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This business coaching session explains the reasons why you should always use a checklist.

Results-Focused Training, Tools, and Workshops from Expert Business Coaches.

Featured Coaching Excerpt - Notes & Transcript, Part 1
  • Lesson Nugget: In order to grow your business you must be able to replicate your systems by having checklists.
  • Lesson Nugget: What is common sense to you is not common sense to your employees. It is your job as a leader to give them a clear process to follow and hold them accountable to it.
  • Action Step: Create a checklist that will empower your employees to perform a job exactly how you want it performed.

customer service training like digital tutors

-What's up, guys. My name is Daniel McKenna, the Executive Producer and hype man here at Thrive15. Today we have Clay Clark, and we have Dr. Robert Zoellner here for you to teach you a little bit about quality control. We're talking about checklists, checklists, and getting it done right. Here's the deal, guys. Unless you want to be the only one ever working at your business, you have to build checklists and customer service trainings.

You're going to have to build a checklist on how to do it right so that someone else could also do that job, eventually. That's how this thing works, and that's what we're talking about today. Here at Thrive, we believe that knowledge without application is meaningless. Unless you take the time to actually, physically write out something you can specifically apply to your life and your business from watching this video, today's lesson is to be more meaningless than an underground building with windows.

-Dr. Z, how are you, my friend?

-I'm great, Clay. How are you doing, buddy? Good to see you.

-I am doing very well. I feel like the wonderful food we just had, had a couple burritos, feeling good about life. And we're here talking about checklists.

-Come on.

-Now, here we go. We're talking about checklists, checklists, and getting it done right.

-Oh, hoo, yes.

-Now, before we deep dive into it, I'm going to say something that might offend 95% of the viewers. But we're going to do it in a nice way, because we care. Now, I'm going to start with ripping on myself. I'll be a viewer, too. I know when I grew my businesses, I got to a certain point where I could no longer do everything myself. And at that point, I just yelled at people for not doing it right.


-So I hired people. No one did it right. I'd tell them not to do it wrong. We would have these endless conversations. And as I've been consulting with companies all across the country, I've been astounded to realize at about 95%, roughly, almost every business I work with, when I first bring me on, there's no checklists for anything.

There's no checklist for cleaning the bathroom, there's no checklists for answering the phone. There's just no checklists. So, there's a ton of people watching this right now who have no checklists, no written down systems. How important are checklists, in your mind, to growing a company?

-Well, it's one of the few ways you could try to duplicate. People always ask me, how do you have so many businesses, and you have some things going on? You have to duplicate yourself. Well, there's a lot of really smart people out there. And you can tell them something, and they may remember a part of it.

But they don't remember all of it, and it's the few things that they forget, that they don't do, that makes you have a very, very difficult day. So writing it down and making it-- well, you can replicate with other people. It's like, here's what you say when you answer the phone, here's what you do. And before you leave, here is the 10 items you have to make sure that are done for the day.

I mean, checklists are very important, because what it does, it helps you replicate. And with turnover of staff, even you may go, oh, yeah, here's the 10 things-- I think there's only 9. I know I remember 9, so just do these 9 things. Oh, wait-- the next employee-- I know there's 8 I need you to really do before you leave for the day. And then, pretty soon, you've forgotten this stuff, too. So you've got to.

-There is a lady I know who is a sports coach. And she has a business that's not in Tulsa. And I'm not going to give away the location. But she's a lady who asked me to help her grow her business. She's a sports coach, she's a lady. And what she did it is, she grew her business from her coaching about 50 kids, to now there's about 400 kids.

In every single meeting I went to, I mean, literally every meeting, she was like, OK, why did you guys not clean the bathroom? And then the four or five trainers look around and they're going, I thought she was going to do it. I thought-- and then after about three weeks of freaking out about that, then she says, you guys didn't do it right. And week I would say, it's not written down who's supposed to do it or what's supposed to be done.

And she's like, it's just common sense. So I'm going to deal with that comment right there. It's just common sense. What do you say the entrepreneur on the other side of that camera who is watching this right now going, give me a break. I don't have to make a checklist for my front desk staff, or for the end of the day, or for the bathroom cleaning. It should be common sense. What do you say?

