*PS. Below you will find an auto-generated transcript of this episode.
David Jenyns: If you have one core product that you want to get really good at that—start there. Systemize that... oftentimes that might become the gateway to more work.
Arek Dvornechuck: What's up branding expert, Arek here at Ebaqdesign. My guest today is David Janyns and David is a serial entrepreneur who strongly believes in building a system centered businesses. So he's probably most well known for building one of Australia's most sought after digital agencies. And in 2016, David systemized, his digital agency and hired a CEO to run the operations. So through this process, he became a systems devotee. So David developed SYSTEMology process. And he wrote this book of the same title. And this is the book we are going to talk about today. So David is an expert when it comes to business strategy and specifically business systems. And that's why I really wanted to have him on our podcast to talk about creating business systems. Hello, David, thanks for being here.
David Jenyns: Yeah. Thank you for having me. Very much looking forward to this. I think this topic is probably for a lot of creatives that they just never really get into it. It's almost like their brain has all of this baggage around business systems. That'd be fun to dig into.
Arek Dvornechuck: Exactly. Okay. So you systemize your digital agency, right? Which I think that is really interesting to hear, you know, your story that will be interesting for us, you know, digital agency or design studio owners like myself, or basically it's for any other small business owner in any other category. Right. But the problem is almost always the same is that many of us are just guilty of making the same mistake as you talk about in the introduction that if something happens and we are not there for days or weeks or months, is our business going to survive. It's probably going to be put on hold. We need to remove ourselves from day-to-day operations, right. And systemize our business so that we can be more efficient and do more and more in less time and basically be able to take vacations or send some of our team members on vacations, right.
David Jenyns: A hundred percent. And I say this all the time in digital agencies and creative agencies and design companies, a lot of business owners, they're oftentimes the creative, the studio head. And they don't see themselves as a systems person. And oftentimes they think, oh, a systemized businesses going to remove the creativity. We are free flowing. We don't need to have a structure or a process or a way for doing things. And that's oftentimes one of the reasons they don't systemize. It's one of the reasons that the business is so heavily dependent on them. And they're never really able to break free because they've just created all of these ideas in their head that may or may not be true. I think a big part of what I want to do in the book and what we'll do today is test some of those assumptions.
Arek Dvornechuck: Right? And, and you break a lot of mates as well. You talk about this. I think this is like this book made me think in a lot of different areas is eye opening for me. Can you just tell us what's happened in your life? What you to systemize your digital agency? Yeah. So
David Jenyns: I was in the digital agency for about 10 years before we systemized it and got me out of the operations. I was doing everything. I was the bottleneck. So I was handling client incoming questions. I was handling prospects. I was getting projects set up and briefing them into some team members. Whenever there was an issue, it would get escalated to me. I was handling our own sales and marketing. I was handling some of the HR stuff. I was basically across everything and it meant that I was working these really long hours. And then we ended up finding out we were pregnant and I thought to myself, oh, I don't want to be that dad. Who's always too busy. He's working in the mornings and the evenings and the weekends. I want to be really present and build a business that couldn't work without me. And I've seen it done elsewhere. So I knew it was possible. I have seen other agency owners able to do it. And it was strange. I intuitively knew that systems were the way that I needed to go. But because I had been in the business for 10 years, I'd come up with all of these excuses, why it couldn't be down. I said, oh, you know, I'm a lot of the systems will very quickly become out of date because for the digital marketing, you know, we're working with Google and some of these online platforms and they're always changing. And we also had a video production company as part of that digital agency. And it was very hard to systemize the creatives inside video production because they weren't sort of naturally drawn to the idea of systems. So, and I thought I would need to create a lot of the systems and I just didn't think it was possible. But then I thought, well, I've got to at least give it a go. Otherwise I'm going to be forever trapped in this business. So I slowly started to test some of these assumptions. After I found out we were pregnant. And over the course of about nine to 12 months, I systemized myself out of the business. I hired a CEO. She ran the day-to-day operations for about three years. My plan was actually never to sell a business because I had got to a point where it was basically generating a profit for me every quarter. And there was minimal time on my behalf, but my CEO had some family stuff going on and she had to move back to the states. So I was kind of at that crossroads at that point in time, I did decide to sell the agency and the person who bought it. They said the reason they bought it was two reasons. One was the financial performance. And the second was the fact that it was systems driven and had been run independently of me for three years. So gave me a real appreciation for what systems can do. And I mean, I don't love writing systems and processes. That's not my thing. I'm a creative visionary. So that's not my thing, but I, I fell in love with what systems could bring because I saw the real result. And if I hadn't systemized that business and the CEO had left, I would've got pulled back into that business. I would have never been able to sell it. I would have been still stuck in that business. That's where the inspiration for systemology came because I found out this is a very common problem, especially in the creative space and they just get trapped. And now I've created a system for systemizing a business it's a structured way to move out key team members. So the business isn't so person dependent. Perfect.
