Having the right business systems in place can mean the difference between efficiency and overwhelm. Unfortunately, technophobic entrepreneurs shy away from certain systems because they either don’t know how to use them or know which systems are needed at all.
Fortunately, this post demystifies business systems for even the technically challenged among us. It’s time to let technology and applications automate all of the grunt work that we do on a daily basis, so we can get back to working within our zones of genius – and grow our businesses!
So what are the 7 essential business systems?
In increasing order of importance, they are:
7) Project Management
Do you offer a service with multiple tasks and deliverables? If so, you have a project. And a project management tool can be a major help for your consulting business.
Because otherwise: How do you plan to keep track of what’s completed and what’s still left to do?
A project management tool allows you to map out your project in advance so that you and your client are in agreement. It lets you know exactly where you are in a project and allows you to assign tasks to your clients (and other project members). A major benefit is that it reduces the number of “Where are we?” questions that occur on a project.
Certain applications also allow you and your clients to communicate directly within the program, which reduces the number of emails back and forth.
A project management example for a consultant or a coach:
You have a 6-month coaching program. During that time, you give your client’s assignments to complete and in turn, you have deliverables to your client. You want them to finish a particular assignment within a week of a coaching session prior to booking a new one.
With your project management tool, you can assign a task and have the tool follow up with the client to complete that task. This frees you up that you can serve more clients effectively. Isn’t that better than no project management system at all?
A good project management tool needs to:
- Be online and available to you and your client.
- Allow you to create tasks or conversations by email (This helps if you don’t want to log in to update the project)
- Allow you to create more than one project for either the same or different clients
- Integrate with other applications such as Google Calendar
- Notify you and your client when tasks are overdue
- Have a mobile application
- Be free or relatively affordable for a small team
I personally use Asana for my business as it meets all of the criteria.
6) Password Management
You need a strong password for all of your accounts and each account should have its own password. With that said, unless you are a cyborg, there’s no way you can possibly remember all of you passwords. You could keep your passwords in a notebook, but what if you lose the notebook? What if it’s stolen!?
Enter a password manager.
By using a password manager you have only ONE master password to remember. All of your other usernames and passwords are encrypted with an encryption key. Only your username and password will decrypt your information. And by using 2-factor authentication (you must verify the login with your phone or another device), it’s way more secure than writing down passwords or using the same password over and over again.
A good password manager should:
- Encrypt your data
- Have a mobile app and browser extensions to facilitate your logins
- 2-factor authentication
- Be able to fill out forms and generate strong passwords for new accounts
- Good reviews
5) Client Relationship Management (CRM)
What is a CRM and why do I need one?
If you are just starting out, you probably have a few leads and a handful of clients. It’s easy to keep track of them and you can probably keep track of them with a spreadsheet.
However, as your business grows you’ll have a harder time manually keeping track of all of the people who have interacted with you. Most importantly, you’ll have no idea where they are in your sales funnel and how likely they are to buy from you. That’s why you need a CRM. it’s like a virtual Rolodex!
The major benefit is that your CRM can automate many tasks for you.
For example, a new lead fills out a form and answers a few questions from your website. The form will send her information to your CRM. Instantly, she’ll get another email from your CRM to book a time to meet with you. Or the CRM can send her a proposal for your services, which will also create an invoice for her to pay for what she needs. She opts for the payment plan and pays the first installment and your CRM debits future installments automatically.
Sounds cool, right? And this is only a very basic example of what a CRM can do for you.
A good CRM needs to let you automatically:
- Collect lead information via forms or leading pages
- Send proposals
- Integrate payments
- Create contracts – and allow people to sign them
- Follow up on pending payments
- See how you’ve interacted with the person over time
- Provide basic bookkeeping or integrate within your existing bookkeeping system
- Have templates for emails, forms, and documents
Personal Tip: If you are a small business owner who wants something powerful and affordable, you cannot go wrong with Dubsado. In fact, my recommendation will save you money because you won’t have to pay for additional proposal or document signing system. I am a current Dubsado user and wouldn’t recommend something this strongly if I couldn’t stand behind it.
