Putting Fun Back Into Process With Layla Pomper
Build Live Give. Mentoring With Paul Higgins
Paul Higgins sits down with Layla Pomper, process expert and ClickUp strategist.
She shares with us how she makes work more human by building processes for your small business
Welcome Layla Pomper from Processdriven.co. Layla, great to have you here.
Great to be here, Paul. I'm so excited to chat all about process stuff.
Yeah. Well look, I know that for a lot of business owners process isn't one of their favourite words and favourite things but when you get it right the benefits are enormous. And let's start with who do you love to help? And what are some of the key problems that they face before you come to the party?
Oh, okay. Well, we work with small teams, small business teams, so usually someone who just has those first few subcontractors or those first few employees and they're trying to figure out how to make the day-to-day of running their business less terrible and we take the angle that process can do that. When we write down how we do things and we do things in a systematic way, work can actually be more enjoyable than before process and that's what we do mainly through community membership but also some consulting.
Great. And what got you into that? Or why process for you?
So I started off this journey very accidentally into entrepreneurship. I wanted to be an entrepreneur before I knew what I wanted to entrepreneur about, if that makes sense. And originally I started as a tech VA and realised that technology changes so much while it was near to my heart, I wanted to anchor into something that was more fundamental, something that was an old practise that I could learn from people who came before me as a young entrepreneur and discovered this whole idea of customer journey mapping and discovering how we do work. And when I was setting up my small business, my husband's small business, friends small businesses, the common thread was process. And so it was very organic and it's funny to look back at it now but that's kind of been the journey.
Yeah. Great. And I know that you sort of picked one platform which is ClickUp so just, yeah, let people know what have you used in the past? Why ClickUp? And what are some of the benefits of ClickUp versus some other project management software?
See Paul, you call me right out on how poorly I have left technology behind. I started with tech, went to process and I was like, all right, back to this tech thing because I couldn't leave ClickUp. So ClickUp is a project management tool, you've probably heard of Asana or Trello or Wrike or monday, ClickUp is in that kind of ballpark. For various reasons it does a whole lot more so it takes a different approach to that kind of space, it does a lot of things all into one combined tool. And when I discovered it, I was like, oh, this is way too complex. A year passed, it got a lot less complex, a lot better designed, and I realised that this is really a tool that could be the vehicle for all the process work I wanted to do so it wasn't so abstract. So I spent a lot of time now on YouTube and with clients geeking out about ClickUp which has come the kind of the backbone of the way we talk about process. I don't know if that answers your question but that's how the addiction started.
Yeah. Great. And I think you've got to find the tool that's comfortable, the most important bit is the philosophy and the principles setting up your processes. So what do you know about setting up processes that many of us miss?
I think it's such an interesting question because as a young entrepreneur, which was the identity I had, I always felt nervous to say, you know what? This seems weird, but as I've been in business longer and longer I've come to see that as a real gift. So one thing that I've noticed time and time again when it comes to processes, especially with folks in ex corporate, which I believe you said a lot of your audience falls into that category so listen up folks, is the idea of grouping our processes around departments. You know what I'm talking about with kind of the hierarchy charts you're familiar with?
Absolute departments, yeah. What I spent 18 years with, yes.
Just a short stint into corporate. So those departments I've come to really understand them as managerial units. When I was in college we learned it in the textbook. When I've been in businesses that's really at the end of the day what departments are used for, it's for the manager's life to be easier. But as someone who started at the bottom, I am more comfortable with bottom up approaches and the work of the worker bees and what I've come to find is that process is the unit by which doers organise their work. So as a doer, I'm focused on getting the sales brochure out even though that involves working with marketing and sales and maybe some operations. But from a management perspective, a strategic perspective, we get so siloed into thinking of these as discreet different avenues that we make it very hard for those different departments or those people in those departments to actually get the actual job done.
Yeah. And for me, like I said, I've been a director of a large corporate so I had teams of couple of a hundred versus now I've got a really great loyal team of five. But I often find, yeah, the role is really redundant because it's more about their skills and what they're best at and then matching that to the tasks that needed to be done. Is that getting closer to the way that you look at it versus the traditional, okay, you're in this job so therefore you only do the set amount of tasks within this function?
