Business Systems and Processes.

The Systems Thinker Blog

Box Theory Gold – Nearing the Finish Line!

In football, the red zone is the hard-fought distance between the twenty-yard line and the goal line. Fortunes are made and lost by how often a team can score a touchdown once they have entered the red zone.

In life and in business, the rewards go to the finishers, those who endure discouragement, disappointment and even despair, never giving up, overcoming all obstacles until they finally drive the ball through the red zone and over the goal line.

Over the Finish Line
A finisher is one who can see an idea, task, or project through to completion, down to the last detail, signed, sealed, and delivered. It takes heart—pure heart—to attain your most worthwhile personal and business goals.

The Systems Doer

Such is the way of the Systems Thinker who becomes a Systems Doer—a champion no less valiant than any sports hero–who painstakingly builds a business one system at a time—THE RIGHT WAY!

System Doers see the problems–dissatisfied or too few customers, waste and inefficiency, unproductive employees, low profits, etc.—and modify their game plan to get results and put points on the board. Like a football team, successful business owners improve their systems and processes until they can consistently execute their strategy with precision and score touchdowns that please customers. There is no other way to take a team or a business to the Superbowl.

A plaque I read recently says, “Do It Now!” Star Trek’s Captain Picard tells Commander Ryker, “Make it so.” Larry the Cable Guy just says, “Git er dun.” However you may say it, we all need to face the brutal facts about our business, roll up our sleeves, and do the things that are hard to do. Do you have the will, the pig-headed determination, to develop yourself and your business into a perennial winner?

System Doers understand one more concept: The last twenty yards—the red zone—is the hardest to cross. Some on the team may falter as you require change and improvement, as you expect them to become Systems Thinkers and Systems Doers. Those who shun the natural accountability that comes with good business systems should be cut from the team. Those who truly want to do their best will thrive in well-run systems or processes.

The words of John Greenleaf Whittier, an American poet, seem particularly fitting: “For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are those, ‘It might have been.'” (1807-1892).

Thinking about how things might have been is hell. So, don’t be a quitter. Be a finisher! Put your head down and move the ball one yard at a time. When you get into the red zone—those last grueling twenty yards—suck it up and drive the team to victory!

Guess What?

You probably thought I have been talking to YOU all along. Not so. Today, I am talking to ME. I need the pep talk. I need the pat on the rear. I need to envision the cheering crowds just moments away.

We are now in the red zone with Box Theory™ Gold software. Our file server crashed last week. Some programming tasks and bugs have bogged us down. The final details are a real chore to complete. I’ve hit the wall. My strength is spent. I am straining with everything I have left to reach the ball over the goal line. Can I do it?

Yes, I can . . . and I will. AND SO WILL YOU!

Many years have passed since I wrote this article and introduced Box Theory™ software. I am now retired and making the software plus my ebook available for FREE to my business friends. No strings attached.  You can download it here or fill out a form on this page. I hope you find it of great value as you strive to grow a prosperous business.

Box Theory Gold – Revolutionary Small Business Software!

Three things are true about starting and growing a business. Ignore them at your peril.

  1. Systems and processes are the building blocks of your business operation; how good they are will determine your company’s success and profitability.
  2. Effective business systems are the solution to every obstacle you may face—too few customers, under-performing employees, waste and inefficiency, excessive costs, poor cash flow, weak sales growth, low profit margins, and daily frustration.
  3. YOUR primary task is to develop business systems and processes that will make your company exceptional, thus becoming the obvious first choice of your target market.

Many small-business owners have rudimentary systems and seat-of-the-pants solutions—usually created by employees—that change as workers come and go. These low-grade systems are not documented, measured, or steadily improved. Weak and ineffective business systems and processes are the real reason that most small companies fail.

However, all that is about to change!

Box Theory Logo

Revolutionary Small Business Software

Box Theory™ Gold—innovative software for developing high-performance business systems and processes—is coming soon! At last, you will have a tool—a system—for efficiently performing your most important and valuable work.

Box Theory™ Gold is as important to system development as QuickBooks is to accounting. It will help you create, flowchart, organize, manage, store, and print everything pertaining to your business systems and processes.

