Welcome to 2017!
I know that today is the observed holiday but I couldn’t help myself, I had to get to my desk and get started. I had a little extra spring in my step as I made my way to the office this morning because I was excited to answer a question that I get all the time from entrepreneurs and business builders. That question:
How do you keep your business going and get everything you need to do done when you’re a small team or even just a team of one?
I know a lot of you out there have set goals, resolutions or even just intentions for your businesses this year and I want to continue to support you in reaching those goals in any way that I can. So, I’m going to peel the curtain back a bit on my business and talk about the five resources I use to keep me moving forward in my business that you can use too.
Again to be super clear, these are tools that I use everyday and that I tell people about when they ask. None of the links I’m sharing are affiliate or paid for in any way, just pointing you to where you can learn more.
1. Evernote - https://evernote.com/
There are a ton of posts and articles on the internet that talk about the greatness of Evernote. I don’t want to bore you with another review. What I want to do is talk about how practical and essential this app is for me, and could be for you, every week. One of the necessary evils of growing a business is that you’re going to take and host meetings. Some of them will be amazing like, meeting with clients if you are a coach or consultant and some of them will be less amazing like, meeting someone for a “networking” coffee only to have them try to pitch you the whole time on a service you don’t need. Recording your thoughts, conversations and follow up actions in a way that’s easily organizable, time stamped and searchable is huge. For me this app is more than just a place to write ideas to go back to at a later date they are repositories for business development information I use everyday. I track client conversations, write my blog posts and use them as a home base for the projects I need to keep track of in my business. Plus with the premium you can make documents, pictures you take, scans, etc searchable - how cool is that!
2. Hubspot Sales - https://www.hubspot.com/products/sales
Building a business probably means that you are sending a ton of emails out everyday. I know it can be really frustrating to send them out and then just wait. Not really sure if your emails landed where they were intended or if they were read at all. With Hubspot Sales you can send your emails out and actually see if/when they get opened and even track click throughs. It’s a little sneaky but I love it and I think you will too. Hubspot also has a decent CRM to help keep your prospects and sales pipeline organized. It’s also got a really neat Google Chrome and GMail extensions that will push you notifications so you don’t have to keep checking in on the app/site. The free version gets you up to 250 open notifications per month and then you can upgrade from there. If you rely on email for the bulk of your business development then something like this can be really helpful because you can better time and position your follow up emails or the other steps in your sales pipeline.
3. Buffer - https://buffer.com/
There are a lot of social media aggregators and planners out there today. Buffer is one that I started using when they were pretty young and have grown with them. Buffer is a huge resource for me because it helps me plan my social content for the day or week. You can set the share frequencies, choose how you want links to show up and it gives you decent analytics. If you are a small team or a team of one then you know how tough it can be to prioritize being active in social and balancing everything else you need to get done in a day. While there is NO SUBSTITUTE for real interactions you can plan the things you want to share and then carve out smaller chunks of time to go out into the web and be a real person. Social moves fast and is still a really relevant place to be. Buffer makes it easy to keep your face showing up in people’s feeds. The free version lets you plan 10 social posts I believe and then you pay up from there.
4. Any.do/Cal - http://www.any.do/
Any.do and Cal are sister apps that live on your phone and the web. It’s a to-do and calendar duo that helps extend the functionality of what a calendar app like Google Calendar can do when you’re trying to fit in all the little stuff that needs to get done in a day that doesn't really need a full on calendar entry. I love Any.do because you can create all kinds of categories and reminders that will integrate well with the calendar. You can save files, set location based reminders and all kinds of other neat customizations. Cal also pulls the data from your Google Calendar in so you can keep everything really organized and in one place. It’s really intuitive which is important for me because it means it’s easy to edit, check off and adjust on the fly. There is a free version but for $26.99 for the year you get all kinds of goodies including one of my favorites is a prompt everyday to plan my day.
5. Trello - https://trello.com/
I love Trello because it can be whatever you need it to be. It can be a project manager, an extension of your to-do list or even a place to host processes that you create for your business. In Trello you create “boards” and within the board you can break them out into actions, sub-actions, leave notes, assign people and even store documents. Because I use Any.do for my main to-do list and planning I use Trello more for creating project management timelines and benchmarks. It’s great for taking big ideas and them breaking them down so that you can actually get work done. I use it as a place to keep my vanilla processes too. I can create step by step outlines for things like New Client On-boarding and even Blog Posts. Trello saves time and creates consistency for my workflow because all that information is in one place and contains processes that I use all the time. It’s also really good for small teams that need a place to collaborate and communicate through the work process. It also integrates with a TON of stuff like all-things-Google, Dropbox, Slack and all the Evernote. (I’m big on stuff that plays nicely together.)
Those are the five tools or resources that I use everyday in my business. They help me stay organized, keep track of what I have going on and keep me doing work that is pushing my business forward. I believe they can do the same thing for you. There’s a catch though, these resources are not silver bullets. They aren't going to do your work for you but they will help keep you organized and help you set finish lines up for yourself. That’s really important because in order to make progress in your business you have to be able to start something, finish it and move on to the next thing. So often I see people stuck in this quagmire of tasks they are always working on and never create the momentum they need to really grow because they are stuck always working in their business.
Take some time, set them up and then get to work trusting that your systems will support you along the way. Your business at the end of 2017 will thank you for it.