Running a business is no picnic – On that much, we can all agree – but it’s even harder when you’re drowning in the day-to-day operations.
Put simply, no entrepreneur wants to run a business that sucks. They want one that’s well organized, speed-optimized, and creates the lifestyle they’ve always wanted.
With this in mind, this episode is all about removing the parts of running your business that fall into that category of “This really sucks.”
In it, we break down the four pillars of a business’s foundation and how to look at them through the lens of “functions,” not “to-do’s.”
We also outline the basics of an accountability chart including what it is, how it’s important for the overall vision of an organization, how to create one, and – most importantly – how to compartmentalize all the different functions of a business so we can start alleviating the things we don’t want to be doing.
If you’re ready to lose some of that operational stress weighing you down, you’re not going to miss this episode!
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Show Notes 📓
✅ Check out our free resource for creating an accountability chart: https://speakerflow.com/resources/creating-an-accountability-chart/
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Read the Transcription 🤓
Taylorr: You know those moments when you’re doing what you love in your business, maybe it’s standing onstage or creating content, whatever it is, you’re totally immersed, and time just seems to slip-by? This is called The Flow State.
Austin: At Speaker Flow, we’re obsessed with how to get you there more often. Each week we’re joined by a new expert where we share stories, strategies, and systems to help craft a business you love. Welcome to Technically Speaking.
Taylorr: Okay, Austin, we did it. You and I are solo this week, man.
Austin: I know. These are fun.
Taylorr: Very exciting.
Taylorr: It doesn’t happen too often.
Austin: No. I’m very excited. Yeah.
Taylorr: Yeah, for sure.
Austin: This is going to be a fun episode too, that’s needed. And honestly, I feel like part of the reason that I’m so excited about making this episode is because I have to answer this question with so many people that I’m excited that now this will turn into a resource we can give others. I will give people a good jumping off point. So, we’re doing it for you, listeners.
Taylorr: Correct. Yeah. We always need these solo episodes when we need to get on a soapbox for a minute. So, this is definitely a good soapbox to get on. So, what we’re talking about here today, folks, is something called an Accountability Chart. It’s basically how we outline the roles and the responsibilities in our organization. And we’re going to be talking about the importance of this, breaking it all down so you can create your own and providing all of that context. But before we get into the actual episode, I want you to stop listening to this. If speaking is a glorified hobby for you, if running your thought leadership business is not, you’re not wanting to treat it as an actual business, and there’s nothing wrong with that, might I add? This just might not be entirely relevant.
So, for example, let’s say you’re primarily an academic and you do some thought leadership stuff on the side, speak, maybe write a book, coach; and it’s really just not a huge priority to grow and treat like an actual business. Or if you’re just happy with letting the phone ring whenever it rings and it just being more of a casual thing, rather than treating this as a full-time business endeavor. This episode is really for folks who are treating this as an actual business and you don’t necessarily need to be thinking about bringing on team members for an Accountability Chart to be relevant, but in order for us to be thinking about scaling our business and organizing it in a way that contextually makes sense, the accountability chart is going to be crucial for the overall vision for our company and for your business. So, this is why it’s not entirely relevant to the more casual folks, but it’s extremely relevant to those treating this as an actual business.
Austin: Well said. Okay, so let’s dive into it then. With that being said, this whole concept is pulled from almost directly actually from Traction or EOS, the system that’s been created by Gino Wickman. And anybody that knows us personally knows that we are truly fanboys of the traction methodology. And I believe wholeheartedly.
Taylorr: What’s up, Gino. Hit us up.
Austin: Yeah, right. Gino, if you’re listening, we want you on this show. Let us know.
Taylorr: Yeah, yeah.
Austin: Yeah. And I feel almost evangelical about EOS, I just feel like everybody should be using it. We’ve had this conversation with so many clients and there’s an issue with EOS, in that it is really built for teams. I’ve been told that Gino has said from the stage that teams of 5 to 25 is sort of the ideal use case for EOS. And so, for most people, the entire EOS framework is not relevant as such. If you modify it as we actually did when we first started things, it can be effective. But anyway, my point is I don’t necessarily think that you need to go read traction to really understand the concept that we’re trying to talk about today, but that is where it’s coming from.
