The Entrepreneur Forum | Startups | Entrepreneurship | Starting a Business | Motivation | Success

Your ticket to unlimited vacation and no stress!

Accelerate wealth. Build a business that pays freedom. Join more than 70,000 entrepreneurs and register for the Fastlane Entrepreneur forum. Remove ads? Join the INSIDERS.

Rabby

Platinum Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Summit Attendee
Speedway Pass
Aug 26, 2018
1,534
4,512
1,133
Florida
The c l i c k b a i t is TRUE. Hear me out...

The "ticket" to the promise made in the title, once you have an actual business in place, is...
CONTROLS

But don't worry, because CONTROLS can help you turn whatever it is you have into a business, if it's not already.

I could do a whole thread on REPEATABLE PROCESSES too, but I've harped on that elsewhere. And I believe that if you set out to develop CONTROLS, you'll tend to define processes anyway... how can you control something you can't define?

A brief interlude... you may refill your coffee...

In November 2015, I set out to make my business as consistent and repeatable as possible. And to make it independent of me, as much as possible.

I was already diligent about documenting workflows and making checklists, when they were called for, but I started taking it to a new level. I hired a full time software developer, even though I am a not-terrible programmer myself. We started automating what we could, designing and building systems, and making tools for humans to use whenever outright automation didn't make sense.

I began firing myself from jobs. Bots, employees, and contractors got these jobs. Funny enough I found that eventually, the employees and contractors were better at most jobs than I was.

And I thought I was good! Turns out I deserved to be fired :<

Admittedly, I have kept a few things for myself. I update certain technical information, usually once per year. I develop new products, if or when I have an idea for one; or if the market specifically asks for one. I pull the occasional win-win deal out of thin air and make it happen. Also, my wife still keeps the (mostly automated) books.

The business can run on its own for long spans. We can be anywhere in the world, awake or asleep. With trivial effort (assigning a person and process to bookkeeping and yearly updates and a few minor things), I could make the same claim whether we were alive or dead.

Telling you this actually makes me incredibly nervous, but I have to overcome that. It is too important not to share.

I am a real "coffee achiever," and the appearance of idleness bothers me. However, freeing up your time does not necessarily make you idle. It doesn't stop you from producing value. On the contrary, it gives you the ability to deliver ever more value.

Not only do you have time; you also have a business system that you control. I mean, really control, because it doesn't control your time. And that means you have a business lab from which you can run experiments, borrow underutilized resources, or whatever you need to do.

We return to the feature presentation...

So what are controls?

They are the means by which you measure and evaluate things. You didn't really do the job if you can't see that you did the job...

Controls mean you can trust the output of your business.

Controls also mean you can discover problems early.


For a long time, I've used checklists. They're probably the easiest form of control to implement. Want to know if a job was done, and no steps skipped? Require a checklist. Better yet, have it print out automatically with an order, or email automatically with a reminder. And not a stupid checklist, a useful one. When an order prints out, there's a checklist on a sticker for packing the bubble-mailer. When the reminder comes in to update the weekly or monthly "thing," there's a checklist with all the steps. When the surgeon sews up the guy's torso, a nurse is standing by with a checklist to make sure no forceps are left inside... Like other controls, checklists reduce the cognitive load of a job. They don't increase it.

My checklists usually grow out of some job that needs to be done on a routine basis, and is prone to error or missed steps. Any one person only has a few things that actually require a checklist... otherwise we would try to automate away tasks that are prone to error.

As time has gone on, I've developed more controls and more types of controls. These are not the same as enterprise-y, big company fake work permission documents. In case anyone has experienced those. The developer spends his time developing. The salesman spends his time selling. The admin spends her time admin-ing. The teachers spend their time teaching. Controls are for reinforcing those behaviors, ensuring they get done right, and providing feedback. If you try to design "controls" and they end up getting in the way, you've over-engineered them. If you bought Microsoft Visio, stop now and get a sketch pad and plain text editor.

