June 1, 2021

The 4 Systems Every Online Business Owner Needs

The 4 Systems Every Online Business Owner Needs

In this episode of the Systems Made Simple™ podcast, business systems expert Courtney Elmer discusses the four systems every online business owner needs so they can scale beyond six figures.

Does the back end of your business feel like a hot mess?

Most online business owners lack one or more of the four business systems you need to scale beyond six figures.

That’s why inside today’s episode, I’m revealing what these business systems and operations are, why you need them, and what it’s costing you not to have them in place within your business.


  • The four business systems every digital entrepreneur needs (can you guess number one?)
  • The key difference between a system and a process
  • Why you’re losing money if you’re trying to scale a business without any one of these business systems 
  • PLUS, a special invitation to work hand-in-hand with me over the course of the next year to get these systems in place in your business so you can get off the entrepreneurial roller-coaster, spend more time in your zone of genius, and scale beyond six figures with ease.

If this episode inspires you, leave a review and share your biggest takeaway with me. And while you've got your phone out, make sure to follow me on Instagram @thecourtneyelmer for more quick tips on how to streamline your business systems and spend more time in your zone of genius.






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© Copyright 2022 | The EffortLESS Life®


Courtney Elmer  0:00  

Welcome back to the Systems Made Simple™ podcast, this is Episode 72. In case you haven't heard the news, we’ve got a new name! It’s the same great podcast that you know and love, but better. We just released a new trailer where we dive into the reason behind this name change as a big step in the evolution of our company, The EffortLESS Life®. So if you haven't listened to that yet, check it out. 

And speaking of business systems and business operations, in this episode we’re talking about the four business systems that every entrepreneur needs in their business and what they need to do to become visionary leaders. Do you have all four? You're about to find out, and I can tell you this. If you don't have all four, it's going to take you a lot longer to scale beyond six figures. All of this and more coming up next, so stay tuned! 


Courtney Elmer  2:06  

I remember back in the day, in the day in my former nine to five, I had first hand experiences during that time of working within businesses that were broken. The systems were out of whack and the operations of the business didn’t perform like a well oiled machine. 

Not only was this so frustrating as an employee because I felt like my hands were tied — there was nothing I could do but sit there and experience the repercussions of things not being, shall we say, well-oiled — I could also see how frustrating it was for the business owners to because they were drowning in work, and they were not gaining the traction that they desperately needed to keep the doors open. Simply put, those ventures lacked business systems and effective business operations. 

Courtney Elmer  3:02  

After a time there, I eventually transitioned to start supporting other small business owners as their business manager, helping them get the right business systems, processes and procedures in place so that ultimately they could increase their profitability. This was long before I opened the doors to The EffortLESS Life®. This was great because it allowed me to use my skills and my gifts when it came to organization, workflows, and systems as well as being able to see the big picture and the granular details and know how to put that all together. I was able to help quite a few entrepreneurs with their business systems, but at the end of the day, there was still something missing.

Courtney Elmer  3:38  

The one thing I noticed when I worked in all of these many roles through the years was that all of these business owners had one common denominator: the problems that they were experiencing on the front-end of their business was directly linked to a lack of processes on the back-end of their startup. They lacked effective systems that prevented them from being the visionary leaders they could be. 

Courtney Elmer  4:02  

It’s a huge problem in the world of online business, and if you're like most entrepreneurs, chances are you started your business because you had an idea of how you could help people. Maybe it was a product that helps them, maybe it was some of your gifts and talents that you wanted to turn into services to help somebody. Maybe you've always wanted to be your own boss, run your own business, set your own schedule, and be in charge of your financial future. I wanted those things too.

But when you're in the process of getting that business up and going, cracks start to show themselves on the back end. This is why it’s critical for entrepreneurs to have business systems and business operations set up so they can be successful. 