-It is common sense. It's common sense to you. And that's why you're the boss. That's why you're the entrepreneur. We think differently. And those things, to us, just makes sense. But for all the people that we surround ourselves-- we'll call them, mm, employees-- it's not common sense to them.

And that's, quite frankly, why some of them are not the business owners, is because they don't get things like that. So you have to help them. And you can tell them, and tell them, and tell them, and tell them, and tell them. Or you can write it down, and you could make it to where they can find what it is that they need to do.

You can have a filing system. You can have some kind of organization to where it's written down, and it spells it out. And guess what? Now, if they don't do it, now you have a different problem on your hand. And, oh, they just forgot about it. Or it didn't make sense for them to do it that way.

-So let's talk about your businesses, 'cause you do own basically a-- what do you call it, a ranch? Or what do you call where you raise your horses? What do you call it?

-A thorough bred ranch, yeah.

-A thoroughbred ranch, you have these competitive race horses. You have the optometry clinics. You have the sleep center. You have a lot of different businesses going on. Let's just jump real quick to the optometry clinic. What are-- not necessarily the specific items on the checklist, but what are the kinds of checklist that we could find at the optometry clinic?

-One would be for my doctors. I try to train them and try to coach them. I want them to be as much like me in the exam room as possible. So they have a list of things that they're to follow, that they're to do. And then also they have a, if this happens, you go here. If this happens, you say this. And so, not only is it a checklist, but it's also kind of a script of an examine and some things that could happen through that.


Featured Coaching Excerpt - Notes & Transcript, Part 2
  • Lesson Nugget: Having these checklists in place keeps people accountable and helps your employees know who is responsible for what tasks.
  • Ask Yourself: Do I have a checklist for every process in my business that my employees can follow?
  • Notable Quotable: "Most entrepreneurs are merely technicians with an entrepreneurial seizure. Most entrepreneurs fail because you are working in your business rather than on your business." - Michael Gerber (Author of The Greatest Small Business In The World)
  • Lesson Nugget: As your company grows, checklists keep your systems consistent regardless of employee turnover.


-So now let's hop over here to this place, which is the Z's auto auction. So Z's auto auction, you guys are selling hundreds of cars, maybe 700, 800 cars a week, in and out of here. What are the kinds of checklists we can find here?

-Well, I didn't finish on the [INAUDIBLE]. The [INAUDIBLE] is about four areas, and each one of those areas have their own checklist to walk through for the employees in that. Same thing over here in Z66. Ronnie, my operations manager, has an entirely different checklist than Doug in my sales office. My ladies behind the desk, if you will, they all have their checklist of things that they need to do to prepare for the sale.

Because what happens is we have a sale every Friday. So you show up on a sale and all of a sudden you look around going, hey wait, why didn't anybody know that we're doing a special RV sale today at 11:30? Whose job is that to get the word out on that? Everyone is looking at each other like, uh. You have to make those lists. You have to let people know what they're being held accountable for and also what they're responsible for.

So each one of my businesses it's not just one checklist for everybody, so to speak. I mean, there are the basics that you expect for your employees but each area has its own checklist of things that they need to do for that week to be successful, or for that day to be successful.

-So let's just say that I got hired to work for you as some sort of man secretary.


And so you say, I want you to everyday answer the phone.


-I want you to clean out the restroom, I want you to-- there's just things that you want me to do every day. How detailed of a checklist do you have, one, and then do you inspect it or follow up on every day? How do you know it gets done?

-Well, if I'm your direct supervisor yes, I follow up on it. That's part of the supervisor's checklist, is to make sure that all the people underneath them did their checklist.



-So you're saying-- so there's a checklist for every job and someone follows up on that job.

-Well, that's part of their checklist.

-And that's what keeps it together?

-Yeah. Unless people are checking it, you know.

-I'm asking this because this does not happen. I guarantee you that almost everyone watching this right now-- if you're watching this right now ask yourself, do I have a checklist for who's cleaning the bathroom and what they're supposed to do in the bathroom? Do I have a checklist for every time I book an event, or sell a something of how I want the customer to be handled?