Controls I currently use:
  • Printed checklists
  • Online "weekly report" form for incentivized activities
  • Two sets of eyes and two notification methods on incoming orders (alerts by email and Slack channel so nothing can ever be missed).
  • Automated calendaring and notifications for recurring tasks
  • Automation for most orders and order deliverables
  • Automated messages to customers triggered by events or timing
  • Defined reports for ensuring accurate tax payment, etc.
  • Separation of functions, e.g.: the person who checks the mail does not handle finances
  • Audit path for changes to customer records in management system
Recently... in fact in the past few weeks, I read Scale by Hoffman and Finkle (because I am thinking about scaling things... go figure). I like how they define controls, and I recommend the book. I've found myself adopting some of their vocabulary. I think one of the better ideas is that there are visual, procedural, and embedded controls. They include automation (e.g.: software) within embedded controls. I trust automation like my own cat! Maybe even more than my cat!

The net result: if you're committed to implementing controls in your business, there's not much that can take you by surprise. At least, internally. You'll be on your way to the "passive ownership exit," and the business supporting itself (as opposed to your labor supporting it). Granted, you do need to sell enough goods for the business to breathe. But that gets easier, not harder, as you make things in the business more repeatable, consistent, incentivize-able.

I'm curious. What controls are you all using in your businesses? Do you think you could benefit from better controls? Better defined processes? More ability to delegate?

Or do you feel you're not at a place yet where you can implement this? MAybe controls are impossible in your industry because "everything is custom?" Want to argue the point? Inquiring minds want to know.

I kept this abstract to keep the length down, but I'm happy to field questions, or to learn from ops-masters more seasoned than myself. Thanks for reading!
 

Bearcorp

Gold Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Speedway Pass
Jul 2, 2012
639
1,500
434
37
Australia
Great post @Rabby, I can relate to needing to fire yourself from roles in the business, I look forward to having people do some of my tasks better than I do/can!
 
Last edited:

Rabby

Platinum Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Summit Attendee
Speedway Pass
Aug 26, 2018
1,534
4,512
1,133
Florida
Thanks for all the nice comments :)

@Bearcorp I recommend documenting those roles, and the high-level steps, as time permits... even if it feels silly because you're the only one doing them. ;) That's the first step to hiring someone to help, without wasting your money on an employee who has no idea what you want them to do. It can also help you figure out when you're doing things inefficiently.
 

Creed

What do you want to be when you give up?
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Summit Attendee
Speedway Pass
Aug 6, 2019
139
233
156
Netherlands
I'm shocked at how low the engagement has been on this thread. The contents came back multiple times at the Summit, which shows you how relevant it is. I think a lot of people could benefit from this info.

Thanks for sharing Rab, very valuable insights.
 

Rabby

Platinum Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Summit Attendee
Speedway Pass
Aug 26, 2018
1,534
4,512
1,133
Florida
I'm shocked at how low the engagement has been on this thread. The contents came back multiple times at the Summit, which shows you how relevant it is. I think a lot of people could benefit from this info.

Thanks for sharing Rab, very valuable insights.

Thanks :) All the world needs is a few people who implement it, and everything gets better over time.
 

ecommercewolf

Bronze Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Speedway Pass
Jan 8, 2019
258
242
160
Dallas, TX
Wow great insight.

Any specific automation software you recommend if you don't mind sharing? The most common one I hear of is Zapier.

I realize that systems is something I need to improve on to obtain the lifestyle I want but not sure where to start.
 

Rabby

Platinum Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Summit Attendee
Speedway Pass
Aug 26, 2018
1,534
4,512
1,133
Florida
Zapier can be useful, but the biggest automation thing for me is just straight programming.

If you can prototype something yourself in Ruby or Python or something, that's great. Not everyone has developed that skill set, and not everyone needs to. If you do though, you can take things that used to take 30 minutes and transform them to under 5 minutes, or zero minutes. Sometimes better. Doesn't sound like much, but that's where you start. Save 20 minutes per day, and you also save the mental energy you would have spent in that 20 minutes.