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4) Scheduler / Calendar
Once you use a scheduler system, you’ll probably wonder how you did without it. Eliminate the back and forth ‘Let me check with my calendar’ conversation and let the other person pick among your available times. It’s SO easy.
I help my clients set up their scheduler systems to sync Google or Outlook calendar. They can then share that link with their clients.
Want to know what this looks like for your business? You have set up the system to link to your Calendar. No one can book a time that you are unavailable or busy. You also configure the system for your specific office hours and can adjust your availability based on the type of appointment. You also prefer not to get new appointments within the next 24 hours and you need at least 30 mins between appointments. You configure your system to do this for you. Any time that someone schedules will be PERFECT for you.
A good scheduler system will:
- Sync both ways with your calendar New appointments will show up on your calendar and your system will know when you are available
- Allows a buffer time before and between appointments. This helps to prepare for the appointment, if necessary.
- Sends both parties an invite and follow-up email or text reminders.
- Can accommodate both free and paid appointments.
- Are either free or have a low monthly cost.
3) Social Media Automation
Ever see some brands post content on social media all the time? Wonder how they do it?
They automate their social media posts. And you can too.
Here is how you do it. You want to remain visible on Facebook and Twitter. You have a block on time on the weekend to create your content, but you want to slowly distribute it over the next few days. You login into your social media manager and schedule your content to post automatically across different platforms for different days. This frees you up to do other things for your business. Later, you go into and analyze how your content performed.
Easy peasy! Best of all, you can do this for free. The free plans allow you to schedule a limited number of posts at a time. However, this should suffice for a week’s worth of content. If you are willing to pay, you have the option of scheduling more post across more platforms. (In addition to many other features)
Here’s a tip: Use more than one at a time. I used to use Hootsuite for my scheduled postings and Buffer for my evergreen content.
2) Email Marketing
At some point in your business, you’ll need an email list. This is a collection of people that have opted-in to receive communications from you. Most entrepreneurs have an email marketing system, but many do not.
Occasionally, I see entrepreneurs sending bulk emails from their Gmail address. This is wrong. Not only is there no way to track opens and sends, but more importantly, there is no way for someone to opt out of receiving them. (This is actually a violation of existing email marketing laws)
I recommend growing your list with MailChimp for free. As of this posting, it’s free up to 2,000 subscribers. If you need more subscribers or more features, you can pay a small amount each month for email marketing.
The great part about email marketing is the automation. You can create different an automation depending on your subscribers’ actions.
Here’s a great example: You have a lead page that captures email addresses. Once someone enters their email address, they automatically receive an email thanking them and welcoming them to your email program. 2 days later, they receive another email with more valuable tips and resources from you. Eventually, they receive about 5 emails over 2 weeks that introduce them to your business – all without you manually sending any email.
You can also segment your list to send different to those who engage more frequently with your email.
If you aren’t growing your email list, I suggest you start now. Remember, you need to collect only from people who consent to receive email. And you must not take it personally if someone opts out. It’s the nature of doing business. If you need assistance. let us help. 🙂
1) Bookkeeping/ Accounting / Invoicing
This is a no-brainer, but it’s important. I bundled these 3 together because most systems will handle all of them.
You will need some system to organize your income and expenses. AND if your CRM doesn’t allow you do so (or if you don’t have one), you need a way to send invoices. Set up your invoices right away so you can get paid while you figure out your other systems. (Should someone want to work with you asap)
There are many options available to you.
If you are just starting out, I recommend Wave. I like the price – it’s free. It doesn’t have the bells and whistles of the most expensive services. But it gets you what you need so you don’t have an excuse not to have an accounting system.
But there are others, like Quickbooks, that are affordable as well.
No matter which one you pick, they all give your balance sheet, income statement, and transactions so you can easily get the financial health of your business at a glance.
So there you have it. That wasn’t so bad, was it?
Which system are you going to implement today?
Do you need resources? I got you covered!
Download my handy dandy resource list. It provides a resource for everything covered in this post.