If somebody is so interested in this that you want to go check it out, traction is the book that’s like the Bible, so to speak, of the EOS universe. And then there’s an additional book called Get a Grip, which is a narrative story of a company implementing EOS. And both of these books have been, for us at least, critical to really understanding how it gets implemented. I would suggest if you’re going to go down the path, read Get A Grip first, read Traction second. So, anyway, hopefully that just puts credit where credit is due. Fair enough to you?
Taylorr: Fair enough.
Austin: Okay, good. All right. So, the core premise here, if we’re looking at an accountability chart, the point is to deeply understand the functions that your business has to regularly support in order for your business to operate. And we’re talking about very granular things like billing and invoicing and your marketing and sales functions and how you deliver for your clients; these are all elements of how your business operates. Now, for most people, especially solopreneurs, we’ve found through our work in this space is that the business is never organized enough so that somebody feels confident putting on and taking off hats as they go throughout their day, so to speak.
Typically, there’s a giant running to-do list usually in somebody’s head of all of the things that need to get done, and that can just be really stressful. And if the goal is to grow a business, it never creates the open mindset that’s required to guide the business, you’re just constantly putting out fires and that can be a really big problem. And so, I think this concept can kind of feel overkill in some ways because it is more of a granular approach to organizing a business than a solopreneur might actually need to grow the business. Definitely that’s true.
People have grown their business without having an Accountability Chart, but it helps a lot. And I think it also makes it easy for you to see what’s the stuff that’s your zone of genius? What do you really like doing versus what do you not do or not like doing? And then that can then translate into plans for hiring people, which I know some folks have resistance to, but is the natural end state if the goal is to grow the business beyond a limit of some kind, for most people. So, anyway, that’s the point. That’s why we’re here. Taylorr, let’s talk about the Accountability Chart and how it’s organized. I’m going to get off of my soapbox.
Taylorr: Yeah, sure. Well, I think before we get into the weeds of how it’s organized, one of the things I really want to emphasize here is that the Accountability Chart is a lot about compartmentalization. To Austin’s point where there’s a running to-do list of all of the things we need, all of the hats that we’re wearing, we have to follow-up on do sales, we have to create content for marketing, we have to produce research, let’s say for some of our clients, we have to create keynotes and book our travel and manage our bookkeeping, do all of our tag.
There are so many different moving pieces in all of our businesses that it kind of just feels like one running stream of stuff that we have to get done. And there’s no box to put each of those functions of our business into to say these are some of those function or roles to Austin’s point that I’m not satisfied doing. These are not my strengths, these are the things that I know need to get done, they’re non-negotiable, but I don’t necessarily want to do them. And it’s really difficult to have that compartmentalization when quite frankly it just doesn’t exist, and it’s just kind of one long stream of information.
And I think regardless of if you’re thinking about team members right now or not, even if you’re not, that’s okay. But there’s going to come a point in time where if you go through this exercise with us and you really do outline an accountability chart and you revisit that every quarter and every year, you’re going to start to notice roles inside of your organization that you don’t want to be filling. And when you can eloquently say like, this person that I’m going to bring on is going to be responsible for these roles; that makes any future hires, VAs are included in this, vastly more successful because you’re defining what they’re responsible for and you’re defining what you are responsible for.
I think one of the big gaps that we see in this industry, and for those of you who have heard me speak or Austin get on this soapbox as well, we talk about this kind of concept that comes through the industry as VAs are magic wands. I’m just going to hire a VA to help me. And that’s a great idea, thinking about bringing on a team is valuable, but so often the role of that VA is not defined. And so, you end up bringing somebody on, expecting them to kind of do things to help you out, but we’re not guiding them in a way to say, these are your responsibilities and these are my responsibilities, and here is how we’re going to communicate as an organization to fulfill a desired outcome.
And so, if we think about the term organization, right? Like as a business, it’s kind of in the word organization, we end up trying to build an organization that is not organized without one of these things. And so, the idea here is if we have a visual for how our company is organized, where, let’s say you’re the visionary at the top, responsible for driving the business in a certain direction, and you have all of these roles underneath you or functions that need to be filled by somebody. Now, we’re more organized, we can quite literally call it an organization. We can pass accountability properly and we’re more compartmentalized and we understand where our strengths and all of our weaknesses are. Is that fair, Austin?
