One business owner and author wants entrepreneurs to take a new look at their enterprises.
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Susan Wilson Solovic: Hi and welcome to today’s featured adviser’s series. I'm Susan Wilson Solovic and our featured adviser is Sam Carpenter. Sam is a great guy, he is a successful entrepreneur and he’s the author of this wonderful book that you can see I’ve marked all through this. It’s called “Work the System: The Simple Mechanic of Working Less and Making More.”
Sam thanks for coming back.
Sam Carpenter: Thank you Susan.
Susan Wilson Solovic: Now, we’ve talked a lot about this book and today we’re actually going to be talking about one of the things that makes my eyes cross and that’s documentation, documentation, documentation. But you say in your book that documentation is really the thing that separates the men from the boys in business so to speak and I don’t mean that from a gender standpoint.
Sam Carpenter: Right.
Susan Wilson Solovic: But really from successful, sustainable companies to those flounder.
Sam Carpenter: Well, we talked in our last segment about the difference between a large successful business and a small business. If you had to put it in a nutshell what would it be? Boring but true, documentation.
Susan Wilson Solovic: Right.
Sam Carpenter: Things are written down—these organic processes that can even flow through the day depending on who’s doing them or the mood of the day or whatever the weather, how do you get those processes to be perfect every single time? And how do you keep making them better, and better and better. Documentation is the only way to do it that I know about.
Brainwashing or some kind of thing we haven’t thought about I don’t know what it is but you have to write things down because that can be shared with other people and of course you have to get the other people to buy into the documentation.
Susan Wilson Solovic: It would be just like for example we bought a piece of furniture recently a little kitchen table set and in mail order. And when it came my husband starts trying to put it together, but there was this great documentation that said, “Here’s what you do A, B, C…” right there it was. So that’s the same thing.
Sam Carpenter: That’s one of my favorite things to do is to put a piece of furniture together and my wife, Linda and I, did that about three weeks ago and it came from Vietnam I don’t know where it came from. But we took it apart, we put the documentation down and everything fit perfectly. It was a system that was not only put together so everything fit, but it was documented precisely. It was fun to go through it and I think a lot of us pride ourselves on buying the VCR, which is the typical example, buy the VCR and try to figure out how—but if you read the directions and hopefully the directions are good directions too. It’s much faster in the long run. The same with running a business.
Susan Wilson Solovic: Right. And of course there’s always those 800 number you can call for support.
Sam Carpenter: Right, right.
Susan Wilson Solovic: You have to if you really get stuck. But you also say though that there are actually three different types of documentation. So we’re not talking all about the same thing here, so explain that.
Sam Carpenter: Well we have and the book talks about it. In fact, part two of this three-part book is nothing but these three documents. They’re very simple. They’re very unique and we’ve boiled them down to the simplicity thing. And one of them we call—the first one is the strategic objective. That somewhere between the mission statement, which mission statement is usually does no more than to make the board of directors feel good and you are trying to impress the staff and they’re over here snickering about it.
Susan Wilson Solovic: Or something you can blow up and make a nice poster and hang it on the wall, right?
Sam Carpenter: “Oh nice poster!” And everybody is watching, “Okay we want to be best and we love our customers and all our employees we want them to be happy and all.” And that’s great and we all understand that.
And then on the other end of the spectrum is the five-year work plan which you never hear about anymore because things move too fast. The strategic objective is in between leaning towards the mission statement in the sense that it is no more than a single page and it talks about what you do, how you plan to do it and what your goals are, what your strengths are, what are you going to stay away from. And I have a whole chapter on it in the book.
So that gives you direction, we call it our Declaration of Independence. There are some great parallels here that Linda brought out to me after I wrote the book. So the strategic objective is your Declaration of Independence. This is what we’re going to do.
And then the second one are the operating principles. This is your kind of institutions. This is what we believed, this is how we’re going to make gray area decisions, this is who we are and so it’s a set for Centertel my answering service, 30 of them. And the simplest one is to id now!
Do it now! I mean it’s that simple.
Susan Wilson Solovic: Sure.
Sam Carpenter: None of these principles are more than three or four sentences long, maybe two or three pages but they lay out guidelines for decision making. And if you think of our constitution, isn’t that what it is? These are guidelines for decision making. And they are really hard to change. It is very hard for congress to change.
Susan Wilson Solovic: Well, then it’s certainly also keeps a lot of lawyers employed as judges to interpret all of that.
