Popular advice tells you to “organize your business in whatever way works for your brain.”

That advice is popular because it’s easy, not because it’s good.

Organizing your business in a way that makes sense to you works fine unless and until any other human being becomes an integral part of your business.

Because at that point, it’s not just your brain that matters. Now it’s two brains. And no matter how much you train that other brain, it’s never going to think about things exactly like yours.

And if you add a third brain… or a fourth… or a fifth…

The “Makes Sense To Your Brain” organization system will become a source of confusion, frustration, persistent questions and re-training, lost information, and ultimately, lost time (which equals lost money).

Do not organize your business “for your brain” or for your own individual quirks.

Ideally, someone joining your team should be able to come in to your business almost cold and be able to relatively quickly orient themselves, understand your system, and find what they’re looking for or accomplish the task they’ve been given — no further instruction necessary. Your organization and systems should be that clear.

Because here’s a fact:
You can’t make up for poor systems & organization with extra training. You’ll always wind up losing time & money.
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You’ll also end up losing files, processes, documentation, know-how, and — eventually — good contractors or employees, if your system is bad enough.

So if “whatever makes sense to your brain” isn’t the right way to go (and it’s not), what’s better?

Keep the following guidelines in mind, and they’ll help ensure that you’re organizing and setting things up in a way that’s sustainable and usable by you and team members, and in a growable and adaptable way.

Bracke’s General Principles for Organizing Businesses and Systems

Principle 1: As Clear As Possible, To As Many People As Possible

Name, organize, and document things so that they are as clear as possible, as immediately as possible, to as many people as possible.

  • This is Principle 1 because it forces you to to put clarity at the forefront — not convenience. If you set things up so they’re convenient for you, you’ll tend to put your own brain and quirks ahead of clarity.
  • Make things clear first, then create a way for making the clear and streamlined system convenient for your brain and your quirks.

Principle 2: The More Obvious, The Better

The more you have to explain the system, documentation, name, or way something is set up / organized to someone else… the more it’s probably in need of being simplified, streamlined, and/or clarified.

  • Even if something seems obvious to you, if others get stuck on it, are confused by it, or can’t follow it… it’s not obvious.
  • Obviousness is a matter of function, not form. It doesn’t matter if something should be obvious. It only matters if it is.

Principle 3: The 2-Year Rule

Everything should be as clear and obvious two years from now as it is today.

  • A quick note, a shorthand file name, or an abbreviated reference might make sense to you today, but it’s probably going to be foggy (at best) two years from now. Imagine seeing a note in your instruction plan in two years that says “Open GA and follow steps Dawn demo’d”… What steps? Were they recorded somewhere? Did “GA” mean Google Analytics or Google AdWords?… etc.
  • If it violates the 2-Year Rule, it probably also violates Principle 1… and probably isn’t following Principle 2 either.

Principle 4: Simplicity without Sacrificing Clarity

Simplify wherever possible, but only as much as clarity allows.

  • More words does not automatically mean more clarity; but short does not automatically mean simple or clear.
  • Abbreviations, acronyms, and shorthand often sacrifice clarity. Incorporate them only when they follow all the Principles above.
  • Remember: As simple as possible, no longer than necessary, without sacrificing clarity.

Principle 5: Everyone and No One are Temporary

Decisions about your organization, documentation, or systems should not be based on the “everyone” and “no one” of your business because those are inherently temporary.

  • Decisions made about your organization, documentation or system based on “everyone” or “no one” will be accurate only to the extent that your business does not change in size, scope, or personnel.
  • This way danger lies: “Everyone” already knows [something] so we won’t bother documenting it… Or… “No one” other than [one specific team member] will ever need to know that so we don’t need to make that part of our ops manual
  • “Everyone” and “No One” only refer to the people you’re aware of at this moment. Your business is a living entity; it is not static. It is unwise (and costly) to assume that its “everyone” and “no one” will remain the same indefinitely.

Following these principles gives you a foundation for setting up a clear, simple, streamlined document, ops manual, filing system, or other organization system that’s optimally usable (so you can bring in the team support you need without expecting or requiring that they all learn to “think” just like you do), sustainable, and readily scalable as your business evolves.

And if you need help getting your organization organized (wink, wink), let’s talk. I can help.

May “Bracke’s General Principles for Organizing Businesses and Systems” serve you and your business well!