Tools help us to organise and manage work effectively and efficiently, and as many small businesses and entrepreneurs use them, there are an increasing amount available. From CRM systems and project management, to email marketing and workflow automation, there are hundreds of tools to choose from. So, how do we know which is best for the job? Here’s a quick guide to ten of the best tools every small business should use.
- Asana – a tool that allows multiple teams to work on multiple projects. Tasks can be viewed as lists or scheduled into a calendar, and messages or updates to do with tasks are clear to see. Asana can email your team each day to remind them of their daily goals. Its intuitive interface makes it one of the most popular management tools in use.
- ClickUp – an effective tool for teams to collaborate on multiple projects. There are some cool features that make it different from Asana, such as being able to turn comments in to tasks to assign to others, plus its Forever Free plan means you can use it for unlimited projects and unlimited users.
- MailChimp – with MailChimp, you can manage your email subscribers, set up auto-responders, send lead magnets, and split-test campaigns to see what works well. You can also create templates to save you time writing emails, plus it provides excellent real-time tracking of how people respond to your emails, such as who opens them, what links are clicked, who unsubscribes and what email addresses bounce. This popular email marketing platform has a free plan to get started with.
- InfusionSoft – this tool is great if you want everything that MailChimp does, but combined with some awesome customer relationship management (CRM) features. Use InfusionSoft to help convert leads into sales, segment your subscribers to send specific emails to different groups, and use the built-in ecommerce platform to sell to them directly.
- Hootsuite – a useful tool that manages all your social media platforms in one place. You can pre-write and schedule your tweets and posts in advance, respond to new comments, see your feeds and new followers all within Hootsuite. This saves you hours of time going between social media platforms and makes it easy to engage with followers.
Files and Documents
- Google Drive – Google Drive makes it easy and convenient to share and store files. This cloud-storage platform means that anyone can view a file provided they have internet access and an invite. For business owners, you can allow team access so people can work in collaboration on documents and spreadsheets, and they are synced in real-time. That means that anytime someone views a file, it is always up-to-date. In addition to file sharing, it is also easy to connect with your team through chats and video using Google Meet.
- Calendly – an absolute time-saver when it comes to arranging meetings and calls, Calendly allows you to communicate your availability through a link, and customers or clients can book a call when it is convenient for them. This simple scheduling program syncs with your calendar, so you always know who is booked in and when. It also integrates with Zoom and Microsoft Teams. The free version is ideal for one user, and the price is low for other plans with more features.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
- HubSpot –a marketing and sales platform that is full of features to help attract customers, sell to them, and turn them into repeat buyers. It has the tools ready to create a fantastic customer experience as they journey through the sales process and learn more about your brand. It includes features such as email marketing, advert software, website tools and a service hub where you can collaborate with your team. HubSpot is an all-in-one solution to scaling up a business.
- Zoho – this CRM platform is similar to HubSpot, however it is more streamlined in terms of features. For example, it does not have the team collaboration ability that HubSpot does, but not all business owners want an all-in-one solution. Although the CRM part of HubSpot is free, Zoho offers cheaper pricing plans overall.
- Zapier – this platform allows for easy sharing of information between apps, helping to automate workflows. Connect two or more apps to create a ‘zap’, which then triggers more actions that you set, automating those repetitive tasks and saving you time. With over 3000 apps to choose from, there is not much that Zapier can’t connect!
Using the right tools for business is a must, as working efficiently saves you time and money. When you are not chasing to keep up, you can put your energy into developing and scaling your business further. If you are looking for advice on setting up systems to help you work smarter, or would like help to implement the right tools for your business, feel free to get in touch!
Simply put, business systems are a combination of strategies, tools and processes that help coordinate activities and allow people to work together and to achieve a specific goal, or solve a problem. No matter what the task, a series of actions need to be completed in order to get it done. Systems may work well, or they may not! But, every business, even the smallest, needs effective systems in place to facilitate the day to day running, encourage growth and maximise profits.
The right systems bring many benefits to a business. Not only do they ensure that the needs of both the business and its customers/clients are met, but it does so in a way that makes operations cost-effective and efficient.
Types of Business Systems
Every business needs systems, but what they are and the priority of each one will depend on the business niche and the business goals. As a rule, each business area typically has its own systems that enables movement in steps from point A to point B. Areas of business such as payroll, human resources, inventory management, marketing and accounts each has a set of actions, processes and software that are different from one another, but they all add to the journey that achieves a goal or solves a problem.
Some systems may be small, such as sending out email campaigns. Others may be larger and more complex, such as on-boarding new clients or staff members. It is also important to work out who is responsible for running each system, so that it works properly. For example, if a payroll system does not have someone to ensure all the necessary inputs are made in the right time frames, it would lead to a lot of unhappy employees!
Successful business systems create easy workflows, but it is important to realise that systems also need to be flexible so they can be adapted when business needs change. For example, a change in the market, new rules and regulations, or changing demands of a supplier, could create gaps in output or bottle necks that slow down productivity. Having flexible systems in place helps to keep business flowing during times of change.
Whatever the purpose of a system, it needs to run smoothly to reduce the need for additional work and supervision, allowing business owners and their staff to work smarter, not harder.
