Small Business Processes and Procedures – Episode #226

by Richard Wilson on September 6, 2011

Sam Carpenter Work The SystemRecently I interviewed Sam Carpenter who is a top expert on creating processes and procedures for small business owners.  I have used this book to create over 40 standard processes and procedures within my own business and it was because of the resulting success of these methods that I have come to interview Sam.

I first got interested in how my business could be analyzed as a manufacturing process or machine after reading “The Goal” and since then have been digging further into this area.  During this interview we will be referring to Sam’s book several times which is called “Work The System: The Simple Mechanics of Making More and Working Less” and it is a book that not only have read myself but I buy for my clients from time-to-time.  If you like books like “The 4 Hour Work-week” then you are going to like this book because it is a very down-to-earth and practical solution to turning your business into a well oiled machine regardless of your industry or size.  (Download this Audio Interview in MP3 Format)


Richard Wilson:           Hello, this is Richard Wilson and today we have with us a special guest, Sam Carpenter from Bend, Oregon. He is the CEO and founder of Centratel and the author of probably one of my top 10 favorite books of all time, “Work the System: The Simple Mechanics of Making More and Working Less.” And if you don’t have time to listen to this full 40-minute or so interview, I would encourage you just to stop and go to right now and just buy the book Work the System by Sam Carpenter because it is an excellent book.


And the reason we’re doing this interview is that many businesses are ran by people who have great ideas or they have a great deal of passion about a product, a service or a niche. But many times businesses get stuck at $50,000, $100,000, $500,000 revenue and they never make it to $3 million, $10 million plus revenue. And I think one of the big reasons, and I think Sam’s opinion of one of the big reasons why that is, is because there’s not enough systems and processes and procedures in place inside of a business.


And that’s why we have Sam here on the phone call today. His book along with the book called “The Goal” kind of opened my mind up to how a business should be ran like a machine. And not just a place to play with ideas that you think might do well. And that’s why I have Sam here and I think it’s going to be a great interview. So Sam thanks for joining us here on the call today.


Sam Carpenter:           Well, thank you Richard. It’s my privilege.


Richard Wilson:           Great! So kind of in a nutshell, you know I described a little bit about what Work the System is, the book, and kind of the ideas behind it. But could you give us another sentence or two on just kind of what the mission of the book is? Or what kind of your objective is for people who buy that book and read it?


Sam Carpenter:           Sure. And it’s based on my own experience and my own company that I still have after 27 years, and the subtitle of the book is “The Simple Mechanics of Making More and Working Less” and that’s says a lot about what the book is about. And I’ll plug myself here that the third edition is just coming out now and I’m fairly excited because I’m getting a lot of tweets for it. But the message that is saying, and that is to help folks that were in the same place I was in for 15 years of 80 to 100-hour workweek of just thrashing. It was horrible. And there are a lot of companies out there like that. In fact, I would say 8 or 9 out of 10 are suffering because of pure inefficiency and the problem is that the owners of these companies don’t go down a layer deeper to find out why they’re inefficient and to mechanically fix their problems.


The book is not rah-rah. It’s not “Let’s see how enthusiastic we can get,” although once the process starts you get quite enthusiastic, it’s about mechanically adjusting your business to be a machine, to be an ATM — it’s my latest. The latest type of machine I like to compare us to as just as a business that is self-sustaining and then the feel flow of ideas and the RV and all that fun stuff at a logical pace and everybody is happy. And it shows and makes a big difference. I work 2 hours a week now. No matter what I do, I can’t seem to work more than 2 hours a week at the main business Centratel.


Centratel is a telephone answering service. But that’s what I want for my readers of my book and then the product that we have, that’s what I want them to accomplish.


Richard Wilson:           Sure. And I first picked up a copy of this book about 9 months ago, and my before and after story is that now our company has about 40 processes and 40 procedures that were documented and then placed, which we’ll hear Sam talk about later, the importance of those. And before I did this, our business was growing but only at a moderate pace. Since doing this, two things have happened, (1) we have started growing faster and (2) we have been able to take a business trip while speaking at a conference say in Tokyo.


In the summer I went to Tokyo and Singapore and during that 3-week period I basically only needed to work about an hour every weekday and then during the day I was just touring the cities, meeting with business partners and recording some video content. It was kind of fun and different interesting locations around Singapore for our different training programs. And I don’t think that would have been possible before reading this book.


But I think Sam here has even a more powerful story of the before and after effect. This has happened in your business right? I mean you kind of hinted at it that you’re working 100 hours a week before, but your business has been able to buy out your competitors, you’ve been able to grow in a size multifold and you’re now actually more profitable even though you’re working less, right?




Sam Carpenter:           Oh, yeah. We were breaking even and my kids and I were — I was a single parent with two kids for the first 15 years of the business, the traumatic part. On top of the 100-hour workweeks and the bad health and the no relationships, no time for anybody, single guy. And I have this kind of a mini awakening, and for a pretty short period of time we turned it into some serious profitability and now we’re 40% profit and I make — I bring home 20 plus times what I used to take home by applying this very simple procedural application and it’s not mystical. As I’ve said before, it’s not mystical and it’s not magical, it’s very practical and very believable.


This all started with writing a manual for my 30 employees. So they will understanding the thinking behind how our lives are ran in the company as I had this, literally midnight epiphany, I started to put together a manual so everybody could get on board and I quickly realized that these lessons were applicable to any business anywhere. And in fact the largest successful businesses out there typically do very similar things to what I profess in the book as far as processes and so forth.


