Are you in a business where the nature of the work that your employees do for your clients changes frequently? Do you find it challenging to create systems for your business and document procedures for the work you do because there are so many moving parts?
OWEN: My guest today is Raj Goel and he’s the president and co-founder of BrainLink. Raj, welcome to show.
RAJ: Owen, I’m glad to be here.
OWEN: So let’s jump right in, what exactly does your company do and what big pain or problem do you solve for your customers?
RAJ: We are an IT consulting services company based out of New York City and we focus on New York City based businesses, architecture firms, construction firms, property management firms. We have a strong focus on architecture, real estate and private equity firms. And the biggest pain we solve for our clients is we reduce the cost of downtime, we increase productivity.
OWEN: Awesome. Just so the listener can get and understanding of the scale of the business, how many full-time employees do you have right now?
RAJ: We’re a company of 8 people.
OWEN: Awesome. And what was last year’s revenue and what do you expect to generate this year, whatever you can share with us will be okay.
RAJ: All I can share with you is last year was our best year in business and this year we’re already 15% ahead of last year. We actually don’t disclose our numbers because we’re a privately owned firm. But we’ve been on a very good growth streak last 3 years running.
OWEN: Awesome. Because the whole goal of this interview is to talk about how you’ve been able to systematize the business so that it runs without you. But before you go to that point, we want to share with the listeners some of the issues you had in the past. Let’s talk about what will you say so far was the lowest point in the business and describe how bad it got. I think during the pre-interview you mentioned how hiring and training employees was difficult. Let’s talk about that.
RAJ: Yeah, for me, one of the biggest challenges as an IT professional who’s started a business is I’ve built a lot of IT systems early on and I had a vision of what an IT employee or professional should be able to do. What I discovered in the marketplace is that a lot of people looking for work, a lot of people we hired or we interviewed were not at the same skill sets. The skills are varied and they had expectations, I had expectations of their performance and they had expectations of the training we provide for them. And there was a mismatch and it was a really painful process that I’ve been suffering with for about 10 years which had multiple approaches, sending people to school, getting them certifications, hiring people at different salary points from 50k to 150k a year and everything in between. It never ever worked that well. Either I felt like I was being held hostage by my employees [Unintelligible 00:02:48] client and their systems and their processes, or the clients are getting underserviced. It was this hamster wheel of frustration and pain that finally had me go enough is enough last year. I can’t grow this business if I have 5 employees in the field. Each one is a vertical silo of data.
RAJ: So I looked at it as a data silo problem and said, “This is no different than what our clients face. They’ve got data and email, they’ve got data and share point, they’ve got data and database, they’ve got data on the web. We’ve got these data silos and we need the business to work more effectively. And first the data silo was the knowledge or a client’s IP systems, and processes, and people, and issues that our employees carrying inside their heads.
OWEN: Yes. So what was the first thing that you did to fix this issue? Because during the pre-interview you said the first thing you did was you pulled or interviewed your peers. Can you talk about that?
RAJ: Sure. After I was able to articulate the problem, I’ve got 5 employees in the field. They all know what’s going on. I don’t have a clear picture. And if an employee’s out sick, or quit, is on vacation, it’s hard to back build that position because the client expects us to walk-in knowing what they discussed previously. And I can’t say that I write blank slate everytime new shows up, and I interviewed about 40 of my peers and most of them said they had similar issues and they’re all grappling with it. Three of peers said, “We used to have that problem but we don’t have it anymore.” I said, “Okay, what’s your secret?” They all said they had written processes and procedures. One actually called it written processes and procedures. One actually called it SOP’s, Standard operating procedures. As I dug further into it I recognized that the really successful businesses had SOP’s but they were all static documents that were useless the moment after they were written. A lot of firms had grown by implementing them and then had fallen out of love with him because what had been a really good solution at one point became an albatrosser on their neck 6 months or a year later.
OWEN: I understand. You mentioned that after you’ve spoken to your peers and they told you what to do to solve the problem, can you share this story of how you started implementing the solution by creating the procedure for your marketing assistant?
RAJ: Sure. I travel a lot. Last year I spent 62 business days out of the office, speaking at conferences around the world. I’ve spoken at the [Unknown place 00:05:29], D.C., Chicago, I was in an airplane basically every two weeks last year, or so it felt like. Whereas my technology team can do technology support and delivery without me, marketing and sales are my responsibility. I can’t make somebody else do that because marketing is my vision and so far, it’s my key responsibility of the company. I was setting up to a trip and we have to do our monthly newsletter and our weekly e-blasts. I said, “I won’t be in town and I will not be able record it with my assistant to get this thing done in a face-to-face real-time. So I wrote the first SOP out of necessity. It was not some great plan, it wasn’t a great idea, it was just, I put something out there so at minimum you get 90% of the work done without me. I could then check in and fix whatever issues or bugs we might run into afterwards. I wrote two of the first SOP’s for her. One is how to put together our newsletter, and second is how to do our weekly e-blast. Surprise, surprise, I gave it to her, I go away on a trip, I’m expecting things to break, I’m expecting problems to occur. Not a single problem occurs. She was able to handle it by herself and she actually did a better job than I normally did.
OWEN: You mentioned that this is, particularly on the marketing side. You share that story with those in the production side, the text in your company. They kind of struggled with this thing that it is possible, just because it was marketing that’s why it worked. Talk about that.
RAJ: They actually said, “Yeah, that’s fine. It’s from marketing. Marketing is easy. It’s not going to work on the technology delivery side. Our problem is too complicated, our clients are too unique, it’s never the same problem twice. That’s nice for the simple stuff from the marketing. It’ll never work in technology. That was a cultural battle we had in our company for about 6 weeks. I would say, “Guys, do it” they would say no. It was almost this tug of war between my vision and their resistance. So I said, “Fine, you guys are smarter than me. I don’t have the time to deal with this.” I wrote an SOP, gave it to one of new techs and say, “Here you go, implement this for me.” I don’t even remember what it was. It was setting up a new client workstation I think. There’s 27 pages, about 50 steps.
OWEN: Let me see if I can break it down for the listeners. At this point now, when you shared the story about the success with the marketing assistant they didn’t want to move forward with it because they felt that their clients and whatever they do for the clients is so unique it wouldn’t be able to be replicated. You decided instead of fighting back and forth with them you went ahead and started the process of creating your own documentation or procedures for the technical side of things, right?
RAJ: Correct. There’s a client I personally manage which my techs don’t because it’s a legacy client of ours. When it came time for us to set-up a new Mac desktop for them I took the lead, I created the documentation. Gave it to one of my new techs and said, “Here’s what I remember. Go get this on. If you run into new problems give me a call. The new tech, he had not been in the company that long so he didn’t know the cultural history. He was still on the yes, boss phase, so he…
OWEN: He wasn’t tainted by it.