Do your business systems need upgrading?
Good business systems create standards for consistent output, streamlining your processes and operations. This also makes your business more profitable. However, creating the right systems and implementing them can be a challenge, especially where old systems that worked previously are no longer up to the job.
Sometimes when we have done things in a certain way for a long time, it can be daunting to make changes, especially when there are many other correlating links in the chain of action that may also need to be changed. That is when hiring an Online Business Manager (OBM) can help.
Developing new systems can be a time consuming process, but it is worth it in the long run. An OBM can look at the systems you already have in place and, with a fresh set of eyes, can see what works well and what could be improved. They have the skills and expertise to tweak existing systems, or completely overhaul them, by developing new processes and finding the right tools to create better workflows for your business.
When business systems work well, it means that time and energy is not wasted and can be channelled into new areas of development, or give business owners the chance of a better work/life balance. If that sounds interesting, get in touch to see how we can work together!
When you run a business, there are always ongoing jobs that take up precious time. It can be frustrating to spend hours on tasks that need doing, yet which don’t necessarily push your business forward, bring in money, or drive growth. Luckily, there are some ways to make life easier and free up more time to focus on other areas of your business, and that is by using automation tools. Here’s a quick guide to some business processes and workflows that can be automated, and some of the best tools to use.
Even though we live in the digital era, accounting still uses many different processes and ways to gather information. It may involve data entry into numerous spreadsheets, electronic and paper invoices, filing, and using a calculator. But, using automation tools can save you time, eliminate human error, and give you the convenience of retrieving information whenever you need it. What’s more, many of the tools will merge seamlessly with your accounting software and can interact with one another. For example, payments that arrive through a gateway such as Stripe or PayPal can assimilate with accounting software, for an invoice or receipt to be created using a tool such as Zapier.
Not just for accounting, Zapier is a fantastic tool for connecting different apps and automating many business processes. It allows data to be shared from many apps you use, and passes information between them, so workflows become more streamlined.
Call scheduling tools make it easy for clients or people interested in your services to book a time slot for a call. It is then automatically added to a calendar so you can see exactly what is booked in on any day. This saves you time on sending correspondence via email to arrange appointments, and organising your diary.
Some of the best call scheduling tools are Calendly, ScheduleOnce, HubSpot and YouCanBook.me (I use this one), and most will also sync with Google apps such as Google Calendar and Gmail.
Creating an engaged community around your business is an essential part of marketing, but posting on social media takes time. This is especially true if you have an audience on many different platforms. One great way to save time is to use social media scheduling tools. This means you can batch create posts and set them to be published at the best times of day to reach your audience, and it can be done in advance.
Tools such as Hootsuite can schedule posts across different platforms, and you can also reply to comments, see new followers and keep an eye on your timeline too. Other options include Social Sprout, Buffer and Later. The key features of many of these tools allow you manage multiple social media platforms from one place, saving time.
Lead Magnets and Email Marketing
When someone lands on your website, one of the best ways for them to become a customer or client is to offer them something, in return for their email address. Once you have a subscriber, you can then contact them directly with news of the services you provide. Lead magnets include useful resources, such as a planner or template, an eBook, a mini email course or taster coaching session.
Once you have your lead magnet created, it can automatically be sent once a website visitor has opted in. Every new subscriber will follow the same path, and receive a lead magnet and set of follow up emails over time, automatically. One of the most commonly used tools for this is MailChimp. Other options include ActiveCampaign, InfusionSoft and ConvertKit.
Using automation tools can be a great benefit to your business, and many are free to begin with. As your business grows, or you increase your use of the tools, you may need to upgrade to use additional features. When running a business, smooth workflows makes all the difference. If you want some helpful advice on how we can work together to streamline your processes, feel free to get in touch.
An Online Business Manager (OBM) provides professional, managerial level support for businesses. While there are similarities between an OBM and a Virtual Assistant (VA), there is a marked difference. A VA provides general office support, whereas an OBM oversees and manages a wide range of operational processes, freeing up your time so you can use your expertise where it is needed most.
Here are the top 5 reasons how hiring an online business manager benefits your business:
1. Handles Daily Tasks
Those daily tasks that seem to get in the way, yet are an essential part of keeping your business running smoothly, can all be handled by an online business manager. Project management, administration, communicating with staff and customers, organising documents and data… an OBM can create efficient workflows and improve time management.
2. Increase Growth
When you are not bogged down in the nitty gritty of core operations, it allows you to focus your time on developing your business further. You will have more time and resources to scale up and expand your customer base, and be able to act on new opportunities that come up.
Not only that, an OBM is likely to have the experience and skills to help you create new business strategies, and a wide business network where you can make new connections.
3. Fresh Set of Eyes
Sometimes, we are so close to our business that we ‘can’t see the wood for the trees’. When you first began your business, you may have had ways of doing things that worked well at the time. However, as your business grows or changes, those processes become less efficient. It can be hard to make changes when you’ve always done things a certain way, or don’t have time to implement a new way of working. An OBM is a fresh set of eyes on your business, and may be able to suggest new ways of streamlining processes that you never thought of before.