So I started with a manual and worked into the book which was first published in 2008, in the spring of 2008 but we’re on our third edition now. Just a little background I’m throwing out for you Richard.


Richard Wilson:           Right. And I think that just that people kind of get what we’re talking about here for the rest of the interview, I don’t have my procedures and documents folder open right now, but when I think about what I have in place so people can kind of envision what we’re talking about. We have a strategic objective, we have a list of our values, we have guiding principles page and we have kind of one Word document, that’s actually in Google Docs for us that kind of says how we set up new procedures.


And then in our own service we have like 30 or 40 procedures and we follow those. For an example, for people listening, we have a very specific way that we offer say our full day live workshops or training programs that we follow. When we put together a training program, we follow a 26-step recipe for putting together that training program and it’s followed every time we put together a program so it’s done efficiently and effectively every time. And that’s what we’re talking about here, is turning your business into a series of procedures and processes that are documented for everybody on the team to use.


So Sam in your business, how many procedures or processes do you guys have documented that you kind of stick your tail on?


Sam Carpenter:           I think we’re pushing 400 now and there are subdocuments to those primary documents. But my business has about 400 things that we do that we do on a recurring basis, and of course this is the key, what are the processes that are recurring? And interesting, your 26-step process that you’ve done over and over again, no doubt, you tweak it as you go and make it better and better right?


Richard Wilson:           Sure.


Sam Carpenter:           So that’s working the system. And so in a nutshell, you’ve just illustrated the basis of it and that is to take your business, see the systems and see the processes, isolate them and get them down on paper. How boring is that? But that’s what we do because on planet Earth that’s how you communicate with other people. That’s how you make things permanent. If you want things permanent, that’s what you do. If you don’t care if it’s permanent, you have a conversation or you do an e-mail or something.


But you get it down in a document for everybody to share and then this is the key, everybody contributes to it. Now, there’s still a leader and the changes in it have to go through the leader but somebody will come and say, “Number 16 here is out of date for this reason and in fact we just need to remove it.” And so it gets better and better and better and that is working the system. Tweaking is my favorite word maybe in the whole world. And we just tweak, tweak, tweak everything until it gets a little better, a little better, a little better.


And pretty soon you’re not working the hours and you’re making a lot more money because of the sheer efficiency that you’ve caused to happen. You’re not stumbling around killing fires, you don’t have fires anymore. The fires don’t come up. And at Centratel, if we have a problem, we have about 35 people. And as I said, it’s an answering service call center. Problems seldom come up but when they do, we jump on them hard. We actually look forward to problems within our systems because it allows us to make it even more bulletproof.




And so we’re spending all of our time with our clients or staying a lot of the time in marketing and making the product that we sell, or it’s actually the service better and better and better to the point where we can process over 10,000 messages for every customer error that’s reported.


Richard Wilson:           Wow.


Sam Carpenter:           And in our business, we have 1,000 different accounts. They’re all different. They’re all vastly different from each other and our task is to take a message from a caller of one of those clients, get it down and deliver it to the right person many times in this emergency situation.


And you can imagine the complexity involved with doing that and getting the numbers right, getting the names right, getting the message right, getting the message to the correct person. We do 10,000 or 11,000, recently we did for every error we took. And that’s not good enough. We keep working the system and every time we find an error on our site, it’s usually on the client’s side. But every time we find an error on our side, we go back and somewhere there’s something that’s tweaked, and especially if we see a recurring thing happen. And again, that is the key. They’re referring things that we do. Those are the systems.


Richard Wilson:           Right. Okay, great. And I want people to know and the people who are listening to this that this is very applicable too. If you’re on the investment side of the business, if you run a family office, a wealth management firm, a hedge fund, a private equity fund, most people especially in the investment industry don’t do this especially hedge fund managers and private equity fund managers, and there’s so many benefits to doing this. We could spend the whole hour just on the benefits of doing this.


I think, for example, if you hire somebody new to your team as we recently did, the first thing you can have them do is review all of the procedures and processes related to their job function so that you would present that what they’re doing is actually laid out for them within your procedural binder or within your Google Docs in our case, that combine all your procedures in one place.


So that’s definitely another big advantage as well. It’s just keeping the intellectual knowledge on paper instead of somebody leaves, you don’t lose it, and when you bring someone in new, like you can get up to speed much faster and operate at that same level of expertise as the people who have been there for 10 years, right Sam?


Sam Carpenter:           That’s exactly right. And that’s just a couple of the benefits of doing what we’re talking about here. And the benefits reach every part of a company. And let me talk about physics or almost metaphysics here a little bit Richard, and why it works across any company and across any part of how a company operates is, most of us see our worlds in a static snapshot. For instance, I’m sitting here at my home in Bend, Oregon and I see my skis over there leaning against the bookcase and I see outside, and I see it as a static snapshot. It isn’t. None of these is a static snapshot.


Our lives are flowing. They are processes. They are systems. Things move. I drive into the office. Well, that’s a 1, 2, 3, step procedure including opening the car door, sitting in the car, closing the door, pressing the buttons so the garage door goes up so I can get the car out and then driving into town. Well, there are probably 10,000 little moves in there but that illustrates that whatever we do physically in this world, on this place called Earth, things will belong according to this thing called time.