RAJ: He’s not settled by the baggage of our history. He was able to go in an implement it. I would’ve normally done the work in about 2 hours, it took me about 4. He had to do one problem with the printers, because it turned I had not documented the printers correctly. Everything else he was able to do flawlessly. When I shared that story with tech team they started saying, “You know what, maybe this might work.” The temperature dropped a little bit. They were still not sold. But a week later one of my techs who does a lot of troubleshooting. I know you’re going to have to do it again next week. It’s a recurring problem with this client. I want the SOP. I want the process, write it down. And I’ll make you a bet. If you never use it again I’ll give you a hundred bucks. If you have to use it again, you owe me an apology. Heads you win, tails… He can’t lose. Finally, he said, “Fine, I’ll do it.” He did and a week later he comes back to me and says, “You were right.” “About what?” Because I’m never right on my team. And he goes, “That SOP I wrote, it just saved me 4 hours of frustration.” “Yeah, tell me more.” Same client, same issue, because he had those steps all written down, screenshots taken. What normally would take me an hour plus two hours of complaining about he resolved in 15 minutes.
RAJ: That was big breakthrough. So last October, it’s year ago, we had zero SOP’s. By December I think we had 4 or 5, as of today we have close to 500 at one point. My team was creating a brand new SOP a day.
OWEN: We’re going to talk about how you got them to that point where they are creating procedures. Now you went from 0 to 500, and literally, your employees know what to do. I’m curious. You shared the story so far about the very first thing you did. But I’m wondering, what was the next thing you did after that though? I think during the pre-interview you mentioned how you came up with this rule where it’s either they’re creating, modifying SOP… Go ahead.
RAJ: The first is in December we got started writing SOP’s, by January it had some traction. My techs were creating SOP’s on their own. Then calling me they were doing it. The senior guys were doing it, the new guys who were doing it. They were doing it and they were basically challenging each other. They were reviewing each other’s work. I had almost no hand in it, which was phenomenal because I was busy travelling anyway. After a while I think it was about around February or March of this year that we developed a BrainLink mantra of SOP’s, and it’s very simple. You’re using an SOP, you’re modifying an existing SOP because something changed.
RAJ: You’re creating a brand new SOP or you’re fired. Initially it was a tongue and cheek joke, but I have to say this year I hired 6 people and I’ve fired 5 of them, two because they were just the wrong fit, it was a wrong hire, and three, for failing to live up to that process. There’s some people who’re good at solving problems, they’re really good techs, I can’t take that away from them. They did good work but they were not willing to document. They’re not willing to share what they have learned, they’re not willing to learn from others. For me it’s now become an anchor point. Now we have a formula at BrainLink, solving the problem correctly gets you 20 points. Writing the SOP gets you 30 points. The client telling me that they’re happy they resolved is 20 points, so now what, 70 points?
RAJ: In the final 30 is when your teammates reuse your SOP and give you kudos on it.
OWEN: How are you tracking these points? Because you’re trying this whole thing of helping you create systems for your business into a games. Let’s talk about the mechanics behind how you’re actually doing that.
RAJ: We’re not gamifying it. If it’s small, you’re creating an SOP on a daily basis, the next time somebody looks at it we’ll look at the version history. If you’re the only one using it no one’s actually reviewed it. If it’s a small SOP like how to send Outlook signature it may not be critical. If it’s something important, setting up a VMware server, setting up an server, troubleshooting a network outage, things we use consistently or things that are big problems that we solve. We look at how many people touched it. No, when somebody writes an SOP, I just wrote one today for myself, that’s one thing. When somebody else reviews it and they use it, then it goes into a beta SOP forest once 3 or more people have used it, or it’s been used 3 times successfully, then it becomes a production SOP. There’s no fancy spreadsheets, there’s no charting. We’re a small team, we’re not a company of 2,000 people where we have to spreadsheet everything. It’s pretty easy to know who’s writing, it’s pretty easy to know who is using it. And for certain technologies we have our thought layers. In the firewall I’ve got one guy. We’ve just done all the firewall SOP’s on him because he’s just so good at it. The backups got another guy. But we do cross-train each other. The point of the cross training… I’m good at marketing, but if I’m not sick I’m travelling, I’m stuck somewhere, somebody else has to be able to get the newsletter and the email blast out with me on the phone. I don’t have a computer, it doesn’t mean we have to be a cripple. With the firewall guy, he’s good at what he does, we can’t do what he does 100%, but 90% of what he does is rinse and repeat.
OWEN: Go ahead, finish your thought.
RAJ: The cross training is where it shows up and we get to see who’s contributing, and who’s using. I’d call my team. “Hey, who did well this week, who did well today?” And when somebody goes, “Hey, [Unintelligible 00:15:28] got an awesome SOP” or “Chris did an amazing job” or Chris goes, “I walked on this client, they had this, this, this. I used these three SOP’s and it made my life so much easier. Those things get tracked, and then they get rewarded?
OWEN: I’m curious. What tool are you using to manage this all the way from the right end to making sure that they are monitoring…
RAJ: That’s a great question. First, we stared out with Word documents because everybody’s got Word.
OWEN: Microsoft Word.
RAJ: Just Microsoft Word, just a simple 3-column table, template, and Word. We started with that. We got it to about 250 SOP’s and then we realized that had a problem. The latest SOP was always in somebody else’s hard drive, never ever in our corporate server.
RAJ: In somebody’s email, if somebody’s in progress… And we’ve been using wiki’s for the last 10-15 years. In July of this year I hired an intern, I paid him. For 6 weeks his entire job, 10 hours a day, was to convert our SOP’s from Word into our wiki format, on Confluence.
OWEN: Okay. You use Confluence and convert your Word document into a wiki on Confluence. Go ahead.
RAJ: Going forward all the SOP’s are done in Confluence, so the latest version is always on the wiki.
RAJ: It gives us change control, whether you make a minor change or a big change, we can see it. There’s some of the SOP’s we have that are up at 34 revisions. Some post a typo fix. Somebody just completely replaced a third of the SOP, just something, fundamental changes, some wiki map. I love that our SOP’s are in Confluence because now we have the latest data available. We invested in some plug-ins and some other technology, which gives my techs the ability to go look at a client and dump all the SOPs into a PDF file in less than 10 minutes. So they can walk into a client with new type knowledge base sitting on a thumb drive or a hard drive, and not have to rely on the internet to get their work done.
