Insider Secrets of Big Business for Small Business


Do you describe yourself as a professional firefighter?  Today, Sharon Cully will show you how to identify and remove the hidden costs in your business.  Sharon is a certified consultant in the Work The System method and has authored a blog post that can be found on titled, “The Hidden Cost of Not Putting Processes in Place“.  With 15 + years of experience working with leading Global Brands, Sharon has been able to help small business owners experience a high level of performance by tackling hidden costs in their business.

For anyone interested in growing their business, Sharon have two offers:

  • a free 45-minute session called Scale Up Your Business, where we identify your growth goals and how to reach them
  • download a free white paper called ‘Lead your team through a big change with confidence’

Go to:


Josh Fonger (00:24 – 01:02) : Welcome to the Workthesystem Podcast. Where we help entrepreneurs make more and work less using systems. And I’m your host Josh Fonger. Today we have a special guest. We have Sharon Cully. Hi Sharon, is a Workthesystem certified coach and with a passion to for identifying and addressing hidden costs in business. She’s has over 15 years experience working with leading global brands and Sharon has been able to help small business owners experience a high level performance by tackling hidden costs in their business. And she just authored a post we put up there on a work assistant website. It’s called the hidden cost of not putting processes in place. And a welcome to the show Sharon.

Sharon Cully (01:03 – 01:05) : Thanks Josh. I’m happy to be here.

Josh Fonger (01:06 – 01:20) : Good. All right, well before we dive into how to fix your business and everyone at run a deep dive into how with your experience you fixed business, your big business and small business, why don’t you give us the back story, why don’t you give us the history and how you got into this line of work?

Sharon Cully (01:21 – 04:42) : Sure. So it’s a bit of a journey. I’m originally from New Zealand, so I started my career in supply chain at Coca-Cola in New Zealand and gained a lot of experience there and I’ll go into a little bit more about what I, what I did, , in a moment. But, I moved to the UK in 2000. I wanted to broaden my horizons with my career and travel and so I worked for a couple of companies there’s Gillette and Diaggio who make Guinness, Smirnoff, Smirnoff, Baileys, Johnny Walker,worked for them for about 10 years, over 10 years, and got a lot of good experience there. Then in 2013, I had an opportunity to do something different, so I decided to do some contract work and see what that was like and really found that I enjoyed the freedom of working for different companies, taking a bit of time out to be able to travel, see my family back in New Zealand, as well. So, spent some time and working for a number of different companies and pharmaceuticals and food and drink and also for a big telecoms company in Belgium. So I moved around a fair bit and learned a lot. And then a few years ago I was doing a bit of traveling and I met my partner in Cape town, so that added a new kind of element to my life where, I was again, sort of wanting to travel a bit more and be more mobile. And so we wanted, work out how I could do more of the work that I enjoy doing, but be more mobile and so decided to set up my business as a consultant and help people with processes. And so how I got to to that line of work was my background is in sales forecasting and customer service. And so that was very much around making sure that there was enough stock for fulfilling customer orders in the different companies that I worked for. That sounds pretty straightforward, but, actually isn’t. I discovered there’s a lot that goes into planning and trying to make sure that there’s a the right amount of stock because of course if you have too little then customers are disappointed, but at the same time if you have too much, there’s a lot of costs associated with that for the business. So it’s a real balancing act. And doing that work. I, I manage quite a few different teams, so it was, a team leader, a manager for, for a lot of that time. And I did a lot of project work as well. So I, coordinated a number of different projects to get different departments working together more effectively, especially in sales forecasting. It requires a lot of, inter departments, communication. And so I needed to find better ways to get people working together and sharing information more effectively. And so that really led me towards trying to improve the way we get things done. And I found that documenting processes and ways of working was really the best way to do that.

Josh Fonger (04:43 – 05:16) : Wow. That is a, I did not know that story. You’ve moved around more than I have, well that, that’s a well, how interesting. So, so supply chain, big companies, Coke, Gillette, any other companies, pharmaceuticals. , and so now you’re kind of shifting gears, right? So your, your focus now is more on,smaller businesses, not, not super small, but smaller companies. What are some things that you’ve noticed that big companies, you know, have kind of figured out this, the small companies just, just haven’t done yet?

