Failing to systemise my start-up

my-best-mistake-20120713-thumbPutting business systems in place sounds fairly straightforward, but when you’re a start-up it can be tempting to skimp on such things and worry about them later.

 

But as Ayda Shabanzadeh and Darrin Leung discovered, there are drawbacks to this.

 

Shabanzadeh and Lueng are the founders of Grow Consulting Group, a Brisbane-based property investment and management consultancy.

 

Grow Consulting Group assists its clients by offering services in three core areas – finance, property investment and property management.

 

Shabanzadeh says the business initially started off in finance, before deciding in 2006 to widen the scope of services it offered.

 

“When we started off in finance about eight years ago, a lot of clients wanted advice on how to invest in property, particularly as we were investing in property ourselves,” Shabanzadeh says.

 

“People started asking more questions. A lot of people want to invest or have, but don’t know what to do from there. So we help people invest in property better.”

 

“We’ve also moved into the property management side of the business, so we finance them, find them properties and manage the properties.”

 

According to Shabanzadeh, one of the biggest mistakes made in the early days of the business was failing to implement systems.

 

“When we initially started our business, Darrin was still doing work in his other field, which is more engineering, and I was focusing on finance,” Shabanzadeh says.

 

“I was doing that on my own. When you’re on your own, you don’t think about systemising what you’re doing.”

 

“Not documenting what was being done [was a mistake]. That would be one of the biggest things we didn’t do at an early stage.”

 

Shabanzadeh says things started to unravel when the business began hiring staff, and she found herself spending more and more time on menial tasks rather than focusing on growth.

 

“Once we started going, and were bringing on one staff member and then two, you realise that you’re spending time on the same things. That was really the turning point,” she says.

 

“And also looking at how reliant the business is on you. [It was like,] ‘If I’m ill, no one can do what I do’… If the business is reliant on you, it’s not really a business.”

 

“Now to go back and implement those systems… it takes longer, so it’s time and money really. You also lose momentum because you’re having to train someone.”

 

But as Shabanzadeh explains, it’s better to learn late than never at all.

 

“Each time we do something now, we’re putting it into a process,” she says.

 

“We’re also using living documents… Everyone has got access to a live document and people can make amendments, and it grows from there.”

 

“There’s more time to focus on the business and directing, rather than day to day things. For me, I can have more customer interaction in the business rather than spend time on data entry and on the backend of the business.”

 

With six staff now on board, Grow Consulting Group has a database of more than 5000 clients, which according to Shabanzadeh, is based largely on referrals.

 

“We’re in the process of purchasing another business. We’re looking at purchasing a rent roll and a real estate business attached to that,” she says.

 

“In terms of projections, without even looking at that one, we’re looking at increasing at least by 50% on what we’d done in the current financial year.”

 

Shabanzadeh says while it can be tempting to get going and worry about systems further down the track, they really must be implemented straight away.

 

“Really look at what systems and processes you put in place so the business can run smoothly and grow… Also, listen to your customers because they can see things you can’t see,” she says.

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