Absolutely. I mean, Paul, how many departments do you think you work in, in your business if I can ask? None?
Well, no, I suppose we're very flat. But yeah, look, I use Asana, I haven't moved over to ClickUp just yet, but in my Asana I still have sales and marketing, I still have operations. So I still set up my overall view of the business, still I set it up by function, that's just how I've been ingrained. But the people that are doing those, there is my five team members are all doing things within each of those, if that makes sense, it's not, you only do sales or you only do marketing or you only do ops.
And that's exactly the kind of observation that led me down this path because we can't afford, unless you have a 100 employees, to really specialise, even when we're at 50 employees, there's still a generalisation that's happening. And so the idea is to build for that, build around what we're trying to accomplish and the way to do that is to break down your business in terms of what job or what result you're trying to accomplish and that's the big reframe. It tends to look similar to departments at first glance, so for example, you might have the purpose of your business rather than having the CEO seat, which on a solopreneur, you said you have some consultants in here, many consultants start off as one person businesses.
So if you are a consultant your org chart is going to say CEO, that is a remarkably unhelpful tool for planning your business growth. But if we flip that and think in terms of process, when you're just a solo CEO your main job is to make profit. Then you have some sub jobs like generate leads, convert leads, deliver services, all of a sudden we've created your future org chart even though you only have one person involved and we can have one person owning many processes on that same chart and that's kind of the reframe, we don't marry everything to its job title.
Yeah, look yeah, I think that's yeah, really clever. So if we take a step back, I work in the area of helping people with sales but if I look more broadly than that, now the owner is doing lots of things as you said, and then slowly they got multiple hats and slowly they're lifting them off. Now, what's the best way that you've seen someone delegate, ie, get what's in their head into a system so that someone else can actually help? What's your learnings and advice around that?
I always like to start people by figuring out what the hats even are, are we dealing with a cowboy hat, a baret, a top hat? What actually are they? Because when I'm dealing with an owner operator oftentimes they say I'm doing everything. This isn't delegatable because they're seeing a big old pile of fabric and not a bunch of discrete hats. So I usually have people start by creating a process org chart which again, kind of like what we just talked about, it's similar to that. Think about the main functions and as you go about your day or week, start writing down what those recurring repeating processes are in your business, those are your hats. It could be a 100 hats or it could be two very big hats, but that's where I would start because we can't delegate what we don't actually know exists, in my opinion at least, maybe some people are better than that.
Yeah, no, look, I completely agree. And I must admit we haven't done it as well as we'd like to but at theory, so in Asana we've got a project, so everything that's repeating, ie, you've got it on a repeating cycle as a task, we actually have under a project called, I think it's called routines and et cetera because sometimes I get confused as to who's doing what, right? So it's called regular repeat tasks. So I can then go in and search by that person and then look at, well, these are the tasks that they do on a regular basis. So whether it's writing a job description, someone new coming in, it's very easy to say, well, these are the things that everyone does. So that's my approach, now, how does that work with the way that you help clients?
That is very similar to what I have folks build out when they're building out ClickUp system. I call it the idea of capacity defence, build a system to keep things from becoming last-minute emergencies. And it starts off similarly, I call it routine tasks, I'll take repeating tasks, you have a routine task list and that's the house of all of your routines that are non-negotiable, day-to-day running of your business. Where I push it a bit further is adding in, not just assignees, but role titles. So you can start to see even if me, the CEO, is in five different roles right now, what are those roles and what should those roles be responsible for to make it easier to eventually splice my role in half? And then, I don't know if you want me to go a little bit further.
Yeah, go for it.
Just to throw one more curve ball, this is where the process becomes fun and not just drudgery. Rather than just routines we add one more list called new initiatives, which you might call projects or new endeavours. And we organise them in a certain way to help us commit to our future capacity and that is talking about growth. You don't have to worry about SOPs as much there, it's about moving the business further. By having these two sections we can kind of measure, how many routines are we doing as a percentage of our time versus how much growth work are we doing? Which I mean for sales, I'm sure that's kind of already the language that you speak in the network.