Austin: Yeah, beautifully said. A hundred percent. And the good news here for everybody is that you can actually boil this thing down into four technically major categories. So, it doesn’t have to be too granular initially, so maybe now’s the time to talk about the pillars.
Taylorr: Yeah, for sure. So, there are kind of three core pillars under the leadership function. So, we really say that there are four pillars to the accountability chart. One of those pillars being the leadership type functions. Now, in the EOS world, they talk about leadership between a visionary and integrator, this kind of concept that ideally somebody is in charge of the vision of the organization, the direction. And for most of you listening, you are the visionary, right? This is where your sweet spot is, it’s creating content, staying on top of industry research, it’s being a thought leader, it’s managing really big relationships, seeing the bigger picture of how your company can progress forward. And, in some cases, having an integrator, somebody to take that vision and enact it throughout an organization is beneficial.
Per Austin’s point earlier, though; when we’re talking about smaller organizations like us, and a lot of you, sometimes the integrator role is you’re going to be running the integrator role in combination as a visionary. Over time, you may find somebody that can fit into that integrator role, but let’s just call leadership you for the time being. You’re responsible for big relationships, thought leadership, industry, research, and directing your team, or in this case, let’s say yourself, to achieving some desired outcomes. So, the first pillar is how your leadership is structured. Underneath that, there are three pillars that we’ve kind of added labels to. The first is growth. And so, imagine for a moment at the top of your Accountability Chart, we’ll call you the visionary, and you’re responsible for those things I just outlined.
Well, underneath that now is growth. And growth is all about sales and marketing. So, think for a moment, what are all of the different functions that you fill in growth? You have to book sales calls and follow-up with leads. You have to close those sales calls, you have to do email marketing, social media scheduling, blog writing, maybe if you have a podcast, you have to manage that and all of the production of it, if you do some YouTube or video creation, you have to, there’s a role for all of that.
So, think about undergrowth, the first pillar; what are all of the different functions that you have inside of your organization? And we label those. And so, the way I like to think about this is visionary is up at top, or leadership. Over off to the left, let’s call it, is growth. Underneath growth is sales and marketing. And then all of the functions that need to be fulfilled for those two things. Next is ops. So, ops is largely about client delivery. So, what are all of the things that need to happen as it relates to operating the business?
So, these might be things like, I don’t know, all the admin work, a lot of VAs will fit into this category; like booking travel, maybe being responsible for helping you manage your inbox or completing tasks. What are some of the other things that need to happen, like creating presentations and slide decks or being the main point of contact, like an account manager for your clients that you’re working with at any given time. Maybe setting up meetings, maybe it’s making sure after you deliver all of the things that need to happen afterward, like getting feedback and follow-ups are in place. And then the third is administration. This is kind of the stuff that we don’t necessarily like doing, but is often outsourced for most of us.
So, underneath admin you might have things like finances, so bookkeeping and CPA, you might have legal. So, somebody to help you out on the legal end of things for business structure or contracts or whatever else might be necessary. HR, of course, as smaller teams, you’re going to be managing that, like bringing somebody onboard, but it is still a function; managing payroll and making sure your people get paid. And then a few other lingering things. But for the most part our admin department for at least the types of businesses we run, those are going to be outsourced type of roles. And so, what we’re really looking at here underneath leadership is growth, operations and admin. And what are those functions of the business underneath each one of those pillars that need to be fulfilled?
Austin: Yeah. Yeah. So, what Taylorr is visualizing here is the accountability chart. And it’s really like, it’s simple. You have to run the company; that’s leadership, you have to sell stuff; that’s growth, you have to deliver whatever it is you’re selling; that’s ops, and you have to make Uncle Sam happy on administration, make the business well-oiled, let’s say. So, these are the core things. And then just as you said, Taylorr, there are all these granular items that go into making each of those core outcomes happen. And outside of just doing the work and knowing that the work needs to get done, I think that there’s another component here that’s really interesting, and this ties back to a system that we used to teach our sales teams when we were at one of our previous organizations where Taylorr and I met, and this was the TPCD Chart.