And so within a business, if you can get to this place and this was the insight I had late that night 12 years ago, that our world is made up of separate systems. And we can go on holistic and say “Well, this affects this and this affects that.” Great! Go for it. But you’re not going to get anywhere with your business if you look at your business as one big conglomerated mass of sights, sounds and events. The work of the system — it’s just an insight, what I call the system’s mindset is the ability to look out the window, look around my office here for example and see everything is fluid and there are separate systems creating my world.


There’s the tree outside that’s growing, my wife will be coming back pretty soon. She’ll drive down the driveway to get home here. It’s all a 1, 2, 3 step process. And when you can take your world — and this includes relationships and health as well as all facets of a business. Now, let’s talk about a business. If you can take your business and see the separate systems within it and then understand you need to perfect each one of those systems then you’ve got it made. But it is that system’s mindset that’s critical. And I’ll just end this by saying, when I had this insight, I thought late that night, what if I was to make — let me back up. I see my business as all these systems. I can see it in my head for the first time.




What if I was to take every one of those systems separately and make each one as efficient as I can possible make it and set that efficiency in stone, which I knew immediately would be a written documentation. What if I could do that with all of my — what I thought was dozens of systems? And as I mentioned somewhere between 300 or 400, what if could make each system not only perfect but document that perfect recurrence every single time it happened?


If I did that with every system, would I have a perfect business? And I didn’t know that at that time that night. I thought, “I’m going to lose the business anyway,” and that’s all in the book of course, the whole thing that happened to me. I was going to lose the business anyway, so why not start perfecting, go for the worst problem in the office which happened to be our deposit procedure, fix that, make sure I never have a problem with it again and then move to the next one and the next one.


What if I made every system in my business perfect, would I have a perfect business? I’m here to tell you that that’s what will happen. Even though I didn’t know it at that time, it was the only choice I had. It sounded logical and I went again and did that. And if you perfect all the systems in your business, providing you’ll have a product of your system, a product or a service people want, you will have an incredible business because you’ve just eliminated all the inefficiency, you’ve established your targets as you mentioned the strategic objective.


You’ve established your target and everything is focused with 98% perfection toward that target. And I’m here to tell you, if you do that, I don’t care what your business is or what your relationships are with the people around you or how you’re help is, things are going to get much, much better and that’s what the Work the System strategy is.


Richard Wilson:           Right, for sure. And I think whether you’re trying to do better at marketing and sales, or sell your business, or just have a business that produces more profit per amount of stress you have to induce, I think it will do those things for you in my experience. So that’s a great point to make.


And what you’re talking about here is it reminds of a couple of quotes by Edwards Deming that if you can’t diagram something, you don’t understand it and you can’t track what you don’t — or you can’t improve what you don’t track. So basically, you being able to say, I made one mistake per 11,000 calls handled or being able to write each process you follow into a checklist is really I think driving home both of those points, and so all of those really does get back to kind of the car analogy or system analogy.


A lot of marketers and trainers like Eben Pagan is one person that I’ve trained under. He talks about pour in your leads or your potential customers into a funnel and see how many come out the other end as customers but this is really the engine behind how that all happens. There’s lots of good marketing ideas you can use, but without this engine of procedures and processes then your pistons are going to be firing in different directions and one day they’re going to fire better than another day, and you’re going to replace one and it’s going to be the wrong size, et cetera.


So I think this is really critical. And it’s pretty amazing, the 400 procedures documented, can you share how that’s managed? Is it truly as a whole team that’s managed? Or do you have one full-time person who is doing nothing but updating and improving the procedural documents?


Sam Carpenter:           Oh, no, no, no. The entire team has to get it. They have to have the system’s mindset. They have to get it and they have to be able to do the procedures. I had an almost 100% management turnover to find people who would sit down and write things out. And I had to train them as you read the book and you got an insight through the book. I had to train my people to see the business in this way. And so everybody contributes. And that’s the beautiful part of it. You’d think the leader would be the one writing all these documents up, but I never write a document up.


I might scratch a few thoughts down but then I’d give it to Andi Freeman, my COO, and she’ll do it or I’ll give it to the operations managers. But they do it, and they do it with a vengeance and they love doing it because of the results. They make twice as much as they make in any other call center, and they truly work 40 hours a week. So everybody is a believer, everybody does it. Obviously everybody has to do it. If I were to do all the procedures and hand them down, how do you think that would go? “Here Holly. Holly, I want you to do this 26th and 5th step.” I could see her eyes rolling and everything. I would never do that. But she does it and whenever there’s a chance for our system to be creative then she does it.


Let me throw a quick analogy here Richard. It helps people understand this.




                                    So you have a house and it’s a single-storey house and on the first floor there’s the refrigerator and there’s the couch and the TV, and of course I could go on, the bed in the bedroom. And there’s the people in the house. And that’s where most people are with their businesses, they’re shuffling around the furniture, bad results happen with the paycheck that’s coming in the front door or somebody is unemployed and they’re shuffling around the results when truly, underneath the house is this machinery called the systems that produce the results, that appear upstairs.


And so, my latest talk, when I give a talk it has to do with visualizing machinery in the basement producing the results upstairs. And the truth is, most people don’t know that machinery exist downstairs. They don’t understand it’s even down there and this is especially applicable to a business. And you have to identify the machinery. You have to be able to see the machinery and then you have to — as our friend Mr. Deming said, you have to be able to diagram it and bring it to life. And then guess what? You’re spending your time down in the basement working on the machinery to create the exact results you want upstairs.