Yes. And you mentioned this ops and I want to get to it in a moment, but just on that delegation of taking something that's in your head into a system. So I know that we use a system called VARK, which is V-A-R-K, you can look it up. It's a questionnaire to say, well, what's someone's best learning style. So I'm a very much a visual learner, some people are very much an auditory learner, so we try to map how are we going to hand off the tar into the way that they best learn. But what about for you? Is it best always to do by video, video and texts? I'd love to get your thoughts on how best to remove it from you onto someone else's plate, so to speak.
Yeah. Well like you Paul, I do a lot of video work and I'm comfortable speaking, that's the easiest way for me to get information out of my head. But SOPs should be a work of compassion, it should be about making everyone else's life easier, not necessarily yours at that moment. So I kind of break the tradition of everyone recommending Loom videos and what I recommend for SOPs is to, I call it start, stop and steps. So right at the beginning of the process, the inputs or the things that you know tell you that you are ready to do something, it should be as simple as less than five words.
I'm ready to make a YouTube video when I have a script, at the bottom of the process you know when you're done, when I have a recorded video. Then you write the steps, high-level, what are the things that happened to get me there? Again, three to five words, almost like a BuzzFeed article. Once that's done, I, me myself the expert do the process and just write a few more notes, maybe add some screenshots if something is really confusing but mainly focus on text because texts will allow us to easily edit it and I don't know about you, but I am lazy and I do not want to have to redo screenshots or redo video clips, I want to be able to change one word.
Yeah, I think that's a great point. And some people go to the end degree where it's exactly, and I login into the system as well, I login in this specific system. You've sort of talked of five ways, sort of be more intuitive, I suppose, rather than very detailed. Yeah, what's your view on that when you're handing off this, so pay or credit in this open.
The details come later and I actually think the details should not be written by the business owners. So what I just told you for those listening, that is your steps, then you sign it to Paul, let's say Paul is coming to work with us, hey Paul, here's the SOP, and take some time to read that over and when you're ready to do it for the first time, let's jump on a call, that's it. So you have some time to digest if you are someone who learns by reading or watching or trying things but then we have a visual discussion going through the steps and your job, Paul, as our new team member is to write down notes in the actual SOP and therefore takeover ownership of it. You are now the keeper of the SOP, it's in your words, not in an expert's tones and assumptions and I can just hand it off at that point.
Great. And referral of thumb is that the best way to know an SOP is completed is to give it to someone that's never done the task before and see if they can complete it. Is that true, a myth, what's your view of that?
So in small business I think we break a lot of the rules of SOPs. So I'm just going to say that for the teams here who are less than 25 people, less than 50 people, I don't believe that's necessary. I believe we are in a culture driven society and there's going to be so much knowledge floating around that I don't think we should fight against that and I don't think we should over document for that. If you think about your process or charters, the things you do in your business, the routinest of routines, the most low skill tasks that you would delegate to a VA just to do very quickly for you, those sure, I want those super systemized, but anything above that bottom layer, we're in small business because we love human creativity, we love what people bring to the equation, we like the spontaneity, and I think we should lean into that and not overly. We don't want to be mini corporations, that's not what we're built for.
Yeah. And I think for me personally, it's what's the minimum. So if someone was to unfortunately leave or something happens, what's the bare minimum that you need to at least get it out the door, right? So it doesn't have to be perfect but it's at least at the door so build it based on that. And the other thing that often business owners struggle with is, what platforms do I use? So for example, now we use a combination of platforms. We've got some of our process in Airtable, we did have them in, well, we've got a platform called Process Street, but we've never used it to be honest, and then we've got Asana which is our project management. But how does that work? Should they all be at one place, is there a better platform for SOPs? I'd love to get your experience on platforms and what to use.
Yeah. So we talked just briefly before we started. I think you were listing a few examples like the ones here about where good processes go, and I think there really is a spectrum, there's the specialty tools all the way on one side of the process streets of the world. Then there are kind of the catch all database style tools, Airtable, Notion, Google Sheets, they all fall in the middle. And then there's project management tools like Asana, ClickUp, Wrike, all of those ones, and that spectrum I think also lines up to the spectrum of business complexity.