The TPCD Chart was a paint chip, if you’ve ever been to Home Depot, that was a store we were worked at, or Lowe’s or any other big box store that sells paint, they have these cards that have these different shades of a color on it that you can pick up and take home and looking at your wall. So, every time we went into our Home Depot for the day, we were working on training somebody, we would have them pick up one of these paint chips fold it in half and then write TPCD in each of those shades of colors. And the TPCD corresponded to four milestones that you would hit during the sales process with a customer; talks, presentations, closes, deals. The way that it would work is you’d put a tick mark next to the TPCD based on how far you got into the conversation with the person that you were talking to.
And this was helpful from an accountability standpoint. We knew that people were getting the job done and they were hitting the numbers that they were supposed to hit if they tracked all of the people that they talked to. But more importantly, because we were looking at the milestones of the conversation progression, we could identify if there were problems. It was real easy to see that if the ratio of talks to presentations was not what it was supposed to be, that there was something wrong with their approach as it related to a customer.
So, it became an analysis tool. And the thing about the Accountability Chart is that it forces you to compartmentalize and label these functions of your business, which then gives you something specific to point to if something is going wrong. If it’s all abstract, if there’s something that’s not working, there are too many variables, you don’t know which of the variables need to get tweaked. But as soon as you can label what those variables are, it gets a lot easier to be able to optimize it. So, not only should you be looking at the Accountability Chart as a way to conceptually map out how your business functions and all of the things that it takes for it to run smoothly, but it also becomes a tool that you can use to make the company better as you continue to grow, it makes it easier to find the weak spots.
So, there’s practicality throughout this exercise across the board, and I think that this, ultimately, then ties back into some of the components related to EOS that makes the accountability so helpful. Things like having a scorecard where you can create metrics or key performance indicators that correlate to these various roles and then measure whether or not they’re being successful. So, there are a bunch of examples of that where you can add additional systems or processes to make the accountability chart even more effective than it is just by existing in the first place.
Taylorr: Yeah, that’s right. Well, one thing that we get asked a lot about, so I’m going to ask you this question, Austin, from the context of maybe somebody listening, but especially if we kind of go back to my soliloquy about you have growth, you have all of these sales and marketing functions, you have ops and all of these other things, it’s pretty easy to look at that and assume that we need to put a person in each of those roles. And so, is the Accountability Chart supposed to be an outline of all the people we need to hire in our organization? Is it purely role-based? How do you balance that? What’s your take?
Austin: Well, I think you have to go to the horse’s mouth, so to speak here. So, Gino says, in all of the traction material that the accountability chart is function first, people second. Being the point of the Accountability Chart from the get-go is to just be able to outline all of the stuff that needs to get done and then put labels and groupings of them together so that you can visualize the way that the business works and then you can assign people to fulfill those responsibilities. And so, if you’re a solopreneur, your Accountability Chart is just you, all the way across the board.
And you know what? If your goal is never to bring on staff, you just want to do the best you can with all of those roles and responsibilities, bam. If nothing else, now you have a visualized way to see all of the things that you need to get done and then probably extrapolate how to measure getting all of those things done effectively. But if you do want a team or you’re open to a team, it makes it substantially easier than to assign a function, just as you were talking about as it relates to this VA, this hypothetical VA, where you can give them a specific thing to do.
So, I don’t think that the people part from the perspective of having others do stuff is necessary. It could just be one person and forever until you have a team of however many roles there are, right? For us at Speaker Flow, that’s 24, then you’re going to wear multiple hats. And so, that’s an inevitability here. But it’s just a lot easier. And think about the multiple hats thing from the perspective of mindset too. The headspace that you have to be in to write a really amazing blog for your website is vastly different than the mindset that you need to be in to go and do all of your transactions for the month to close out your books and your financial tool. These are completely different universes.
And so, if you are able to map them out and see how these distinctions need to be made about the headspaces you have to be in as you’re doing your stuff; now you can time block your schedule more effectively and allow space for you to get into that world to just do all of the work that needs to get done and then give yourself permission to take that hat off so that you can focus on another important area of your business. But to your original point, T, as long as all of the things are just this jumbled, chaotic mess, either in our heads or in some tool or system out there, it’s really hard to get traction and get things done at scale. And so, the business doesn’t grow, this is the ceiling. If you can’t map out all of the stuff that needs to get done and learn to become efficient in the work that you’re doing, not just check the box, the business just can’t grow. So, I don’t know if I addressed the question or not, but hopefully.
