A 1954 John Deere hay rake has 3 grease fittings.


I know because we still use one.


A hay rake isn’t a complicated machine: you pull it behind a tractor. Attached to its axle are long barbs that turn with the wheels. The barbs roll the cut hay into windrows for baling.


I know hundreds of farmers, and none of them has a new hay rake. They don’t need one, because hay rakes don’t wear out. It’s possible to inherit a working hay rake from your grandfather.


Hay rakes are usually longer than 20 feet; pretty noisy; and they last forever, because they’re a simple system. Lots of moving parts, but few that are easy to break or hard to repair.


Over the last two decades, I’ve watched the microgym community grow up. Profit is no longer a dirty word; the pricing race to the bottom seems to have slowed, if not stopped; and most owners seem to understand the value of a systemized business that runs itself. Systems are good. But some systems are better. And a few are great.


The path to making great systems was spelled out in my conversation with Ari Meisel: first, you record. Then you optimize. Then you automate.


Yesterday, I wrote about making systems. Today, I’m going to tell you how to make great ones. The key is simplicity.


Simple systems endure.


One of the many cries for help we received last week was this: “My CRM broke, and my auto-emails haven’t been sending? How do I know which leads received which email, and should I add them to my list to re-trigger the automations?”


This is a good example of a system that’s too complex. In a service business with around 150 clients, someone from your gym should be making personal contact with people who want to talk about your gym. They fill out a form, and you call them.


Software is a good backup, but it’s not a replacement.


In the Incubator, we teach a simple system for retention: when a client hits a PR in anything, you write it on a whiteboard. Then, on Friday, one of your staff calls each client and says, “We’re so proud of you! What are you going to do next?!?”


No Confusionsoft required. Better connection made. You can do this forever.


Simple systems are easy to fix.


The technical solution to the above problem was that a Zap was broken. The gym owner had forgotten to reconfigure something in Zapier when they altered their marketing funnel. But the coach who set up the funnel was away on vacation. Luckily, one of our marketing mentors jumped in and saved the day. But if a process is important to your business, it shouldn’t rely on knowledge held in the head of one person–even if that person is the owner. Hell, especially if that person is the owner!


The system should be reduced to its fewest moving parts. Then those parts should be spelled out in an Operations Manual: where they are, how they work, and how to fix them when they break. Because eventually everything breaks. Hay rakes are easy to figure out: a prong is bent, or a tire is flat, or a bearing needs grease. Removing complexity from systems will make your business anti fragile. Removing complexity makes a system better.


Simple systems are learned quickly.


Many Two-Brain gyms are experiencing explosive growth, and actually turn their marketing campaigns off while they hire more staff. Scot showed me a great text on his phone yesterday: “70 leads and 8 NSIs booked in the last 24 hours. I think we should turn the ads off.” These aren’t one-and-done six-week challenge clients; these are new people signing up for high-value hybrid packages.


Either way, the gym needs more staff. And fast.


Simple systems are easy to teach: “Do this, then do this.” The simplest systems are binary: they’re just checklists. The next most complex systems are X: “If this happens, take this action.” This is why the Two-Brain Coaching First Degree program works: a new coach can be operational in a limited scope within two weeks. They can’t replace a career coach–that takes time–but they can apply a simple system to an uncomplicated client case file. In other words, they can follow your OnRamp program with most new clients. They don’t need a college degree in anatomy to introduce people to the joy of movement. They might not even need a Level 1 right away.


Simpler systems are better. Building optimal systems means asking, “What can I take away?”


What trips owners up most? A lack of systems. Any system that gives the owner a bit of freedom to think is better than no system and constant fire-fighting. But great systems evolve to be more simple, not more complex.