4. Improve Work/Life Balance
Running a business is often challenging, especially for entrepreneurs who have to manage many aspects. When you spread yourself too thinly, both your business and your personal life begin to show the strain. There may also be times when you need to take a day or two off, such as through illness or commitments. It’s impossible to be in two or three places at once and still expect to be working effectively, so hiring an OBM can help provide that much needed manpower to make sure all areas of your business are running smoothly.
5. Freedom to be Creative
As a business owner, founder, or CEO, you are the visionary that steers the ship. When the day-to-day pressure is lessened, you can use your creativity to think of new ways to develop your business, how to best serve your customers or clients, and create future plans that fully align with your business values.
Ready to find out more?
Whatever the size of your business, if you are finding that time spent on core processes is slowing down growth, then hiring an OBM could be the answer you’re looking for. Feel free to get in touch to see how we could work together to support the growth of your business.
As a professional coach, you know how to get the best out of people. But how good are you at making the most of your own time on a day-to-day basis?
Whether you think you are good at managing your time, or know that you could do better, the tips outlined below will be helpful. Even if one of them leads to a small improvement in your daily time management, this post will have been all worthwhile.
1. Eliminate distractions
Before you can even begin to start managing your time more effectively, you have to eliminate all the daily distractions (no matter how big or small) that have a habit of consuming your time.
Whether it’s your phone alerting you to an instant message, your email program throwing up a new mail notification, or something less technology-related like a pile of boxes that need sorting in the corner of your home office, all of these things can distract you.
They even say that just having your phone in view can be distracting. So when you’re working on something important, switch your phone off and put it out of sight (and out of mind).
2. Track your time
Do you know exactly how you spend your time each day? Many coaches don’t. But how can you begin to manage your time better if you don’t even know where it’s going in the first place?
Fortunately, there are some great time-tracking apps to help you figure out what’s stealing your precious minutes and hours. Toggl, Clockify and RescueTime are all solid examples.
Alternatively, consider quickly scribbling down how many times you get distracted by someone (calling, messaging, etc.) or whenever you get sidetracked working on a random task.
The point is to record how you’re spending your time so you can identify time drains, take control of the situation and make positive changes.
3. Have a to-do list & prioritise
It might seem obvious, but having a simple to-do list can really improve your time management. With the tasks you need to complete each day set out in front of you, you’ll never be wondering what’s next.
But don’t just list all the tasks that need completing. Assign them a priority based on urgency and importance. Then, look to work on your high priority tasks when you are at your most effective (more on this in point number 5).
Create your to-do list the evening before for the best results. It allows you to hit the ground running in the morning and get stuck straight into your daily tasks.
The fact of the matter is a to-do list keeps you focussed and motivated, plus you get a little mental boost each time you tick a task off.
4. Focus on one task at a time
As a busy coach, it can be tempting to multi-task. After all, it’s an effective way to use your time, right? Not really.
If you have decided on a task, see it through to the end before starting a new one. Leaving a task half-finished will likely result in you being unable to concentrate and focus on the next task on your to-do list. That unfinished task will be constantly lingering somewhere in your mind, so try to avoid leaving something halfway through.
However, you should never get so engrossed in a task that you forget to take regular breaks. A nice way to avoid this happening is to use one of the various time management methods that are out there.
The Pomodoro Technique is a popular one and it basically involves spending 25 minutes working on a task without any interruptions or distractions. Then, have a 5-minute break before starting another 25 minutes on the task. Repeat this pattern until you have spent 100 minutes working on the task, at which point you should treat yourself to a longer break of 20-30 mins.
5. Hack your schedule
There will be times during the day when you know you are at your most productive or feel most energised. Take advantage of these times by using them to work on tasks that require more concentration and aren’t necessarily routine.
Maybe you are super productive first thing in the morning when the rest of your household is still asleep, or perhaps you’re more of a night owl who smashes it in the evenings. Whichever your preference, utilise it to your advantage. It’s all about arranging your day to achieve maximum efficiency wherever possible.
6. Set boundaries & learn how to say “no”
As a coach, you inevitably have multiple clients. Chances are that those clients are all pretty different too, meaning their expectations and preferences vary. The bottom line is the more clients you have, the smarter you need to be when it comes to managing your time.
That’s why it’s so important to set boundaries and learn how to say “no”. Never take on more than you can comfortably manage and be prepared to push back when a client’s requests could lead to your attention becoming consumed.
At the end of the day, there’s a big possibility that you created your own coaching business because you wanted to be your own boss and work on your terms. Don’t let assertive clients try and change that.
7. Delegate & outsource
You’re a coach, which means you spend your life getting the very best out of people. But how often do you listen to your own advice and teachings, especially when it comes to working smarter.
One of the best ways to work smarter is to spend your time on the tasks that afford the most value. So it makes sense to delegate anything that can be completed by someone else at less cost to your business, or tasks that are required but are simple, meaning they can be easily outsourced.
This will free up your time so you can focus on what you do best: bringing money in the door.
Not sure about delegating and outsourcing? Never done it before and aren’t sure just how easy it can be? Book a call with me today and I’ll be happy to show you.