Taylorr: No, totally. And I think, one thing I want to just line up here is I’m speaking to you listeners out there who are like, I want to scale this thing. I want to have one hat, at Speaker Flow, Austin and I know there’s only one hat that each of us want to wear because I don’t know about you guys listening, but it is exhausting wearing all of those hats to run a business. And let’s face it; we’re not experts in every area or role inside of our business, right? I might be a little bit more skilled in the growth department, but I’m not great with paid advertising or SEO strategy or some of these really nuanced things, that’s just not my wheelhouse, it’s not my strength, I don’t want it to be my strength.
And for those listening who are like, I really only want to wear one role in my organization and I want to learn to delegate the rest of it, this exercise is probably one of the most valuable things you can ever do in your organization and constantly revisiting it and making tweaks, because now you have labels and responsibilities of how to delegate. But what’s interesting is over time, I’ll just talk to our experience at Speaker Flow; Austin, how many iterations of our Accountability Chart have we gone through?
Austin: Well, there have been three official game changing variations of it, and then dozens of minor tweaks.
Taylorr: Then small tweaks. Right? And that’s because over time, the vision of the business might change, how you deliver for your clients, the different revenue streams you have in it, all of the different roles. So, the goal of the Accountability Chart is this living breathing thing that you have permission to change over time. And when you’re making those changes and you’re kind of seeing this business kind of play out, well, now we have new roles that can get filled by different people. And so, my point to this whole thing is, if you really want to wear one hat, we need to have some visual to help us say, these are the roles I really don’t want to fill that I can offload, and these are the roles that I really enjoy doing that I’m happy to fill for however much time it takes. And when we have those labels and those boxes, compartmentalizing again, we can now say, you know what?
Now is the time to bring on somebody for this role. I think a lot of the time when people are considering bringing on team members, it’s not readily apparent about what that person needs to do. We know that there’s a lot to do to run the business, we feel that pressure and that stress and we’re like, I need to bring on some help. But if we don’t know what roles that person can fill for us, it’s going to make it a lot harder to find the right person and then to put them in the right seat, which is something about the Accountability Chart that we haven’t even touched on yet, which is probably worth its whole own 30 minute episode on. But part of this idea of the Accountability Chart and this kind of philosophy of traction is when you’re bringing people into the organization, we need to assess are they the right people, which is all about core values and how they align with you and so on. That’s an entirely different episode we can touch on one day.
But more importantly, are they in the right seat? And we can’t answer that question effectively. Am I in the right seat? Is a team member in the right seat? If we don’t even have a definition for what that seat looks like and what those roles are? And so, for those of you who, as I said earlier, really want to live in one spot in your business and delegate the rest out, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is early on to start defining some of these functions and then coming up with a plan to bring people in place over time. So, now we can assess are they in the right seat and are they doing the things that I don’t want to be doing? And this can help answer the question of how do I find people that are more skilled in certain areas than I am for this task?
Austin: Yeah. I think that’s critical. I cannot stress enough that, this might get a little rough sounding, but this is a non-negotiable if you want to get out of the stuff that you don’t like doing. It’s unbelievable how often I hear somebody in the same breath tell me that they want to grow their business and just do the things they love and simultaneously not have a team. It’s completely contradictory. It’s not possible. We’re talking about systems here, this is a system, but more importantly, we’re talking about how to map out all of the systems that need to be in place to run your business. There’s a system for each of these core functions. And to create a system, you have to go through four steps.
The first thing is you have to identify the need for the system, hence this Accountability Chart. It helps you identify where you need systems. Once you know where that is, you need to standardize what it looks like to run that system effectively. If it’s sending an invoice, where do you go? How do you send it? Do you include tax or not? What are the components that you have to think about in order to make it happen correctly every single time? Identify, standardize, document; you have to write this down somewhere, because in order for anyone to be successful, they have to have a written set of instructions to follow.