Sharon Cully (05:17 – 07:33) : Sure. So, some of the big lessons that I learned along the way was that keeping processes as simple and usable as possible is incredibly important. I worked for one business in particular that Britain’s and some heavy duty consulting, assistance to get there. Yes, it’s documented and they delivered some good work, a lot of, but a lot of flowcharts and a lot of technical information, which turned out to be quite helpful for say management to have a look and be able to glance and see how information flows. But it wasn’t actually very usable for, for the average person to, to use as a document to work from. And particularly for training that was not very, not very helpful. So, the work that I did was to keep it very simple, just word documents. Writing down the steps and making sure that everyone was clear on how they could be used. So that meant that it was much more sustainable going forward. So that was something that, that came up. And then also, I, I led a few different projects, around implementing planning software. And what I found is it’s so much more important to have the processes working effectively, before putting the software. And the software is an enabler and it’s its tool that certainly helps for, the team to, to work more effectively, but only if only processes are running smoothly ahead of time. And even working with consultants who work with a big planning software companies, they admitted to me that, , it’s actually the process of being, required if you like to review all of your processes before the software goes in. That’s actually the most benefit to business. It’s not actually the sole software itself, that sort of secondary. So that was a big learning for me, that, , it was just so important to have that the ways of working are ironed out.

Josh Fonger (07:34 – 08:22) : Okay, That is very fascinating. I think that, and the irons I was small companies too, is that they think a software is going to solve the problem when a lot of times it’s just understood thinking through, understand the process. And I love how you mentioned that and I, and you’re going to find this more and more, I certainly do is I’ll work with a large company and they’ll have the flowcharts and they’ll, they’ll spend all its money on diagrams and, but, but it doesn’t actually apply to the work that happens every day. And so you found the same thing, ethics document those systems so that the team can be trained and use them. , how cool. That’s, that’s interesting. So, so now, , going into, take all your knowledge of these big companies and trying to apply to small companies, where do you find usually is the, , the waste in these small companies? There’s, is there something where they’re really burning up a lot of time that they shouldn’t be?

Sharon Cully (08:23 – 10:13) : Yes. I guess it’s safe to say that. , even in big companies there, there are a number of processes that are in place already in certain areas of the business. So manufacturing for example, tends to have a lot of processes in place, but not so much around the support functions and finance, sales, marketing, supply, the supply chain team or the fulfillment teams often, are not working as effectively as they could. And so what I find is just making sure that everyone knows what they’re supposed to be doing makes a big difference. So a lot of the time that I spent in bigger companies and now more so in smaller companies is working out how much time people are spending fixing issues, fixing problems. And a lot of it is around that customer service area that, that I’ve had quite a bit of experience in trying to get customer orders. Correct. And that sounds like it should be quite straight forward, but that’s fundamentally what customers are looking for. They want, their products to be delivered on time in full or they want their service to be as deliberate as they expected. That’s one of the fundamentals and that doesn’t always happen without effort. So the more that you can document those processes to make sure that people are doing the work they need to do consistently on a regular basis, and that then leads to fewer issues, fewer errors being made, and that way customers are much happier. , the people in the team and the owner themselves are freed up to do more of the value adding work that, , makes such a difference to the business.

Josh Fonger (10:14 – 11:06 ) : Okay you, you started that with, the entrepreneurs, , or do you try to find that where they’re, where they’re for solving problems or fixing problems or fixing the things that keep coming up. And oftentimes I’ll talk to entrepreneurs and they’ll say that they’re professional firefighters or what they do is to solve problems. And you’re saying, Hey, if you’re always trying to fix fires, that’s because you don’t have your systems in place. Those, those emergencies actually shouldn’t be happening so often. Well I want to change gears a little bit. So you, , you know, one of the things that you specialize in or focus on is getting entrepreneurs past this, proverbial glass ceiling where they are stuck now. Maybe they’re wearing too many hats, maybe they don’t have enough time left in their day. , what, what are, what are the ways you try to help entrepreneurs maybe see their business differently or get beyond these, these, these, I guess areas where they’re stuck?

