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Improving Business Process Management With Jeff Chastain

Sean: CEO. I’m the CEO of my company. I run a company of 50 individuals. We have processes cause I have a process engineer in place and this person always kinds of butts heads with me. And that’s because usually you go through the process of ticketing. The tasks that you want or need done, but I have done things agile ever since I started the business.

And so I tend to do things agile rather than go through the process of ticketing, which is scrum. That’s what they’re doing right now. So I’m guilty. The question is, should I ticket the stuff I need done. Cause I’m an urgency junkie. Usually when I need it done, I need it done. So I just go through, I go straight to the project managers and I Slack them, just takes my process engineer off.

So what do you think about that?

Jeff: Yeah, it’s a problem. No, it’s, it’s really the idea of process. And this is really one of the keys because there’s a sweet spot basically for defining processes. That we can definitely go zero process is obviously bad kind of a thing, but at the same time, we can go all the way to the other end of the spectrum and sit here and effectively kind of micromanage de – detail out every single little, Hey, click this button and fill out this form, then do this, this, this, this kind of a thing there.

And one, it adds a lot of overhead that obviously people and visionaries, et cetera, kind of gets frustrated with. The other part is it takes out a lot of creativity. So there’s like a happy medium in there. And what we look at is, really refer to it as an 80-20 kind of rule that basically there are 20% of the steps in any given process that are going to get you 80% of the value.

So if I were to take it from a sales perspective, I don’t need to document our sales process to say, okay, sales rep, you have to have X number of warm leads in your funnel. You have to make 10 calls to them. You have to do all the little details, steps here. What I want to sit there. And from a process standpoint on the sales is to say, Hey, you’ve got to have these big picture step.

You’ve got to have a certain funnel. You’ve got to have certain number of closed deals per month. You got to have a certain amount of revenue, kind of a thing, big picture thing, because then it gives the creativity back to your team at that point. So. If I’m the type of salesperson that wants to sit there and pick up the phone and I can get it resolved at picking up the phone.

Great. Go for it. If you’re the type of salesperson that wants to go out and have coffee, or do whatever else, kind of a thing, but you can still make those numbers great. Go for it kind of a thing. And that’s really where it’s –  getting a, to a large degree. That’s the challenge for a lot of those entrepreneurs because they have their way of doing things.

So therefore everybody needs to do it my way, like that’s what kills the creativity. And hopefully you’re bringing in from your team right there, that what you really need to look at and say, okay, what are, again, that top 20%, what’s those key steps that if we do A, B, C, and D, I don’t really care how you get from A to B, as long as we’ve got A and B done. Then we’re good kind of a thing.

And it’s, it’s trying to draw that balance and it really differs on every company, on every different process, kind of a thing. So it’s always an evolutionary kind of process working through those, but it really, you got to hit that sweet spot because when you start documenting the six inch thick SLP manual for, okay, this is how we open a ticket or fix a bug kind of a thing.

Nobody’s going to read the thing in the first place, but surely they’re not going to follow it. And they’re going to be frustrated trying to follow it. And you’re going to kill really all your productivity because, I’m spending 90% of my time following this process and documenting all the forms rather than actually doing any work, kind of a thing.

So to answer your question yes its a problem, when we go around process, go around staff, et cetera, kind of a thing, but at the same time, That potentially points to another issue of saying, okay, maybe our processes are a little too rigid. Maybe our processes are a little too detailed at that point. Could we bring this up to a higher level? Give our team some of that creativity, some of that and that latitude back because honestly, hopefully they’re smart people.

They may bring ideas to us to say, Hey, we could actually do this slightly different and be a lot more productive and be a lot faster and we get better results, whatever. But if we’ve got them so tied down, so rigid to say, okay, you have to do all these little mining steps, then they lose that creativity and that flexibility they’re really, it. Honestly, they lose a lot of the enjoyment out of the job at that point.

Sean: And just to share with you how we try to work around because they had to negotiate with me. I have one person ticketing it for me. So that’s how we did it.