Arek Dvornechuck: So some of my key takeaways, you know, most small business owners can't afford to step away from their business for more than two days. That's what you're saying, your book, and this is quite true. And the secret to this problem is systems. What is a system system is basically a series of linear steps that when followed, they can produce predictable results. And so we need to systemize and documenting and organizing all those processes and how your business functions. So it's some of the benefits it's going to help us be more efficient or reduce working hours, remove ourselves from the business, just like you did, and then build for scale and penthouse for future exit. Right? So you've gone to all those stages with the company, with Melbourne SEO services, you give us four stages of business systemization so first is survival mode. The second is stationary, then scalable, and then sellable. Eventually not everyone wants to sell this business, but it's good to implement systems and be ready to sell it one day, even if you don't have to. Right? Yeah.
David Jenyns: But one thing I want to mention, and this is really speaking to all of the creatives in your audience, because it's such an important one to get and what we're talking about. Cause as soon as you talk about are having all of the parts of the business systemized, I know for some creatives, they're just going to go, oh, you know, that's going to remove the creativity. I want to change that perception. And we did this in the video production industry where what you actually systemize is everything else around the creative process. And that's where you start. So you think in terms of, you know, for the video production, we had some systems around what does preproduction look like? You know, there's certain things we say on a discovery call and we scope out the location and we get very clear on what the brief is. Then we've got production, we need to pack the kit. We need to make sure that we're all shed jewel. Things are charged, ready to go. And we arrive. And there's a certain set of things that need to happen in the pre production production. And post-production those things that have to happen. They're the things that you systemize. And then what that does is it then creates the space for you to actually be more creative on the things that you can't go. Step one, step two, step three on. So I know sometimes, you know, when we're working with the videographers, they would be in the car driving to the shoot. And instead of planning out the shot list in their heads and thinking about what they're going to be doing, they're sitting there going, oh, did I bring the charging cable? Oh, if I got that extra battery and they're so caught up in that part, it means that they're unable to be creative and similar when it comes to the editing. If you ingest the footage and you set up the folders a certain way and you get the project properly into your editing suite and you know that that's done following a process, when it actually comes time to editing, you've got everything that you need. You don't need to be chasing the client up for their logo or finding out what stinger you going to put at the end. All of that thinking happens automatically through the system and what you find once you get that, right. It ends up making the business more creative because things like invoices are handled and onboarding team members. And like just these things that need to happen a certain way. So that's a really big distinction. And the other second one I'll mention is you don't have to be a systemized person as the creative head to own a systemized business.
Arek Dvornechuck: No, we are going to take a quick break here, but we'll be right back. Listen. My mission is to help people build and design I claim brands. So whether you're a business leader who wants to become more intentional with branding and all of its aspects, are you going to have creative professional who wants to attract powerful clients and surely be able to help them with branding? Then you need to start with a discovery session in order to develop a strategy that will inform all your creative work and everything that you need in order to learn how to do that. You can find in my online courses at evac designer com slash show, where I share with you, my worksheets case studies, video tutorials, and other additional resources to help you feel safe and strong about your process. Now let's get back to our interview
David Jenyns: Just because you might not see yourself as a systems driven person. That's okay. You don't have to create the processes. But what you do have to do is you have to fall in love with the idea of building a systemized agency. And then you need to find the right team members who can then help you build it and find the person on your team who does like creating systems and processes and empower them to do the documentation and record people doing tasks. So I think those two things in particular for creative people, if you really test your assumptions and you follow my thought process there, I've done it personally in a creative agency. And everybody knows creative agencies that run more well, systemized it's possible. And if that means it's possible for you to
Arek Dvornechuck: Right. Good point, actually two points, right? You just mentioned those two things that are really important and create this might be concerned about. So is it going to stifle our creativity? That's one is not actually, it's going to save us time, right? Because we are going to be automated. And it's about all those different things. Like, you know how we talk to clients, how we onboard those clients, how we close the sale, compare them, the invoicing and stuff like that. Onboarding the clients, assigning the project, organizing the brief and things like that. The need for any of those documents, whether this logo design a website, social media, marketing campaigns, and videos and stuff like that. And so what I was thinking, actually, that I have to do it myself, just like you're saying in the book, right? This is a big misconception and all kinds of business owners, things that if something needs to be done correctly, I have to do it. You know, I'm the best person to do it, which is not sure. Right. Let's talk about your sentence, that process. Okay. I wanted to make this actionable for our listeners so we can just like give them an overview. And then if they want to check out the book and you give us a lot of case studies and examples and in your company is a great example for us creatives. So it's proven you can work in creative space as it was starting with define key. You say that we should just focus on critical systems and we should just pick one target audience and one central product or service. And then with that, we go and we define the critical clients, the CCF, right. Which is the first thought you present as well. So can you just talk to us, walk us through this first step.
