How do we transform today's new hire into tomorrow's superstar? It's not easy. It happens at companies when two key elements are in place. The first is a meaningful culture that teaches the company's core values and encourages and rewards the right behavior. The second, of course, is systems.

Everyone talks about systems. Everyone wants them, and wants them now. Most franchises charge a lot of money for systems that are already in place and proven effective. We all know that systems that work are extremely valuable. But do we understand what systems are, and what they'll do for us? Do we know how to develop them and put them in place?

The dictionary defines a business system as a procedure or process for obtaining an objective. All your systems taken together are the way you do business. Standardizing the way you do business is key to growth. Otherwise, each new hire brings his or her own systems to the company, and you end up with a mishmash of what works and what doesn't and a lot of nonalignment between systems.

Here are five tips for systematizing your company:

1) Make sure your size fits your systems. Systems at a three-person company will be much simpler than those of a 30-person company. That's because the most error-prone areas of a business are the hand-offs between one person and another. For instance, the single system generating the most complaints is the sales-to-production hand-off. If the salesperson is different from the estimator at your company, considerable information must be transferred between the two, and verbal communication really won't work. Thus are born checklists, forms, and systems.

2) Create your highly systematized company one puzzle piece at a time. Pick the areas where developing procedures will have the most impact. Eventually, you'll have the whole puzzle filled out and everything will connect.

3) Ask around. Systems are needed for situations in which the result you desire and the result being delivered are not the same. Once you identify the need, do a little research on how other companies have handled that issue. See if other remodelers will share their systems with you.

4) Get the interdepartmental team on the job. You might be tempted to quietly develop a system by yourself and then excitedly unveil it to a notably unexcited staff. You saved time in development, but now you have the Herculean task of getting buy-in. Here's a better way: Toss the ball to your team. Let them do the research and design the system, making sure it will work for all stakeholders (clients, staff, suppliers, and subs). They'll be anxious to implement it because they'll be sold on its benefits.

5) Keep it up. Designing a system is child's play compared with implementing it and making it habitual. This is where most companies lose it. Not only that, but sometimes -- though not at your company, of course -- owners are the first to stop using a system. That's a killer. If you don't walk your walk, no one else will either. The important issue here is whether your company has learned to apply an agreed-upon system and stick with it. There'll be days you and they feel too busy. Or a project or issue will come along that seems not to need all the steps that've been developed. Consider those days, and those occasions, the test of how strong, and habitual, your systems are.

Building a systematized company is a journey, not a destination. With the passage of time, the addition of staff, or department changes, your systems will need revisiting. You'll know because you'll begin to see errors creep in and feel that conflict that develops when the results don't match the vision.

Like the old Chinese proverb says: A thousand-mile journey starts with a single step. --Linda Case, CRA, is founder of Remodelers Advantage Inc. in Fulton, Md., a company providing business solutions through a network of experts and peers. (301) 490-5620;;

Attend Linda Case's seminar, "Defining Company Culture," at the Remodelers' Show in October. For details, go to