Your Startup’s Best friend: A System

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Hustle. Growth Hacking. Scaling. As startups and entrepreneurs, we love these things. They’re big and powerful and sexy and they make a difference in your business.

These are crucial for every startup’s success. But something equally as significant is not discussed.


We don’t talk about systems.

Because honestly…

We find Systems boring or maybe outdated.

It is common to think of systems as massively complex processes. Either a program or hardware comes to mind, or the bureaucratic red tape associated with government and major businesses.

We view systems as extremely complicated structures with several moving elements.

However, that is not the case.

A system may be as simple as having a location to store your keys or naming your files consistently. Undoubtedly, this is a “small” system. But it is efficient. Because it is a repetitive action that produces a desired, positive outcome.

And that’s all a system really is.

 In fact, eMyth defines a system as exactly that:

“A repeated course of action, a way of doing things  that brings about a result.”

As an example, you could be able to locate your keys before you leave the house each morning, or you might locate your cost receipts during tax season. or produce leads and revenue for your business on an ongoing basis.

…can you see where I’m heading with this??

We have all heard that a large percentage of startups fail.

There is a wide range of reasons behind this. In some cases, they fail to establish product market fit, in others, they run out of money, and in some cases, they just burn out.

Finding product/market fit is the first step in the typical startup process before moving on to scaling strategies.

From the beginning of your company, you need to have systems in place.

The explanation for why may be summarized in two words.

Cognitive Load.

Cognitive Load Theory explains that working memory and long-term memory are both found in the brain. Comparing RAM with a portable hard drive, you can see how much of a difference there is.

Working memory has a capacity of 4–5 items, but long-term memory has no such limit.

This is crucial for a startup’s founder. A high level of cognitive load is required when you are managing a large number of activities and many business functions at the same time.

Teenagers’ performance has been found to be negatively impacted by cognitive load that is too high, as well as an increase in mistakes and a decline in performance on complicated tasks.

It is no secret that when you are in charge of everything from product development to marketing and sales, you are under a lot of mental strain and a lot of cognitive stress.

The consequences of a single error may be devastating, including failed contracts, missed opportunities, and refusal of funding.

 SYSTEMS decrease cognitive load/stress.

However, we have a system in place, always. We establish a procedure for each job we do often enough. If a task contains numerous parts (like writing a blog post), we will design our own procedures based on how we operate and what is worked in the past.

Writing down systems minimizes cognitive burden since you do not have to memorize steps.

Now you do not have to waste time looking up formatting and citation guidelines in the middle of writing.

Or you may spend three days hunting for your article’s first paragraph.

Lists, papers, checklists, or whatever works best for you can be used to create these systems.

If nothing is documented and there is no system in place, your new employee will be forced to,

  1. Figure it out on their own and devise their own way of doing the tasks you’ve assigned them
  2. Get that information out of your head and figure out how to do it.

Even if it is just a simple checklist, a system makes it easier for a new employee to get started on the job.

This does not mean that everyone must stick to the same procedures. Not at all. Businesses have varying requirements. People’s learning styles and methods of processing information vary widely.

 It is up to you to decide what works best for you and your company. Systems must be versatile and flexible to the changing needs of your company.

But when we perform the same thing over and over, we construct our own systems.

 When we write them down, we free up precious brain space that we may utilize for other things, such as thinking about what has to be included in your investor’s presentation rather than constantly looking for your previous document.


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Nismah Naveed Bhatti
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