And if you can take that analogy over to a business, it’s a perfect application. And that’s why most people don’t document their businesses. They don’t see the machinery. They don’t even want to know about it but they’re getting all these odd results in their business, people coming and going from the office, customers coming and going, problems with the product or service, when they should be down in the basement, working on the systems that are creating those results upstairs. And that’s purely what I did with my business, is I got what I call one layer deeper and another metaphor I used is to say, “I’m outside and slightly elevated from my business.” I’m looking down at it, looking down at the machinery and working on the machinery from up above.


And I’m actually down there too watching myself and watching my health and watching my input and so forth. But you got to be able to see the machinery and then you’ve got to be spending your time working on the machinery and not shuffling around the undesired results.


Richard Wilson:           Right, for sure. Okay. I think that’s a great analogy about working on the machinery. And I think that is one of the challenges even if it’s not your first time running the business, you still or might not be aware of all these underground machinery that large businesses have going on that makes them run like a well-oiled machine instead of like a one-man band type operation. So I think there are two or three challenges in people using the information in the book. I think the first challenge is just that lots of people don’t like reading too much nowadays and don’t get through books. They have to actually read the whole book and understand what you’re saying.


So that challenge is pretty easily overcome as long as they read the whole book. It’s not a very complicated concept to get, I don’t think but it’s very business-changing and kind of game-changing if you’ll use it. The second challenge though is actually doing this, because it takes a little bit of initial push and inertia to get people to buy into it and to set up the principles, document and the strategic objective, and the actual processes that are most core of what you’re doing for your customers and that’s definitely a challenge.


But then I think the point that I’m at right now is a third challenge where, I need to get more team buy into this. I need to expand from 40 processes to 400 like yourself, or at least 150 or 200 I would guess. And I think the main thing that’s stopping it is what you’re talking about. You know it wouldn’t make much sense if the person running the business wrote all of them when they’re not doing the frontline of work. And so I’m wondering if you have a couple of checklist points of things I could do besides, at the extreme, replacing someone who is onboard with this.


Do you have a couple of strategies you could lend to CEOs who maybe have read your book? They understand it. They started to implement it. But now they just need people to really buy into it so everyone in their business really does this. I’m sure you probably require everyone on your team to both read existing procedures as well as read your book. But are there additional steps you can take to really get people to own this?


Sam Carpenter:           Well, let me throw this in Richard. We talked before the interview. I’ll say this quickly. For those people who are struggling with buy in or their own motivation, we have a product that we’re coming out called the Work the System Academy and our listeners can to you about how that works. But it’s a multimedia product that explains the whole thing in depth. So if somebody in 30 to 90 days can convert their business to what we’re talking about here. So there’s my second plug I guess. Now here’s the thing. It’s key that your people buy into it. And let’s say, like me, you have 6 managers.




And so, what if one of those managers says, “This isn’t going to have anything to do with it.” So here’s a clue. That manager has to leave. Okay? I mean, in this mechanical world, they need to buy into what’s going on here. Now, we hope that doesn’t have to happen but that could happen. But here’s the key, is to bring people in to the office, regular staff meeting and say, “We’re going to go about this differently. Here’s this book. This is what it’s about and let me know what you think, just read the first-third of the book, part one.” There’s three parts.


So the first part is getting the system’s mindset. If the leader can really buy into it the way you do Richard and the way so many people I know and other people I know do. They can explain to their people that, “Hey, it’s not going so well” or what it is. Or, “We’re not getting into the place we want to get to. We all agreed on that. And I think this is what the problem is.” And then in that initial meeting ask the question, “What is the difference between a large successful organization and a small struggling organization like ours?” Ask for people to raise their hands and see what you get, and none of them will answer correctly, and then everybody will get it when you tell them.


“The difference is that the large successful business has documentations and procedures and the small one doesn’t. And team, if we’re ever going to get to where we need to get to, we got to act like the big companies and it’s time.” And you know on some level every one of them will get it. If they get it enough or not, I don’t know. But that’s what I would do to get the buy in. As far as the motivation goes — the part one, it has a lot of these about my experience. And remember earlier I mentioned that our first procedure was one of the most problematic areas and it happened to be the deposit procedure of getting the money to the bank. And I won’t go to any detail at all about it.


But I was helping with this a couple of times a week. And it was taking, what I estimated afterwards, at two hours a week for me to do this. And I have been doing this for 15 years along with two other managers at that point, at that 15-year point. Three of us were putting the deposit together and getting it up to the bank, each of us spending about an average of two hours a week. Now, this was unexpected but when we tackled that, and it took us about only 8 hours of time, our very first time we had ever done anything like this, we were stumbling. We put the procedure together and I found myself handing the procedure over to a third-party, a third manager where I said, “Here, why don’t you do it now?” And I never did that again Richard.


And I think if you add up what is two hours over 12 years — two hours a week over 12 years, it’s months and months and months of workweeks that I do anymore and I founded 98 hours a week for my 100. And at that point, there was no holding me back. And at that point I realized, “Oh my gosh, this is a totally boring thing I’m going to do.” And I realized why other people are doing it. It’s a completely boring thing number one and number two, nobody likes to sit down and work on something that doesn’t provide an immediate return. And that’s why when I gave a lecture, just after I got this in my head back in the year 2000. I gave a lecture on practices and documentation to 60 answering service owners in Las Vegas.


