly this (copy and paste if you like):

If you’re interested… Email

In the subject line please write “Detail Oriented Pro from (insert your city/ town) interested in Marketing Job”

In the body, please write me a 14-sentence email including:

Three sentence opening salutation that says: “Hey there TF, what’s happening up in Canada? My name is _____, I’m a detail oriented pro, am comfortable with technology, and love checklists. I’d like to apply for the job you posted on XYZ Job Board.”

Reason #1 why you think this job is a fit for you. (black font, Courier, 3 sentences)

Reason #2 why you think this job is a fit for you (blue font, Verdana, 3 sentences)

Reason #3 why you think this job is a fit for you (red font, Courier, 3 sentences)

Two sentence closing including: the name of three blog posts you saw on my website, and a closing salutation including your name, email address, and phone number.

Note: Please do NOT attach a resume; if you are shortlisted I may ask for one later.

Thanks. I know the *right* applicant will really like this job. Maybe it’s you?

Tim :)

Want to See my “Perfect Job Posting”…?

Enter your name and email here and I’ll immediately send you a PDF with the Perfect Job Posting I use myself and we use in our Great Assistant Program too.


Hope that helps!

Tim :)