Sam Carpenter: Yeah, you take the bad with the good. And I don’t mean to disparage attorneys of course, but—and then the last document are a series of documents and we have several hundred of them called our working procedures and these are the laws of the land.
So you have your Declaration of Independence, you have your constitutions, you have your laws of the land. And of course the laws of the land can be changed. And so this would be for instance are deposit procedure which we talked about some time ago. It started out 53 steps to get the money in the front door allocated to the right accounts and up to the bank. Well now it’s 23 steps because we have the ability to go ahead and change these working procedures and make them better, and better and better. And of course that is what works the system—is to work these procedures to better and better efficiency.
But with these three documents which are not at all difficult to put together, a company has direction, they have guidelines for decision making and they have strict protocol for making things happen in the most efficient way possible.
Susan Wilson Solovic: And one of the other things I found fascinating and I hope I’m not speaking out of school here, but by utilizing this system this documentation, you reduced your work week to about two hours and increased your income by ten times.
Sam Carpenter: More than ten times.
Susan Wilson Solovic: Oh wow! Okay.
Sam Carpenter: So I went from a 100 hours a week to two hours a week. That two hours what are they? People always say, “Well what do you do in the two hours?”
Susan Wilson Solovic: I can’t even get through my emails in two hours.
Sam Carpenter: I have 30 people that work for me and this is a telephone answering services we talked about in national. We handle emergency messages for doctors and funeral homes and companies like that. But I spend an hour of the week with a staff meeting to remind everybody, “Hello! I’m your leader!”
Susan Wilson Solovic: I’m still here! Right.
Sam Carpenter: And then the other hour is when I pay the bills. So we run a couple of hundred thousand dollars a month through the business and I want to know where the money is going. That’s one of the things that I think I should do as the leader and that’s all automated through bill payer at the bank. So there’s my two hours. One hour to go down and jam with the troops and then the other hour is spent paying the bills on my own time wherever Linda and I happen to be traveling.
Susan Wilson Solovic: And you know Oprah Winfrey who is more successful than she really gazillionaire practically, but she always says she always signs her check herself. I think that’s a good advice.
Sam Carpenter: Really? I’m glad to hear that.
Susan Wilson Solovic: Yeah absolutely. Now, what about let’s talk—I know most of our audience consists of entrepreneurs, but there are a lot of people out there watching us Sam and getting your great advice here that might be in the corporate environment and just thinking about becoming an entrepreneur. But do these principles apply, does your system apply to someone trying to climb the corporate ladder?
Sam Carpenter: Absolutely! I talked in the book about—in fact I think I listed 15 reasons or 20 reasons why having a job—there’s a lot of good reasons they have a job instead of being an entrepreneur and there’s no—
Susan Wilson Solovic: Yeah, like a paycheck on a regular basis that’s a good reason.
Sam Carpenter: Well yeah! And the benefits and the camaraderie because sometimes at the top it’s lonely and all that stuff. But for a corporate position and hopefully this corporate position has a ladder that can be climbed, now if you are working for a small family operation and you’re not part of the family that maybe a problem with climbing the ladder. So you want to make sure—I don’t want to use too many metaphors, but if you’re going to fish for a big trout let’s make sure you’re fishing in a pond that has big trout in it. You want to have the ability to move up the ladder.
What better way to move up the ladder, if there is a ladder to climb than producing large quantities of great work? And so, within the department that you might manage with several people working for you presumably or more, what if you could develop your own system for becoming hyper efficient, and producing tremendous results and understanding the vision of the company as a whole. Do you think you’d move up the ladder? Oh yeah!
Susan Wilson Solovic: Yeah, absolutely!
Sam Carpenter: You would move up the ladder.
Susan Wilson Solovic: Especially in today’s environment.
Sam Carpenter: Right! And as you go up the ladder you create this freedom and this wealth in your life and stick with the corporate layer, lots of tremendous—my daughter is working her way up in the Nike ladder.
Susan Wilson Solovic: I see.
Sam Carpenter: And Nike is a wonderful corporation to work for.
Susan Wilson Solovic: Just do it, right?
Sam Carpenter: Just do it, right! So this is absolutely for anybody who runs a department, you bet.
Susan Wilson Solovic: Yeah, good. Great advice all the way around Sam. We appreciate you being part of our team here at sbtv.
Sam Carpenter: Thank you Susan.
Susan Wilson Solovic: And I hope that all of you will join us again for more of Sam’s great advice here on our featured advisor’s series and be sure and check out some of our other featured advisors right on our featured advisor channel.
Thanks again for watching us and remember at sbtv.com small business is our only business.