Courtney Elmer  5:00  

Maybe students start to complain because they're not getting the level of attention that they expected. Or they ask questions, and get frustrated at the long wait-period to get an answer. Maybe your calendar is completely overbooked, and you don't know where you are going to find the time to get it all done, because it's just you — you're the one wearing all the hats. And you're spread so thin that some days, you wonder how it is that you're going to be able to keep going.

Maybe some months cash flow is good, but then other months, maybe that cash flow trickles in. Or, maybe students start defaulting on their payment plans or not paying on time, and it's becoming difficult to collect those payments. Because again, you don't have time to get to it all. This is where business systems come into play. 

And maybe that's the point when you recognize — you need help. So you try to hire or outsource, but because you’re so busy running the business and holding all the pieces together, you don't have any time to train anyone. So you bring them on, you throw them a whole list of things to do and there's no training, there's no onboarding, and the poor person is probably like, What the heck did I just get myself into. I've been here. It can be really hard to find good people who can do it like you would do it. So at some point along the way, you might decide, Well, this is not worth my time. It's quicker to do it myself, it's cheaper to do it myself, it's faster to do it myself.

Courtney Elmer  6:44  

But the REAL problem underlying all of this is that you're trading your time for dollars. You might or might not realize what it's costing you to continue doing it all yourself. You only have so much time in a day, and you're limited by the amount of things you have energy to do. (It's called effort, it is a limited resource).

Courtney Elmer  7:11  

Your decision to work harder and longer to solve the problems that you're experiencing is a really common one, and it's based on a mistaken belief that you can hustle your way out of the hole.

That just isn't true.

Most overworked business owners don't run a business, they've just created another job for themselves. They're not living their dream because they're too busy building it. 

If this sounds at all familiar, what I really want you to know is that you are not alone. I have been in your shoes. I also want you to know that it is not your fault. You aren't broken. Your business systems are broken (or maybe you don't have any systems to begin with). Worse, you've been conditioned to believe that in order to fix the problems in your business you have to work harder. 

But you know as well as I that the way you're working in your business right now isn't working. And there is a different way. I want to help you fix those cracks on the back end by teaching you how to get the right systems and support and structure in place so that you can scale your business sustainably. Imagine for a second, going on your next vacation with all your favorite people and leaving your laptop at home, because you trust that your business is going to run without you there to save it.

Courtney Elmer  9:01  

Maybe that sounds like a pipe dream! But imagine if that were really possible. What would that feel like? Imagine what it’d feel like to finally experience the freedom in your business that you have been working so hard to create — the freedom that you started your business for in the first place.

Now imagine your business one year from today. How would it feel to be the owner of that business rather than the operator in it?

Would that do for you? What would that give you? What would that do for your family? For your quality of life? For your mental health? Imagine what the right systems can have on your startup? 

This is why our company the EffortLESS Life® and this podcast, the Systems Made Simple™ podcast exists to help you learn how to fully own and operate your business as the true Visionary Leader that you're meant to be, so that you can spend more time in your zone of genius, help more people, and have a greater impact. Because as a business systems expert, that's my zone of genius, seeing both the big picture and being able to break it down into the granular step-by-step details, and helping you do the same (YES, even if you're not an organized person, even if you are crazy busy, and even you don't know where you're going to find the time to get it all done)  Even if the details don't come naturally to you, I can help you.

Courtney Elmer  10:34  

I've developed the programs we have here like the Visionary Leader Incubator™, and the EffortLESS Podcasting Formula™, and I've been teaching and coaching entrepreneurs for well over four years on how to apply these systems-driven principles in their business, so they can stop trading their time for dollars.

In my experience throughout the years, I've identified four main systems that every Visionary Leader has. Those multiple seven-figure entrepreneurs, influencers, and business experts that you look up to today have every one of these four systems in their business. They've built them, they're running, they are well-oiled machines. These systems support them on the back end to be able to do what they do on the front end. These are the four systems: a visibility system, a sales system, a deliverability system, and an operational system.

Courtney Elmer  11:37  

Now, two of these systems are what I call forward-facing systems, and two are back-end systems. On the front end, you've got your visibility and your sales systems, and on the back end, you've got your deliverability and your operational systems. 

