Lessons in Systems

Four Pillars of Business Growth

Written by Matthew Russo in Lessons in Systems | Join the Conversation

Four Pillars of Business Growth

Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of presenting to a room full of aspiring entrepreneurs and veteran small business owners at the 10th Annual Ohio Growth Summit. As always, it was a great event and I had the opportunity to trade ideas with some incredibly smart and talented people – both on the speaker and attendee sides. The premise of my session, “Systems for Growth: Why Building Bridges Is Better Than Building Islands,” was that business owners today spend a lot of time spinning their wheels jumping from one tactic to the next. The result is a graveyard of incomplete business systems that don’t work to support one another. Worse, they often amount to a plethora of things owners can (and maybe should) be doing but don’t have the time to focus on. Social media seems to be the primary distraction these days, but it is certainly not the only culprit. So I zoomed out on the problem until I identified where business owners are wasting their time, and the four keys areas to focus on instead that will lead to dramatic improvements over time. The Power of One Percent As owners, we often want to experience massive...

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Systems Are Like Newborns

Written by Matthew Russo in General | Join the Conversation

If you’ve been reading this blog for any period of time, you may have the perception that systems are simple – that if you set them up once, they’ll run themselves and solve all your problems in the meantime. Bad news: that’s not (always) the case. This is especially true if your system(s) have been set up recently. Systems – especially new ones – are fragile. They are generally weak and susceptible to outside forces. They may generate some of the desired outcomes you hoped for, but they almost certainly will not be able to sustain themselves for any period of time. Why? Mostly because they aren’t tested. They haven’t had a chance to interact with the world yet. And while they may have all the components they need to be successful, they are often underdeveloped and too weak to be useful on their own. Learning from Experience As some of you may know, my wife and I just had our first child – a daughter named Lane – a few weeks ago. The time we have spent with her so far has been incredible. The past three weeks have revealed many parallels between the business systems I build...

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Stop Trying to Do It All

Written by Matthew Russo in General | Join the Conversation

Most entrepreneurs view themselves as superheroes. Faster than an Internet meme, more powerful than an assembly line, able to conquer markets in a single bound. We like to do everything ourselves because it sounds glamorous. And we’re gluttons for punishment. We’re also smarter, more focused, and more driven than anyone else out there. What we might lack in skill we surely make up in willpower and instinct. A brilliant strategy for working 70+ hours a week; a horrible plan for building a system that will actually help our businesses grow. But that “E” emblazoned on our chests – the same one gives us our superhuman determination and vision – is often the same one that keeps us from reaching our full potential. Why Doing It All Is a Horrible Idea As a business owner, your purpose is to hone and deliver your core competency – the one thing you do better than anyone else and customers are willing to pay for – as quickly and efficiently as possible. But when many small businesses are just getting started, it may not be financially feasible to outsource work to the best accountant or the best videographer or the best digital marketing strategist...

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Defining and Measuring Success

Written by Matthew Russo in Guest Posts | Join the Conversation

Defining and Measuring Success

Why is this always the hardest part of everyone’s job? Regardless of job function or industry, everyone is ultimately held accountable to the dreaded ROI questions: what defines success / were our efforts successful / what is the ROI? What makes this topic so daunting is that there appear to be an endless array of success factors to choose from – so much so that defining what success looks like can feel paralyzing. Furthermore, getting to a valuation of ROI seems nearly impossible when there are an increasing number of intangibles in play throughout customer experiences. 3 Steps to Measuring Success In my 10+ years of experience, I have worked in the automotive, healthcare, banking, insurance and fashion retail industries. As disparate as these sectors are, I have learned three practical lessons that are germane to each industry as well as to the larger ROI conversation. Shift the Conversation Have you ever been asked something like, “What’s the ROI of our social media program?” My favorite response to that type of generality is, “Well, what’s the ROI of your phone?” The ROI of an organization’s entire social media (or print or creative, etc.) program cannot be accurately defined, by...

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Beware Incomplete Systems

Written by Matthew Russo in General | 3 comments

Every weekend, I send out the Sunday Systems newsletter. In it, I share a bit of inspiration, a story, and a link to my latest blog post about how to get the most of your business/money/life using systems. But last week I didn’t have anything to share. No inspiration. No blog post. No newsletter. Nothing. It’s not that I dropped the ball or that I was being lazy. Quite the contrary; I had tons going on, but I decided to practice what I preach. I committed to completing something that would pay dividends in the long run instead of taking the quick, easy win. Sure – I could have dropped everything to knock out a quick blog post or two. But it wouldn’t have had as much impact for the site in the long run. Why? The Problem with Instant Gratification Our natural inclination is to do the easy stuff before the hard stuff. It is far more satisfying to chalk up a bunch of small wins than it is to labor away on a single project for month or a week or a day. Do you know someone who is a “social media oversharer?” I feel like everyone does. They’re the people who...

