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Have you ever wondered how to build business infrastructure? You’re in luck with today’s episode.

Alicia Butler Pierre is the founder and CEO of Equilibria, a 15-year-old operations management firm. She specializes in helping fast-growing companies structure operations for sustained success by increasing bandwidth via business infrastructure. 

Alicia has a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering from Louisiana State University, an MBA from Tulane University, and a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certification. 

Her content has over three-quarters of a million views across various online platforms. She hosts the weekly Business Infrastructure: Curing Back Office Blues podcast. She is a two-time Amazon bestseller with her book, Behind the Façade: How to Structure Company Operations for Sustainable Success.

In this episode, Alicia discusses the importance of systems and provides valuable insights into building business infrastructure. Be sure to tune in, and you’re not going to want to miss it!

Here are three reasons why you should listen to the complete Episode:

  1. Alicia talks about reinventing herself from a chemical engineer to one of the world’s few business infrastructure specialists.
  2. We gain insight into what Lean Six Sigma is and who needs it.
  3. Discover the index card and stick-figure methodology as a guide for building business infrastructure.

Episode Highlights

Who is Alicia 

  • Alicia Butler Pierre is the founder and CEO of Equilibria, Inc.
  • Podcast host of the Business Infrastructure: Curing Back Office Blues.
  • Author of Behind the Façade: How to Structure Company Operations for Sustainable Success and Keeping Score: Using Business Processes to Increase Financial Responsibility.
  • Her qualifications include a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering, an MBA, and a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certification.

Her journey to operations guru

  • Alicia thought that she would become a journalist.
  • In 11th grade, she took a chemistry course and excelled.
  • Her teacher took a particular interest in her career and advised that instead of her pursuit to become a chemist, doing chemical engineering would be a better route.
  • Once she graduated with her degree, she leaned into being a process engineer.

Her inquiry mindset 

  • As an engineer, Alicia would follow orders but didn’t understand the business decisions.
  • There were many meetings with accountants, and she found that she didn’t understand the language of business at all.
  • Her inquiry mindset and passion for continuous improvement led her to pursue her MBA.
  • By doing this, she now has the operational knowledge and the business understanding of market trends and industry analysis.

The glue that holds it all together

  • Operations is very different from marketing and sales, and it’s all the nitty-gritty stuff happening in the proverbial back office.
  • It involves getting into processes, systems, procedures, and workflows.
  • Ensure everyone knows how to do the work to deliver the products and services on time consistently.

Defining systems and business infrastructure

  • Systems group together all the activities that are necessary to drive something forward.
  • Business infrastructure is a system for linking your people, processes, tools, and technologies.
  • This linkage is significant because when you change one thing, you’re forced to think about the impact it has on everything else.
  • The ecosystem includes your vendors, suppliers, customers and employees.
  •  All are coming together to help support the system driving the goods and services to your end customer.

What is Lean Six Sigma

  • Lean is a methodology used to eliminate or minimize waste throughout your processes.
  • Six Sigma is another methodology all about eliminating and minimizing waste to the best extent possible, what is referred to as defects or errors.
  • These two frameworks have been combined to what is now called Lean Six Sigma.
  • The whole idea is to strip your company’s operations of waste, defective products, and errors.

Who would need Lean Six Sigma

  • Alicia doesn’t recommend this framework for startups or a new company, and she says you need to first have some skin in the game.
  • When you get to have more business than you can handle, this is where Lean Six Sigma will benefit you.
  • You’d start looking to expand your team, documenting processes, investing in technology, and looking at automation.

The payoffs

  • There needs to be a mindset shift seen as an investment versus an expense.
  • It’s a long game where it can take more than a year to see the positive results of these serious changes and improvements.
  • You will be able to look back and see how much revenue your company has generated due to picking apart how you do things.
  • Always make sure that improvements can be monitored and measured.

Index cards and stick figures

  • One of Alicia’s first recommendations is to take index cards and write down each task performed in the company, mundane or complex.
  • You’ll be surprised just how many index cards you have at the end.
  • Group similar tasks into columns, assigning them to a department.
  • Before investing in technology, your very first level of the organization should always be those departments you’ve taken the time to identify.

The ideal person for the role

  • Think about a perfect world scenario where money is not an issue and assign a stick figure indicating who should ideally perform the relevant task.
  • The stick figures need to be color-coded. Black indicates a position filled, blue is an indicator of work that can be outsourced and red is an identified vacant role.
  • Don’t plan for where you are; plan for where you’re going.

The type of companies she’s engaging

  • If you’re experiencing failed audits, high staff turnover, increased customer complaints, and difficulty fulfilling orders on time, Alicia says she can help.
  • Anyone experiencing this should not feel isolated or alone, as this is a problem that is not uncommon.
  • Companies of all sizes face these challenges, and larger companies tend to know to go and look for a Lean Six Sigma expert; smaller businesses don’t.

Her book

  • Alicia’s book will give you a step-by-step guide on how to build business infrastructure.
  • If the index cards and stick figures intrigue you, she goes into great detail throughout her book.
  • Not only does it include hardcore factual information, she tells the stories of six entrepreneurs experiencing growth and pain points in their companies.

How does Alicia want to be remembered?

  • Alicia Butler Pierre wants to be remembered as someone who left things better than she found it.

3 Powerful Quotes from this Episode

21:15 – “And the thing you always want to look at when you talk about improving a process, one of the things that we will almost always look at is what we call cycle time. How long does it take you to manufacture that product? How long does it take you to deliver that actual service? And is it possible for you to shave that down by 10% or 20%, maybe even in half.”

24:14 – “We can’t look at this as a pure expense. This is an investment. And again, you have to be in it for the long game, you may not see the payoff in a couple of weeks, maybe even in a few months. But it might take again a year, 18 months, before you actually achieve that payoff. And the payoff could manifest itself in different ways.” 

33:34 – “Blame the process before you blame the people.”

About Alicia Butler Pierre

Apart from being a podcaster, author and speaker, Alicia prides herself on being the go-to expert on building business infrastructure.

When you’re in a pinch trying to scale your business operations, she has the breadth and depth that her clients need. She’s an actual process engineer with a solid background in production and manufacturing, as well as transactional environments. 

Alicia has developed a proprietary model for entrepreneurs that positions fast-growing small businesses for mega success. It’s her secret sauce and it’s called Kasennu™. A methodology that can be delivered in three ways: Diagnostic, coaching and workshops. More information on this can be found here.

Connect with Alicia

Website 

Linkedin 

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Thanks for listening,

Darrell