David Jenyns: So the whole idea of this step is to narrow the focus to make sure that you only identify 10 or 15 systems and it's somewhere to start. And I always liked the idea of, well, if you can systemize the way that the business makes money and you can get it to a point where it happens without key person dependency, then that's a huge win for the business because then the business is able to make money regardless of who's working or what's happening. Just because we also systemize one thing doesn't mean the rest of your business falls over and you stop doing it, new businesses already working anyway, and it can keep doing what it's doing, but we're just focusing on this one channel and we're getting it really finely tuned. The critical client flow, as you mentioned, it's pick an ideal client, pick a core product or service. And then the critical client flow is actually like the customer and the business journey to deliver that product or service. You can do it on an a for a bit of paper. You don't even need to get my book. You can follow along right now where you get out of a four bit of paper at the top of the page. There you go. If you are showing it you basically write down how you get people's attention, how you handle an incoming inquiry and you just work down the page. Then what does your sales process look like? How do you then take the money? How do you then onboard that client? How do you deliver the core product or service? And then how do you get them to come back? This is just on one, a four bit of paper. Just describe each step in, not more than a few words, and also only focus on what you're currently doing, not what you would like to be doing. So that way you can capture, what's already sort of working in your business and just by starting with that and keeping it very simple, very high level, where you're able to identify 10 or 15 steps and you can create each one of those boxes and then ultimately end up turning into some sort of system. Now, a system could be a little video, maybe it's a loom or a zoom or an iPhone video, or it might have some bullet points and some texts with it. You just want to again, consider these version. Number one, keep it very simple, but you're starting to define your way of doing things. So that's kind of real. Step one. Step one is define. We need to really identify where to get started. Then step number two is assign then identifying where in the business, the knowledge exists. So you, you figured out what you 10 or 15 systems were in the previous step. Well, now we say, well, who on the team knows how to do this? So you might go, oh, Jane who sits at the front desk for the administration. She handles the incoming inquiry. Okay, well, let's write her name down as the person who knows how to handle a phone call when it comes in, or maybe it's Joe, the way that he onboards a client, whatever these, you just start to pair up. Each of those identified systems with a person, ideally, where we can, we remove the business owner and number three then is extract. The biggest secret I can give you about extract is it's a two person job. We've identified the knowledgeable worker in the previous step. And then in the next step extract, that's all about getting the IP out of the brain of the person, record them, doing the task, have this second documenter or systems champion, what they doing. And then they create the documentation. Then we move into step number four, which is organize. Now that we've started to capture these systems and processes, where do we store them? And I know there's a combination of things in digital agencies and design studios, like the ones that you teach Eric, a lot of them already have project management platforms. So it's a matter of getting that, how to system, that explains how something is done, put into your project management platform. So that way, when you assign a task, there's also a system connected to it. Then after organize, there's integrate, that's addressed the concerns about how to get the team to buy in. And the biggest secret that step is you want to make the team member realized that this is beneficial to them. You're not just systemizing your business so that you, as the business owner can go lie on a beach and get large amounts of money deposited into your bank account with little or no work that doesn't get them excited about it. You want them to understand that, Hey, this makes your work easier and it's different for everybody else. Like some people want to move up in your organization and you can say, Hey, by systemizing, now we can put another team member in underneath you. And now you can start to supervise them. Or you might say, Hey, you can go away and take a holiday. And you don't even have to think about work when you're on holiday, because we know that other than team members can handle the work. So that whole integrate step is about getting the buy-in. And then the step after that is scale, that's all about identifying other systems outside of the critical client flow that are important. And then the final step is optimized. Now it's a little bit counterintuitive, especially for design people, design people love to make everything just perfect and just right, like it's baked into the way that they approach things, but systems is a bit different and it is very much an eternity process. You have to get something down and it's kind of like, you know, really good design also has beautiful form in it as well. That happens naturally. And sometimes you just kind of, it's like, I can't remember. I think it was in Boston or there's a country in the U S where they didn't put the roads down straight away. They let the tracks naturally appear. And they followed the way that the horses went and things like that. And they paved over those areas. So rather than jumping to the final, let's just put the road down without much thought. They thought, where did the horses and things naturally go, well, that's probably a good place for a road. That's kind of how you want to approach systems. You capture what's happening and you improve and refine it. So that's why the optimized comes last. But those seven steps when you approach it that way, it starts to break the mold that a lot of people have around business systems. And I know I dumped a lot there and we go into a lot of detail in the book. Eric held up a little graphic if he couldn't see the graphics, particularly for the critical client flow, Because some people are probably listening to the audio. You can go, there you go. Systemology you don't even need to buy the book, just go to systemology.com forward slash academy. You can download the templates. It's a very simple approach that I feel I wrote the book because I felt like everything that I read around systems and all got me pumped, but I didn't know where to start. So I wanted to write the book that said, well, here's how you get started.