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The Sales Funnel & Your Body of Work

Written by Matthew Russo in General | 2 comments

The Sales Funnel & Your Body of Work

I don’t know about you, but I cringe when I see good businesses struggle – businesses that make the world a better place, do great work, treat people with respect, and generate money for everyone involved. It pains me even more to witness sleazy, snake oil salesman-types sneak in at the last moment,  land a big sale, do shoddy work, and leave their customers (and competition) flustered and angry. Today, we’re going to break down why both scenarios take place – and what you can do to prevent your sales funnel from costing you money. What is the Sales Funnel? The “sales funnel” is a phrase used to describe the process of moving people and/or businesses from total strangers to customers of your company. The exact labels and number of steps will vary depending on the type of product or service you offer – as well as what industry your company services – but here are the major stages: Stranger – Someone who has never heard of your company/brand. Prospect – Someone who has heard of your company and may need what you offer, but doesn’t know what you do. Lead – Someone who now understands your product offering...

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Lessons in Systems: Anatomy of a Viral App

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Lessons in Systems: Anatomy of a Viral App

This past week, I started using a new app called Lift thanks to the recommendation of a friend. On the surface, the concept of Lift is simple. Lift allows users to set daily goals, then track and monitor their progress. I started using it because it ties in perfectly with my recent attempt to track my habits more consistently and monitor the tasks that yield the biggest impact on my business. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. Aristotle In the few days since I’ve started using it, I’ve already realized there are a few well-executed systems running behind the scenes that will help transform Lift into a major success – in my opinion. This is Not a Post About Apps As always, the goal of this post isn’t (necessarily) to inspire you to launch your own iPhone app. Instead, I hope to expose the hidden systems so that you can use some of the concepts in your own business – whether it operates primarily online, offline, or a combination of both. Let’s get started… Anatomy of a Viral App Step 1: Tap into Existing Audiences Upon creating a new account, Lift asks if...

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Lessons in Systems: Distribution

Written by Matthew Russo in Lessons in Systems | Join the Conversation

Lessons in Systems: Distribution

From mid-2010 to mid-2011, I was the Director of Social Media & Online Marketing for an e-commerce website called BULX.com. Though it was my first time working full-time for a web-based company, I was uniquely qualified for the position. BULX was (and still is) a  private sale site for high-end home improvement product. Each day, we notified our members about the sinks, faucets, toilets, fixtures, and home accessories that were available at deep discounts. Our Columbus team had two primary objectives: Grow our membership base Operate the technology (website) Looking back, we were young and probably a little inexperienced to run a website of that scale. We eventually created a solid process for getting products onto the site each day, but we were by no means innovative. By the time we were acquired in August 2011, however, we were extremely good at the member acquisition piece. Early False Assumptions Early on, I naively thought social media and blogger outreach alone would be enough to fuel our growth. But it became quickly apparent that the big blogs didn’t care about us (yet) and the small blogs didn’t have the audience to justify our time. That’s when Rob, one of the co-founders,...

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Pareto’s Principle & Systems Thinking

Written by Matthew Russo in General | 5 comments

Pareto’s Principle & Systems Thinking

During his studies, Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto noticed that 80% of the nation’s wealth was controlled by 20% of the population. Had he known about systems thinking, he may have uncovered why. Since then, this concept has been dissected and applied to many scenarios. Perhaps the most recent was Tim Ferris’s book The Four Hour Work Week. This post is not focused on how the principle works – or why –  but how we can apply it to our daily lives. Pareto’s Role in Systems Thinking Often, we become so consumed by our daily activities that we overlook – and in some cases, actively avoid – the tasks that lead to growth. We confuse the small, mundane to-dos that  just “have to get done” for those that will lead to impact. Done day after day, tasks become routines and soon we’re left wondering why we can’t get ahead. It happens in our personal lives through relationships with old friends or family members. And it happens in our businesses, whether we are solopreneurs, CEOs of Fortune 100 companies, or employees whose boss requires we complete low-level, time-intensive tasks. Making Impact Daily How aware are you of how you spend your time?...

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A-Students & Getting Un-Stuck

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A-Students & Getting Un-Stuck

Detail-oriented. Meticulous. Dedicated to your job. Thorough. Precise. Focused on the task at hand. Stuck. You know the type. Maybe you are the type. The type that works hard, that gets things done, that “handles it.” The type that puts in long hours to make sure your team and company shine. The type that pays careful attention to every detail, that crosses every “t” and dots every “i.” Without our type, the world would be in utter chaos. Without our type, the world would lack refinement and precision. It would be unorganized and late. If we aren’t the ones cleaning up everyone else’s messes, then who would? And yet. And yet, our efforts often go unnoticed. At least that’s the way it seems. If we are the ones getting things done, why aren’t we the ones with the high-paying jobs set in corner offices? Why aren’t we being rewarded? Why are our careers or lives or relationships stuck? Rewind Shortly after I graduated college, I read Robert Kiyosaki’s best-selling book Rich Dad, Poor Dad. The book sets out to examine why Robert’s biological father (his “poor dad”) – an educator with a Master’s degree – struggled  financially throughout his entire life...

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