And if we're honest, we're probably not. But yet the entrepreneurs that I've met who are successful-- at Disney World there is a checklist for everything, and in your businesses there is a checklist. When did you learn this? When you have this epiphany of, I need to make a checklist for everything.

-What happens is you just get so many of, you know-- I mean when I started it was me and another person that ran the business. There was two of us. Yeah it was common sense and I had my checklist right up here, and guess what everything got done for the day and everything got taken care of because it was me and this other person doing it.

But as I grew and as I hired more people, unless I wanted to be the one doing everything and running around checking everything, I started to hand those responsibilities of to other people. And then I understood that you look up two years later and now you're fourth generation, in other words, you've gone through four employees at that spot, and you look at them and you go, why aren't you doing everything you're supposed to be doing?

It's like the old game back in kindergarten or in elementary school. I whisper something into your ear and around the thing. By the time it gets over to the tenth person the story's completely different.

-Would you think that even videographers who might or might not be filming this show should have checklists?

-I think so. But especially videographers, are you kidding me? They're the worst of it! No, I'm teasing.

But the point is that having a master kind of file bag that you go to, that you add to, that you're always kind of tweaking is good and healthy because then what happens is whenever you train the next person guess what, it's easier to train them.

-I love this. This to me is like story time. This is great.

-Should have a little fireplace going back here.

-This is great. This is story time with Doctor Z. I want to read this quote to you from a guy named Michael Gerber. And Michael Gerber has written a lot of bestselling books about entrepreneurship, specifically called the E Myth series, and he has this quote. He says, "Most entrepreneurs are merely technicians with an entrepreneurial seizure. Most entrepreneurs fail because they are working in their business and not on their business."

Do you agree with that concept? That you see a lot of entrepreneurs who are busy working in it, but not making these systems to work on it?

-Yes, I see that. You know here's the deal, it's kind of like the guy that says, hey, I'm really good at doing yard work. So he does yard work. And he says, you know what, I've kind of got my own accounts now, I probably should have my own business. And he just keeps doing yard work instead of stepping back and coming up with the logo, and coming up with marketing, and coming up with a plan, and hiring people, and training them how to do it. And so you go from this, the business is just me out doing what I can do, versus really growing a business. You're working in it, not on it. And I see that a lot.

Featured Coaching Excerpt - Notes & Transcript, Part 3
  • Lesson Nugget: If you are passionate about your business, use checklists to micromanage your employees to provide the best service/product you can to your customers.
  • Lesson Nugget: Having checklists ensures that your employees know what you expect from them and will keep them accountable.
  • Lesson Nugget: Checklists are meant to be updated with new information, whether it be technology advances or new rules regarding your company policy.


-Now, when you first started your eye clinics many moons ago and you put in the checklist for the first time, was it possible that you made a checklist that didn't have everything on it and then you had to improve upon it a little by--

-Oh, absolutely, still do, still do. Things are changing. We didn't know-- for example, when I started in business back in 1991, I didn't have to put on the checklist anything about a cellphone. Things change, piercings and tattoos and the way you address things with your employees and your policies. You have to evolve, you have to change, and you have to understand that just because you make the checklist today doesn't mean it's never going to change. If it's not changing, that's probably not healthy.

-And that's one of the things I think a lot of people don't realize. When I built the DJ business, we were doing 4,000 weddings a year at the time, before I sold it. And I think a lot of people don't realize. They would come into my office, friends, family, whatever, and they would go, do you really need a checklist that says, check voicemail, respond to all emails, lock the door? Do you really need to micromanage? You hear that word, "micromanage."

They'd say, Clay, do you really need to micromanage your people like that? And we did about a million and a half dollars of revenue at that time. And I said, well, yeah, because I would forget to check the voicemails or there's something I would forget. And I think the people had about 20 items on their checklist for every day.

What do you say to somebody who says, well, I don't want to micromanage my staff? I kind of want everyone to have their own artistic sort of-- I want people to feel like they're-- I want them to be able to come to work and then just-- I don't want to micromanage. I don't want to put on a list they have to check off that they checked voicemails or locked up. I feel like people should be a little more loose, a little more-- what do you say to that guy?

