Service-based business often start as one person with a dream – freedom, doing what they love, working around the kids, travel etc. Fast forward 3 years, and the picture typically shifts to a heightened sense of anxiety, relentless juggling and feeling stuck on a hamster wheel, all the while trying to make good decisions about spending….this is what we call uncomfortable growth. It’s good, but it can feel hard.
For some, ‘shiny object syndrome’ enters the room. Others find themselves best friends with analysis paralysis. Regardless of which side of the fence you’re on, there are foundational tech tools we believe all growing businesses should embrace. These tools support growth that feels less grind we assure you, the time and potential cost investment in these tools offer a great ROI, topping up your time bank and dialling down your stress-ometer.
A task manager is a digital tool that helps organise, prioritise, and track all your business tasks in one accessible place, simplifying workflow and team coordination
Tool Suggestion: At Empire Virtual Support we’re big fans of ClickUp for its comprehensive features. For beginners, Trello or Todoist are great choices, while Asana or Monday.com suit mid-level perfectly.
Impact Tip: Create and store your SOPs within the task manager, linking them to frequently repeated tasks. This ensures team members have instant access to specific procedures. Hello less questions! Hello less mistakes! Remember, keeping these SOPs updated is key!
A shared digital list of tasks streamlines delegation and progress tracking, leading to more efficient project completion. It’s hard to imagine managing a business without a Task Management tool without their brain exploding from mental load.
A time tracking tool is a digital application that records the amount of time you and your team spend on specific tasks, providing valuable insights for efficiency and budget management.
Tool Suggestion: Clockify is our top pick for cost effectiveness and features. For larger businesses, like agencies or consultancies, Harvest is ideal for tracking cost-to-time ratios. Also noteworthy is Click-Ups native (built-in) time tracking tool, while more basic, it’s free and being integrated within the same platform boosts productivity further.
Impact Tip: Time tracking is great for budgeting and auditing team efficiency – it’s a no brainer. But its real value during growth phases lies in helping business owners identify if time is spent well or wasted. This reality check helps to build a list of outsourceable time eating tasks and also potentially build a position description for their early hires. Being unaware of how you spend your time is a direct path to burnout.
Time tracking is crucial not just for budget and pricing strategies, but its also essentially for making growth feel ‘nicer’. Understanding time spent on tasks gives you the confidence and justification for outsourcing and/or hiring….therefore safeguarding you from being totally swallowed up by your business.
Electronic Contract Issuing tools are digital platforms that simplify creating, sending, and signing legal documents, making the process quick and error-free.
Tool Suggestion: For regular users of contracts and signable documents, Pandadoc is our top recommendation. It is incredibly easy to create and edit templates and with a couple of clicks (or none if you automate – but that’s another blog) the document is shared with nothing more for you to do until you receive the signed document. For infrequent senders requiring legally binding signatures, we LOVE e-signature.io – this is a true Pay As You Go platform, at just a couple of bucks per document, it’s a no brainer!
Impact Tip: Identify your most frequently used documents, like Contractor Agreements, Service Agreements or Non-Disclosure Agreements. Create templates for these in your chosen platform and use what is called merge fields (these pull data automatically like home address, name, date of birth etc). This will infinitely speed up the issuing process and ensures accuracy allowing team delegation. Yep, it’s another step back towards freedom!
In essence, electronic contract issuing tools not only streamline your document handling process but also significantly enhance team efficiency and accuracy in legal document management.
A password manager is a digital tool that securely stores and manages all your passwords, allowing easy and safe access to various accounts with a single master password.
Tool Suggestion: We highly recommend 1Password for it’s versatile ‘vault’ system. It allows you to create distinct vaults for clients, team members, departments, or any other grouping, ensuring precise control over access. This eliminates the need for individual password sharing and lets you securely share a vault with all necessary credentials for specific projects or client work.
Impact Tip: Beyond the obvious security benefits, what we love most about password managers is the time saved through auto-populate login fields. Considering the numerous platforms we all log into daily, this feature not only saves time, but it supercharges security as you no longer need to use your dog’s name as a password – you can use complex passwords without the hassle of remembering them – the password manager does it for you.
A password manager like 1Password is a game-changer for both security and efficiency, streamlining access to various platforms while maintaining robust security protocols.
Bookkeeping software are comprehensive digital tools designed to manage all your financial transactions, from invoicing to expense tracking, simplifying the financial aspects of your business
Tool Suggestion: Our top recommendation for bookkeeping is XERO. We love it. For some it feels pricey when starting out but save yourself the headache and invest from the beginning. After all, every business is established with the goal of making money. Besides your primary motivations, the bottom line is financial stability. Digitising your finances with a tool like XERO is an undeniable must.
Impact Tip: Digitising your invoices, automating payment instructions and reminders, integrating bank and expense data for easy reconciliation, and generating instant Profit and Loss reports…oh bookkeeping software, let me count the ways you impact my life.
In summary, move beyond using a spreadsheets and Word documents. Look professional, be efficient, make less mistakes and set up your finances from day 1. You will not regret it.
Internal communication tools facilitate streamlined and instant messaging within teams, allowing for efficient real-time collaboration and organisation of conversations.
Tool Suggestion: As of the time of writing (Feb 2024) Slack is our top choice for its 1:1 chats, searchable history, and group channels. However, with AI’s growing influence, expect more innovative tools to emerge. Stay tuned for potential updates. Google Chat is also improving, and we’re eager to see task management tools integrate more advanced native chat features.
Impact Tip: Establish a rule for using chat tools for brief queries. Questions like ‘Did John prefer blue or red envelopes?’ don’t need an email. Use chat for brainstorming and quick clarifications, reserving emails for finalised ideas and documents.
Create channels for each department or project and use the ‘pin’ feature for crucial documents or posts. For example, in a client project channel, pin the briefing document, brand guidelines, and meeting transcripts for quick access.. No more searching email. These tools often include quick video/audio call features. We’re hopeful for AI advancements that will auto-transcribe these conversations, so that you can locate anything from those discussions with ease!
Using internal communication tools effectively organises dialogue, streamlines workflow, and keeps email for more substantial communications, thereby saving time and increasing productivity.”
A CRM system centralises customer data and streamlines interactions, making it easier to manage and nurture business relationships effectively.
Tool Suggestion: Selecting a favourite CRM tool is challenging due to the variety of excellent options available. The key is to find one that aligns with your business needs and scales with your growth. Whether it’s Salesforce for its comprehensive features or HubSpot for its user-friendly interface, the choice depends on your specific requirements.
Impact Tip: A CRM system is a treasure trove of features, each offering distinct benefits for your business. Key features to consider include:
A CRM system is an invaluable ally in the journey of business growth. With a CRM, you’re not juggling client information; you’re strategically nurturing relationships, making every interaction more impactful and less labour-intensive. In essence, a CRM system doesn’t just store data – it’s a growth partner that helps your business thrive with fewer hurdles and more meaningful connections.
And there you have it – the tech toolkit we believe will transforming your one-person dream into a thriving, streamlined business during that sometimes-uncomfortable growth phase. Remember, while every tool has its place, it’s the appropriate use of them that truly adds value to your business.
Feeling swamped by business growth challenges? Our Service Delivery Blueprint is your lifeline to freedom. Tailored for solopreneurs and small teams, we turn scaling pains into gains, ensuring your growth is smooth and efficient. Book a free Discovery Call today to learn more about this process and how support your growth without loss of freedom!