The real reason most entrepreneurs struggle to gain any traction is because they're lacking one or more of these systems.

I want to pause for just a moment here and also explain the difference between a system and a process. Because you hear these words thrown about a lot of times they're used interchangeably. Sometimes I use them interchangeably, I really shouldn't, because they are two different things. A system is like the overarching map from A to B. The process is the step-by-step directions. So think of your Google Maps app. You punch in a destination and what does it do? It gives you the overview, it shows you where you're headed, and then it breaks down step-by-step what to do to get there.

System = overview, process = steps. As I mentioned, most entrepreneurs are operating their business without one of these four business systems, maybe they don't have any of these systems. I think the one system that everybody goes to first is sales, because you have to make money if you want to stay in business. So everyone has some sort of a sales system in place. (Whether that's converting that is an entirely different topic). But in terms of deliverability and operations, because those are on the back end, usually that's the thing most people can hide. Nobody really knows. Until, for example, your students are in your programs and they're not having a great experience, only then will they know you don't have a deliverability system.

Courtney Elmer  13:30  

There are a few reasons why entrepreneurs are trying to scale and grow a business without these systems. 

Number one, they don't even know that they need them. This is so common. Many people are so focused on getting leads and converting those leads to sales, and getting traffic and converting that traffic into their programs to make money, that they're not really thinking beyond that.

 But to be a Visionary Leader, you have to think a whole lot bigger than you are right now. There is more in you that you deserve to bring out of you in order to serve and create the influence and impact that you are here to create. To do that, you’ve got to start thinking bigger. 

The other reason that many entrepreneurs make the mistake of operating without these business systems is because most influencers out there are only teaching the front-end business systems, like marketing and sales. 

Courtney Elmer  15:00  

If you have the most perfect marketing system in the world and the most perfect sales system in the world, but nothing on the back end to support the business that you're bringing in, you're going to lose that business. Customers will not stay, they will not recommend you to their friends, and you will leave money on the table. 

The other reason many people fail to put these business systems in place is because chances are, you’re an expert at doing whatever it is that you do to serve your business. You are likely not an expert at the systems that make it run. And that's okay, this is normal, you're not supposed to be an expert in everything. Guess what, I’m not an expert in everything, either! Just in systems and organization, especially when it comes to business.

If you continue to operate your business without these four systems, then what's going to happen is that you are going to scale to a point, you'll be able to reach that six figure mark, maybe get close to it, maybe right beyond it, but then you will hit a plateau and you will stay stuck. It will feel virtually impossible to break into the multiple six figure mark much less beyond that.

Courtney Elmer  16:21  

You need the business systems in place in order to scale beyond that six figure point. The other thing too, which you've heard me talk about here a lot on the show before, is about operating from old belief systems, and how if you continue choosing to operate your business and make your decisions and take action from an old system of beliefs and habits, that's only going to yield the same old results that you've been getting. It’s never going to yield a different result, no matter how hard you try, no matter how much action you take, if you're taking the wrong action based on an old outdated belief system. So we have to change the belief system. 

What you need then is a guide, who can show you how to operate from outside the walls of your current limitations. I talk about this a lot with my students: as a Visionary Leader, you don't have to know everything. (Oh my gosh, what a relief). You could have a seven figure business and not know everything. Can you imagine that? It is absolutely true. 

Courtney Elmer  17:47  

All you need is a guide to show you what you don't know. My job as your guide is to ask you better questions than you've been asking yourself.

Courtney Elmer  17:58  

It was not a coincidence that I featured DJs review this week. That was a recent review that came through, and I was really touched by it. I wanted to shout out DJ on the show — DJ, thank you again. But the one thing she mentioned is that Courtney helps me to understand answers to questions that I never thought to ask. 