And so, an SOP has to be created, and then you can either delegate that function, that system to a person, or you can automate it. Now, here’s a slippery slope. Anytime automation comes up, a lot of people think that this means that all of a sudden technology is going to run our business for us. That is not true. Automation can help reduce the amount of menial work that a human has to do in order to serve their function. So, it will reduce the number of people that are needed in order to successfully fill these roles in the Accountability Chart. But it doesn’t replace the fact that a person has to be responsible for it.
So, the way to look at this is how can you map out all of these functions? How can you standardize what success looks like for each of them? How can you document that such that you can hand it to somebody else? And that’s the point at which you can put somebody in a given role and that they will be successful. Not to toot Speaker Flow’s horn too hard, but we’ve never once.
Taylorr: Toot, toot.
Austin: We’ve never once hired somebody who we then had to fire because they couldn’t be successful. It’s never happened. Everything is standardized and documented. And so, when we hire somebody, so long as they do the job that they’ve committed to doing, they’re successful. And it makes it so much less stressful to think about bringing people on. And we want that for you. And that’s why we’re talking about this because this is, ultimately, the system that’s given us the mental freedom to make these types of decisions, which can be intimidating decisions to make as a business owner. Let’s be really clear about that.
Taylorr: Yeah. Well, and the other thing that this reminds me of is, if you don’t follow that process, let’s say if you’re like, Austin, I’m not going to listen to you. I’m just going to bring on somebody, they can figure out the process and the system and the blah, blah, blah, and I’m just going to sit back and chill while they do their thing. You can get lucky with some people.
Austin: Oh, yeah.
Taylorr: We have met some powerful VAs, online business managers, whatever you want to talk about, who are super resourceful and can just go and figure it out. But then they get hit by a bus.
Austin: Which has literally happened.
Taylorr: And your entire business falls apart. Once, I will never forget it; somebody put full control of their business in one person’s hands, they literally got hit by a bus, the entire business collapsed. If a business is truly a business and you’re an entrepreneur, you have a way to replace that function. It’s documented, it’s standardized, elements are automated, you have a way to bring somebody on and immediately be successful with your thing. As business owners, that is our responsibility.
If we’re just treating this as a hobby, which is why I had my whole soliloquy at the front of this, it’s not a business, but if you want it to be a business where it’s scalable, where you’re truly an entrepreneur, truly a visionary, the business needs to be able to run independent of you and independent of team members so that if somebody does move on or unfortunately get hit by a bus, we can bring somebody else on to fulfill that role in very short order. The business doesn’t flounder or stop simply because we didn’t have those right systems in place.
So, I really just want to emphasize the importance of this. It’s not just about being able to bring somebody on and have them take this thing and run with it. It’s making the business scalable, and not scalable in the sense that you’re going to make tens of $20 million or whatever. If that’s your goal, great. That’s not a lot of people’s goals. We want to keep it relatively simple. Scalable in the sense that if somebody moves on or I want to promote somebody into a different position, then everything else they were previously doing can be offloaded again because it’s standardized and systemized. And I just think this is one of the most overlooked parts of our industry. And I think maybe sometimes it’s because we’re not thinking as big as we can be.
I think, for me personally, I’ll just speak to the truth. In the early days of Speaker Flow, I didn’t really understand how much opportunity there could be. I didn’t really have a box for it. And once you start giving yourself permission to think larger than where you’re currently at, all of this room for opportunity kind of starts to take shape, which is why the Accountability Chart needs to be a living, breathing thing that you constantly come back to. Because as more opportunity presents itself, there might be new roles, there might be new opportunities, and we want to have a way to have a feedback loop to make sure we’re heading in the right direction.
Austin: Yeah. Now, the good news here for everybody that feels inspired by this is if you go to speakerflow.com/resources, there is a guide that includes a visualized example of an Accountability Chart. I don’t know, an intro that re-explained some of what we talked about here and the definitions for each of the functions that we put on that Accountability Chart, and that can give you a really good head start. But to end this thing out, here’s a call to action for you if you’re listening to this, listener. In order for the Accountability Chart to be relevant, you have to be clear about what you want.
So, now’s the chance. Give this some thought. Go to a quiet place. Write this stuff down somewhere. What do you want out of your business? Is the goal really to grow? What are you willing to sacrifice to make that happen? What are you willing to give up control of to another person so that they can do it better than you can in order to make that happen? What do you really want? If you can nail that down, you can build an Accountability Chart to help you get there.