I started the talk by asking, “How many of you have written procedures?” And no one raised their hand. One lady kind of raised her hand a little bit from her lap. Her name is Sandy and she is from Canada and she has a big service up there and I asked her, “What’s up with the sort of you couldn’t decide whether you’ll raise your hand?” She said, “Well, I’m thinking about it.” And I think she has gone ahead and done all that, but almost none — I’m talking to your listeners out there, almost none of your competition, if you’re a small or medium-sized business, is doing this for those reasons. It’s boring and it doesn’t provide an immediate payback.


And that in itself is a motivation to know you’re going to be the one to do it. And so I had two flashes of motivation in those first couple of weeks and I never turned back. But obviously, you have to get to that point. But once you see the time things start coming down, and I was at 40 hours within 6 months I think from my 80 to 100-hour workweek. So now I’m at two and I have been at two for years and years and years. And only because, I want to go in and hang around the office and have a staff meeting and I shouldn’t do that. I need someone to do it before I’m in town. If I’m not, my Chief Operating Officer does that.




And the other thing is I pay all the bills you know? We would ran a couple of hundred thousand dollars through the business every month and I want to be the one to decide who is getting paid and who isn’t. That’s something I should do. Well, between the staff meeting and that, and the certain amount of RV stuff I do with my staff. It’s 2 hours a week instead of 100. And I have hundreds of testimonials that that is kind of the same effect other people get but a lot of people want to keep working the hours, 40 or 50 hours a week maybe, because they love what they do. They just like to make 5 times as much money and they like to have some fun doing in.


And that’s turnover in the office and that’s what I have. I went to the office today because one of my people was celebrating her 15-year anniversary with the company. And I have a couple that are over 20 years and that’s what’s happened since I’ve strained out things at the office, is I’m able to pay more and it’s a relaxed, wonderful place to work. It really is. It’s a nice place to be. I just go down there and hangout and do my Work the System writing and so forth because I just like being there and not stuck in the house all the time. It’s a nice place to work.


Richard Wilson:           Right. Yeah, it’s interesting for other people that have started to implement your strategies when communicating this to employees because on one level, I often times feel like telling them, like there’s almost a small fear that they’re going to think I’m trying to be lazy because I tell them, “I want you to be able to run this without speaking to me for a full week and any problem that comes up solves itself and we can use these procedures to proactively put out fires as they happen or before they happen.” And I always feel like I have to say, you know what it’s going to sound like, I basically don’t want to any work because I want to only work on the system and on our new marketing systems and on our new business division systems instead of constantly helping put out fires which just burns you out. No pun intended but it just wears you out to be constantly doing this.


I think it’s a great example and I completely agree with you that some of the most boring things in business are what gives you a competitive advantage or they can be seen as boring by our competition because they involve cost of time or money and don’t provide an immediate feedback. And I think that’s just a natural human tendency, like a cognitive bios towards short-term, instant gratification because whether it’s setting up a blog and writing a thousand helpful blog posts on your industry and maybe that won’t pay off for two or three years of doing that every single day. Or it’s setting up systems like this, it doesn’t payoff in day or in one week or sometimes even in a quarter or a year.


So I think that is a key competitive advantage that my company has and I think we can communicate to other people who are taking your training program or taking one of our other training programs is that, if you just change your time horizon and you invest in your business as if you’re going to be around for 10 years or 20 years, and really treat it as a really long-term investment then you’re going to have a competitive advantage over other people that treat their business like a short-term, “You know I’m just going to build this up and sell it next year” or “I need to build this up to make money this month.” You know that’s just too short sided to be really successful on a really competitive space I think.


So I like that you shared that part for sure. And then I definitely agree, with myself I had a kind of an epiphany where I had read the book “The Goal” and realized that this whole systems thing relates to my business. And when I was training three different people on helping us build three different training programs in three different parts of the world, I found myself repeating the same e-mail over and over again, explaining the instructions, explaining what not to do, what to do. And at the same time I was reading your book and it was kind of like a slap across the face moment where I just like, “Jesus! What am I doing here?”


And realized that this is going to be procedure number 1 and I wrote it that day and put it up on a Google Doc and shared it with them and people say like, “Oh this is great!” And like “Oh, this is super helpful.” And it’s just been — since then everything has been better and different. And I think maybe lots of people that are listening to this, you know most people who follow our video or take our training programs or either idea people, they’re business leaders, they’re CEOs or they’re marketers, capitol raisers, sales people and I’m a big fan Jeffrey Gitomer and sales tactics and market invest practices. And I think this has a huge — kind of a huge impact on marketing.


Because like you said, it either makes the rest of your business more efficient so you can spend your time on marketing systems more often or if your focus is just on your marketing even, it just makes your marketing so much more effective. Have you guys been using this in your marketing?




Sam Carpenter:           Oh, yes! That’s how we’re building the academy project. It is strictly by the book literally. In fact my partner, his name is Mike Jalles and he’s from the UK and he’s a copywriter. He’s a copywriter. And so, he’ll interview somebody to write a sales letter and that may take, and I’ll give you his numbers, he was skeptical at first whether he could take a creative endeavor like this which as you mentioned, that a lot of us are that idea people. He said, “Can I take the copywriting task which is a recurring system over and over?” You know you go meet with the client and you find out what their weak points are and where the pain points are and what the positives are and so forth?