Box Theory™ Gold will guide your systems thinking, improve your business development skills, and drastically reduce the time and cost of creating highly effective systems—systems and processes that will allow you to one day replicate your business in new markets, sell it for top dollar, or let others run for it you.

More Benefits of Box Theory™ Gold Software

When you work ON your business using Box Theory™ Gold software, the payoff is happy repeat customers, reduced waste and inefficiency, slashed costs, more productive and results-driven employees, and ultimately a big boost to profit, cash flow, and growth. Effective systems build long-term value into your business, and they pay for themselves many times over!

Depending on the size of your company, good business systems will put thousands, tens-of-thousands, or even hundreds-of-thousands of extra dollars in your pocket. No baloney!

*** NOW FREE ***

Box Theory™ software has now been successfully used by owners of small and midsize businesses for nearly fourteen years. I just retired and have decided to give away my software, eCourse, and other materials absolutely FREE. Download here. 

I have been working on Box Theory™ Gold software for several years now, so you can imagine my excitement that the big moment has finally arrived. In the next few weeks, I will be making the product available to those who want to take it for a test-drive—NO COST. I would love to get your feelings and feedback to root out any remaining bugs.

If you have read my eCourse, Box Theory™: Double Your Profit with High-Performance Business Systems and Processes, and would like to start building your business with Box Theory™ Gold software, at NO COST, you’re at the top of my list. If you are a subscriber who has not read my eCourse, but would like to become more involved as a beta tester, I would also like to talk with you. Keep your eyes peeled for more information to come.

Systems Thinking Can Double Your Sales!

A struggling economy hurts many small businesses, and most companies could use a boost in sales. Systems Thinking is needed more than ever before!

Systems Thinking for more sales

So what is preventing your sales from doubling; what constraint in your business is limiting your sales throughput?

Are you getting enough sales leads? Are you converting leads to orders? Are you fulfilling orders quickly? Are you getting repeat business from satisfied customers?

Each of these questions points to a different business system or process, and one of those systems is the weak link that is restricting your sales. That process needs your attention, NOW!

How can you improve your lead-generation system to get more qualified leads? If you do have plenty of leads, how can you improve your sales presentation, offer, terms, or products to close more sales? If your sales leads and conversions are good, what are you doing to impress customers with on-time or fast deliveries? And if you are not getting expected re-orders, do you know why? How can you create raving fans who will buy again and refer their friends?

Reach Your Full Potential

System constraints—the barriers and bottlenecks that keep you from reaching your full potential—come in a variety of forms. Could any of the following constraints be limiting your sales throughput?

  • Rational or Logic Constraints – Errors in thinking and false assumptions are often stumbling blocks to success (e.g., believing your customers think you are wonderful and not discovering their true feelings; thinking that you don’t have any real competition).
  • Physical Constraints – Physical components that are lacking or have limitations (e.g., not having an effective prospect/customer database; not having the necessary production capacity or people to get orders filled promptly; not having an effective website).
  • Procedural Constraints – Work processes often have bottlenecks or weak links that reduce output (e.g., ineffective follow-up system for sales leads; a website without a well-designed sales funnel, a fast and easy checkout procedure, or a method of answering pre-sale questions).
  • Personal Constraints – Personal characteristics can interfere with performance (e.g., procrastination, disorganization, indecision, fear, lack of time, failure to face problems, not a Systems Thinker, etc., etc. What personal characteristics of yours—beliefs, values, assumptions, behaviors, or personal problems—are holding back your business?)
  • Self-imposed Constraints – Business rules or polices can inhibit results (e.g., not accepting credit cards; not hiring people over age sixty; sticking to the ineffective way you’ve always done things).
  • External or Market Constraints – Obstacles exist that are currently out of your control (e.g., the economy, market size; customer expectations or attitudes; competition). You can usually manage or control these constraints over time by adjusting business strategies.

No Other Way

The economy does not have to drag your business down, but you may need to become more disciplined in your management style, more detail-oriented, more organized, more methodical—MORE OF A SYSTEMS THINKER. I promise that if you don’t believe it yet, you will eventually discover—there is no other way!

