Sponsored by Lane Powell

CEO Strategies: Work the system before it works you

| Print |  Email
Archives - August 2008
Friday, August 01, 2008

SamCarpenter Sam Carpenter’s book describes the world as a collection of systems that can be fixed.

IN 2000, AT THE NADIR of his career — and possibly his life — Sam Carpenter found himself depressed, medicated, logging 100-hour workweeks and just days away from missing a payroll for his Bend telephone answering service, Centratel.

But then he had a midnight epiphany — literally.

“I looked at my business and realized I could not fix this big amorphous mass unless I could see it in pieces,” says Carpenter. “That night, for the first time, I saw it in pieces.”

Eight years later, Carpenter’s company generates more than $2 million annually and his 30 employees never miss a paycheck. Carpenter himself is healthy — he works just two hours a week — and he’s making more money in a month than he used to make all year.

The 58-year-old shares his secrets in his recent book, Work the System: The Simple Mechanics of Working Less and Making More. (Find out more at www.workthesystem.com.)

To him, the world is full of linear systems, and if you can see the world — or your business — as a collection of systems, then you can isolate the dysfunctional ones, fix them, and put them back into the mix.

“What people have to get is that their business is not a big holistic mass,” he says. “You have to look at it in a non-holistic way. Take it apart; fix the pieces that need fixing. If all the pieces are functioning perfectly, the end result is very good.”

Carpenter says small businesses need three essential components for success: a strategic objective; a list of general operating procedures; and a collection of working rules that outline how a particular system, say a sales presentation, is to work.

If one of those systems is malfunctioning, identify it, repair it and move on.

Carpenter also recommends paying close attention to the details of your life, but only those you can control.

“The things you can’t control,” he says, “just walk away.”

And, of course, always take a systems-based approach to business.

“Focus on one piece at a time,” Carpenter says, “because if you can focus on one piece, you sure as heck can fix one piece.”     


Have an opinion? E-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


More Articles

Down on the Bayou

October 2015
Monday, September 28, 2015

A Power Lunch at Zydeco Kitchen and Cocktails in Bend.


After the Orange Line

Linda Baker
Tuesday, September 08, 2015
090815-trimet-thumbBY LINDA BAKER

Alan Lehto, TriMet's director of policy & planning, shares a few thoughts on ride sharing and more nimble bus services.


Up on the Roof

September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015

In 2010 Vanessa Keitges and several investors purchased Portland-based Columbia Green Technologies, a green-roof company. The 13-person firm has a 200% annual growth rate, exports 30% of its product to Canada and received its first infusion of venture capital in 2014 from Yaletown Venture Partners. CEO Keitges, 40, a Southern Oregon native who serves on President Obama’s Export Council, talks about market innovation, scaling small business and why Oregon is falling behind in green-roof construction. 


Photos: 100 Best Nonprofits to Work For in Oregon awards dinner

The Latest
Thursday, October 01, 2015
100best202thumbPHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN

Images from the big 2015 celebration of worker-friendly organizations that make a difference.


Child care challenge

Wednesday, August 26, 2015
0927OHSUhealthystarts-thumbBY KIM MOORE AND LINDA BAKER

Child care in Oregon is expensive and hard to find. We delved into the numbers and talked to a few executives and managers about day care costs, accessibility and work-life balance.


Salad Days

October 2015
Monday, September 28, 2015

How Portland's Garden Bar plans to become the Starbucks of salad.


Social media transforming sports business

The Latest
Thursday, September 24, 2015

The traditional model of sports teams using paid media to get their message across is disappearing as teams look instead to social media to interact with fans.

Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02