And you end up with the sales letter that could do very well or could do very poorly. This process and he put it into numbers could take about 40 hours to do this. And he was skeptical that he could apply this to that. But he did. And he found — he sat down and within a half hour, he had written out 18 steps to the copywriting process.  And it had to do with getting information from the client and doing a little research and so forth. And he found that 17 of those 18 steps could be held by somebody else.


Richard Wilson:           Wow!


Sam Carpenter:           Yeah. And not a highly skilled advertizing person either. But he would meet with the client and turn it over to that person. And then he would do the final — purely creative part which is writing the letter and that would take four hours. So he took 40-hour job completely, utterly creative type of a job and turned it into a 4-hour job. And he’s working fulltime with me on our project right now but you can imagine the number of sales letters he could write and the amount of his income would go up because of that, and paying somebody a pretty minimal level to do those steps. But what he did was, he took those steps and drew out a short procedure about how it was to be handled and how the reporting was to be done, and when to check in and turned it loose and he was done.


So his whole thing took just a few hours to put together and it changed his whole life. If he ever goes back to copywriting again, then his whole life will be entirely different. And then I want to add — let’s see. You mentioned something about getting the staff buy in and one thing, that was another kind of a shocker to me, a pleasant shocker was that my management staff wants to do it on their own. They’re not worried about how much — I mean, I wrote up my book. I worked two hours a week. Does that have any difference on my staff’s attitude? Not at all. They love it because they make all the decisions.


And you know what? I can’t even say “Oh, they get depressed when I show up. And I’m in the office and I’m the big shot and they better watch P’s and Q’ or whatever. You know the boss is here.” Now, it’s not that at all. They welcome me back. They love having me there when I’m there and I’m not there that much. And when I’m gone, they’re perfectly, perfectly happy and they love it. They are running the company. And I’ll tell you, they go into the office and it’s not a jail B, it’s not a job. It’s an epic. They’re running the business and they’re seeing the results of the business every time there’s a paycheck.


And we pay by performance. I think they have their basic salary and everything but up to 30% of their income is based on how we do in their respective department and how they get paid. And they’re on target with me all the way. So it’s pretty exciting. And the other thing we do and I’ll throw this in. It doesn’t have anything to do with any of it I suppose, but there is a system out there called Drug Testing.


Richard Wilson:           Right.


Sam Carpenter:           And I’m a big proponent of drug testing. Drug abuse in the workplace is rampant everywhere in the West. And that was one of the big positive things I did in my business was install the system called drug testing. When we hire people, and then several times during a year, we do a random drug testing because we have these systems in our office called people. And people have to do the work. And they have to think clearly. And this was a huge problem for us. And I don’t care how hard you work the system and do this other stuff, if your people aren’t thinking clearly or they’re up and down emotionally, it’s going to be tough.


And this was one of the best things we ever did was take the systems called the people in office and make sure they’re clear-headed. And we had some people leave because of that right at the beginning. But that’s important too. But that again is just a system. You’re not treating your people like robots. So saying, my staff members are systems, and they would be laughing. If they were listening to this interview they would be kind of laughing and nodding their heads.




They’re not treated like robots. I don’t treat them like systems, like the coffee machine or something. Of course not! They’re people and they want clear-headed people working under them. And it was difficult to find clear-headed people who bought in to this. So we trained at the musical chairs of revolving managers and employees for the more stayed challenge of being able to find people in the first place but once we found those people, they stayed with us a long, long time.


Richard Wilson:           Right. Okay. Yeah, I think that’s very helpful. Once you’ve gotten past understanding the book and implementing it, getting that team buy in fully and consistently I think is the number one most important thing. So I appreciate the extra insight there. I’m definitely going to have to listen to this interview again. When I’m not trying to ask halfway intelligent questions and actually take notes on what you’re saying to make sure we’re doing everything possible. So it’ll be exciting to checkout that program you guys are coming out with as well. And just so I can get this into my business as much as possible accessing the huge ROI on it.


And I think that, before you talked about team buy in you talked about the copywriter example. And I think that is why this is valuable and which might include some people in on exactly where the value of this comes that that copywriter, all of his experience, all of his insights, all of his ability of working with clients in the past and knowing what copywriting pieces work or don’t work, all of that adds up to him knowing how to do the process. And I think that lots of people stop there and I think I have to do it because I am the brains. I am the founder. I am the president.


But you can boil that into a recipe and you can reduce that to a process and then you don’t have to do it anymore. It was your job to come up with that. But besides tweaking or helping tweak it a bit over time, it doesn’t have to be your job to carry it out. I think that’s one key point to get people to really buy in to using your system, is that they should try to turn everything into a process regardless of whether they came up with the idea or whether clients assume that they’re doing it or not, right? Like pretty much everything can be made into a process.


Sam Carpenter:           Well, everything is a process. And we go back to the beginning of our discussion here Richard. Everything is a product, a process mechanically in our worlds, and there’s Linda driving in now, there goes the car down the driveway. That’s a process. Everything is a process in life. And you get away from the static snapshot and realize everything is a streaming video and that means, those processes — every process comes up with a result. What is the result you’re getting in your life? Well, if you’ve got a bad result look at the process that led to it.


So it’s simple mechanics. And this is what the system’s mindset is, the ability to walk down the street and see separate processes happening, knowing that under the street there’s a sewer pipe. And over on the side of the street — and that sewer pipe is probably 12 to 20 feet down under the ground and overhead possibly there’s power lines or maybe they are underground, 3 feet under the ground at the side of the road. And the car coming — the car is a system coming at you and there’s the system driving, called another human being.