I think Process Street could work, I haven't seen it, but I think it's possible that it could work very well for a more systematic larger business, where again, we have very systematic, very limited human input, not very creative in some ways just almost like an ERP kind of process. But for businesses like we're talking to here, I am in favour of keeping it in one centralised place that is emphasising the ease of editing, which is just like what we talked about before. Can I ask? What was your journey like in Process Street? If you don't mind me prying in.
Yeah. To be honest it was very brief because I sort of looked at it and I thought, well hang on, most of this stuff I'm already doing in Asana so why do I want to complicate it by having another system, because I'm a big believer in the less links in the chain, the more damage that can occur, right? So for me I'm like, where the work happens should be as close to where the SOP is. So if all the work happens in Asana where possible all the checklists and the things that we do should be in there so you don't have to jump out into another system to find it. And that's why we decided not to go with Process Street versus just keeping it in Asana for that reason.
Your experience is exactly the one that I... When we were doing a lot of one-on-one tech consulting with clients, that's what we kept running into again and again. Or you set up Process Street and so many times you set it up, you pour time and energy into it, then it sits there on a tab that feels miles away, even though it's right next to where people are working, and that tab jump is big enough that people will not do it. Something like Airtable that can embed or link even building it directly in Notion or ClickUp can do that as well, that's exactly what I recommend because I think we need as little friction as possible so that way it's actually making lives easier.
Yeah. And to me, back in my corporate days, whoever sat next to you, you'd see them all the time, right? And it was very familiar to have conversations. And then someone had moved, even if they moved across the other side of the floor, you wouldn't see them as often, right? And I think that's what your checklists should be. They should be very familiar exactly where you're doing the work and therefore by default, like you said, they'll get improved more and they'll get done so I'm glad we're on the same page. Yeah. Something you'd like to add?
I just want to emphasise what you just said, because I think people are going to hear that and they're going to miss how good of a point that is, it's going to get updated more often. The frequency of updates when it's directly in the same tool it's going to be significantly higher than when it's another tab, even a Google Doc, which we talked about before, and I think that's one of the most important things. If you're going to spend so much work on this, they need to be updated incrementally, they should be updated, I would say, at least every week for processes that are routine and recurring naturally, a little word here and there.
Yeah. Brilliant. And the benefits of getting someone else in versus one of your team members to do it, I constantly hear that as a struggle, especially a lot of people that aren't process minded, it's like the blind leading the blind to be honest. What's your view and your experience on getting someone in like you versus trying to do it in house?
Are you referring to the process piece of it or setting up kind of the structure of things?
Sort of both. It's like, I suppose, the structure then leads to the detail of the process.
Yeah. So when it comes to the structure I think it's pretty invaluable to get feedback especially because the way we teach it here is very much focused around the process org chart. And so we're lucky now that we have a community of people so we have a collection of hundreds of process work charts. And what happens when you have an org chart outlining everything that you do in your business is you realise what you should be doing that you're not or that you are doing that you really shouldn't be at the scale that you are, and that's the more common option, we take on too much. And so I think for that value alone to help you focus almost your execution energy, if we can call it that, I think it is invaluable to get insights from a coach, from someone who does process stuff, from ClickUp geeks like myself, to avoid making your life a whole lot harder, both from a business strategy perspective and just your day to day.
Process stuff, taking that work chart and then starting to work on it. I think the role of an expert is that of a facilitator but I really like the strategy of having the team members, the most junior peoples on the team, becoming the authors and the owners because you're going to see them fight for that SOP, point out errors in a frequency that's going to be much higher if they are the author, that level of ownership is almost impossible to get if they're not the creator in some way.
Yeah. Look, I totally agree. And that's I think there's that great step that you mentioned before that yes they do it but you've also got someone checking, I suppose, someone independent doing it as well to say, well, yes actually, you know what? You can. Because I know sometimes what comes natural to you isn't obviously what comes natural to other people. So sometimes there's so many, some just like in sales, often I'll think, oh, well yeah, of course you'd do that, of course, you'd have an agenda for a sales meeting, right? Now I've been doing that for 28 years but that's not always the case so it does help with overcoming that. Awesome. Well look, you can tell I'm excited about this. So I suppose it used to be that Coca-Cola was very process driven but it still also had that creativity so it was a nice balance.