Sharon Cully (11:07 – 13:46) : I find that really helps to start with their goals, their vision for, for the business. And quite often entrepreneurs haven’t had a chance to even think about that or they just haven’t thought how unfortunate that might be. And it’s something that bigger businesses do really as a matter of course, but at some that smaller businesses don’t necessarily take the time out to do that. So I found that that really gets the ball rolling in terms of, helping entrepreneurs understand what direction do they want to go in. And once they have that, that really helps with a lot of decision making. So that’s important to understand which direction you want it to go in, what choices do want to make, and also what you don’t want to do. Because I think it’s, it’s common for so many of us to, to go after something that looks interesting and shiny and new, but it might actually not take you in the direction that’s good for your business. So that’s, a great place to start. And then the next step is around, understanding the action plan to get you from where you are now to where you want to go. And that really starts to make things much more concrete in terms of, working out, okay, this is the reality right now. This is where I want to be, how can I get there? And certainly one way to do that that’s very effective is putting processes in place and the work, the system method is, is very good at providing a, quite a detailed action plan to get there. But then the biggest step, the final step there is to actually implement that plan. So take action on that action plan. And so the first two steps are, are very important, but they’re are pretty much a paper exercise. it’s, it’s really that third step where the rubber meets the road, so to speak.  And you need to actually get, get the ball rolling and take steps and that’s where you need your team to, to help you absolutely cannot do it on your own. And bringing your team along on that journey is incredibly important. And that’s something that I’ve learned. Certainly through the project work that I’ve done. And working with some small business owners, they often feel a little bit nervous about how to get their team, on, on board and coming on the journey with them to support that vision that they have. And that’s something that, that I really enjoy helping business owners with.

Josh Fonger ( 13:46 – 14: 16 ) : So this is an area that definitely want to dive into a little bit because of your experience with it. And, I think it’s definitely the place for owners. They, they’re afraid to cast their vision because they’re afraid it’s not going to work and they’re afraid that their team won’t buy into it or help them get there. So they just kinda stay in this stuck place of what, what are some of the, some keys or fundamentals to getting, getting your team, your employees or maybe your team of contractors to, go with you through this, this, this transformative change?

Sharon Cully (14:17 – 17:33) : Yes. That is a big, big step, that a lot of business owners need to take. And what I found is that it can be , a rewarding journey if some planning is, is put in place and some thought around the impact on, on your team. And so I’ve actually written a white paper on this and I’ll, I’ll let your listener listeners know about that, at the end of the session, where they can find that. But what I’ve done is put together my thoughts from my experience on what’s worked for me over the years in terms of bringing your team along. And there are a few different things. There’s getting support from your leadership team is, is really, the first place to start. You want to make sure that your leadership team is on board and understands why you’re moving in that direction. Once you’re clear on your vision and clarifying the benefits, , not only for the business and what that means to get to the growth that you want to get to, but what are the benefits for the individuals, your employees? What’s in it for them? , it’s, it’s safe to say that you’re the boss and you can tell everyone what they should be doing to, to, , get to the place that you’d like to be with the business. But the chances of you having a successful transformation to your business is pretty slim if you take that, that approach. But if you can bring people on board by clarifying those benefits to them, that makes a big difference. But also say, expect resistance and don’t resist that resistance to change. , what most people feel when it comes to change, especially around their jobs, is quite a bit of fear. , people are used to doing things the way they’ve always done them and they have a certain amount of pride in the way they do things. And having someone come along and question the way they do it or suggest that their job might change is quite a big, , quite a big thing for a lot of people to, to deal with. And so very much expect that resistance and work out ways to understand what that resistance is and how you can help them to move through that.  And one of the big ways to do that is to involve employees in the design of, of the new, , new ways of working. So get them involved from the very beginning and get their input that way they will feel that they’ve got something valuable to say. You will learn a lot because they know their jobs better than you will and in the end you’ll have a better results. , if you, if you take that approach, and I guess the final thing I’d say is listen to your employees. Make sure that you take their views on board so that they feel heard. That’s often the biggest, biggest thing that people are looking for is to be acknowledged and have their fears, , acknowledged so that as a team you can work together to, to address them.