RAJ: Going from zero to now you say, about 400 or more than 400 procedures of the different tasks that you do for your client. To the listener who probably doesn’t even have one, he might be overwhelmed. But I’m trying to figure out how did you prioritize and determine where you should start with. Because obviously you didn’t get the 400 overnight, you have to start from somewhere. What thought process did you use to say, “This is where I’m going to start with”? There is no great master plan, it really comes down to whatever I’m working on, whatever you’re working on, SOP it. If somebody says, “Hey, I setup a printer for client X.” “Did you SOP it?” “Hey, we’ve got a new referral for client Y.” “Do you have the SOP’s with you?” “Hey, I cleaned a virus on Becky’s machine.” “Did you SOP it? Did you use an SOP.” First, I started asking that to my team and now they ask each other where’s the SOP? And they hold each other accountable. The really painful part is when I drop the ball and they adopted the SOP.
OWEN: Yourself, yes.
RAJ: They are the first to go. And where’s the SOP, and I have to go, “I’m working on it.”
OWEN: Obviously, you can’t create a system and you not use it, that’s the key there.
RAJ: Right. That’s when I knew they had really adopted it when they’re holding me to account not to play God-trip. But because they realized how important it is that even things that I do need to be documented so somebody else can cover if I’m not available, or if I’m too busy, and I delegate it.
OWEN: You mentioned during the pre-interview I think the quote from JW Marriott. That way, it’ll give the listeners some context as to how this really influenced you.
RAJ: I’m a huge fan of The Economist. Last December 2012 they did an article on history of hotels in the world, how hotels came to be, and where the industry is going. There is a lovely quote from JW Marriott, Jr. The former [Unintelligible 00:19:55] and I’ll read it to you. He said, “When I say that the company’s prosperity rest on such things as our 66 steps to clean a room manual, I am not exaggerating.” When I read that, it light bulbed, and a bomb went off in my head. The article also went on to say that for each of the hotel chains, the Marriott’s, the Hilton’s, the W’s, The Ritz-Carlton’s, they consider their SOP’s and their process manuals intellectual property, and things that separate them from their peers. It makes perfect sense.
RAJ: For us our SOP’s are a key differentiator from our peers and our competition, they’re also a great value add to our clients. Because as we’ve taken on clients through our career the biggest challenge we find is clients don’t know all their vendors, they don’t even know how many vendors they have. In some cases they don’t even know how many employees they have. They think they’ve got 150 employees, that’s our payroll says. You look at the exchange [Unintelligible 00:21:03] they’ve got 250 people, because 100 people were let go, fired, retired, but their mail accounts never went away because some vendor, some application, or some tool relies on it.
RAJ: They have 150 bodies on payroll, they’ve got 250 people in exchange. They’re paying for 325 on spam filtering because they never took some old people, or some stuff they threw for a marketing campaign in 2007 never got taken off. We actually promised our clients that we’ll document everything and we share our SOP’s that belong to them with them. It’s not intellectual property.
OWEN: I want to jump into that. Let me play devil’s advocate. You have clients who are doing work for them, and then you’re sharing how you’re doing work for them with them. That might be like, “Why can’t they just go and hire somebody in-house if you’re going to be sharing with them the procedures and processes for what you do for them?
RAJ: Great question. We have the debate internally. I’ve had to debate with 150 of my peers. Here’s the way I look at it. Look at all the food shows. Look at Iron Chef, look at Chop, look at all of these. Each chef gets the same ingredients, how they deliver the final meal is they forte. I could give you all my SOP’s right now. I publish my SOP’s online, I give them to my peers. Just because you have my SOP’s, it doesn’t mean you have my people, you have my relationships, you have our will to win. If I took your list and we’re the same business, I couldn’t succeed the way you succeed because you have a personality.
OWEN: The DNA is part of the whole thing.
RAJ: The SOP’s, they’re recipes. We all get recipes on a box of macaroni and cheese, but I promise you, my Mac and cheese is different than yours. You do something slightly different, that makes it better, that makes it yours.
RAJ: That to me, the client documentation, it’s an article of faith, it belongs to the client, it’s their property, they paid us to do it. It belongs to them because at the end of the day if we go out of business, I get hit by a truck. I don’t want the people who paid me in taking care of my family, my employees to suffer because we’re holding me hostage. One of the dirty secrets of the IT industry, a lot of IT firms hold them on hostage.
OWEN: I like that way of thinking, because the reality is are you delivering value for them? And if you’re delivering value for them then they’re going to remain a customer. So there’s no need to try and hold them hostage with any kind of holding back their own IP or their own knowledge of how you do the work for them. I love that. Let’s talk specifically now how the systems that you have in place that literally enabled the business to run without you. You’ve spoken about how you guys now have over 400 procedures for all the task that you do for your clients. But I’m sure the other systems that you guys have in place that you can reveal to the listeners.
RAJ: Yes. First thing is everything is SOP’ed, whether it is how do we setup a server or how do we book an airline ticket. If it’s going to be done more than once it’s going to be written down. I’ve actually started SOP’ing parts of my life that are not business related that are repeatable processes. The only thing we’ve discovered almost accidentally is things are new, they’re really fun, after a while everything becomes a drag. I get to delegate all of my drive work, since I don’t want to do things I don’t have time for. As long as I can SOP it I can dump it on somebody else.
RAJ: And that’s how I’m creating my team. When you started 3 years ago, you were Jr. tech, you did all the grunt work. If you want to do the grunt work the rest of your life keep doing what you’re doing. If you want to move up in the food chain, give them the new guy a grunt work, give him stuff you don’t want to do. Not because you don’t like it, you’re not good at it, it’s not your forte, do what you are better at. I’m better at speaking, writing, and marketing. I’m all for technology. My guys, one guy is better at firewall, one guys is whatever else. We SOP a lot of our things. And even on the personal level. When I can SOP how to deposit a check correctly so my wife doesn’t get angry at me, it makes my life a lot easier. That’s one area where the business has been able to run without me. The other is investing heavily in our team.
OWEN: How so?
RAJ: No matter what [Unintelligible 00:25:51] to get hired at, every person who works at BrainLink has an annual budget of $5 to $15,000 per employee for professional development. We invite them to take technical courses if they’re in technology, marketing courses if they’re in marketing, also life development stuff like things [Unintelligible 00:26:12] landmark education, or Tony Robbins. We send them on professional conferences and trips. I actually hold people accountable for reading… Most of my team is technical so they get paid to go technology training. They also get paid for reading non-technical books. Things like How To Win Friends and Influence People, Think and Grow Rich, Get Things Done, The 4-Hour Workweek. As I invest in my people and I show them there’s more to life than just doing the work, and efficiency absolutely rules. They are becoming well-rounded human beings. We’re having better conversations, they’re becoming more professional, and I have to do less work. Today for example I have done one and a half hours of work the entire day. I have a friend from Australia who’s visiting so I played host to a friend of mine. Now, I’m on an interview with you. I didn’t check the email, I haven’t done a lot of work because my team can do all these work without me.