So I'm passionate about this because I've seen the benefits of it. And the number one thing here, it doesn't really matter what size of business, I think these days you really need two things, you do need a project management software, I think it's so much easier to do that, and the second thing is you do need, now, whether it's a virtual assistant or a team, to be able to hand off those hats. So if you're watching this or listening and you haven't done those two things, start there and then work with someone like Layla. So before we go into the live section, I'd just like to talk about the pulse check that I'd love you to do.
So the pulse check is where I've come up with my 27 years of experience of sales and most importantly, my recent experiences where I built up and exited a tech consulting business, where I said, look, these are the most important things to have a sale system that you can scale your next million in revenue. Because often your first million is through referrals but how do you take it to the next where it doesn't need as much your time? So in there, there's nine questions that'll take you three minutes. So that will be great but the invaluable part is then based on your result, I'll have a call with you and give you a plan, not a sales call, but a plan on exactly what you should do next. So to go and see that just go to Paulhigginsmentoring.com/pulse. So the next section Layla is the live section. What are some daily habits that help you be successful?
Oh, that's such a funny question. And this is going to throw people off their kilter I think. Believe it or not, I am a highly unhabit forming person. So I have very few habits, my habit is mainly to make my husband happy. He is the person that takes care of everything in our life, most of the routines, and he is the person that makes all of this possible. So my only routine is to find little ways to make his day better, besides exercise and all those basic things, but I truly believe that outside of work relaxation is the job to be had and in work the total opposite.
Really. And now I'm always interested in nature versus nurture but for example, my dad is the least process driven person on the planet, he's very much a relationship guy, a free spirit, a dreamer. My mom, ex school teacher, process driven to the ed, the grey, so she had a checklist for her checklist for her checklist, right? And I find them a combination of both. What about you? Now obviously you worked on, you're very process driven, but that free spirit part, where does that come from for you?
That comes from my parents. I have parents, and they're going to hate me saying this, eventually they'll say, hey parents, they're going to be so upset. My parents were carnival workers, so carnies and that in the US at least is a culture of working 48 hours, travelling, then working 48 more hours, just to complete kind of vague about bond lifestyle for at least their younger years. And that pretty much influenced the entire upbringing we had, as children, complete freedom as long as we were excelling in school and chasing our dreams of whatever that was.
And I revolted by being very process oriented, I was the, come on, why don't we plan anything? And as I've gotten older it's come back to kind of a middle place and I also watched them start a business that they continue to run that is quite draining on them. Not very satisfying, it's not that life of freedom that many of us dream of with entrepreneurship and so they've been a huge influence on kind of my goal of building businesses that use process to make life enjoyable again so we don't have to be afraid of running our own businesses, I don't know if that makes sense.
Yeah, it does. Perfect sense. Then the question that's probably burning on everyone's mind at the moment is, what was your particular act? What were you famous for in the carnival?
I was too young to be famous for anything. I had a lemonade stand and apparently I was very good at making change but that's about it.
Well, the next section is the give section, and what's a community or a charity that you support and why?
Yeah. So I need to think about this one a little bit because we're still growing here and figuring out what that's going to look like long-term but right now I think it's almost the anti formal education movement or the first-generation students. So I myself, as you might've guessed by the backstory, was the beneficiary of a first-generation scholarship to go to college, first in my family, first ever, and that is a demographic of people and anyone with access barriers that I'm looking to help mainly through at this point because of where we're at in our journey. Our hiring practises, that's direct correlation from the process to the mission, we don't collect resumes at all, LinkedIn profiles are not required, high school degrees are not required and we just believe in aptitude over job titles or paper credentials.