If you can hire/trade-services-with someone to write code for you, even better. Most of our current automation is written in C#. It could just as easily be any other programming language.

One more thing that's not really automation, but that I think of as automation, is defining simple tasks and giving them to someone to do. Example: I wanted to scrape some county web sites for information about property, debts, law suits, etc. I did not want to write a web scraper though, and I didn't want to spend a lot of time on it. So I used Screenflow to record a video of myself doing it, then hired an overseas VA to do what I did in the video every day for a while. They would scrape the site, put information in a CSV in a certain format, and send me a report each day. Much cheaper in the short run than having someone code something (maybe $6/day), and took very little of my time. It's mechanical Turk style automation ;)
 

NMdad

Gold Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Aug 6, 2017
604
1,310
426
New Mexico
My kids give me sh*t about reading books like "The Checklist Manifesto"--I'm guessing you're a fan of it. Ironically, fast-forward a couple years, and both my kids regularly make checklists on their own. Be the contagion you want to see in the world. ;)
 

Rabby

Platinum Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Summit Attendee
Speedway Pass
Aug 26, 2018
1,534
4,512
1,133
Florida
Ha! What a great title... The Checklist Manifesto. No, I've never read it, but it's exactly the kind of thing I would pick up. Now that it's in my head, the contagion will get me, I'm sure.

What I love most about checklists is I don't have to do them. I mean, I could, and I do use them for my own work. But if I can break something down into a checklists, I can get someone else to do it.
 

Rabby

Platinum Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Summit Attendee
Speedway Pass
Aug 26, 2018
1,534
4,512
1,133
Florida
Ha! What a great title... The Checklist Manifesto. No, I've never read it, but it's exactly the kind of thing I would pick up. Now that it's in my head, the contagion will get me, I'm sure.

What I love most about checklists is I don't have to do them. I mean, I could, and I do use them for my own work. But if I can break something down into a checklists, I can get someone else to do it.

...aaaand because it's a checklist, I can make them keep copies, or send evidence, so that I can see if they did the thing that I didn't have to do myself.

Incidentally, this is making me realize that I had this in mind just a month or two before starting development on our new Saas (we started developing in Feb or March). I hadn't even thought the product up when I wrote this, other than having part of it implemented as a management system for my school.

We just got it to MVP and guess what one of its endearing features is? Yep, a very robust checklist builder.

Glad I wrote all this stuff down last year, because the thought might have just evaporated otherwise.
 

Rabby

Platinum Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Summit Attendee
Speedway Pass
Aug 26, 2018
1,534
4,512
1,133
Florida
Lordy. We were working on taxes this week and I realized we (Wifey and I) made

half a million

in profit from one business we're usually not directly involved in. It can be optimized more too... the business doesn't even have a marketing arm, and we've likely forgotten about recurring expenses that could be eliminated. I've had good fortune just coming across the right kinds of information to make it possible to design this business.

In 5 years or so I hope I can smile at this post and think "so that was a lot back then..." LOL. At the same time, I need to get comfortable with the idea here... working on my ability to create scale and efficiency is part of my 1/5/10 goal (thanks @MJ DeMarco for that idea). This is a small business compared to what I'm working toward.

I also know that people struggle, and that makes ideas like "passive profit" (the only real profit in my evaluation) hard to talk about publicly. One of the biggest things I see is that people think they need to invest everything in their own abilities, their own work, their own time. I definitely thought that, well into my 30s. Sometimes, in the beginning, people really might need to do that. Skills are good. But the rewards are greater, it seems to me, if you can start organizing opportunities for others.