OWEN: I’m curious too, employees come and go. Did you hesitate with this whole thing of spending all that money and educating and training them know that they might…
RAJ: Actually no, I discovered the reverse. Like I said this year, I hired 6 and I’ve just let go 5 in the last 10 months. To the employees that we let go, or 1 resigned and one I fired, they both complained in their interview or the pre-hiring phase that their old employers were not giving them training and all that stuff. I said, “Great. Part of working at BrainLink, you get to do your work and bill 30-40 hours a week. You’re also required to get a certification a month, and here’s the creative development plan. I’m paying for the training, I’m paying for the test. All they have to do is actually crack the books and take the test. And they chose not to.
RAJ: As for your question about am I concerned about investing in employees, there’s an old magnet I have on fridge. I don’t know where I got it, I probably found in the college days. What happens if you invest on your employees and they leave, or what happens if you don’t invest and they stay? I’m more afraid of the incompetent nincompoop who stayed for 30 years. Then if somebody who really accelerates the way I see it as an employer and a team leader, my job is fairly simple. I set the initial salary, everything else, all the bonuses and raises are up to my team to earn. Quite frankly, if I don’t see their value, my team never has to ask for raises. If they have to ask for a raise, we have a problem because we have a mismatch. Either I fail to value them properly, in which case they should leave because they’ve been undervalued. Or they’ve over-valued themselves, in which case we need to have a discussion about the disconnect. Historically, my people don’t come to me and say I need a raise. I go and say, “Congratulations. Here’s your raise, here’s your new title because you’ve earned it.” It’s my job to take care of my people.
OWEN: Definitely. I guess I should make this question more concrete for you. Imagine your business kind of like a conveyor belt. On one end, a company who are probably having IT issues. They’ve not decided who to go with yet and they need someone to manage IT related stuff for them. On the other end that same person is now transformed into someone who is raving about you guys because they’re your customer, they love your work. But in-between that transformation is a bunch of processes and systems working, and even people behind the scenes making that happen. I want to give the listener a top down view of how the different parts of your business are working to make that transformation happen from the two ends that I mentioned. Did you understand what I’m saying?
RAJ: I do. Let’s go through a customer life cycle at BrainLink.
RAJ: Before they’re our customer we have to market to them. You have to have a need that we can solve. First you have to know we exist. We have to know you exist. There has to be a meeting of the minds. You have a problem, we have a solution. You’ve got the money, we have a cultural fit, let’s go. That’s a marketing and sales issue, that’s my responsibility. My job is to put clients on a conveyor belt bringing in. There I work with my marketing admin, I work with my marketing coaches, my peers that are IT business owners. We get together on a weekly or a bi-weekly basis and we discuss marketing, strategy, and so on. That is my responsibility. It’s my job to keep the revenue pipeline and sales pipeline full.
OWEN: Chief revenue officer.
RAJ: Yes. Once I have a client signed, I’ve done the pre-discovering with my engineers and we understand what their issues are, and we come to an agreement on what we’re going to do for the client, and the proposals, the agreements, and the contract signed. Then I hand it over to my team. This is where standards, procedures, and SOP’s come into play. To give you a true fact story, a year ago in November we on-boarded a client with 10 servers and it took my lead engineer 24 man hours to do it.
RAJ: Before that we were spending 16 hours a server.
RAJ: We open 16 hours of server to roughly two and a half hours of server. We did more work in less time because we had planned things out, we have SOP’s, we project plans, we’d systemized our business. I turned to my team and we’ve built these systems. They’re not perfect. There’s nothing ever written in stone because technology moves so fast. So I give my team authority to make changes on the fly and to keep the team updated. Now you’re on the conveyor belt as a client. You’ve been on-boarded. We’ve solved some problems, we found some new problems, we may have created a few new problems by changing things, nature of the beast. My team takes care of it. In that same time frame I may hire new employees, I may fire employees, some employees may quit, some may leave, some may get sick. That is one of the recurring challenges that I’ve been living with for over a decade as a business owner. When It talk to my peers, our three biggest fears are not having enough clients. Once we have enough clients, not having enough revenue. Once we have both of those solved, it’s being held hostage by our employees.
RAJ: By having this standardized, systematized business, I am free from being held hostage by any single employee. If they all leave I’m in trouble. But it doesn’t have to be that dramatic and that Draconian. Employees can fall sick, they can have wife issues, they can get married, they can have babies, they can have a sick parent, they can have a sick pet, things that de-focus them. That’s okay, life happens. By systematizing our business we’ve been able to move techs from client A to client B, bring new ones on-speed faster. I’m really proud to say that today is week 6 of my newest hire and he has done more in 6 weeks than a tech used to do for us in 6 months just 2 years ago.
OWEN: That’s awesome. That’s a great improvement. I’m curious, knowing the nature of your business where different companies might have different IT-related needs. There is this kind of thing, like one of your employees early on, before you even convinced them on the need to systematize. We say, “My customers are unique because they have different problems.” Given the fact that you want to systematize, how does that play to where the customer’s needs might be different per customer? Did you understand what I’m saying?
RAJ: Sure. I absolutely do. Different clients have different firewalls, everybody has a different car.
RAJ: I drive a Ford, you may drive a Chevy, somebody else may drive a Toyota, somebody would drive a Hummer, somebody may drive a bus. We don’t tell our clients you all have to drive Fords. I am not that Draconian. “You want to drive a Toyota? Drive a Toyota. Mike wants to drive a Hummer? Drive a Hummer.” We’re mechanics, we’ll figure it out. If you’ve got a G5. We don’t disservice jet planes, get somebody else. You got a bicycle? We’re not your people. One of the things that we’ve done in our business, and this is in the [Unintelligible 00:35:11] a year and a half ago, is we don’t do business with everybody. We don’t take everybody as a client. Not everybody’s fit to be a client of ours. We’re not fit to be service providers for everybody so we look for some commonalities. That’s why we work with architects, [Unintelligible 00:35:28] management firms, construction firms, contractors, people with an architectural focus because we understand that industry. We assume the key lines of business, we understand their mentality.
OWEN: The main problems they have because of the similarities of the businesses they’re in right?