Now make a list—using the definitions above—of the specific barriers to your sales growth. Then go eliminate those constraints from your business systems and processes.

System Innovation – You Have Endless Opportunities!

Government systems can be described as the title of a Clint Eastwood western—the good, the bad, and the ugly. I don’t blame the people who work in government for bad systems and processes; they generally adapt to the existing way of doing things. However, if we could infuse public service with Systems Thinking, there would be a dramatic reduction in waste and inefficiency. The government would be more responsive to its customers—US!

Endless Opportunity for Innovation

An Example of System Innovation

Surprisingly, I like the innovative spirit of the Department of Transportation. Over the years, they have created many system improvements that make travel easier and safer, and reduce the cost of highways and fuel consumption. I am sure you have noticed some of these innovations during recent decades.

  • Concrete dividers separate traffic to prevent head-on collisions.
  • Reflective tabs on highways make lanes more visible at night.
  • Recycled tire rubber replaces asphalt surfaces.
  • Commuter lanes incentivize car-pooling.
  • Road grooves create vibration and noise to warn drivers they are outside of the driving lane.
  • Solar-powered street signs charge during the day and illuminate the sign at night.
  • Oversized speed bumps double as school crosswalks, forcing traffic to slow-down where children cross the street.
  • Innovative intersections such as roundabouts and synchronized traffic signals allow flow-through traffic with less stopping and starting.

Each of these innovations has improved our transportation system.

Are you making similar improvements to your core business systems and processes?

Opportunities for System Improvement Abound

Every time you make an improvement to a product, service, or business process—no matter how small—it is an innovation. Put a decorative plant in the office. Improve the wording on a brochure. Revise a system checklist. Update a web page. Eliminate recurring mistakes in a process. Each improvement is an innovation that makes your business better.

Every organization has unlimited possibilities for daily incremental improvements that lead to happier customers and higher profits. If you are not growing and prospering, maybe it’s because you are not focused on the daily improvements—hundreds per year—that will make your business lean, sharp and distinct.

Innovation at the system level in both the public and private sector is what has made the United States of America so prosperous. Other countries are catching up. Those businesses that will be around in the next generation must have a philosophy of continuous improvement to be competitive. It is the primary task of business owners and managers—YOU!

Spend a little time in “The Zone” every day “working on the business, not just in the business” (Michael Gerber, E-Myth Revisited). Discover four business improvement methods you should know about. Hold a business improvement workshop to get your team involved.

Improve and innovate your business systems and processes so that you are unquestionably the best solution for your target market.

Most businesses have one or two exceptional systems that separate them from their competition. What innovative and remarkable business system makes you stand out “like a purple cow in a field of brown cows” (Seth Godin, Purple Cow)?

The Truth About Business Systems!

The reason I am so obsessed with business systems is that they are rooted in truth and natural law. Any seeker of truth eventually discovers that systems are the building blocks of the universe. Your business success also depends upon application of the same proven principles and unwavering laws. There is no other way!

Follow the Law

When I talk about business systems, however, I sometimes get a little carried away using words like continuous improvement, quality, and efficiency, voice of the customer, break-even point, or key performance indicators. These related principles are also important and quite fascinating, but please don’t think I am only speaking to larger companies, those with manufacturing or production processes.

If your business has people, products, and processes—organized to profitably find and keep customers—I am talking to YOU.

Are You a System Thinker?

Every business—every organization—is made up of systems and processes. Some business systems are simple while others are more complex. Some are critical to your survival while others are of secondary importance. Systems are at work in the office, on the Internet, in nonprofit organizations, manufacturing, distribution, construction, retail, medical and social services, government, education, and so forth. You find systems in product and service companies of every kind, large or small, in every language, and in all parts of the world.

Believe me, your business is no exception. It consists of a network of interdependent and interrelated systems and processes. Whether you realize it or not, your business systems—good or bad—are determining your ability to please customers, grow, and make money.

Systems are simply a means of getting work done in a steady and predictable way. They produce consistent results even when you’re not around. They increase productivity and decrease costly waste. They elevate customer and employee satisfaction. Done right, they can dramatically improve profit, cash flow, and business growth. Effective systems and processes are the greatest asset of your business, and they pay for themselves many times over. They are the only means to create an organization of excellence with the power to survive our world’s increasing economic storms.