By the way, the employees and contractors make more money now than they did when the business was not so optimized. I made a deal that pays my alma mater thousands per month, which is good for both of us. I started a second business (funded by profit), moved an employee over to the new one, and gave him the opportunity to earn equity in that business. The customers get more too. Customers I talked with a few years ago (because I had time to talk to them, because a lot of the work was already optional) are now millionaires because of their own hard work combined with the services we provide, even though we don't sell anything like "how to become a millionaire." There's no down side to optimizing a business, if you're optimizing it for value delivered and efficient execution. That's part of the power of controls and automation. You can ensure that you're delivering great value with great efficiency and consistency--to all stakeholders.

Nothing lasts forever with zero effort. But you can drastically improve the longevity of a business, and reduce the effort required to own it, through proper observation and planning and execution. If I can convince one more person of that, writing out this post is worth the effort.
 
Last edited:

Paul David

Gold Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Feb 17, 2015
664
1,383
441
41
England
great post. There’s a good book called Work the system by Sam Carpenter which this very subject.
 

sparechange

Platinum Contributor
Speedway Pass
Nov 11, 2016
2,805
4,329
1,020
Canada (Vancouver)

Ninjafaceplant

New Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Mar 2, 2020
8
9
17
29
UK
I generally find the one task I am putting off automating, for either ease, or scale reasons is the one I should be doing first.
I look back after it is complete and think "If I wasn't wasting so much time doing that, I could have done 100 more important things"
That being said it's sometimes lots of small distracting quick tasks that really eat the productive time in my day.

automate.gif
 

Rabby

Platinum Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Summit Attendee
Speedway Pass
Aug 26, 2018
1,534
4,512
1,133
Florida
One thing I find myself telling people, lately, is this:
Don't train your new employee to do <thing>.
Make a video of how to do it, and have them learn it from that.
It's related to this post because once you accumulate some of these videos, you have the beginnings of a standard training and onboarding package.

Once you have a process or checklist to put people through when you hire them, you've significantly improved your business. Plus, you can write an evaluation -- a gradable quiz, a performance evaluation, or something a manager can follow to test the new hire's comprehension/competence. Then you have the crucial ability to evaluate performance objectively, to hold people accountable, and to make improvements over time.

When you go from trial and error to a repeatable, measurable process for onboarding and new hire training, what do you have? You have a new set of embedded c o n t r o l s in your business, that's what. And you have less to worry about, less to think about, so you can use your brain for building the next part of the business.

In related news, there's some overlap between controls in your business, and assets. All controls are assets of the business, assuming they actually improve it (we'll pretend for a moment that you would not put controls in place that make you lose money, or increase your risk). But not all assets are controls, of course. There are things like copyrighted material, trademarks, equipment you rent to other businesses, and bars of gold that don't fit the definition of "controls," but are assets.

That overlap makes me pause to think. Is building a business, or even building wealth, about building assets? I would argue it is... it might even be the most important thing you can focus on. So then surely, implementing controls for your business is a good thing to be doing, right?
 

Sponsored Offers

MARKETPLACE Fox Web School "Legend" Group Coaching Program 2021
Hi - I sent out some emails with the updates but I'll PM you now also, thanks. The issue is...
  • Sticky
MARKETPLACE NEW: The Best School for Going Fastlane (Now open for summer enrollment)
Read the free book, some excellent insights. I also did the website quiz and I did a visual on a...
MARKETPLACE Not sure how to start? This free book will teach you how to build a successful web design business
Hi Fox. Starting the book and got through the introduction. Had a conversation with Andy Black...
  • Sticky
MARKETPLACE You Are One Call Away From Living Your Dream Life - LightHouse’s Accountability Program ⚡
Chris is super sharp and is aware of many facets of entrepreneurship and can help get your...
Introducing MJ's Personal Unscripted Network, Join Now for FREE!
Any chance to make it available outside of US? It has been available outside of the US on...

Forum Sponsor

Learn Fastlane Business Skills & Get Profitable Within 30 Days...

Get Started Now

New Topics

Fastlane Insiders

View the forum AD FREE.
Private, unindexed content
Detailed process/execution threads
Ideas needing execution, more!

Join Fastlane Insiders.

Top Bottom