Josh Fonger ( 17:34 – 18:06) :That was a great, , listing and I agree with all your points. I’m making notes of them. So let’s say that you’re an owner and you’re listening to this and you’re thinking, okay, yeah, I’d like to get the system in place and I do have a division, but I, I’ve just, I know it’s going to fail if I just put it out there to my team. , should they try to do this themselves? Should they try to bring in somebody like you to help them? Or what, what is a smart approach to getting to that dream knowing that there’s going to be resistance? For sure. What is a good way to think through that?

Sharon Cully (18:07 – 18:59) : I think it depends on how confident you are as a leader and also how much time you have to manage that change. It will always be far easier and more effective to have someone come in who has experience to help with that change. That’s almost a fast track approach. And if you just don’t feel comfortable as a leader, maybe you’re new to it or haven’t had an opportunity to, to get leadership training, then having someone come in to help with that can make a big difference. It really does help to push things along much more quickly than if you do it yourself. So I’d certainly recommend getting some sort of help, even if it’s from another business owner that, you know, that can give some advice, but having a coach involved that makes a big difference.


Josh Fonger (19:00 – 20:46 ) : Yeah. , I agree that too. It’s the speed is a big thing cause you, I mean, if you’re an owner and you’re already busy and then you’re going to do this, well, it means you’re not going to do this because it’s gonna be too much. And, , will you make mistakes along the way? Guaranteed. So you have to decide, what, what is the tradeoff going to be? And, , and then if you really want to be successfully having limitations, it’s nice to have the experience of somebody doing it with you and supporting that, that process. , so I totally agree and I think I told you, , a while back when we first met that when I first knew about this whole consulting realm, you know, or 10 years ago when I was doing my MBA, , I wrote about Hawaii, you should not hire a consultant. Why should not? You should not hire a coach. And I was like, Oh, you don’t really need to do that. You should just do it yourself. And coming full circle realizing actually there’s a lot of owners that they shouldn’t do it themselves. It’s a bad idea. They really should get help. They really should get trained. They really should get support because it’s going to be better for the company is better for them and better for their customers. They just do it right sometimes do it yourself is actually the wrong idea actually. How do people calculate ROI? , so let’s say they, , they want to fix their business but they think, you know, should I just, , you know, pay $10,000 and get more ads cause I get more sales next month or should I pay some money and, , you know, put this structure that you talked about into a business and then, you know, transform the team, you know, how do they determine between the two? Because one, you know, you might yield more revenue in 30 days, the other one, it might not be so fast. So how do, how do you make a, an ROI choice on something like that?

Sharon Cully (20:47 –22:31 ) :Yes, it is something that, , I guess a lot of business owners would want to see and it certainly is a much more, I guess, attractive prospect to be going after those, sales opportunities that come along. But what I’d say is those can be very short term and the longer term benefits are difficult to, to quantify on those, sales opportunities. But certainly if your business is, is not in a stable place where say 80% of the time it’s running like clockwork, running smoothly, quite predictable, then your time is going to be pulled in at short notice on a regular basis, , to fix issues, fix problems, or help your team to make decisions. And so your opportunity to actually go after those, those sales opportunities will be reduced. And so what I advise, , owners on is to think about the longer term benefits of having a stable business that is predictable or far more predictable than it might be now, to allow that space to do those, those sales calls, to chase after those sales opportunities to grow the business and have the time to do that. , fixing issues can really be very draining and it can really drain on your creativity, , that you know, that you’re craving to have, to think about how to grow the business. So it really is a long term game, but, gives so much more possibilities for the future.