Yes, that is why I am here: to help you ask those questions that you're not asking yourself, or that you haven't thought to ask yourself, because you simply don't know that those are the questions you need to be asking. But when you have the answers to those questions, imagine the difference that it will make in terms of the action you're able to take, the clarity that you will have, and your ability to fully step into and embrace that role of Visionary Leader.

Courtney Elmer  18:58  

One of the very practical, tangible ways we can do that is getting the back end of your business cleaned up so that you can shine on the front end and spend that time in your zone of genius — not get so bogged down and burnt out, that you're unable to show up fully as a Visionary Leader that you are. Business systems are critical to your success. 

Courtney Elmer  19:16  

We've had students who have taken some of these principles that we teach, and have put some of these systems in place in their business on the back end. And it is amazing the results that they have been able to achieve. And I say that with so much recognition and just honor for what they have done because it is no small feat, first of all, to learn a different way of doing things. It's old dogs' new tricks, right? It can be really, really hard to make changes in your business. 

And this is why we see most entrepreneurs trying to change things and then going back to old ways because the change just doesn't last. So anytime a student takes anything that we've taught them and makes an actual change with it, that is worth taking a minute to acknowledge. We had one student who was struggling in her business. She was successful, she was in the multiple six figure range, but she was working 60 hours a week, and beginning to recognize that she didn't have time in her week to work more. And she started to realize that she was not going to be able to scale beyond that point, because she could not physically give any more to her business.

Courtney Elmer  20:43  

So we worked through several things together, and she started implementing some of these systems and procedures. She was able to take her business from a roller coaster income, where it was up one month down the next, and generate over $3 million in sales over the next 30 days, simply by implementing some of these principles.

Courtney Elmer  21:10  

We had another student who created a plan and business systems to walk away from her corporate job, and she executed that plan in less than a year, which was earlier than the date that she had originally set for herself, simply because she had the business system in place to get clarity on her vision, map it out and follow the directions to get there.

She's now running her own business,and beginning to scale it, and she's got that freedom that she's been looking for. She's not constantly juggling between corporate jobs and side hustle anymore.

Courtney Elmer  21:47  

I want to invite you to something really special, this is not something that I typically do. But this is on my heart to do right now. So I'm going to do it. I want to invite you listening to apply for a very special program that I have here at The EffortLESS Life®.  This is our mastermind program; it’s called the Visionary Leader Incubator™ because what we do inside of that program is literally cultivate Visionary Leaders and help put the right systems and support and structure in place on the back end so that you can shine on the front end as the Visionary Leader of  your company. You will learn the right business systems and business operations. 

Courtney Elmer  22:36  

This program is by application only; when this program is full, it's full. We don't have spots open unless someone leaves the program, which hasn't happened. The reason is because I work with you at such a high level inside of this program — it’s the closest thing you can get to one-on-one coaching with me. If business systems and organization have been a struggle, and you’re interested in finding out more about the program and learning what the criteria are to have a seat at the table, then here’s your next step. I’m inviting you right now to apply. Email our lovely customer experience architect, Lynnae, at hello -at- theeffortlesslife.co 

She will send you an invite-only link to apply for this program. Now this is only for those listening who are serious about learning how to put the systems in place in your business so that you can scale more easily and step off of the entrepreneurial roller coaster for good. If you're ready to learn how to do that, email us and we will get you hooked up.

Courtney Elmer  24:29  

And if you’re looking for tips that could better serve you for wherever it is that you are right now in your business, come find me on Instagram. I’m @theeffortlesslife.co and I’ve been into reels lately — oh my gosh, they have been so much fun. I love calling out the truths of entrepreneurship and lifting the curtain to show what it’s really like to run an online business. So definitely come find me there. I also share daily tips on how to simplify your workflows, and I would love to connect with you there. 

Now listen, in the weeks ahead, we are going to take one full episode to dive much deeper into each of these systems: visibility, sales, deliverability, business systems, and operations. So coming up next week is visibility. What's a visibility system? And why do I need one? So I'll see you back here next week on the Systems Made Simple™ podcast. Until then, go live your EffortLESS Life®.