Arek Dvornechuck: Okay. So yeah, that's what I said. The book is extremely practical and you'd even give us not just like most of those books, they try to reverse engineer if something was brands, right. And then you even talk about that in your book, but they don't talk about all the problems that they've gone through. And then you give us on the other hand, specific examples, your business, right? So this is something real, and this is something so close to what I do. And I think most of our listeners do, you are a creative person. You started this digital agency. And for example, so when we look at the CCF, I get my clients from SEO. So I do some blog, right? That's also podcasts. So some of the system, for example, for myself, we go from attention, which is SEO to inquiry. So people browse my website, they find some CTA and they send me an email. And then I have on the emo sequence and maybe they schedule a phone call. We do some discovery session. We see if it's right fit. And then I send them a proposal. And then perhaps I follow up with them and they pay other polls that we start working together. We set the stage for the project, right? So we are just trying to organize all those different things around the world. Like for example, logo, design, or web design and stuff like that, which is in itself creating. But all those things that come before and after that, we can actually save a lot of time systemize those. And so we can remove ourselves from the business or grow our business.
David Jenyns: I think from a creative point of view, it's almost like an, you hit the nail on the head. When you said something like logo design, or maybe it's website design, you figure out one core product that you want to get really, really good at. And start there systemize that because oftentimes that might become the gateway to more work. Like when you work with, you know, different big brands, they might start off coming to you for a logo. And then after you've delivered that, and if you do a really good job, you'll find now this turns into a branding exercise and they need to rebuild their website and they need to do all of this other stuff. So the more you can put businesses through that first product or service, the more opportunities you'll get off the back end of that, to win the big work. So that's when you can start to pitch really sort of high level projects. So just systemizing that first bit, it has tremendous wins. And some clients I've worked with have actually found once they did that, they actually found, oh wow, we can almost make a whole business just off that core product. And I've seen some people trim down their product line after doing this because they got so efficient at the one product, but then I've seen other ones that really just use this as a gateway product or service, which then means they actually win significantly more projects because they're working with more clients, they're delivering a greater experience because it's systemized and then the client wants to do more work with them. So there's like lots of different winds that come from this particular approach.
Arek Dvornechuck: So some of our listeners you've gone to all those seven steps. And I just wanted to mention the most important things from each. So the first again, here we have this graphic that illustrates all the seven stamps, right? So we started with a define where we focus, as you just mentioned on one product or one set of is this level of design or web design. We should just speak one, one target audience in one product or service, and then be able to first system around that. And then we can expand later on, right? So we define first, we do this critical client flow, some great for before, right? Again, you guys saw that already. And then you just find, who knows what, who knows how to do things. And you assign the responsibility of building those systems to them. And again, this is a two person job. So one person is watching and documenting the other person that is doing. Yeah. And the misperception is that you have to do it yourself as a business owner. So you don't have to actually do that. You just assign those responsibilities to all the team members and they take care of that. And then the process of extraction capture all this process. So as you mentioned, it could be a alarm. It could be a to-do list to be many different things. And then we just organize the serial suggests on using a different software for project management, for system documentation. When you open a new project and your project management software, that you can just link to another system, you can link to that system, specifically, give some of my takeaways, do recommend avoiding storing your systems in place like Dropbox and Google drive, because it can become a mess. So there are dedicated systems for that. And you go early into details of how to find your system in the book. And then the first step is to integrate. Basically, you need to convince your team members that this is the way we do business here now. And we can do that by explaining the benefits to the individual, not to the business so that they can relate and they can just buy in and understand, you know, and one of those benefits could be like, Hey, you're going to be able to go on vacation. And when you come back, you won't be overwhelmed with all this waiting for you because the work was taken care of because we have systemized business now. So the next step six step is to scale. So here we can just basically work on other systems and we can test our systems. So there is no single person dependency, as you mentioned in the book, right. And Akili also talk a lot about hiring process onboarding and managing as the key areas that you should focus on. Right? And then the last step would be optimized. So we just, I just said, it's an iterative process. So we just need to find out what are the problems you can remove yourself totally out of the business or other people, and then see, where are the problems and how we can optimize those. And here, what is very interesting? You bring this med that we need to systemize like McDonald's right. And I was actually thinking about that myself. And then I came across that book. I was like, wow, this is actually what that was thinking about. I have to be so perfect in creating my systems, just like McDonald's, which is not true. Right?