Do you think your business is the exception? Not a chance. Do you believe you already have good business systems? Possibly, but I doubt it, and there is always room for improvement. Do you understand Systems Thinking? Few do.

Are You a Seeker of Truth?

It is an interesting phenomenon of human nature that people do not readily accept truth when presented to them. However, many are drawn to hype, get-rich-quick schemes, charismatic personalities, quickie solutions, and instant gratification.

On the other hand, pursuing truth, and its application to business, requires study, hard work, patience, sacrifice, and pig-headed determination to rise above disappointments and setbacks. Rocky Balboa said, “It ain’t how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward.” Systems Thinking is the discipline of winners, those who persevere with steady incremental progress until they have built something remarkable.

If you are interested in “engineering” a business that will stand the test of time—one you can eventually sell, replicate, or have someone manage for you—then join our growing group of Systems Thinkers who understand the Master Skill of applying correct principles to create a truly exceptional company.

If you are not a believer yet, it is only a matter of time before you discover, “There is no other way!” So, take the next step below.

Achieve Continuous Improvement of Your Business Systems!

When I was a young man participating in industry trade shows around the country, I noticed many Japanese people in attendance. Someone told me that while the American culture is highly innovative, the Japanese culture is excellent at efficiency and execution. They came to this country to get ideas and then produce similar products with higher quality and lower cost.

Later, I discovered that an American quality and productivity pioneer, W. Edwards Deming, showed the Japanese how to improve their quality and efficiency in a systematic way. To this day, Systems Thinking permeates the Japanese business culture and they have created many outstanding companies based on this discipline.

Kaizen – Continuous Improvement

Deming taught the Japanese a logical approach to problem-solving, later called the Deming Cycle or Plan-Do-Check-Act, a foundation for continuous improvement.

The Japanese term for “continuous improvement” is kaizen—making incremental improvements to eliminate the waste of a process that adds cost without adding value.

Kaizen - Good Change

Kaizen teaches individual skills for working effectively in small groups, solving problems, documenting and improving processes, collecting and analyzing data, and self-managing within peer groups. . . . Kaizen is a total philosophy that strives for perfection. . .” (Jeffrey Liker, The Toyota Way, 24).

Japanese Terms

Below are other Japanese terms used in process improvement and adopted by some American companies.

  • Sensei: an expert; a teacher who has mastered the subject
  • Kaizen: continuous improvement
  • Nemawashi: decide slowly, implement rapidly
  • Hansei: reflection (thinking)
  • Hoshin Kanri: quality planning
  • Genchi genbutsu: personal involvement-go to the place to see what’s going on
  • Jidoka: built-in quality
  • Muda: waste
  • Mura: unevenness of workflow
  • Muri: overburdening people
  • Heijunka: leveling the workload
  • Poka-Yoke: to avoid inadvertent errors, mistake proofing
  • Takt Time: the time required to complete one job at the pace of customer demand

When you implement Systems Thinking, your world changes. Your business runs better. Your customers are happier, and YOU make more money.

We first taught the Japanese; then they taught us. Kaizen is now a fundamental principle and strategy in American business. It should be in every country and in businesses of all sizes and types. Most importantly, it should be a fundamental strategy in YOUR business.

Related Articles:
Mistake Proof Your Business Systems!
Kaizen: Ten Ways to Achieve Continuous Improvement!

Six Qualities of Highly Effective Business Systems!

There is only one way you can create a smooth-running and prosperous business that reaches its full potential. It is by developing effective systems and processes that enable you to continually find and keep customers.

Creating effective business systems is the art and science of “business engineering.” It requires creativity and innovation (art) as well as logic and organization (science). System development is your primary task as a business owner. Please read further.