Jeff: I’ll even say from an organizational structure standpoint, obviously don’t know a lot about your company there, but still you’re, you’re coming across to me as kind of the, the visionary type leader there.

That big picture of big ideas, kind of a thing. Not necessarily the one that’s down on the way it’s doing all the detail steps. So when we look at it from an organizational standpoint, a lot of times it’s bringing in a peer leader, a secondary leader there to say, okay, visionary plus integrator. And it’s actually a concept that’s written in one of the EOS books called Rocket Fuel.

That it’s the combination of those two people together because the visionary on set has the big ideas. They’re off dreaming up new ideas, new markets, new products, et cetera. If they’re the ones actually running the day-to-day operations of the company, the company is flipping all around every, every, every week, every month kind of a thing, because there’s a new idea.

There’s a new shift. Okay. What’s he done this time? But if we can put that integrator role right in the middle there, a lot of times like the COO or something like that, they’re in charge of the operations and making sure that things are running smoothly. They’re the ones overseeing process management and things like that.

Letting them again, freeing up that visionary type to say, okay, go dream, go, go. Whether it’s on the golf course or it’s it’s, whatever it is kind of a thing there. You’ve got that flexibility. You’ve got that freedom now, such that you’ve got an idea to say, Hey, we need to do I need X, Y, and Z done. Great.

Let the, let the integrator sit here and plug it into the process and the system for you. You don’t have to worry about it. You don’t have to get down into those details to say, Hey, okay, have you done, have you made your 10 calls? Have you, have you gotten your code reviews done over here? Whatever the case may be kind of thing you get  out of that detail because the more you’re down in that level of detail, you’re just holding the company back at that point.

Sean: And for me, for a long time, that was my brother who COO, now that we’re like 50 people, my wife came in. She’s fantastic general manager. People, I would say a lot of people in my company don’t like me, but they love my wife. They love her. She’s like the mother figure, she, her empathy level is through the roof.

My empathy is always missing. My sister came in. She’s the process engineer I’ve been talking about and she’s fantastic at what she does. And she’s not shy to tell me off, like when I’m going around the process, she’s just like, what the hell are you doing?

Jeff: Well, you’re mixing the family aspect of it too, which brings a whole nother dynamic into play here.

Sean: Yeah. So I want to know, you mentioned earlier about the story of the startup, where a lot of entrepreneurs have exciting startups. They feel excited. They wake up in the morning, pumped, energized, just want to tackle the world. But at some point in time, it does erode and it does get boring. And it does feel like suddenly it’s a big weight on your shoulders.

You’re like you wake up one day and you feel this burden and then cracks start to appear in the business. I wonder, what are some of these cracks that appear? I want you to tackle that. And when does it usually appear.

Jeff: Well, it really depends upon the business. There’s no specific answer to it, but if I were to take again your business at this point and say, okay, you as the visionary, you as the idea person, you’ve got to get down and fix, track, bug tickets.

You’ve got to sit there and wait, watch the tickets, come across the board and make sure they’re all updated with the right details, the right metrics. Okay. How long has it been in this stage versus that stage? It’s going to drive you nuts. And that’s, that’s really where at that point, a lot of times, that’s where that frustration starts getting in.

Because I, as the entrepreneur, I want to be out, maybe my passion is going out and talking and salespeople kind of thing, and doing, going out and doing the sales for my product. Except now I’m –  because I don’t have the structure because I don’t have the scale of the company. We used to be selling four and five kind of customers here.

And I was told the story at one point that it’s like, okay, as the visionary’s getting started, you’re basically saying yes to anything and everything whatever it takes to get some money in the door that, that early stage kind of a thing. So you’re sitting on the phone and guy calls you up and says, Hey, yeah, I know you make blue widgets.

I really need some red widgets. Can you do that? It’s like, of course. Yeah, sure. We can make red widgets. I don’t know what that means, but sure. We’ll make red widgets for you. It’s like great. I need 5,000 of them. Can you do that? Sure. Yeah, we always say yes to everything so sure. We can do 5,000, like great.

