ICS Magazine

Tom Sawyer's (and My) System for Success

September 26, 2011

Over the past few months, I have been painstakingly outlining how to stop being a slave to your business by putting it on autopilot and building systems into your business.

Over the past several months, I have been painstakingly outlining how to stop being a slave to your business and put it on autopilot by building systems in your business.

Systems may not sound exciting, but let me ask you a question: how would you feel if you could do what you want, when you want? How would you feel if you had a staff that did everything for you and you could go on vacation for several weeks without having to solve every problem, put out every brushfire?

I’ll tell you how it feels: It feels free!

Sadly, most business owners will never experience this feeling, because they are convinced that it is a fantasy, that they could never get someone to do what they do as well as they can.

But here’s a fact: If your dream includes more than cleaning carpet, managing the business, or whatever you do “in’ the business each day, you won’t reach it without a TEAM (Together Everyone Achieves More). 

Get Your People to Do What You Want When You Want It

Your employees can be your greatest asset or your biggest nightmare, and it mostly depends on your leadership skills. Some years ago when I was managing my company, a low-rider, gangster-looking Impala was parked in the parking lot. Two men were in the car, and pot smoke billowed out of the windows.

After some time, one of them emerged from the car and began walking toward our office. He walks in wearing cut-off blue jeans, flip-flops and a yellow tank-top that revealed a huge tattoo on his bicep. Wearing sunglasses, he asked, “Ya’ll hirin?” I responded with “We do require a drug test, is that going to be a problem?”

Now, please understand that this was not the proper or legal way to do this, but it seemed appropriate at the time and I just couldn’t resist. But his reply is what killed me:

“That gonna be today?”

Wow! In other words, if you give me just 24 hours, maybe I can get myself clean enough to pass! You may have had similar experiences trying to find employees. You may have given up. Don’t. I have a phenomenal team, and many of my members do as well. The reason? They have systems and they have leadership skills.

Let’s recap: You have your Mission Statement in place (Component No. 1), you’ve started using your Organizational Chart (Component No. 2), and so we’ve come to Component No. 3: Position Descriptions.

If you simply take the time to outline what you expect from your employee each day, your business will be more successful and organized, putting you on a better road toward systematizing your company.

Do you have written job descriptions? If not, it doesn’t have to be that hard. By the way, position description might be a more positive way to put it. “Job” doesn’t have much appeal does it?


Here’s how you do it. First, make a list of everything that each of your employees do each day. Then begin making a long list of the things you do that aren’t getting done. This will be a massive list!

Then, begin to assign these items to others. Create a daily and weekly checklist. Go over it with your team members. Ask them if they know how to do each item. Don’t worry about how to do the procedure quite yet; we’ll get to that in the next two components.

Now you have a checklist you can simply go over when something doesn’t get done. Simple, isn’t it? Now the challenge is to have enough people in place to do everything that needs to be done. Now you can begin thinking about hiring, outsourcing, efficiency and all of those things.

Your position descriptions don’t need to include all of the why’s and how’s, just a checklist. The “why” is covered in the Mission Statement and the “how’s” will be covered in Policies and Procedures.

However, you do want to keep the “how” in mind as you create the checklist and refer to it on the task. Example: Let’s say that one of the items on the Position Description is “Make Daily Bank Deposit.”

Phrase it this way instead: “Make Daily Bank Deposit according to Daily Bank Deposit Policies and Procedures.” You see, someone may have done the task previously, but they did it at the wrong time and the wrong way.

That’s it. A simple checklist. I hope this helps.

Now, as to Tom Sawyer…Tom Sawyer was famous for getting others to do his work for him. I take that to the extreme. Not because I want to feel important, but because the more I can get others to do for me, the more of the important things I can get done. The more support I have, the more I can work on my projects and the more I can get done.

I was at my office yesterday for a couple of hours. My administration manager was marveling at all the projects I was working on. He said, “I have no idea how you do all of that.” I explained to him that it was largely because of people like him. My staff. My team. I told him that because of the fact that they did such a phenomenal job of handling the day to day, that all I do every day is work on projects.

So do a Tom Sawyer and get others to paint the fence for you so you can do the stuff you want to do.