Entrepreneur, CEO, or business leader: no matter the title, the success of a leader’s company is a responsibility—and weight—that lies squarely on their shoulders. In the beginning, increased control was an asset that bought them peace of mind. But now, without the structure their business needs to thrive, they’re overworked, overwhelmed, and unsure of the path ahead.
Fortunately, everything that makes a company work can be captured and put to work for leaders who are feeling this way. In The Business Playbook, serial entrepreneur Chris Ronzio walks readers through his proven framework for building a playbook: the profile of their business, the people who work in it, the policies that guide it, and the processes that operate it. I caught up with Chris recently to learn what inspired him to write the book and his favorite idea in it.
What happened that made you decide to write the book? What was the exact moment when you realized these ideas needed to get out there?
We started Trainual in 2018 and had hundreds of companies that were using the software to document their business. We started getting interest from consultants, people that were service providers who were actually doing the work, helping others to document their business. And they started looking to us saying, is there a formal training for how to actually do this?
So after a few months of getting those requests, we put together a live in-person workshop back in 2018 and invited these people into Scottsdale, Arizona. I stood in front of them and coached them on how to actually break this down. We’ve now got 65 consultants around the U.S. and the world who are delivering services. So as Trainual scaled to have thousands of businesses now around the world using the product and closing in on a hundred consultants helping people use the product, we thought: it’s time to standardize this. It’s time to write down what we’ve learned and make a how-to playbook for your business. That’s what the book became.
What’s your favorite specific, actionable idea in the book?
That would be this exercise for brainstorming all of your responsibilities. So this is something that you can do individually, and it’s also something that every single person in an organization can do. It starts pretty simply: you brainstorm by time period. You think:
- What do I do every single day?
- What do I do every week?
- What do I do bi-weekly?
- What do I do monthly?
- What do I do quarterly and annually?
Just with the simple time-based brainstorming, you’ll come up with the regular recurring responsibilities, like running payroll, filing certain reports, checking the mail, or opening the warehouse. Then the next filter that you go through is looking through your sent mail from the last two weeks and seeing who you actually engage with. What emails do you send requesting something? What emails do you reply to with someone requesting something of you? What are the conversations with vendors or the things that you’re responsible for in the business?
You can pluck responsibilities out of that. Then you go through your calendar and it’s the same thing: look through the last two weeks or maybe a month and see all those new business appointments, vendor meetings, presentations, travel—anything that you do in the business. Then the last thing is to go through your task management application, your project management, maybe a chat system like Slack, or any of the apps that you use for your business. By the end of that process, by the end of the 20 or 30 minutes of doing that, you will have unearthed dozens, if not hundreds, of responsibilities for just you in the company.
If you have all of your employees do this, you’ll end up with thousands or tens of thousands of responsibilities. This is the framework for everything that’s done in a business. If you don’t have an outline of everything that’s done in the business, then you can’t start to cherry-pick what you want to actually document and what you want to delegate or pass off for someone else to do, or what things people share that are done inconsistently, which you can fix with documentation. It’s such a simple exercise, but I think it is a nugget of gold that’s hidden there in the book.
What’s a story of how you’ve applied this idea in your own life? What’s it done for you?
So with starting Trainual, at the very, very beginning, I was designing the mock-ups and wireframes using a mock-up tool. And now we’ve got five designers here.
So I, at some point had to hand off that responsibility, take it off my plate. I was managing the product. I was closing out our financials and running income statements in QuickBooks. I was running payroll. I was managing our hiring process. And now we have all of the different leaders and individual contributors in the business that do those things. So at each step of our growth, delegating, those responsibilities has been what opens up bandwidth for me to focus on the new thing that I need to be focused on. This book never would have been written.
If I wasn’t able to delegate some of the day-to-day work that Trainual needs to get done in order to operate. And so just the fact that this book exists is proof that the model works.