Yeah. I was listening to a podcast yesterday and they were saying that student debt is now going to be turned back on again. I think it was October or something, I can just see that it's less prevalent in the country. I live in Australia than what it is the US and, yeah, anything to help improve that I think is great. Well, the last section is a rapid fire section where I ask you some questions and get some rapid fire responses. And you can't mention ClickUp in the first one, but what occasional technology that is essential to running your business other than ClickUp?
Can I say YouTube?
I'm going to say YouTube. YouTube is the tool that has completely changed my entire life and not in an understatement sort of way in a year so YouTube would be the tool.
Yeah. And we'll have to get you back talking about YouTube because I was going to talk about it but I know we went into the process that much that we didn't get a chance to, so that's great. The next one is, your best sales tip?
Treat everyone like your mother-in-law, and I have a mother-in-law I love, so a good mother-in-law. But my perspective really changed around sales when I realised that the job of a salesperson is to find the best solution, preferably not your own, and that tip just completely changed everything for me and I started to actually kind of enjoy selling when I realised it wasn't about selling.
Yeah. It takes the pressure off. Great. And for you, where do you look and who do you look for to get help, to help you grow your business?
At this point, my customers. And I'm maybe backwards for most this, I work with people who are way smarter than me, way more experienced than me, just incredible people and so I am really big on feedback, surveys and one-on-one conversations with every single community member we have to get feedback, so they are the number one source of learning for the past three years in counting.
Great. And the last question is for you, what or, sorry, what piece of advice would you like to leave us with?
Yeah, I think it's to reframe the process, to view the process as internal branding, as something as sexy as a logo and not as something that is an operational dusty binder. Process is about effectiveness, efficiency, plus human happiness, not just the bottom line or numbers or time tracking.
Brilliant. So look, you can find out more about Layla at Processdriven.co. And she's also given us a fantastic blueprint so it's basically a webinar that shows you exactly how if you wanted to go and set up ClickUp by yourself, so that's at processdriven.co/blueprint. So great to have you on Layla, I really like your philosophy around this. I think it is fun, it is enjoyable and so has been having you on this podcast so thanks for being here.
Thanks so much for having me, Paul.
Thank you, bye.
Welcome to the Build Live Give Podcast. If you're a first time listener and you love what you hear, please subscribe. If you're a regular, thanks for your support, it means the world to me, you can always reach out to me and ask me any questions at any time. Also, there will be a full transcription of the episode, but you can take notes and there's plenty of notes to take as always, as our experts give you their best and today's expert is no different. They've actually had many roles in their career, if you look at their LinkedIn profile it's one of the lengthier ones I've seen, but that's collected a whole lot of skills to put in their skill bag. And then they started doubling down about three and a half years ago on helping people with the process.
And I know what you're thinking, process, do I really want to listen to this podcast or watch it given it's about process? But it's going to be very refreshing because they've got a great take on what the process means. And they really focus on small businesses in particular coaches and consultants and there's a lot to be learned in this. And what does that include? One is how they're thinking functionally, especially most of us who have grown up in corporate, is not the way they think anymore and she's got a really brilliant take on that. The second is how to delegate to others and remove all of those hats you wear as CEO or an MD and the third one is why less platforms is actually more. And they've kindly given a blueprint as well, which is great that they give away at the end. So what I'll do now is hand you over to Layla Pomper from Processdriven.co.
I really enjoyed that with Layla and you can tell that I started to geek out a little myself, but she had such a refreshing way of looking at processes. And if you're really looking for some help, I highly recommend you reach out to her. You can get the blueprint, so that blueprint will take you through how to set up ClickUp but it will also show you her philosophy. So you can go to Processdriven.co/blueprint and you can also find her on YouTube, which that's how I found her. I've been looking at some of the material and it's fantastic. You can also get that pulse check to get those nine questions to really see if you've got the right sales system to get you to your next million in revenue, just go to Paulhigginsmentoring.com/pulse. Please take action to build live and give.
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- Layla Pomper’s LinkedIn
- Layla’s YouTube
- Process Driven
- Podcast Episode 0.5
- Ask Us A Question!
- Take the Accelerate Pulse Check!
- Sales Machine
- Purple House
About Layla Pomper
Layla is the owner of ProcessDriven where she helps small businesses define their systems and processes using ClickUp.
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