The road interestingly enough, is not a sequential system. It is not a living or system. It is just a thing for our practical purposes but what I call organic processes within an office are all 1, 2, 3 linear procedures. And they’ve got to be turned into mechanical things too, just like the driveway or just like the road. They need to be turned into mechanical things and you do that, you make them permanent with your documentation. And you get the buy in to the documentation by getting all your managers to have the system’s mindset too. And once you get it, you’ll never go back.


Richard Wilson:           Right.


Sam Carpenter:           I say that all the time. Once you get the system’s mindset, you will never see the world the same. And then now we’re getting into a little bit of almost metaphysical psychedelic almost kind of a thing but I cannot see the world as this big conglomerated mass where I’m lost in the middle of it and everything is slowing around and I don’t know what’s coming next. You know what? I do know what’s coming next in many cases.


I have my ups and downs. I have my emotional ups and downs. I have days when I want to get something done and I just don’t feel like it. You know I haven’t heard of an emotional or a physical down for whatever reason. And I can’t get it done, that still happens but I’ll tell you Richard, when you only have to work a couple of hours a week and you get to chart your own course, it makes those though times so much easier, so much easier. And you’re not on the edge of destruction every moment, you’re pretty solid.




And Linda of course, my wife, totally gets it and so she’ll have her bad days and I’ll have my bad days and she’d back off. Because the systems that we’ve created all around us continue to function no matter what our mental or physical demeanor might be in that particular day. And that’s what’s called owning a business by the way. Some of our listeners might think they have businesses like a doctor or an attorney, those are jobs if you have to show up. There are very good jobs, congratulations. Derek Gitter has a job too. Good for him. And that’s a great job.


But until you can take this entity that produces you money and have it function without you having to — and I’ll put my hands up like with claw marks show up. If you have to show up, I’m sorry it’s a job. And that’s fine, but work toward creating an ATM machine, a money machine so you don’t have to show up. You can look at it from outside and make it better and better and better and even though you’re doing that, you don’t have to show up to have it keep grinding away and turning up the cash, that’s what you want.


That’s what every entrepreneur wants. I don’t care, without exception. I love to work, love to put my time in but if I don’t feel like it today, I don’t want to have to do that. Just like a car salesman, if you don’t sell the cars, if you don’t show up at the showroom and sell two cars a day, you’re not going to make X amount of income, and if you get sick, too bad. And so many people had lives their whole lives like that and it is not necessary. And there are all kinds of crazy businesses out there that could be automated but they’re not necessarily “follow your bliss” kind of a thing. So, Outside Magazine had a guy on the cover and he was a Wall Street banker and he wanted to do ultra marathons and that was his thing. It was ultra marathons I believe and I may be getting it wrong a little bit.


So he has created a company where he trains ultra marathoners. And I just am guessing that that’s a real struggle. You know that’s a real struggle. He’s got to still put his time in. He’s still struggling to find accounts. But there are all kinds of other kinds of crazy businesses that don’t have anything to do with one’s passion. An answering service? Come on! You know I didn’t go through — like going into college, “I want to operate an answering service.” What do they do? Well, they take messages and deliver them. I mean, how boring is that?


And I love it. I love the business because it’s a well-oiled machine and my people are happy and my clients are happy and I do love it. But I’d rather be climbing North Sister up here or writing the tandem with Linda or travelling. I’m headed back to Pakistan in a few weeks. There’s so much opportunity out there in any kind of goofy business to automate it and make it fly without the owner having to be there.


Richard Wilson:           Right. I think that’s excellent, that really drives home the purpose of the whole book. There are some books out there that talk about the dream of doing that. But this is really the mechanics about exactly how you can do that. I think many people send me e-mails and say, “Well, how do you do interviews like this so often?” or “How do you speak or write books?” “How do you have the time to do all of that?” And that’s really a lot of it I owed back to the value of this book has provided me in our business. I just have one more question for you because I’ve taken about an hour of your day here and I know you’re trying to keep under those two hours per week. So let me get to my —


Sam Carpenter:           No. This is outside the two hours Richard. You can tell, I love talking about this stuff, so it is fine.


Richard Wilson:           Okay. I didn’t want to clog up your system here. Here’s my last question. You’re putting together as more advanced training program, you now have spoken on this topic, you’re coming out with your third edition of the book. In my experience when writing a book, you try to put the most valuable stuff in there and often times early on in the book. But sometimes there’s just not room to fit everything in or something that’s so advanced you don’t really want to put it in there unless it’s really an in depth training program.


So I’m sure in your in depth program you have some more advanced techniques or strategies or reinforcing things. Is there something that just in your last year or year-and-a-half, you’ve realized after really digging deep into this and getting the 400 procedures, is there like one thing that kind of stands out that’s like really kind of — even more than what’s in the book maybe or just kind of drives everything in the book home even deeper just by that one principle or that one strategy that you’ve now picked up just recently maybe?




Sam Carpenter:           Well, that’s an interesting question. You’re sort of putting me on the spot, but you’re not because I do have an answer for you.


Richard Wilson:           Okay.