RAJ: No. Individually each business is completely different. Even if they’re just tools, their internal process is different, their internal culture is different, the people are different, but we understand their mindset. One thing I look for as CEO and chief sales officer is before I take on a client, do we have a cultural mind meld. If we’re comfortable with them, they’re comfortable with us we’ll go ahead. It’s a lot like dating and marriage. It’s not just technology. Do we have the right cultural fit. Some people we’re not culturally fit for. Some people are not culturally fit for us. This is the biggest challenge I face and the biggest thing I have to work out for. Am I taking on the right client, at right price point, with the right cultural fit. If we can’t get along with them socially and if we don’t have the freedom to make mistakes we’re not going to do business with them. If we don’t give them the freedom to run their business the way they want to they’re not going to do business with us. My job is doing a cultural fit from client to our culture, and our culture to our employees. So that what they’re looking for at the end of the day is an experience. IT services is no different than going to a hotel. Whether a Hilton, or a Marriott, or a Waldorf, or Four Seasons, yes, each price point gives you a different level of experience but you know what to expect. Our model ourselves after W Hotels. We are a boutique firm, we don’t have a billion clients, we’re not a McDonald’s. We’re not a Holiday Inn, or a Howard Johnson’s. So we do bespoked services for selected clientele. We have a growing business, we are New York City focused. Who knew that the most important things in life is not the business. It’s the kids, the family, it’s going home at night, it’s planning for college tuition, it’s next to vacation. Business problems will come and go, technology problems will come and go, the people remain, life remains.
OWEN: Yes, I live that. And given that trying to systematize your business already comes with a lot of challenges. Let’s talk about some of the challenges that you experienced when you made the decision a couple of years back that you want to actually start creating SOP’s for everything you guys do and how you solve them. During the pre-interview you mentioned initial challenge was staff resistance.
RAJ: Yes. It’s not even a year yet.
RAJ: The first challenge I actually had was of myself. When my peers told me this, I said, “We can’t do it. We’re not as big as they are, we’re not as rich as they are, we’re not as smart as they are”, the usual head trash in my own head. When I was forced to create for my marketing SOP’s because I had to leave for a trip, that made me go, “Aha, maybe this will work.” Battled my own demon and I put him to bed. Then I went to my team and they were, compared to my own resistance a lot less. And I win each person, one person at a time. Everytime I hire a new person I have to fight the battle all over again I’m just getting better at it. I have to fight the battle all over again, I’m just getting better at it. What used to take me 2 to 3 weeks to get [Unintelligible 00:39:03] now I get a [Unintelligible 00:39:04] in 15 minutes or half hour. One of the things you do in an interview process for example is I put up a 20-minute video on how to write SOP’s with our SOP format.
OWEN: Yes, I was getting to that. I’m glad you mentioned that. Go ahead, talk about it.
RAJ: When I’m interviewing a candidate, the resume looks good, they passed our testing, they’ve got the right scores, we do Skype interview, they look good. Okay, before I meet with you here’s a link to my SOP video. Watch it, here’s a template. Write me an SOP on how you configured your phone for your email. There are thousands of cell phones out there. Every phone is different, every work is different, HP versus Verizon, versus Motorola, versus iPhone. Great. Now I’m looking for how well do you document, how well do you write, did you understand the problem? People who don’t submit they’re automatically disliquified and we tell them that. If I don’t get this, we will get to the next step. If they send me the SOP, and it’s a simple thing, it should take them 15, 20 minutes tops. Then we look for language, grammatical errors, typos, sentence construction, did they take screenshots, did they actually watch the video and take away the key tips. Now, just as I say no to a lot of prospects, I would take on selected prospects to put in to our pipeline to become potential clients. I say no to a lot candidates, everytime we put a job out I get [Unintelligible 00:40:30] resumes. If we’re lucky, we might talk to 2 or 3 people out of it because most people [Unintelligible 00:40:40] like we are through scripts or autobots. I can’t understand why somebody would sit there, apply for a job and then not do something simple as show up well-dressed for a Skype interview and have writing samples. Everybody has a Smartphone with an email. If you can’t write the docs for that you’re not going to write docs something a lot more complicated [Unintelligible 00:41:02].
OWEN: The other issue you mentioned that was a challenge was, you said specifically the second key challenge was inadequate models. I’m thinking that has to do with the model of the business. Can you explain what that is?
RAJ: The second challenge we have in the SOP’s was inadequate model for SOP’s
OWEN: Okay, not the model of the business. I got that wrong.
RAJ: That’s fair. If you look at any type of documentation, crack open Apple, or Microsoft, or whoever, classic model is it looks more like a textbook. Chapter heading, a lot of text, maybe a table. By the time we finished reading it your mind numb, you’re brain worked, you’re just functionally stupid because the documentation has just shut your brain down.
RAJ: When you look at it, your admin has a sample of it. One of my friends gave me their SOP for setting up a firewall. It’s not a bad document. It’s [Audio skip 00:41:58] of text, and looking at it my eyes glaze over. In my techs their eyes glazed over and I said this is not a workable format. One of my strengths is effective problem solving, so I looked at it, I said “What’s wrong with this format? Why don’t I like it?” I like simple things. For me the best SOP on the planet is on the side of a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, or at the back of Ramen Noodles. If you look at it, the ramen noodles. Boil water. There’s a picture of the pot with water in it and some steamed rice. Boil water, open packet, put noodles in, cook for 3-4 minutes, open the spice packet, stir and mix, bowl, eat. That’s the entire recipe for doing a ramen noodle, we call them recipes. I modeled the recipes after that with a 3-column format. How many step numbers? Step 1, step 2, step 3, step 4.
RAJ: Middle column is the text, what we’re all used to. The right column, the third column is our secret weapon, it’s a screenshot with highlights, bolding, and circle. Arrows telling you. On the screen, look at your screen right now, you’ve got 5, 10, 20, maybe 100 places you can click on. If it’s going to be a screenshot it’s kind of pointless so we train our team highlight what you clicked on. It’s the three things I have to follow, click here, click here, click here, which is the most common things. Highlight all three things and draw the arrows, click, click, click. And on the text side tell me in bold what am I supposed to click on? Insert CD, click setup, click next, click next, type in name, click next, type in the license key, click, click, [Unintelligible 00:43:42] install, done. Most people would just write that as 1 or 2 paragraphs, we actually make it simple ramen noodle stupid. Every step should have a text and a screenshot. If I can’t follow it, 2 o’clock in the morning half drunk, it’s not a good SOP.
OWEN: I like that. And during the pre-interview you mentioned that now this very format for documenting how you guys do stuff for your company that you have actually started showing other people how to do exactly the same thing in your industry. Talk about that.
RAJ: I shared it with over 150 of my peers worldwide, and I’m actually writing my third book on the SOP culture. Part of that’s going to be how you can build an SOP culture in your business. It’s not IT specific. We have processes in every business. How do you fill-out a tax [Unintelligible 00:44:37], how do you fill out a payroll slip, how do you call in payroll for your employees? The SOP culture can apply to any business, any family. It started with us in the IT business, for me. But now I’m writing the SOP manifesto book and I’ll show you how to build SOP’s, how to build an SOP culture in your family, in your business. Because the more you systematize the easier your life becomes. In a perfect world I want my guys to be at least as good as Starbucks. You walk in to any Starbucks in the world, order a Mocha Frappuccino, it’s the same exact taste done perfectly everywhere you go.
