Small business owners often react against the idea of systems. They fear that it reduces their work to just following instructions. They fear somehow losing whatever it is that makes them want to run their business.
But think of a violinist in an orchestra, or a band member on tour. Think of an actor playing Hamlet. Think of a chef creating her signature dish.
They’re the most creative of professionals, but working within strict limitations. Their means of expression and their tools are strictly defined by systems: the music, the text, the other actors and musicians, the promise to the audience or the restaurant guest.
And yet, they can achieve immense joy, inspiration and spiritual fulfilment.
The system becomes simply the framework for their skill to take off. The musician hears inspiration and magic from the other musicians around, understands completely what the conductor and the composer wants, and responds intuitively and joyfully. The actor feels the shape of the words is so perfect that it lifts his performance to a new level. The chef understand precisely how to season today’s ingredients to thrill her waiting customers.
It won’t happen every time they do it, and they don’t expect it to.
And yet the joy comes only from the framework. Where would the violinist be without the other musicians, the music, the conductor? The actor without Shakespeare? The chef without her concept?
Systems mean that we know what we expect of ourselves and the people who work with us. It means we’ve identified the best possible way we can find to do something, so we can concentrate only on doing it as well as we can. We don’t waste time or energy on trying to make improvements, or find a new way of doing something.
Systems set us free to succeed. Whether it’s your own time or that of your team, whether it’s a framework for answering customer enquiries, organising events, running your social media, or delivering your services to your clients, it means that the only thing that matters is how well it can be done. And achieving excellence is the most fulfilling, joyful task there is.