When I was the chief marketing officer for an investment company, an up-and-coming manager requested an interview to pick my brain and get to know me. When we sat down together I was quickly and duly impressed. At CEG Worldwide, we teach our coaching clients that prospects and clients will judge you on the quality of the questions you ask, and this young man asked me a question I’d never been asked before: “If you had to name the one thing most responsible for your success, what would it be?”
I normally respond to most questions in just a few seconds, but it took me a full minute before I said: “The answer is blueprinting. Throughout my career, whenever I’ve been given a new project or had the need to do something for the first time, I’ve always blueprinted it.
“Whenever I’ve been in charge of an activity, program or project,” I continued, “I’ve always done an after-action review where I asked everyone involved what we did right, what we did wrong, and how we could do it better — and then adjusted the blueprints accordingly. With blueprinting, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time you undertake something, and I’ve found that if something’s important enough to do in the first place, then it’s important enough to blueprint.”
Blueprinting Systems and ProcessesRegularly blueprinting systems and processes is crucial to achieving success. Consider Michael Gerber’s book The E-Myth Revisited (1998), a must-read which boils down to this: Many small businesses fail to reach their full potential because they don’t put into place systems and processes that ensure a quality result independent of the extraordinary intervention of human beings.
What is needed, then, are processes and systems that ensure a quality result without relying on any particular individual’s skill, memory or presence. If a process or system is only in your mind, it can’t become a clear reality for anyone else, and it will be impossible to maintain in your absence. There shouldn’t be any process or system in your small business that would fail to operate if someone is ill, walks out, or is otherwise unavailable. And as an advisor, even if you work for a national firm, you still should consider yourself a small business within a larger organization.
To blueprint a system or process, first identify its major deliverables. Next, delineate the steps that need to be taken to ensure that all deliverables are achieved in both a timely and high-quality manner. You can then create the blueprint itself in either a graphic form (mind-mapping or flow chart software work well here), or you can just use Word or another text program to create the blueprint in outline form.
Seven Key AreasThere are seven key areas of your business that require blueprinting.
First, marketing systems encompass seminars, newsletters, mailings, telephone campaigns and anything else you do to promote yourself to potential clients. The evaluation phase is especially important here because if you’re not measuring results, you can’t tell if you’re investing your time and resources in the most productive manner and you can’t make informed decisions going forward.
Next are client acquisition systems, including referrals, strategic alliances, group presentations, and ways of replicating your existing ideal clients. Again, you want to capture your successes so you can improve your processes and results and get a better return on your investments of time, energy and money.