Josh Fonger (22:32 – 23:14) :  Yeah, I mean you’re basically, if you don’t do it, you’re going to cap your future and you’re going to ensure that as your company grows, your, your life will get worse. It’s gonna get more chaotic. And so if you actually don’t want to cap your future and you want your life to get increasingly better, it’s like a, it’s required. You have to do it. There’s, there’s no way around it really. , I’m sure the large companies you worked with didn’t just do it by the seat of their pants. They probably actually had some things documented. Well, due to time, I want to give you a chance to kind of, , answer the question. I ask all my guests, which is, what’s one question that I didn’t ask you, but I should have asked you and you want to kind of share with the audience?

Sharon Cully (23:15 – 24:45)- Sure. I guess what I would say is I found as a manager working with teams, to be very fulfilling, but it can be quite a journey as well and quite, , challenging to, to understand how to get the best out of your people. And so tied in with the, the change management that we just talked about, managing your team through that change. What I found has been really effective is focusing on people’s strengths. And traditionally it’s been the case that we’ve tended to look at what are the weaknesses, what are the development areas and how can we improve those. But I have discovered that it’s far more powerful to find out what people’s strengths are and really maximize those strengths, not only for your team, but if you’re for yourself as well. And what putting processes in place really allows for is to remove the noise around the day to day operations such that people get an opportunity to really move into their strengths, maybe pick up on projects that you need help with and they’re very good at doing that work. You can really benefit from that. And people themselves feel much happier in the work that they do are in far more likely to, to continue to work for you and do a great job. So that would be my other tip in terms of people management.

Josh Fonger (24:46 – 24:52) :  That’s a great tip. Well. So, Sharon, where can people find out more about you and your business?

Sharon Cully (24:53 – 26:03) – So you can find me on my website. That’s and I’m on email as well, [email protected] and you can find me on LinkedIn also. And I have a couple of free giveaways if you like, , some free, , sessions and that white paper that I mentioned. So, , the white paper you can find on the welcome page that we’ll make available, , to your listeners. And that is , forward slash WTS and that’s all about leading your team through a big change with confidence. And then for anyone who’s interested in growing their business, I’m offering a free 45 minute session that’s called scale up your business. And in that session we’ll create a clear vision for your business growth, uncover hidden challenges, stopping you from reaching your goals. And my hope is that you’ll come away feeling inspired to take the next step towards your goals.

Josh Fonger (26:04 – 27:54) :  That is a, that’s awesome. Okay. So everybody listening a simply, and if you want to get some of those resources, that case study, especially if you have a team and you want to, you know, finally figured out how to make, take that first step, , slash WTS and , thanks Sharon for doing the, the , the, I don’t know if you’d call them discovery calls or strategy calls. I think it’s going to be great for those people who are they kind of want to do it, but they’re not really sure if it’s right at the right time or what, what the first step is. It’s great to talk to somebody like you. Obviously, you have the experience and, you have been doing this for a long time, which is, which is awesome. So, I’m looking forward to hearing more and more of the stories.  Also, those of you who are not aware, , Sharon is a WTS certified, so we’re certifying coaches and consultants all over the world and so she’s one of the star students. And so it works. I test for her, promote her and help her get, really expand and help as many companies as possible. So if it’s something that you’re interested in doing, , work we get some information about, , how to do that, , on that page and sharing, you’re also featured on, I think we just put you up there on the website you’re featured on the website and one of your articles is on our website as well so people can check that out as well. And , stay tuned. Everybody. Next week whenever we share another, , expert like Sharon or another author or speaker or someone that’s certified or one of my clients, somebody to help you learn how to teach you how to grow your business so you can make more. And we’re class and if you want a copy of that book right there behind me and I work the system, you can download it for free at work, the or you can get it for free mail to you. If you write as a co, write us a review and take a screenshot and email it to info at work, the once a week we grab a name out of the hat and we mail them a book. Otherwise, we will see you all again next week and thanks Sharon.

Sharon Cully (27:56) : Thanks Josh.

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