Can you do it by next Tuesday and Oh yeah. Can you ship them to my factory over in Germany? And you say yes, of course, because they’re willing to pay you for it. And you hang up the phone and your team looks at you. You’re like, what the heck did you just agree to this time? But the reality is you sit there and then you get it turned out.

But your focus, you, you want to be out there doing those relationships, but as you start building in, Hey, we took red this time. Maybe we can do purple next time. We start each different customer has their own thing. All of a sudden we’re trying to be everything to everybody at that point, really, without having that singular focus, that singular vision.

And you’re just adding in complexity. You don’t even realize it, but it’s what used to be nice and simple. Hey, we’re going to build blue widgets. We’re going to be the best one. We’ve got one or two target market clients here that we’re working with out of the gate. Everything’s nice and smooth and simple.

We’re everything is do A and B, everything nice and work. And everytime we add on a new product, out on a new market, add on even a new person, we’re just adding complexity. Because if you look at it from a, a mathematical standpoint, you got two people in the company, or initially single line of communication, right back and forth.

No big deal there you add on one more person. So it’s a 50% increase in people. Now all of a sudden you’ve got a 300% increase in the different lines of communication. Add four, add five and six, add ten. This thing’s blowing up exponentially kind of a thing here. And you don’t really realize it at that point.

You’re just saying, Hey, we’re bringing on one more salesperson. We’re bringing on one new person in the warehouse. We’re bringing on one new client that yeah. They need things slightly different. No big deal. But by the time you do that times four, times five, times ten, it’s the complexity, then that all of a sudden just weighs you down.

It’s like, okay. And many times you don’t even see it coming, because again, it’s just, it’s just one more person, no big deal. But it’s all of a sudden, like you said, you wake up and it’s just like 200 pounds sitting here on your shoulder, weighing you down. It’s like, wow. What the heck happened? This was, I didn’t build this.

This was not what I, what I intended. I had this nice little fun project over here, this nice little fun company. And now I’ve got this mess. What do I do with this? This wasn’t what I wanted. And a lot of times, that’s kind of where we see a lot of the, especially the visionary types bail out and say, okay, it’s tough I’m done with this.

I’m going to go start again, some, some new little project over here that I can have fun with. And it’s just that complexity that builds in that. Like I said, many times we don’t even see and it’s being able to really root that complexity out. Really figure out, okay, what can we do to minimize that complexity, ongoing, any decision we make anything we look at us like, okay, what is this going to add to the business?

What, what other stress areas is this going to add? Is this going to is adding this new product line? What’s it gonna do to our fulfillment process? What’s it going to do to our delivery process here? Kind of a thing. Are we going to have to change marketing?

We’re gonna have to change the way our salespeople. What, what does adding this new product line? It’s not just a case of, Hey, this, this shiny new object over here. Let’s let’s do it kind of a thing. It’s it needs to be more of a, a analyze decision again, with real numbers, with real metrics, et cetera, to say, okay, what is this going to do to us from a complexity standpoint, before we dive into this?

Well, we’ve talked about doing processes and process management stuff before it’s like, yeah, salesperson one’s good, doing great kind of a thing. Well, we add sales person two, and it will be 200%, right? It’s like, well, no, because if you don’t have the processes documented, if you don’t have, the target market, the differentiators, all that kind of stuff to our sales person to can be effective on his own.

You may only get  120% or 150% instead of a 200% gain there just because you don’t have the foundation in place to get that rolling.

Sean: That is super good. And that is super important for us to know, because mindset is just, like you said, plus one, it should be a 200% output. And then most of us are left, scratching our heads.

What happened, what happened in between? I only got 120% uplift. It is not worth it. And it’s harder to fix it when you’re in that position already. Cause emotions start to creep in. You feel like you’re short handed or there’s something wrong in there. You have all these people. So you mentioned you add people, you add people, you add product lines.

Suddenly you have like, you know, I have 50 millennials and centennials, which are 30, 30 year olds below. I’m 32. Most of my people are younger than me. Oh, sorry. Sorry. All of them are younger than me. There came a time when I had to deal with an us versus them dilemma where employees feel like we’re a team and it’s us versus the management.

