I recently sat on a panel of small business experts and my job was to let the entrepreneurs in the audience know what kind of systems they need to have for their businesses this year. I wanted to share the advice I gave them here on my blog because I think it can help you as well. If you're lost or wondering what's really essential, here's my two cents:
Contact Management System – Every business needs a great contact management system. Your contacts are your business – especially if you're in a service-based business that's relationship driven. If you've ever missed out on an opportunity because you didn't follow up or didn't have someone important on your radar, you probably don't have a good system in place- or you aren't using it. The systems I've recommended most this year include Insightly, Contactually and 17Hats.
Calendar – A calendar is a must! If you're anything like me – if it isn't in your calendar, it isn't going to happen! Stop trying to remember everything off the top of your head. Also, piles of Post-its aren't a great system. My calendar of choice is Google Calendar. I also have a planner that I write in every day. You don't need to go crazy like me with two calendars – but pick a good one and stick with it!
Questions about finding the right planner? Check out my series on how to find the right one, make your own and get the most out of whatever you choose.
Financial – You've GOT to know what's going on with your money if you're going to grow your business. Stop making invoices in Excel. We've got great tools now that take care of it for you! I have been a Freshbooks customer for several years and love them. QuickBooks and QuickBooks Online are some of the most widely used tools for bookkeeping and accounting. 17Hats handles invoicing and has some bookkeeping features. There are several other great services out there as well. Track the money coming into and going out of your business. If you're not sure where to find a good bookkeeper, check out Bench. I used them for most of 2014 and it was great relief to know they had everything organized. They'll even do one month of your books for free to see if you like the service.
Projects and Tasks – you've probably got a lot of things on your plate. How are you tracking them? In your planner? Great! In your Google Calendar? Awesome! By memory? FAIL! Make sure you have a system in place so you get important things done. If you have too many projects and/or tasks to manage in your everyday calendar, you'll probably need a separate tool or app. Basecamp is great for web-based projects or projects where you have several team members that need access (or there are people who need limited access). Asana is another great task and simple project management tool. And hey, its free! Evernote can also be used for projects and tasks if you work it the right way. It's also great for note taking, writing projects, storing ideas and bookmarks. The list goes on…The free version gives you what you need, but they also have a Premium plan if you're feeling fancy.
Marketing – if you want to grow your business this year, you need to market it! That's going to look different for everyone. Whatever you decide to do, make a plan and stick to it. Is networking part of your marketing strategy? Make sure you get interesting events on your calendar. Schedule time to follow up (the right CRM will help you with this…). If social media is on your radar, make sure you have a plan that helps maintain some consistency. My favorite marketing tool for every service-based business owner is the book Get Clients Now! I've used it almost a dozen times since I started my business. You can use this book and the corresponding plan over and over – and it will be different every time. When I look back at 2014, the times when I made the most progress in the shortest period corresponded to me working the GCN program. The program is great on its own. It is better with a partner. It is best with a group. Start your own or join an existing group. Want to know when I'm leading another GCN mastermind? Make sure to get on my list. Oh – and get the paperback copy. Don't go Kindle on this one.
That's it – the 5 most important systems to get in place for your biz this year. Focus on one area at a time if this is a lot for you to handle. I realize you might not geek out about this like I do. Which area is your biggest pain point? Dive in and explore the options. There are so many great tools out there, you're bound to find the one. If you want to speed up the process and zero in on which systems are right for you and your business, I'm happy to help you solve that puzzle.
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