Business Systems are Art and Science Systems = Art and Science
Above image is “fractal art” generated by mathematical calculation

The operational systems you create must combine six important elements. They include the following:

  1. Process: Effective systems—in the store, the office, or the factory—are well designed, smooth running, evenly paced, and use standardized procedures. They seek to eliminate idle time, mistakes, downtime, unnecessary movement, bottlenecks, and inventory buildup. You make money when your systems are stable, steady, and sustained.
  2. Components: A system must have all the necessary components to function properly, such as checklists, forms, reports, equipment, software, supplies, tools, equipment, people, and other resources. Missing or poor-quality system components are a major weakness of most small businesses.
  3. People: People are often the most important and most expensive system components. Put the right people in the right job with first-rate training, incentives, and accountability. Effective business systems leverage ordinary people to produce extraordinary results.
  4. Quality: Good systems have minimal mistakes, waste, and rework that keep costs down. Products or services are delivered as promised and free of defects; they meet or exceed customer specifications and expectations. Any quality considerations that are critical to the customer must be critical to you, or the customer will take their business elsewhere.
  5. Speed: Efficient business systems have short lead-times and high throughput by squeezing delay, bottlenecks and “speed bumps” out of the process. They run fast enough to deliver on-schedule or by deadlines. Speed creates higher employee productivity and work-satisfaction, increased capacity for sales, faster invoicing and cash flow cycles, happier customers who will buy again, and overall lower costs.
  6. Measurement: Renowned business authority Peter Drucker says, “You cannot manage what you cannot measure.” Continuous measurement and feedback drive all process improvements. What measures drive the “economic engine” of your business? Establish process measurements that let you know every day how you stand in relation to your business goals. Strive to better your best!

When you carefully incorporate these six qualities into your business systems and processes, you will see remarkable results. Costs will go down. Customers will be happier. You will have an organization of excellence and be on-track to reach your full potential.

Business Systems Strengthen Your Brand!

“A brand is not what you say it is. It is not a logo, corporate identity, or product; it is a gut feeling about a product, service, or company. It takes a village to build a brand—customers, vendors, employees, partners, stockholders. When enough people have the same gut feeling, you have a brand” (The Brand Gap, Marty Neumeier).

Over the years, I have seen many small-business owners develop wonderful websites, brochures, and sales presentations that are very compelling. Their right-brain creativity, emotional appeal, and passionate conviction give me a very positive perception of their company. They successfully apply the age-old sales principle, “sell the sizzle, not the steak.”

However, after enthusiastically buying into their proposition, I discover that their products and services are not all that I hoped for, or expected. Delivery is slow and customer service is lacking. At times, I have regretted making the purchase. Yes, they did a good job of selling the sizzle, but I am left wondering, “Where’s the beef?” (old Wendy’s Restaurant commercial)

Inside Reality vs. Outside Perception

The inside reality of these companies did not match up with the outside perception. They did not develop the left-brain attributes of order, attention to detail, quality, timeliness, and effective business systems that consistently meet or exceed customer expectations. They did not execute on their promise. They were “all show and no go!”


If the inside reality of your business—its systems and processes—is remarkable and the outside perception is weak or invisible, your company (brand) will not attract customers.

If, on the other hand, the outside perception of your business is remarkable and the inside reality—its systems and processes—is weak, your company (brand) will not retain customers.

Which is Holding You Back?

You must develop a company with equally strong left-brain and right-brain capabilities to create a brand that will endure and prosper.

When your customers, vendors, employees, partners, and stakeholders say about your company, “they’re even better than they look,” you know you are on your way.

Knowledge is Power – Not So Much!

Mark Twain said, “A person who won’t read has no advantage over a person who can’t read.”

One of my pet-peeves with some business owners is that they don’t take time to learn. When I graduated from college, I didn’t want to read another book. Years went by before I realized what a fool I was. Now, I am always reading a book or two.

The fact is, business owners come from many different backgrounds. Their education may not have prepared them for the broad range of skills required to run a business. In addition, they are so busy “sawing” that they have little time to step back, read, ponder, analyze, plan, and essentially “sharpen the saw.” The most successful owners, however, do find time to return to the well often to study the leaders and experts in their field.

Sharpen the saw with knowledge

I think it’s amazing that a knowledge leader’s lifetime experience can be captured in a $15 book and read in just a few hours. What a world we live in! Wouldn’t you agree?