RAJ: That’s not true in IT business, that’s not true in most businesses. If you’re telling me to challenge my team, “Guys, we should be half as good as Starbucks and that would be a victory indeed.”
OWEN: Definitely. Given that creating systems itself is you have challenges with it. I’m just curious. Just so the listener also knows this. How did you stay committed to the new direction of systematizing your business? What kept you going even though with all the challenges on this?
RAJ: Well, bluntly put at this point, we’re addicted to them. The first 5 were hard, the first term were challenging. Now that my team is doing them. And my existing guys make the new guys do them, and they make me do them, and we make each other do them. Now, we can’t run our life without it. At this point the SOP’s to us is as important as the microwave.
RAJ: I remember in the 1980, we don’t have a microwave we’re like, “Who needs them?” By 1983 we couldn’t live without them. Right now our SOP’s are as important to us as our cell phones, credit cards, and microwave. We can’t live without it anymore.
OWEN: Basically it’s kind of a thing where you’re stuck to doing something over and over again. It now became a habit that you literally just…
RAJ: It only took 2 months. It didn’t take years. I’ve reminded myself it’s only been a year. The first 4 to 6 weeks were challenging. The next 2 weeks we’re a bit trying. Now, we’ve had 8 months of smooth sailing. In fact, the biggest challenge we’ve had is going how do we make them better. I invested in bunch of technology and money recently and make us even more efficient to make our SOP’s more productive to us and our clients. It’s become almost a sideline business or a full-time hobby. We’re actually challenging ourselves to do a better job every day.
OWEN: Can you share specifics of that if that’s possible?
RAJ: Sure. A year ago we had nothing, then we had a bunch of Word files in a directory. Then we setup a file sync server to secure Word docs. Then we went to the wiki and then wiki was just a giant dumpster of SOP’s. Then I hired a guy to dump them all from Word to wiki. We organized them, and now we’re looking at our 5th iteration of reorganization. It’s not just one giant dumpster, now it’s not just client-focused or technology focused, we’re now looking at how do we make this more effective? One of the things that we’ve discovered is when we SOP stuff like how to do a VPN from home or this morning, one of our client’s time clock servers on them that employees could scan their hands and to do time clock. I [Unintelligible 00:48:21], I SOP’d it. I simply SOP’d to my client’s secretary, and she went giddy on the phone. She’s like, “Wow, thank you for this. Next time I don’t have to call you guys to solve the problem.” “You know what, you’re still welcome to do that, that’s still our job. But you should never be held up because we’re busy, we’re on the phone, we’re in a subway.” Every time one of my techs has one of those experiences and somebody goes “Oh my god, thank you, this is a life saver, they get altered for life.
OWEN: I know what you’re talking about because when it comes to stuff with IT someone who’s technically challenged having issues. I definitely understand the kind of pain they’re going through when the computer freezes up and they can’t do what they need to do. I definitely see what you’re saying when you say that. We’ve talked about several systems that you have in place. First of all you mentioned how you guys literally document everything, how you invest in the training of your employees. I think during the pre-interview you also mentioned how… This is also another system you have is you have daily calls to discuss what got done and what needs to get done, let’s talk about that.
RAJ: Sure. This is another idea I borrowed, stolen, or copied from one of my friends. They do a daily huddle. I’m sure somebody invented the concept and there’s a patent on it. They do a 15-minute round the room who does what. We do half hour every day. Everybody gets on the phone or a Skype video these days. “Good morning, how are you doing? What did you get done yesterday, what’s in the agenda for today, what do I need to know, what do we need to know?” That goes a long way towards solving problems because now they’re things you can’t document, there are things you cannot put in an email. You can’t say, “Hey, James is going to be out on maternity leave next week.” There’s no way to communicate that effectively. There’s no way to say “Hey, Bob was really, really cranky yesterday. I don’t want to go back in there because he’s ripping my head off and I didn’t do anything to deserve it.” Or, “Hey, I spoke to the client, I don’t know what’s going on, but I saw 5 new people here this week.” And so the daily call lets us know what somebody did yesterday. What they’re doing today. Also, it’s to catch up culturally because I’m at client A, you’re at client B, she’s at client C, we’re not in the same room. This is how we can be in the same room together, and this makes a big difference in the business. This is how people build trust, it’s how they share knowledge.
RAJ: “Hey, you know what, I said that following with the client last week, are you [Unintelligible 00:50:55] this week?” Maybe it’s not isolated to one client. Time Warner goes down repeatedly, they’ll swear it’s the client’s problem. But at 5 different clients in 3 different counties’ having the problem, it’s probably Time Warner problem.
OWEN: Yes, I like that. Raj, we got disconnected. Before we got disconnected you were talking about how the systems you have for ticketing and scheduling, can we talk about that?
RAJ: Absolutely. Three years ago we started looking at how to make a business more efficient, what’s our biggest challenge? Our biggest challenge is I would go meet a client thinking they’re… I walked in fact, and happy thinking we’re doing a good job. Then we’d go, you guys did this, you guys got into that, you guys didn’t do this. We were dropping a lot of balls on the floor because we didn’t have a good ticketing system. They’re stopping email, they’re stopping people’s heads. When the first things we put in place almost 3 years ago is a very, very strong ticketing system. First we’d learn it ourselves, that took about 3 months. Then we had to turn in our text to use it. It took another 3 months. Then we had to train our clients. Some clients still haven’t learned and they’ll call us or email us outside of the system. But all new text, all new clients, the only way they know is to email firstname.lastname@example.org. You get a ticket, we follow up, and that has a dramatic difference in our business. Because now we don’t have to remember, “Oh, what did I promise somebody when?” You’re calling me up and say, “I got a problem with this” and you’re client. “Okay.” As soon as we hang-up I’m going to create a ticket. Either I’m going to create a ticket for what we just did and solve for you, so there’s a requisite. I’m going to create a ticket for a schedule for a later date. It happens all the time. Client emailed me at 11 o’clock last night. My Wi-Fi isn’t working they’re sending a guy. I was up. “Okay, yes.” I said, “Yes, my tech can be there at 10 in the morning.” He goes, “Can you make it 11 am instead?” “No problem.” Drag and drop, move to my tech schedule, 11 o’clock my tech is there. In our business a good ticketing system is critical. If you look at automotive industries or you look at any business where you have a lot of moving parts, some way of keeping track of it all is absolutely critical. For the IT industry a good PSA process server automation is absolutely mandatory in my opinion now. Three years ago I would’ve fought with you and disagreed with you, or disagreed with myself. Now I think I’m just a bit smarter.
