About a month ago on the Inside Line blog, I asked our readers, “What does success look like?” Today’s post builds on that question with another – “Does your business have a system or a process for that?”
It’s not just about goals, although setting systems and processes in place to achieve your goals is crucial. No, I’m talking about the project level and task level stuff that you or your team is responsible for. Without a recognizable process, what happens when you or a team member gets sick?
After all, who hasn’t ever been too sick to report to work? Who never takes vacation and ends up out of cell phone range? As a business owner, you know better than anyone else that sooner or later the sh*t hits the fan. The only question is whether or not you’ll be prepared for it.
Teamwork, Business Systems and Processes
Preparation for me has meant moving customer support to a dedicated support desk and hiring a qualified and customer-oriented assistant. We’ve recorded many process videos, written process checklists, and enabled access to shared files. That’s because as a mobile business owner, I can expect to be out of cell phone range from time-to-time. (Honestly, I WANT to be out of cell range at times!) With a team and processes in place, the business can continue to run and customers will always be supported whether I’m at my desk or not.
This past week, our sister organization, OffBeat Business Media could have suffered a setback when the CEO got sick on launch day of a new customer’s podcast. But because we had systems in place, the rest of the team was able to cover … from production to marketing and customer support. Sure, there was a little stress, and we learned of a few things to be added to our processes, but it worked. We got the job done.
You’re probably not going to document every aspect of your business before the end of the week – and maybe never will. That’s not the point. What is mission critical? What would hurt the most if it didn’t get done? Document that first, then keep going.
Tools We Use
Here are the tools we’re using to create and run our business systems:
Full Disclosure: I’ve included affiliate links – meaning that if you click through to learn more and end up trying the service, I’ll earn a small commission without it costing you anything extra.
This is a tool that website agency owners have been talking about for awhile now. I finally jumped onboard this past month after watching a webinar and realizing its potential. Essentially Process.st is an easy way to record your processes as templates, then spin off as many checklists as needed to complete and document that the process (template) has been completed. Think client or employee onboarding, podcast publishing, event planning, or anything that is comprised of multiple steps that must be completed. Because it integrates with Zapier, Process.st essentially integrates with anything – your CRM, project manager, email, calendar, AirTable, etc.
They offer a 14 day free trial of their Business Pro plan, which should be sufficient time to experiment and learn if this tool would be helpful to you. Check it out here: https://processstreet.grsm.io/ztsm
Teamwork offers a suite of products, from project management to help desk, CRM, file storage, etc. We use their Teamwork PM and Teamwork Desk products in our day-to-day business operations. We’ve used multiple project management tools over the years, beginning with DeskAway, then Basecamp 2, before finding our way to Teamwork. What’s the difference? Teamwork PM offers task dependencies, sub-tasks, granular privacy selectors, the ability to spin off task lists as templates, integrations with other cloud-based SAAS products, and file categorization.
For us, it was a good switch, especially since it integrates seamlessly with Teamwork Desk, the tool we rely on to manage our help desk for website support. Learn more about Teamwork PM here: https://www.teamwork.com/partner/gwlpqdad9k
I can’t say enough good things about AirTable. It’s Excel on steroids … way more than a detailed spreadsheet. AirTable is a database that’s easy to use, with unlimited ways to configure then share views of your data. You don’t have to be a data nerd to love it.
We’re using one AirTable base to keep track of all support information for our website care plan customers via an integration set up with Teamwork PM and Zapier. Another base compiles our SEO keyword research per customer. Then there’s one we use to track our digital assets to stay on the right side of copyright law. I’m in the process of setting up another one as an organization calendar that will display recording dates, launch dates, membership events, and social media posts. By configuring views, I can offer exactly the information each department needs – no more, no less, while only entering the information once.
Follow this link to learn more about AirTable: https://airtable.com/invite/r/GeETzxwC
Google Drive, Evernote, MS Word
These are good starting points and we’ve relied on them for years. But as our business processes grow in scope, as our team and customer base grows, I’ve found them to be incomplete as an overall solution. Now we integrate Google Drive as storage for our Teamwork workspace. Customer notebooks in Evernote hold notes on the fly that relate to their branding, message, email campaign, or code notes per website. Much of this will likely migrate into Process.st over time. MS Word – I keep threatening to eliminate our subscription. It might get opened a few times per year. There are so many better tools for the job.
A business can succeed or fail on how well its systems and processes are thought out, and how well they’re implemented. But that’s only half the battle. Make sure to also document your processes so that they’re easily understood and shared. Prepare yourself and your team so that they can handle whatever is needed when you or another key player is completely unavailable. It’s only a matter of time.
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This post appeared first on Zero To Sixty Marketing’s Inside Line to More Business blog.