Is disorganization killing your business?

Running a business requires juggling hundreds of moving parts. Drop even one ball, and it could spell disaster.

All too often small business owners and entrepreneurs fail to set up systems and processes to help them manage; either due to a perceived lack of time or from an over abundance of confidence. Which often causes numerous problems as they progress in their business such as missing deadlines, misplacing information, and losing a ton of time re-doing work. The overall effect is a decline in both customer satisfaction as they begin to see errors creep into the process, and a decrease in your job satisfaction (no one likes letting their clients down, and feeling disorganized can cause lots of stress ~ who needs that!?!).

Luckily there are a TON of options out there to help you get, and stay, organized. Below are the two main types of tools almost every business needs.

Whether you’re in need of a way to stay on top of leads, or a system to develop your next online course, these options will get you where you need to be in no time flat.

CRM (Customer Relationship Manager)

Having a good CRM is essential to most businesses. They help you keep track of your leads and active clients and where each is in the sales process. Many of them integrate with your email so you can track who opens which message when.

CRMs come in all shapes and sizes, and some are even offered as part of other tools, so before you choose one you may want to figure out what other tools you might use first and see if the tool you want has a CRM feature included.

So what amazing CRMs are out there?

Well, if you’re in need of a free option Hubspot Free CRM is a winner. It integrates seamlessly with Gmail and Outlook and gives you the ability to choose which emails are and are not tracked in the system. Opt-in to their free Sidekick option and you’ll also be able to track those emails with ease. I used it for years before finding my current CRM. The one major downside for me was that it didn’t fully integrate with Zapier, so I had to check two places each day to see what tasks I had to work on (my CRM for lead follow up and my project management too for all my other tasks).

If you also need to do automated email marketing campaigns, I highly recommend Active Campaign. (Full disclosure – that is a referral link. That’s how much I LOVE them!). Active Campaign is what I replaced Hubspot with. The reason? Not only does it integrate with Gmail, but it also offers the tracking option without having to use a second application, it also has full integration with Zapier which means when I assign a task in my CRM to follow up with a client I can have Zapier add that task to my project management tool. This saves me time each day and helps me avoid overbooking my day! Total lifesaver!

Project Management Tool

If you’re like many entrepreneurs, your life is filled with a series of tasks and projects all with different due dates for different clients with different deliverables. Trying to keep this all in your head is impossible and will lead to mistakes and disappointment. Solution? A great Project Management Tool.

There are many great ones out there, but my top four would have to be TrelloWrikeAsana, and Teamwork! I have used them all at one time or another, and they all offer a lot of the same features. They each let you group similar projects into Folders or Workspaces; they each let you create and assign tasks and sub-tasks; they all let you set due dates and recurring due dates, and so on.

Where they differ is in the extras they offer and the overall user experience.

Trello is great for visual and tactile learners as it lets you physically move tasks into the next stage, so you get that feeling of moving your work forward. IT’s easy to work with and offers a really clean, simple, workspace.

Asana provides excellent overviews of each project and offers a fantastic communication system that allows you to eliminate the need for email among your team and offers privacy settings so you can invite in guests or clients if their help is needed or if you just want them to be able to see the progress.

Wrike was the first to offer a Gantt chart view of your projects as well as the ability to set dependencies on your tasks allowing you to see at a glance what piece is holding up any particular part of a project.

My favorite for a long time was Asana until I found Teamwork.

Teamwork combines the beauty of Trello, the practicality of Wrike and the amazing communication features of Asana, and then adds their take on what a true project management tool should be by providing some amazing extra features like:

  • the ability to estimate and keep track of your workload and the workload of your team;

  • time tracking and billing, with integration to your favorite accounting program;

  • full control over privacy settings so people only see what they need to see;

  • a stellar file management system with auto-versioning

  • full featured task templates that are easy to use, create, and edit

  • and much, much more.

Teamwork is by far my favorite system, and I would recommend it to just about anyone, especially if you have a team you’re working with or want an easy way to keep your client up to date without drowning in email.

Something else to consider

If you find yourself booking a lot of meetings you’ve probably noticed how time-consuming and annoying it can be to try and find a time that works with both of you. The constant emails back and forth can get out of hand really quickly. For you, I recommend looking at an online scheduler.

Two great options are Acuity Scheduling and vCita. They both allow you to set and update your schedule on the fly and they both integrate really well with most websites and calendar systems, and they both cut down tremendously on the back and forth by allowing people to book themselves directly into your schedule. Personally, I find the personalization and integration options of vCita a bit better and Acuity a little easier to set up (though neither are very difficult). You can see each of them in action here (check out the embedded form) and here (see the “Let’s Talk” button in the bottom right corner?).

What did I miss?

Are you already an organizing guru and are flabbergasted that I missed your favorite tool? Or are you new to organizing and wondering about a system someone told you about once? Let me know in the comments.

Meet your host

Sandra Booker, Founder of Changemaker Inc. (home to Sidekick COO and The VA Studio) and creator of Scale Society and The Advisory Board, is a mentor, Fractional COO  and growth strategist. She specializes in helping overworked, overwhelmed, multi-hatted entrepreneurs become the CEOs of sustainably scalable, and powerfully profitable businesses. 

After helping local businesses thrive, and receiving accolades in her community (like the 40 Under 40 award) Sandra turned her attention to the world of online service providers, and her clients include familiar names like Chanti Zak, Tarzan Kay, and Laura Belgray.

In her (efficiently used) spare time, she teaches others how to build and grow their own 6-figure virtual assistant practices and is on a mission to create a million jobs by helping her clients and students scale their businesses.

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