And I’m quite sure that a lot of organizations go through this. Even if they don’t have it now, or even if they fixed their culture or their leadership became more effective and better, they have to go through that. Especially if you’re a startup with a founder, like, you know, I’m a CEO, founder, you, you go through that.

What do you suggest? Or what is your advice? How do you solve the us versus them dilemma?

Jeff: Really what that comes down to at least again, my, my opinion, my perspective is one of the biggest things we’re pushing or I’m pushing is  a culture, again, part of your culture of just openness and honesty that from, even from the very top, like I said, on the vision kind of a thing there.

That vision is not just a vision for the CEO or a vision for the leadership team. That vision is with actual profitability numbers, with actual revenue numbers. Everything’s out in the open. And that vision is shared with the entire organization every 90 days to say, okay, this is who we are. This is where we’re going.

This is what we’re trying to get to from a long-term 10, right? ten year three-year one year, et cetera, kind of plan. To basically bring that everybody into that fold together to say, Hey, I’m part of this. I’m, I’m a piece of that. It’s not their idea. Or I don’t even know that’s that goes back to my days at HP like I said.

I didn’t have a clue what, even at the low-level division. Where we were going, what we were trying to do, especially how I fit into that. And it’s kind of a story I tell sometimes where it’s like, okay, if I were to walk into your company and find Joe at, at the, at the water cooler at the snack bar, whatever kind of a thing, say, Hey, Joe, what’s, what’s going on. How, what, what, what is Act Me widgets here do? Well, we, we build widgets. Okay. Obvious. And he’s kind of looking around and saying, why am I getting tested? Who is this person? And okay. So what, what’s your role here? Well I’m in fulfillment and he beats a haystack, said kind of a thing out.

It’s like, okay, I don’t, I don’t know who this guy is or why he’s asking me questions. Or if I were to walk in and find Sally, for example, standing there, ask her the same question. So what, so what is Act Me widgets? Well, we’re the one of the top widget makers here where we have this, this advanced product line and everybody’s, we’re selling faster and we can kind of a thing we’re actually looking to move into a new region.

Two or three, opened up two or three of new regions next month, or next year we’re actually introducing a new product line, et cetera, et cetera. She’s all excited about it. Okay. Great. So where do you fit into this? Well, I’m over in the fulfillment, in a department I’m working on, on this project here that we’re actually ensuring that our, our delivery mechanisms are, our systems are up to date and able to scale up to handle this new product line as it goes out.

And our, our orders ramp up. It’s like, which, which one of those employees do you want? And it’s not necessarily a culture issue or anything like that from her being the right, honesty, and integrity or whatever your culture is. The issue is that she feels included. She feels like she’s part of the overall system.

So it’s not a case of, well, management’s up there kind of a thing doing their own thing. I don’t really know what they’re doing. I don’t really know where my piece of this is. I’m just down here writing code or fixing bugs or whatever kind of thing my job is. If you can make it more of a job, you’ve got to make it more where they’re included in this it’s it’s it’s, like I said, it’s, it’s the concept of basically being open and honest.

Everything’s transparent such that they know that, Hey, I actually am a part of this. I am contributing towards our one-year our three-year vision, et cetera, here. And at the same time, I’m empowered enough in my role to say, Hey, there’s a problem over here with our, our fulfillment system here, this, this mechanism, this conveyor system, whatever it’s simply will not handle the, the order volume we’re talking about here.

 We’ve got to fix this at a low level and say that, give them the – the empowerment there to say, I can raise this issue. I can bring this up and put it on an issue list. Get it addressed without somebody coming down on me and say, do it anyways or whatnot. It’s, it’s, it’s really treating my opinion here that I have value.

And it’s bringing that, that empowerment throughout the entire organization where everyone feels like they’re part of it. At that point, it turns into the bigger family, the bigger organization that, Hey, I’m a part of this, not just a, another replaceable programmer or replaceable lineworker or anything like that.

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