Susan appeared on BizTV with Bryan Weatherford on June 29, 2020, to discuss how Beyond the Chaos helps small business owners bring structure to their business operations. Find out why “we’ve always done it this way” is a blocker to creating structure.
Please see the full transcript of the video below:
Bryan Weatherford: Folks, I don’t know about your business, and it certainly doesn’t apply to this business. [inaudible 00:00:22], is the fact that chaos pops out of nowhere from time to time. I’m not just talking about COVID, I’m talking in the pre-COVID days. Chaos can pop in from anywhere with your business. Sometimes you need to bring in some outside help to keep things organized and keep everything on the smooth path to profitability. That’s what you need to do. If you need to bring in a pro and you’re not sure where to go, sit back, relax, we’ve got one in studio with us today. Her name is Susan Fennema. Her company, I love it, Beyond the Chaos. Susan, welcome to All In.
Susan Fennema: Thank you so much for having me. Looking forward to talking to you about what’s a blocker to creating structure
Bryan Weatherford: So I was going to write this down so I could say it, but I’m going to let you do it. What is your title with the company?
Susan Fennema: Chaos Eradicating Officer.
Bryan Weatherford: CEO. Chaos Eradicating Officer. I love that. That pretty much sums it up right there, doesn’t it?
Susan Fennema: Yeah. I wanted to do something fun because so many times when you get into the operations and project management world, everything can become bureaucratic and stuffy, and our approach to it is you should be having fun. So that’s where we went with it.
Bryan Weatherford: Well, you’re sitting off on a fun note right there, but a lot of times, the best way to be serious is to be fun because you need to get people lightened up a little bit and say, “Okay, here’s how we’re going to attack this. Here’s how we’re going to get to it.”
Susan Fennema: I have a lot of clients that say they have a good time with us. They also say sometimes they have to hear things they don’t necessarily want to hear. But at least I deliver it in a way that it makes it easy to hear even if you don’t want to.
Bryan Weatherford: Well, let’s be honest though, if things were working right, they wouldn’t have called you.
Susan Fennema: Right.
Bryan Weatherford: And if they’re not working right, chances are there is something they need to hear that they don’t want to hear.
Susan Fennema: Exactly. Exactly. So we’re helping them all the time with figuring out what those things are. Some of our clients don’t even know at the beginning. They’re just overwhelmed. They don’t know what’s wrong.
Bryan Weatherford: Do you get into the situation to where they bring you in to fix this, but as soon as you get there you realize, that’s the problem over there?
Susan Fennema: It is sadly often the problem is sitting in the driver’s seat.
Bryan Weatherford: The problem is the one who hired you?
Susan Fennema: Right.
Bryan Weatherford: How does that story go when he or she that’s actually going to write the check at the end of the day is the problem?
Susan Fennema: Well, most of us small business owners got into business because we were really good at something. Really good at it, and we thought, “Let’s go out and do what I love and only do what I love and do it with the clients I want and do only the work I want.” And then you get there and you’re like, “I don’t ever get to do any of that.”
And all of a sudden you’re overwhelmed with everything, with how do you make the business run? How do you make your family run while you’re trying to do all this? How do you make sure your clients are happy and you’re not just responding to the squeakiest wheel? This causes overwhelm and that’s when we can come in and help. The partnership that we develop with the owners we work with, goes way beyond just writing some processes and managing some projects. We’re really sympathetic. We understand what you’re dealing with because we’re doing the same thing. So we get it and we can relate and we can be human with you.
Structure Can Set You Free
Bryan Weatherford: A big part of what you do has got to be the structure. So many places that they don’t have and they’re just all over the place. Well, what do you do specifically to help get structure in place? Because I was reading your bio. I love this phrase, “Structure can set you free.”
Susan Fennema: Totally sets you free. So one of the challenges that we run into a lot is we see business owners without any software tools in place, without any written systems, think process or procedure or policy. Even a single business owner with no employees can benefit from having procedures and process because you don’t do what you do all the time. If you’re paying invoices, maybe you only do it once a month. Write down how you do it so that that month comes in, you just click through the steps instead of, “Wait, where did I go? How does this person get billed versus that person?” So as you start to create that process around it, it makes your life a lot simpler. And that’s what starts to set you free.