OWEN: Wow. You’ve shared how you’ve been able to literally have outlines for all the different things that you do and the systems that you have in place. But I’m wondering how do you attract the results being delivered by your employees? During the pre-interview you mentioned how discussion, client feedback, and team feedback plays a role in that. Can we talk about those?
RAJ: Absolutely. When it comes to anything, my most important metric is, is the client happy? A lot of people I interview they think as a tech their job is solve the problem. If it’s a technical problem they’re done. No.
RAJ: We are no different than waiters at a good restaurant. One of the technical problem is anybody can solve it. You can Google most solutions. If you can’t, congratulations. But most technical solutions have a technical answer, that’s the easy part of the job. It’s the human relations. Understanding what the client really complained about. We had a client complain, the internet doesn’t work, it’s not working, we come in and replace the equipment. We were out there twice and then it turns out the in individual had turned airplane mode on their cell phone, and that was the entire complaint. It was not the laptop, it was not the desktop, it was not anything else, it was a cell phone on airplane mode and they didn’t know how to take it off. You might think it’s silly. I’m going to think it’s silly, to that person that was the biggest problem they had. We look at did we understand the client’s problem, so we get client feedback. Then we look at did we technically solve the problem correctly. There’s never one right answer. There’s 15 different ways to solve the problem, what approach do we take? Was it the right one? Could we have done a better job? So we debrief on our stuff.
RAJ: Lastly, internally, I call my team and they gave each other. I run a fairly open company and my team has a right to not only reveal each other but to reveal me because either we work together as a team or we die as one.
OWEN: Wow, I like that. You mentioned this earlier before and we breezed through it. You mentioned that initially you started using Word and a Word document to document the procedures. Then it became a lot and you had to put it on an online system. I curious, when you chose that person who helped you do the work was there any special criteria that we need to, maybe what kind of skills that a person had to have to help you move anything over, maybe in case the listener has that kind of issue.
RAJ: Sure. For me first, we’ve got this giant folder of documents, finding stuck in Word and Windows direct freeze a frame. Having their latest version was always becoming a real pain. It was always on somebody else’s hard drive, it was always somewhere not in the system. We have this Wiki, first we did internally ourselves. In the first 5 or 10 I had my techs do, and we figured out this is a workable solution. It’s not perfect, it’s better than what we have. Most days I’ll play for that. I’m not looking for perfect, I’m looking for an incremental improvement. Once we had done 15 or 20 of those, and we knew how to do it, and we’d SOP’d the process.
RAJ: Then when I hired a new tech… Everybody starts at the bottom of the food chain. “Okay, great. Can you do this?” It’s not the sexiest thing in the world, opening up Word, importing them to the wiki, and naming them correctly. It’s not sexy, you’re not going to put it in your resume. “I imported 357 SO Word documents into a wiki.” It’s not a career milestone, but can you do it? Can you do it correctly. Can you also find the efficiencies or do you do them? Can you come to me with good ideas and good answers? The person I hired, he was a kid fresh out from high school, had done 2 years of college, looking for work in an IT firm. Relatively smart, good writing skills, he could follow directions. And to his credit he did the work, he did the work very well. Was it perfect? No. Did we find mistakes? Yes, that’s human. But he moved us forward further in 6 weeks than we would’ve done in 9 months by ourselves because we’re already busy doing other things. By single tasking him we got it done. When it came time to reveal where he was he said, “You know what, I’ve had a change of heart I want to go study medicine, pharmacy, or something different. IT’s not for me.” “Hey, thank you very much.
OWEN: Yes. At least he has transformed most of the knowledge into this new tool. Great. You mentioned earlier that you’re using a ticketing and scheduling system just so the listener, we always want to share tools and resources here. What are some of the tool you’re using for that?
RAJ: For our business one of the tools is called ConnectWise. if you’re an IT business owner, ConnectWise is a fantastic tool for ticketing, scheduling and so on. And ticketing system is good for every business. Doctors call them scheduling systems. Mechanics, call an appointment systems. Every growing business at certain point gets the point where your own calendar and your memory’s not good enough.
RAJ: So whether you’re owning a restaurant, you’re running an IT firm. Are you running a radio show? Find yourself a scheduling system that’ll work. In the last decade I’ve gone through probably 10 or 12 of them. I found this, again, by interviewing about 50 of my peers and your guys. What do you guys use? Here’s what I’ve used, it doesn’t work for me, what do you guys use? Everybody had their favorite, everybody had complaints. I looked at the one most of my peers we’re using the peers I admired, and I walk them with the eyes open. It’s not perfect, it’s got issues, it’s got bugs. I
RAJ: So I find a friend…
OWEN: Which software doesn’t have bugs? Go ahead.
RAJ: Yes, the one I wrote. We plan now a buffer into the system. We roll the system out, first few months is internal use only. Next few months we did double accounting. We did accounting in the new system, the old system, tell them we understood it. While the vendor said we could do a thousand different things with it we only take on new features, new capabilities, slowly and incrementally. Once we mastered the previous ones we’ve got the good enough state because it’s an elephant, and a dinosaur, and a T-Rex, and an octopus all rolled into one. Trying to eat that in one bit will choke you.
OWEN: Yes. I’m glad you shared that. Since you have systems in place in your business and literally right now it runs without you. I’m curious, what will you say has been the longest time you’ve been away from the business?
RAJ: Last year I was out of the office 62 days. That included 10 days in Amsterdam, in the Hague. Then I was out for two and a half weeks straight, 10 days in Helsinki, overnight in New York, and 10 days in India. I was out for almost 21 days straight from the business. I came back to New York. After recovering from jet lag I was at the National [Unintelligible 01:01:10] 5 days. So I was effectively out of the office almost 30 days straight.
OWEN: Awesome. And comparing back in the days, how would you say your company has transformed as a result of you systematizing your business?
RAJ: In 2005, I could not go away for a long weekend without having heart palpitations.
OWEN: Sorry I’m laughing, but it’s funny. Go ahead.
RAJ: In ’05 I went for a long weekend. Things broke and I was on a cruise to Canada for 7 days with my family and I was on the phone for two and a half days. My phone bill was bigger than my cruise bill because back talking to the office. That was in ’05. Last year, I was out of the office 62 business days. Not 62 calendar, 62 business days.
RAJ: So not including weekends. And the business not only ran, it grew without me. This year I’ve been out of the office 3 days here, 7 days there, 10 days there, 5 days there. My job is now sales, marketing, writing my books, writing my articles, being the public face, and more importantly finding for our future, which is hiring, training, the data [Unintelligible 01:02:29], the data and tech work. We have a rule in the company, if I’m doing tech work somebody’s going to be in trouble. Because I’m going to screw it up and you have to clean it up.
OWEN: Seeing that you have so much free time to travel around. So obviously personal life is improved. I’m also curious, in the business per se, with all this free time you have. What areas do you now focus on and why?
