Written By: Wade Wyant
Red Wagon Advisors


I’ve heard it said that any lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client. I’m not a lawyer, but I can relate to the idea that – no matter your expertise – there are some things you shouldn’t try to do without someone helping you.


For the rest of the business world, it falls under the perilous heading of self-implementation. It’s a lesson I learned from my own short-sightedness, and I’m hoping I can redeem myself and those egregious mistakes by saving you from making them also.


The business world is filled with systems designed to help us do our jobs better. Whether it’s Six Sigma or ISO or ITIL, these systems have gained traction because they’ve proven time and again to deliver results.


Many entrepreneurs get the bright idea that they can design or dream up their own systems. Some may actually be capable of it, but I’ve always wondered why anyone would bother when there are perfectly good systems you can pull off the shelf that have proven to work. Why re-invent the wheel when you can just buy one?


That’s what I thought some years back when I decided to implement not one, not two, but three advanced sales systems. That’s right, I pulled my team together, and in one fell swoop I decided we were going to implement CustomerCentric, Miller Heiman and Spin Selling. All at once.


I had done a lot of reading on these systems, and I was intrigued by their potential to help the company I was leading at the time. I was sold. I wanted us to use all of them.


What I didn’t want to do was spend any money, or involve anyone else, in the implementation. I was convinced that was completely unnecessary. I knew my team. I knew my company’s goals. I knew what we needed to do. I could save time and money leading the implementation myself.


That’s what I told myself. And that’s where my trouble started.


I pulled the whole team together for three days. I presented the systems as best as I understood them. The further I went with this, the more I realized how many holes there were in my presentation. Having read up on these systems was no substitute for having real experience with them. I couldn’t convey to my team the key points they needed to understand.


I made so many mistakes trying to lead the implementation process, it was laughable. I actually giggle at myself now when I think back on it.


Among other problems, I didn’t know where the land mines were. I hadn’t invested the necessary time to find out information like that. I was trying to shorten the implementation cycle but I didn’t understand how to provide the leadership or the followup. So sure, the cycle was shorter, but the leadership was lacking and the followup was non-existent.


My people spent three days giving me blank stares, as if to say, “What the heck is this?” And when it was over, they did almost nothing with it. Those three days were all that ever happened. After that, we went back to business as usual.


The self-implementation led to no real action because no one had the slightest idea what to do. For the next three years, I tried to believe my initiatives would lead us to success. But they failed, all because I tried to save money and do it myself.


Looking back, I recognize I would have been much better off implementing fewer things, but going deeper with what I did implement. And needless to say, I should have gotten some support from someone who understood these systems and how to make them work.


At the very least, I should have consulted a company that had previously implemented the same system or systems, and asked them what to expect. You can get different levels of help, depending on what you’re willing to spend, but I guarantee there is some help available for the budget you can handle. If you think you can’t afford it, I’d ask this: Can you afford to implement a system that never accomplishes anything for you?


I didn’t think so.


Remember, though: When you do seek help from those who have used the system before, be sure you’re getting insight you can use, not just their reviews. You can go to Yelp for everyone’s opinions about whether the system is good or bad. But if you want to know how to make it work, you need to get real insight from someone who’s been there. Find out what they learned, and how you can apply it. Find out what they would do differently, and do it.


I would highly recommend getting someone to help you design the implementation process. The design is probably 50 percent of the value, although it’s only about 5 percent of the time. But you need a design that’s proven, and if you haven’t done it before then there’s no feasible way you can come up with a proven design.


Also, make sure you get someone to help you who will follow up. Without followup from an implementer, how are you going to be held accountable? How do you make sure the rollout doesn’t become the one-time deal that leads to nothing?


This is especially timely now, because we’re in a rare situation in which the entire country is going back to work after three months of down time. A lot of people spent those three months thinking about how to make their businesses better, and now it’s go time.


So go. But don’t go it alone. Proven systems can do your business a world of good, but that can quickly become a missed opportunity if you don’t do the implementation right. And this is a really good time to recognize you do not know everything, and some help could be just the thing that sets you on a path to success.