Sam Carpenter:           The book through its three editions has not changed in its message. The delivery of the message has increased tremendously as I tweaked the system that is the book. And as I got ready to talk to you today Richard, I haven’t had an interview in a few days, but something that’s clicked and I kind of touched on it earlier in the interview, and I hadn’t talked about it and I would like to think about how I present things before I present them, so excuse me if this doesn’t come out as fluid as it could.


But earlier I talked about how we see our lives, a lot of us see our lives in snapshots, right, and not flowing systems that make sense. And for some reason in the last few months and — okay, right from the beginning I’ve been able to I think very effectively described to people the systems in their lives. “Look. You got this, you go that, you go to work, you fixed dinner.” But just recently, maybe in the last 6 months, it has really struck me and I haven’t been able to put it into words and I’m just probably for the first time trying to do it today, is that we have to get away from seeing our lives as static, as in any moment of time like right now is the only moment there is, and of course the past is gone and the future is just conjecture, just like Eckhart Tolle stuff, right? The power of now, the power of the moment.


We are looking at our lives inaccurately when we take a snapshot vision and that’s what we humans do, that’s how we get through the day usually. But to look at our lives at any moment in our lives, at any moment in our day as a snapshot, it is a colossal error in perception. And I realized without even knowing it that what I have done to turn my life around was to look at the fluidity of the moment, that everything is moving and everything is moving and in fact that really settles the idea of the system’s mindset and in my head, and it has been an unconscious thing for a while now, but that idea of seeing the fluidity of everything moving along.


And you know what really strikes? And this isn’t an odd thing, but when you get off coffee or if you’re on antidepressants or if you drink too much or if you’re in on any kind of medication and you just go freaking cold turkey off everything, and you might have your withdrawals with the caffeine or whatever. But after about a week or two weeks you start to really see this, this amazing thing called the family. “Oh my gosh, my family.” I’ve got the kids. I’ve got the parent. I’m in the middle, and it’s all flowing in this beautiful way and pretty soon the world becomes really, really magical.


And it’s hard to do it, it’s hard to get off the stuff, and I sound like some kind of a fanatic about drug abuse or something. But the truth is if you can get this system called your brain running really clean and really smoothly and at 100% you can really get the flow of the world around you and you get away from the snapshot and you get into this fluid thing with your friends and with the people at work and with everything you do and you’re kind of gliding through the day. It’s the most amazing thing, and for some reason over the last size months or a year, this has really struck hard to me. And I wasn’t addicted to anything, don’t get me wrong.


Richard Wilson:           Sure.


Sam Carpenter:           But that really helps to clear the head, to clear the system called the body and the brain so you can see this. And once you go like walk down the street Richard, and see everything up and down the street as a collection of systems and that they’re all flowing and their all moving, you’ve got it laid, you’ve got what you wanted and what. I just know that’s true from my own experience.


Richard Wilson:           Right. Okay. I think there’s something that John Carlton talks about. He’s one of the most famous copywriting trainers and he talks about how Navy Seals have these different levels of alertness. When they walk into a place they notice everything around them and the average person walks through life in a total haze and doesn’t notice many things around them and that if you’re a great marketer you have to start noticing marketing and the systems around you. So I think what you’re saying is that the same level of awareness but more on the fluidity of processes in life and how everything is a process and have that same level of heightened awareness.




I think John Carlton talks about the Navy Seals using, you know as they go through their training and learn how to be more aware of their surroundings, right?


Sam Carpenter:           Oh, the Navy Seals. Yeah, any books you can read on Navy Seal adventures and some of the tragedies of course over in Afghanistan, read about the Navy Seals and what they go through and how they see things out of their eyes, as systems and procedures, and everybody is going through the same direction. The most magnificent human beings in the world I think are the Navy Seals as individual entities of what they’re capable of doing, and the hell they go through just to become a Navy Seal, some of my favorite people in the whole world. That’s great!


Richard Wilson:           Yeah. That’s pretty amazing.


Sam Carpenter:           John Carlton is that the author?


Richard Wilson:           Yeah, and he is like a copywriting trainer. I think his website is the Marketing Rebel or something. I think your colleague there in the UK would definitely be familiar with him because he is so widely known in just the copywriting niche which is a very small niche of marketing.


Sam Carpenter:           Okay, I’m writing it down.


Richard Wilson:           Okay, great. Well, thanks for that last point. That’s something I need to work on more often and I’ll look forward to looking at the third edition of your book. I’m always recommending that people dig into this and I really thing that — it sounds kind of corny but I really think that your book is really a gift to business owners and you didn’t have to share this. You could have stuck to just increasing your own profits 20 times more.


And so I appreciate you both writing the book and keeping it updated and then doing interviews and training programs and such, because I think that this is really a business changing topic and I’m looking forward to spreading this audio interview within my audience. And I just want to thank you again for all your time and insights here.


Sam Carpenter:           Well, the thanks go to you Richard. I appreciate what you’ve done and I’m very impressed with what you’ve accomplished with your business. And maybe Linda and I will come visit you in Brazil this winter, what do you think?


Richard Wilson:           That’s sounds great, but I’m actually supposed to take my wife to Bend sometime myself.


Sam Carpenter:           All right.


Richard Wilson:           So I’ll get you a cup of coffee or something while I’m in town.


Sam Carpenter:           Alrighty. Alrighty, very good Richard. Thanks so much.


Richard Wilson:           All right. Yeah, I’ll keep in touch. Take care Sam.


Sam Carpenter:           All right, bye.


Richard Wilson:           Bye.





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