RAJ: There’s no such thing as free time, there’s just what you do with your time. I’ve been travelling, some vacation, a lot of it is speaking at conferences around the country and around the world. Last year I key noted at the Hague, I keynoted in [Unintelligible 01:03:07], and in D.C. This year I’ve been in Albany, Atlanta, I’ll be in Orlando all of next week speaking at a conference and then going out on a roller coaster for 2 days.
RAJ: My time has been occupied with how do we find and hire new people, how do we train my people, how do I make my people better. I am focusing on staff growth, hiring good people. That is taking a large amount of time and energy. Second is how to grow my people and make them more effective. How to be a better leader and a business owner, my reading was bigger than it’s ever been. All of a sudden currently working on my next three books.
OWEN: Yes. You also, mentioned that you’re doing a lot of speaking and coaching I guess, right?
RAJ: Not coaching. I speak at [Unintelligible 01:04:02] conferences around the world on how to protect your family, your business, and your society, how to protect civil rights in the age of Facebook, Google, and government surveillance.
OWEN: Okay. What would you say is the next step that someone who is listening to this interview all the way through this point should take in order to get started a business that runs without them? Transforming their business to the point where it can actually run without them like yours.
RAJ: Identify their 3 biggest challenges. For us it was always we didn’t know what we were supposed to do for the clients. We saw that with ticketing. The first was we were not getting paid on time and properly because our billing system and how we built for things was inefficient and ineffective. We move from an hourly time and [Unintelligible 01:04:54] billing model to a flat rate minute services model. It simplified our accounting, it simplified our billing, made collections much easier.
RAJ: First we saw the revenue problem which is the biggest problem most businesses have. Then we tackled how do we improve our service. For us it involved in getting a ticketing system, ticketing things, scheduling things, and planning things out better. Once we tackle that then the third problem reared its head. How do we [Unintelligible 01:05:28] our employees, how do we share best practices, how do we do the same thing over and over again without doing a custom job. Right now the IT industry is what the shoe industry was in the 1500’s, you go from village to village. Each cobbler made a different sized shoe, you could not buy a shoe in different towns. And it’s this bespoked, painful process. There’s no need for that. We standardized our practices so that we can deliver a more consistent product, a more consistent service to our clients. We want to be the Starbucks of IT.
OWEN: Wow, I like that. Did you finish your point or should I let you finish your thought.
RAJ: That’s it.
OWEN: Okay, just making sure. What will you say are the books has influenced you in this way of thinking the most and why?
RAJ: My three favorite books are How to Win Friends and Influence People, Get Things Done, and the 4-Hour Workweek. And on a practical basis, I read the 4-Hour Workweek, didn’t understand most of it. I listened to it. It kind of made sense, but yeah, it’s not for me. I’m not going to have an admin book my general appointments. [Unintelligible 01:06:53] things like that. Then I read Get Things Done and the two things kind of clicked and I realized I thought I was a good delegator, I was actually a pretty awful delegator. Once I ingested get the GTD on 4-Hour Workweek I made it my personal mission. It’s my job to make sure it gets done, not to do it. It’s not my job to do it, just make sure it gets done. That’s the difference between a business owner and a self-employed employee.
OWEN: Yes. What will you say is the best way for the listeners to connect with you and thank you for doing the interview?
RAJ: You’re welcome to email me email@example.com, or just Google Raj Goel. You’ll see my smiley face with my spiky hair, suspenders, and my funky tie knots. I’m easy to find on LinkedIn, on Google, on my site or my blog. If you want SOP’s send me an email, I’ll happily send you our SOP webinar. It shows you how to create an SOP, why you should be doing them. Whether you’re a company of 2 people or 200.
OWEN: Awesome. Is there a questions that you were wishing I asked you during this interview that I have not yet asked you. If so, post the question and the answer.
RAJ: There’s not a question but I think somewhere before or between we got disconnected and we were talking about how people say process is boring. There’s a lot of negative talk about process, standardizing, and systemization. I have that same opinions just 3, 4 years, even a year ago. What I’ve discovered is that the only people who hate process and systematizing who are ones who are married to being miserable.
RAJ: Because the more I systematize, the easier my life becomes. My job is no longer worrying about how to do it, it’s once we document it, somebody else can do it. Case in point there’s a process we have to set-up a VMware server. It takes a level 3 engineers 14 hours to do it. It’s a complicated process, 130 pages. Historically, we’d have to hire somebody who makes 6 figures, really expensive to do it. Now I can take the same process, take my level 1 tech, in a lab, not a client side but in a lab. Have them follow a process. It might take them 24, 30, 40 hours, they might have to go to my lead tech for an hour or two and we’ve done this. I’ll take a new tech, they’re in training, here’s my test server, go set-up VMware 55 cluster. It’s 127 pages, all the process. We see how long it takes for them to do it, real calendar time. We see how many times they have to reach out to our level 3 senior engineer. [Unintelligible 01:09:51] reach out to me. Now we’re able to impart 6-figure knowledge on an employee making much less than that, not because I’m going to build a level 1 to level 3 tasks, but if a level 3’s busy and he always is, the level 1 can deal with a lot of the block and tackling. I can now turn my senior engineer into a quarterback and use my other employees as linebackers and defenders. So he’s not all work, he’s not burned out, he’s not looking for a new job because we’re overworking him. My new hires are my level 1’s and level 2’s can now see what a level 3 does. They are actually coming… “Hey, I saw that, here’s a better way of doing it.” Because now they’re doodling. They’re going in reading the manuals. They’re going through the training now because they see how much more fun it is to be a senior tech.
OWEN: Awesome. I like that. Speaking to you, the listener right now. If you’ve enjoyed this interview I want you to go to, if you have iTunes, an iPhone. Go to sweetprocess.com/iTunes to leave a positive review. Or if you have Android, you can go to sweetprocess.com/stitcher, to leave a positive review. The reason why do leave your feedback is when you leave your feedback and review the interview, other entrepreneurs like you will check it out why did you leave a review. As a result of that we’re attracting more listeners to our podcast. The more listeners we get, the more inspired we are to go out there to bring guests like Raj to come in here and tell you step by step how to build the business that literally systemizing can run without them. You can benefit from that knowledge as well. Finally, if you’re at that point in your business where you’re tired of being the bottleneck, I want you do this. Go to sweetprocess.com and sign-up for a free 14-day trial of SweetProcess. This way you can literally get everything out of your head and document step by step what you do so your employees know what to do. Literally, it’ll free up your time and they could get work done without you. Raj thanks for doing the interview, I appreciate it.
RAJ: Your welcome man. Thank you much for having me. And to your listeners out there, good luck, get out of your own way, process, process, process, and collect bigger paychecks.
OWEN: We’re done.