Four systems that have changed our workplace

Javelina has changed a bunch over the past year or so. From how we talk about ourselves, to the services we offer, to how we hire. In a couple of years we’ve gone from three founding partners to a team of over 12 people and growing.  

All that change has demanded a complete overhaul of how we work internally. It used to be that how we do things was largely held in the heads of the three people who started the company. We did things from memory, and tracked projects with mental power and short email exchanges when necessary.  

With more people, more moving parts, and more clients we have had to do a LOT of work to make sure our work products and services are top-notch. Our mission is to help our clients change the world, and you can’t do that if the right and left hand aren’t talking to each other.

When I think about what we rely on today to allow us to create life-changing outcomes for our clients, it comes down to four things:

  1. Systems and processes
  2. Personalities and strengths
  3. Habits and best practices
  4. Tools

In the coming weeks, I will share the top four personalities, habits and tools that have helped us manage this change.

Today, in the first of a four-part series, I want to share with you four fundamental systems we have created in our business over the past 12 months that have helped us manage rapid change while keeping our products and services consistent. These four systems make us better, faster and stronger.  

Documented systems and processes allow for consistency in your products/services, AND they enable you to scale what you are doing. It is vital to have systems in your business because if you are the only person with the knowledge of how to do something, it will stunt your growth. It will also permanently tie you to your organization – meaning less freedom. Think interrupted vacations and no such thing as sick time. Miserable.

In the first 4-5 years of Javelina, before we had staff, there were certain things I did over and over and over. I knew how to do them so well that I could do them in my sleep.

As we grew and hired staff for the first time, I was faced with training someone else to do something I knew how to do very well.

You think that would be easy, right? Wrong.  

I learned that the things you do habitually are the hardest things to explain to someone else. And man, did I wish that I had written some of these things down while I was doing them repeatedly.

Over the past year or so, we have been writing down the things we do over and over and over. Here are the most important ones to start with.

1. A System for Creating Systems

I’m pretty sure some of you just rolled your eyes. You read those five words and you heard “red tape”, “bureaucracy” or “busy work”. I don’t blame you. A system for creating systems might sound like having a meeting about having a meeting, but bear with me.  

If you are going to systematize your organization (which you 100% should), you first need to set a standard for how you’re going to do that. Additionally, if you have a system for writing systems, it frees you from having to be the sole person that documents all of your processes.

Your System for Creating Systems should answer these foundational questions:

  • How should your systems be formatted, structured and stored?
  • What are the step-by-step instructions for how to write your system? What are the things to think about or consider?
  • What resources, tools, examples or tips can be included to make it easier for someone to actually use this system? 
  • When you look at the steps of your system, how can efficiencies be created? Efficiencies fall into four categories:
         Trash = You can get rid of this step by automating or eliminating it.
         Batch = This step can be done all at once at one designated time in your workday or workweek instead of continually throughout the day (such as checking email or creating social media posts).
         Automate = This step can be automated by using a system or software.
         Delegate = You can delegate this step to another member of the team or a contractor.

If it helps, you can take a look at our System for Creating Systems.

Once you have this one nailed, you then utilize it to create the next three foundational processes in your organization.

2. A System for Processing and Managing Expenses

No matter the size of your organization, there is money flowing in and out of it. Establishing a process for tracking expenses will not only save you a bunch of time as you grow, but it’ll also save a lot of time and energy when it comes to important things like paying vendors, billing clients and filing taxes.

Your system for processing expenses should answer these important questions:

  • How quickly should receipts be processed from the time they are generated? How often a week or month should expenses be processed?
  • What happens to expenses that are reimbursable?
  • What happens to expenses that are billable to a client?
  • What information needs to be captured and recorded when it comes to expenses and receipts? Where is that information stored?
  • Where are receipts kept/scored/recorded?
  • What should happen if questions arise while processing expenses and receipts?

The system for processing expenses is like flossing your teeth. It’s annoying in the moment, but boy, will future-you be glad you invested in it.

3. A System for Onboarding Clients/Projects/Employees/Vendors

No matter what your organization is, there will be times when you bring new people, systems or things into it. This system creates a consistent way of onboarding those clients, projects, employees, vendors – or whatever they are. It creates consistent, intentional ways for setting these people up for success.

The start of a new relationship or partnership is the most important – what happens at the start often sets the tone for everything that comes after it. This system guarantees you’ll get off on the right foot every single time.

It should answer these questions:

  • What information/tools/resources/logins do you need to provide this person or people in order for them to exceed expectations?
  • What information/tools/resources/logins do you need from this person or people in order for them to exceed expectations?
  • What information/tools/resources/logins do other people need to know to contribute to a successful relationship and partnership?
  • When do each of these things need to happen and in what order?
  • What goals or benchmarks for success exist in the first 8-16 weeks to allow for intentional communication and troubleshooting as the partnership becomes established?
  • What triggers the beginning and end of this process?
  • What checks and balances need to exist to safeguard this system?

4. A System for Offboarding Clients/Projects/Employees/Vendors

You guessed it. What comes onboard must eventually go off board. No matter the nature of your work people will at times depart from it – whether they are clients, collaborators, or vendors. 

Having a thoughtful system for what this looks like ensures a smooth, stress-free process for all involved. It also ensures you do everything you need to do now and prevents questions popping up in the future that you can’t easily answer because you no longer have access to the person or people that were involved in that project.

This one should answer:

  • What information or materials do you need to keep, save or store to ensure you have everything you need? What information or materials do you need to share?
  • Who needs to be alerted or take particular action(s) because of this offboarding?
  • How are you discussing and documenting lessons learned so we can be continually improving our products and services?
  • What triggers the beginning and end of this process?
  • What checks and balances need to exist to safeguard this system?

So much of what I learned about systems came from the podcast Kate’s Take. The second season is all about creating and implementing systems in your organization.

Stay tuned for part two- four personalities that have changed our workplace.

Javelina Blog Author Ariel Reyes
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Javelina Blog Author

Catherine Alonzo, CEO & Founding Partner

Catherine Alonzo is the CEO and founding partner of Javelina, a company that brings brand experience to life for non-profits, businesses, campaigns and individuals. Having played a pivotal role in growing Javelina into a leading branding and marketing firm, Catherine specializes in effective messaging, brand development and business strategic planning.


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