Easiest Way to Build Systems

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.

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4 thoughts on “Easiest Way to Build Systems

  1. Tim, I love this. Love, love, LOVE it! In fact, I love it so much that I listened to the webinar you did for Planet Perry in which you talked about the importance of setting up systems. My question is how to implement this in my business when I have no employees. I suppose that sounds strange, but I have ADD and need the routine that a system provides. I am your newest fan!

  2. Robin Rushnell Taney – awwww thanks :)

    I think any entrepreneur selling (top-line revenue) $100K or more is INSANE if they don't have an assistant. The immediate objection is, "But Tim, I can't afford a $60K+ employee, and I wouldn't know how to keep them busy!"


    The magic of a solid VA these days is they can start for just $15/hr, and just 5 hours per week. That's a grand total of $75/week, or $300/month. Believe me – YOU CAN AFFORD IT. (Cut other expenses if you have to – you'll thank me later!)

    Currently I've got 150+ systems in my business. The good news is I wrote very few. Maybe the first 5 or so, as well as my DMGs and my Procedure for Procedures.

    Then I hired my Assistant and turned her loose! She's since written 95% of all procedures. It's been amazing :)

    And for me, It's been life changing. So awesome, in fact, I spent 8 straight days in Hawaii earlier this year with no problems whatsoever. Didn't check email at all, no emergency text messages, and no project management heart-attacks.

    THAT is a vacation :)

    I got beat up by VAs from around the world for 4-5 years before I combined all my mistakes into my Perfect Job Posting. Since then it's been miraculous at getting A+ assistants for me, my clients and students.

    After comfirming it's effectiveness (testing in my own biz first!), I've since publsihed it here: http://profitfactory.com/PerfectJobPosting.

    (It's the job posting that attracted my current assistant, so it's the real deal.)

    Hope all of this helps!

    Tim :)

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