-Well, if you don't manage them, somebody else is going to manage them. And if they're your employee and you're paying for them, you need to manage them. That's what management's about. And running a business is duplication and making sure people are doing what they need to do to help you grow your business. And if you don't care about it and if you don't have a passion for it, why on earth do you think they're going to? So "micromanaging" is a term that could be misused in this area.

CLAY CLARK: I hear it all the time. That's why I'm asking you.

-Yeah. It's a term. It's kind of like going, well, I'm going to hire a doctor and I hope they do a good job. And I'm not going to micromanage them and go get them. Good luck. But they're representing me. They're in charge of the thing most precious to me and that's my customers. All the other employees are looking at them, wondering what they're going to do. You don't think I'm not to micromanage that to some degree?


-Yeah. I'm not going to tell them, hey, we're blue today. It could get to the point it may be silly. But the point is, it's your business, you have a passion for it, and if you don't have that and express that in the way that you manage your people, then your business is going to suffer because of it.

-And I want to--

-I'm not saying it won't be successful.

-And one of the things I never want to do is argue with Thrive mentors, but I want to push back on one thing for you because I've even at your businesses, too, I don't think you've told them they can wear blue. But I think one thing you've done is you said, I want you to wear one of these four colors. You have a uniform now, too.

-Yeah, I have a uniform. And maybe that was a bad example.

-No, but I just want to mention it.

-I only give them four colors I want them to wear.

-Yeah. I think it's amazing because people think-- I know people who know you. They go, Dr. Z., he's high-energy. So they assume that you must be disorganized.


-Loosey-goosey. Shoots from the hip. But you are a systems guy.

-You have to be. That's where you build an empire of businesses. That's the way that you know that you can go to sleep at night because you know that staff members know what to expect from you and they know what to do. And if they don't do it, that's a whole other topic.

-And I want to think about this real quick because this is just a concept that blew my mind. If you-- because right now, you have a couple hundred employees. If all of them just made two mistakes a day or just one--

ROBERT ZOELLNER: I've had those days--

-Where all of them just forgot to do one thing on their list that doesn't exist because it's all in your head--

ROBERT ZOELLNER: Right. Common sense--

-How many calls would you have? It would be crazy.

-Oh, it'd be endless chaos. It's kind of like, you forgot to lock the front door. Did you not think that was important? You didn't set the alarm? These are common sense things. But you know, the thing about it is that if you don't have someone checking it and inspecting it, these things-- you'd be surprised. These things get forgotten.

-Let's pretend that this piece of paper's my checklist and I'm that man secretary who you hired. And it says, check voicemails and send out the mail.

-And wear blue.

-And wear blue with a red tie and a white shirt. Check. That's on my checklist every day. But if I didn't do it-- so it's about 4:55. Can you kind of role-play just real quick on how you would follow up with me on the checklist and how you would respond when I tell you that I didn't get it done? Can we just kind of do that little thing real quick?

So you say, hey, Clay. Hey, did you check the voicemails and did you go ahead and send out the mail? And I say, you know, no. I was going to. I just totally forgot. And it's on my checklist. What would you say to me?

-First of all, I would say-- I'd listen to you. I'd say well, is there a reason why you didn't get to your voicemails today, Clay?

-I didn't look at my checklist. I just guess I left it in my car.

-OK. Well, do you understand the importance of the checklist?

-I mean, yeah. Honestly, a lot of times, I don't even look at it because it's kind of here. Just I guess I forgot.

-Well, I know, but that's why we have the checklist. So if you have your checklist in an area that you see it and recognize it-- and you know that before you end for the day, you've got to make sure everything is taken care of on this because these are important things. I mean, we can have a voicemail on there, for example, of a very important deal. And if we don't respond to it in a timely fashion, we could maybe lose that deal.

So everything on this list I want to stress to you is very, very, very, very important. Now, you've got to ask yourself a question. That is, are you going to take this job serious enough that you're going to address this checklist? Because I need to know that going forward, Clay.


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