Bryan Weatherford: Do you run into situations and I’m afraid that you probably do, and I’m going to let you answer it, to where you come in and someone’s resistant like, “You don’t even work here. You don’t know what we’re doing. And, you don’t know my company. You just walked into the door today.” It’s almost like the step kid, “You’re not my mom.” That type of deal. Do you run into that situation?
Susan Fennema: We really don’t. Most of the time we are welcomed in. We do have people that are resistant because change is hard and many people fear change, or they will say, “Well, we haven’t done it that way.” “Okay. But you have a problem.”
Bryan Weatherford: But that’s why I’m here.
“We’ve Always Done It That Way”
Susan Fennema: Right. You have a problem. So let’s figure out how we can do it in a way that absorbs the problem. So the only answer I usually won’t accept is, “We’ve always done it that way.” This is a blocker to creating structure. Let’s talk about why you do it that way. And if you’re stuck with a, “I really want it this way.” If we can get to a real why, then we can probably figure out a way to keep it that way. But let’s get to the real reason, not, “Always done it that way.”
Bryan Weatherford: Well, I’ve actually worked in businesses with a situation just like that, and sometimes the answer quite frankly is, the leader is embarrassed because that’s the only way he or she knows and they don’t want to admit it. Fair enough?
Susan Fennema: That can be true. One of the things that we’re very good with is being compassionate and being understanding. And so, many times we’ll have people say, “I don’t know how to do that.” “Okay. Let us help you.” We can train you on how to use a new software tool in your business. You don’t have to learn it by yourself, which is part of being a small business owner is you think you have to do everything yourself.
Bryan Weatherford: Correct. Especially if you’re the leader.
Susan Fennema: Right. And you don’t. You can learn to delegate. You can learn to create that structure. So we were talking about structure as a one person business. But if you have many people creating those processes where then you can hand that off to someone else to repeat your process, now it’s not even on your plate anymore. Somebody else is doing that for you.
Bryan Weatherford: Going back to the project management side, I mean, we’ll touch on it throughout the whole interview here, but I loved your phrase, project management, think of it as a tool. Like anything else you’d use in your business, think of it as a tool. How is project management a tool?
Susan Fennema: If you are running projects, and most professional services businesses do, that’s who we serve, and you do not have some form of project management, you are just hit or miss. You can’t know when your next time is free to start with a new client. You don’t know whether you’re going to deliver on time, on budget, are you staying in scope? And, you don’t know whether you need extra help from subcontractors or other specialists to do certain work. So if you’re not managing that project as its own separate thought, you’re not able to complete things on time. And if you are struggling with not completing things, that’s another sign you need project management.
Bryan Weatherford: Absolutely, it is. But the project management a lot of ways, all it’s doing is simply putting together accountability to where you know who’s here, here, here. So you don’t have to feel like you’re accountable for the whole thing, because you’ve been able to let go of it. And for some people, again, that’s hard to let go of certain things.
CAP It Off
Susan Fennema: That’s one of the things we talk about is the three things that most businesses need is better communication, they need accountability, and they need an ability to prioritize. We call that CAP. So we’re going to CAP it off for you. We’re going to give you those things. That internal communication, that facilitation of making the project run is what project managers do. So we have a lot of people that don’t even know, “Why would I use it? What do I do? How does it change things?” It changes everything because all of those details, all of those client interactions, they’re no longer on your plate. They’re being handled either from a system or through a person.
Bryan Weatherford: Well, it’s handled through a system or a person and it allows you, this person-
Susan Fennema: The business owner.
Bryan Weatherford: … the business owner to take care of what they’re good at. And the successful business owners fill in the blanks with things they’re not good at. And if the blanks aren’t filled properly, then they come to you from an outside to work at this level and this level to keep everything right. I love everything about this.
Susan Fennema: That’s right. We’re just making it simple for you. We can help you figure out if you want, if you’re a software developer and you want to code, then let’s figure out how we make time in your day that you code.
Bryan Weatherford: All right, one more time, what’s your description? What’s your job description?
Susan Fennema: Chaos Eradicating Officer.
Bryan Weatherford: There you go, folks. That’s Susan, the Chaos Eradicating Officer, the CEO for Beyond the Chaos. She’s there to help your company in ways frankly, that you don’t even know you need the help. But give her a shout, project management and so much more, that’s why you need to bring her in. Thank you for being here with us today.
Susan Fennema: Thanks, Bryan. It was great.
Bryan Weatherford: Thank you.