The Application of Knowledge

The commitment to learning, however, is just the beginning! The saying that “knowledge is power” is not completely true. Real power comes in applying the knowledge in some way to change behavior and improve results. Go read a thousand business books, and you have nothing but ideas in your head—soon to be forgotten. However, go inject one true principle that you’ve learned into a business system or process and you will begin to generate real power.

In my career, I have gone to dozens of seminars, hired numerous consultants, read many books, and learned much from my colleagues. I regret, however, that “after all is said and done, there is usually more said than done.”

The truth is that no one benefits until you go to a business system or process and modify it to reflect the newly learned principles—improve system components or procedures (the recipe). There is no other way!

You can read about it and dream about it, but nothing changes until you do it—until you apply your knowledge to elevate the business system (see Law of Cause and Effect).

Improve Your Business Today

The knowledge you gain today can give you a better company tomorrow, but only if you put it to work! So, write down the key principles you have recently learned. Identify the system or process they apply to. Modify the business system to incorporate the newly learned laws, principles, or best practices. And monitor results.

Congratulations on your latest business innovation! Now, go improve another system or process. In time, your company will become remarkable!

3 Ways to Increase Business Efficiency Today!

Delight your customers and put more money in your pocket by speeding up your business systems and processes.

Greater Process Efficiency

Research shows that the actual time required for making a product or providing a service is about 5% of the total elapsed time (Competing Against Time, George Stalk).

For example, a one-hour photo service only spends three minutes to process your prints. The week you are told it takes to approve your new building permit actually takes two hours; the rest of the time the application is sitting on someone’s desk waiting to be worked on. There is a lot of idle and wasted time in most business operations, including yours!

The same research revealed that companies that reduce the cycle time of their processes—the steps from beginning to end—”enjoy growth rates three times the industry average with twice the profit margins.” When process speed goes up, and lead-time goes down, you make more money and create happier customers.

Here are three things you can do today to speed up your business systems and processes for a better profit margin.

1. Eliminate Bottlenecks

Bottlenecks are easy to spot. For example, eliminate in-baskets that are full, or items stacked up in a cue or on a pallet. Focus on the weakest step in the process and elevate its performance. Hint: It’s usually a system problem, not a people problem.

2. Eliminate Tasks that Don’t Add Value

Eliminate processes that don’t provide value. The customer does not want to pay for any wasted time—either should YOU. Look around for idle time, poor workflow, incorrect processing, unnecessary movement or handling, the build-up of inventory, and so forth. As much as possible, stop doing the things that don’t benefit customers and don’t make you money. A careful inspection will surprise you!

3. Eliminate Rework

Improve the output quality of your business systems and processes to eliminate rework. Every process has errors—even in the office. Are your errors under one percent, or do you know?

I worked with a company that had frequent invoicing errors. The business owner had no idea. A lot of wasted time was spent by the sales and accounting departments reworking invoice problems with customers. (The actual lost money and goodwill from the mistakes was enormous, but that’s another blog.)

Fewer errors and rework will increase speed and the sales throughput of your business. Remember, the cost of rework comes directly off your bottom line!

Find the Root Cause

Each of these tactics requires evaluating the steps in your core business systems and processes. Drill down to find the root problem and fix it! A small improvement in process efficiency will pay big dividends over the course of a year.

Just Retired
Gone Fishing
Your Lucky Day

It's time for me to focus on other things. Many hours and dollars have gone into my software and written materials over the last fourteen years. Now it's time to give back. This is not a gimmick. There is nothing to buy. I give it all to you for free. If you use the software and apply the principles, you can create a remarkable company. See Below. Have fun!

Turn Your Business Into Money-Making Systems!

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Welcome to the #1 website for helping owners of small to midsize businesses create customer-pleasing, waste-removing, profit-boosting business systems and processes.

Michael Gerber, "E-Myth"

Michael Gerber

"Organize around business functions, not people. Build systems within each business function. Let systems run the business and people run the systems. People come and go but the systems remain constant."

W. Edwards Deming, Total Quality Management

W. Edwards Deming

"If you can't describe what you are doing as a process, you don't know what you're doing. . . . 94% of all failure is a result of the system, not people."