David Jenyns: Yeah. That's probably one of the biggest ones that really holds creatives up in my digital agency. I wasn't hiring 15 year olds to come off the street and design web videos and websites and things like that. I love hiring great team members. So with great team members, I don't need to tell them how to suck eggs. Like I hire them with a certain amount of skill and I want them to come in. I see the systems more like guides and rules to get them to a great result in the least amount of time. But I also don't want to be hiring robots. I want people who think that's a big problem with a lot of the misconception people have around McDonald's, but McDonald's has got a different objective and McDonald's has been doing this for 60 years. So we just need to get away from this idea of, oh yes, we systemized, like, McDonald's you take McDonald's as culture as far as their systems approach, but don't set yourself up for failure by comparing yourself to McDonald's. Yeah.
Arek Dvornechuck: And also in the last step, we should focus on numbers. What are the key numbers in our business and creating a dashboard. So we can just monitor those key numbers, those key metrics, and then, you know, work on that to improve them over time, for example, attention. So if you look at our critical clients flow and how websites I would getting, so for example, I maybe took a thousand visitors a month, but from those 200,000 people, how many send me an email that they need some water? How many actually I talked to on the phone and harmonize and so on. And what's the average price, whether it is logo, design, or web design and so on. So then we can work on that and optimize that system for efficiency. So if we do that correctly, basically you talk in your book about achieving a point of complete business reliability as the argument, the goal,
David Jenyns: What I love about this particular episode that we've just done. Like you've shown that you've not only read it, but then you've understood it. And then you've thought about how it applies into your agency. I've enjoyed hearing this. I think, like I said, sometimes I might do a podcast and the person may have skimmed through it, but you've really read this and then internalize this. And that is the objective. The objective is to achieve complete business reliability, this idea of having a business that can reliably do what it's here to do, deliver value to the clients reliably and consistently the only way that it could do it reliably and consistently is to not be person dependent. And if we can get it to a point where it does that and it consistently generates value for your customers and your clients, then it'll also consistently generate the revenue and the profit that the business owner wants to get. And then what should happen is once that happens reliably, then the business owner can do their best work. If you are a creative and you're listening to this and you love doing the design and working with the big brands, then fantastic. You do that. If you want to grow the business and build the team members or, you know, take the vacation or whatever it is that you want to do. I just want the agency owner to have the choice because oftentimes the agency owner doesn't have the choice. They have to show up, they have to work or they don't get paid. I don't care what the listener does with their time. I just love the idea of at least the idea of them being able to consciously choose where their time Is going.
Arek Dvornechuck: So we should, as business owners focus on the high level stuff only, right. That being said maximum impact on our business. So yeah, that's about business systems and I'm going to go the link to this book in the description. So you guys can take it out. Also, I'm going to link to David's website, please let us know, how can we find more about you, whether it is for our listeners, want to just learn more from you or just connect with you. And I will include those links in the description box.
David Jenyns: Yeah. Perfect. You can head over to the systemology.com/academy —that's just a great place to get those templates that I mentioned. Also when you're on the website, systemology.com. There's links to Amazon if you want to go buy the book on Amazon. Or we've got a podcast where we interview business owners and have them share systems and processes. It's all pretty much available at systemology.com
Arek Dvornechuck: Thank you so much for taking the time to join us on our podcast.
David Jenyns: Yeah. Thank you for having me. Bye.
Arek Dvornechuck: Thanks for tuning in and if you've enjoyed this episode of On Branding Podcast then follow me on social media for more tips of branding, strategy, and design. This was Arek Dvornechuck from Ebaqdesign and I will see you in the next one.
Arek Dvornechuck is a strategist and designer who helps brands grow by crafting distinctive brand identities, backed by strategy. Need help with your project?—Get in touch
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