We’ve put together some common times that your business might need some help: Can’t tell if my employees are working It’s different running a business that is predominantly remote. You used to be able to walk past someone’s desk or have full-sight of their computer so you’d know if they weren’t working and you’d know if they weren’t even in the office. With remote work, you don’t know if people are working 100% of the time unless you install screen-monitoring software on their computers or implement a policy for webcams on 100% of the time during work hours. The issue with tracking in this way is that it erodes trust, so what is the alternative? By moving to a task-based work environment and using software to work collaboratively, you’ll have visibility into what work is completed during the week. You might still have a weekly meeting to discuss any potential roadblocks to getting work done but can see in real-time what tasks are completed, see links to completed work, see completion times and monitor SLAs across all your staff. By careful about what you measure (i.e. number of tasks can lead to employees breaking down their work into a large number of tasks), give ongoing feedback on work and, over time, you’ll develop a culture where you can “trust but verify”. In short: Remote work lends itself to a task-based work monitoring approach. Use tech and simple processes to see what your team is working on. Our new app is a solution in search of a problem We’d never admit that it was the slick promo video or the recommendation from a productivity geek but, somehow, we ended up with an app that we’re trying to sell to train our staff how to use. Does it fit into your workflow map, enhance your customer experience or provide more automation to your business? Does it fit within your software budget and provide an over-sized ROI for the use of their time, use of your technology goodwill (in having them trust your choice) and cost, time and effort to change everyone’s habits? Top tips? Keep all your team’s app recommendations and business improvement ideas in a dedicated space where your team can discuss and vote on at a monthly meeting. If a specific recommendation is a big win for your business, reward your staff member for their thoughtfulness and repeat the process next month. In Short: Apps cost so much more than the sticker price. Plan your tech spend based on the highest ROI issues before you buy that beautiful, new, life-changing app or software deal. Tasks are assigned everywhere There are variable power and role dynamics in all organisations but most people are clear on who can give them tasks and to whom they can assign tasks to do. The issue is in how tasks are delivered. Let’s step to the side and look at the analogy of sending someone a message with an image. Your mind thinks of all the options for how to contact someone and narrows down the options to email. It will generally avoid the spam folder & get to them, they can read the message when they want and it is unlikely to disappear. You wouldn’t write the message in chalk outside their house (even if you were a chalk artist) or write a message in the sky (even if you were a skywriter), you show the empathy to deliver the message in the format that mainly suits them and partially suits you. Considering the above example when thinking about tasks, in modern workplaces, tasks are communicated through video meetings verbally, in-person meetings verbally, via chat apps, via email, via CRMs, via project management software, via task management software, via text etc. If we think alter the above quote, it becomes “show the empathy to deliver tasks in the format that mainly suits them and partially suits you”. Some empathetic ways to give people tasks: Adding the task to their task manager with a due date or label for urgency, with attachments, with instructions and with links to any program they might need to use During a meeting, writing the tasks down for the person who will do the work (and letting them know at the start of the meeting that you are writing them down and will email the tasks to them) and sending to them in bullet-point format Setting rules in your company that you don’t assign tasks via chat channels or text messages as the UX of these channels means they can easily get lost unless left unread Consider having open task channels for teams so people can rearrange their tasks, assign to each other, pick up more tasks when they have capacity etc If using CRM or project management software, assign the task and attach to the client’s details so the person doing the task is dropped in-context when opening the task In Short: Having any structure for assigning tasks is like herding sheep but is worth setting up to bring more calm to your company. The golden rule? “Show the empathy to deliver tasks in the format that mainly suits them and partially suits you”. We can’t update our website ourselves It often starts well. You meet with a talented designer who listens to your needs, speaking in the second-language of code 50% of the time, gives you a quote then designs you a website that works. For updates, you either sign an ongoing service package for hundreds of dollars per month or you need to contact them to do updates (and get billed on an hourly basis…”How long does it take to update a plugin?). This agreement can work well for most clients but the problems start happening when changing an image/text on the website seems to cost too much or take too long or is completed, but with mistakes. How do you get around this? A few quick tips: Always have the website domain name in your own name, on your own account and paid by you. This is the key ownership piece you need to have freedom in the future. Understand the scope of what your website needs to do. You might only need a single page website that looks professional and has a contact form or you might need a shopping cart with upsells or you might need a way to sell courses through your website. Get unbiased advice on the cheap, standard and premium options for the type of site you need. If you want a site that you update yourself, include that in the contract when your site is built. Have your designer create 10 short videos on the common tasks that you will do on the site i.e. update images, add a blog post, add a page etc Try to avoid custom-made themes for your websites as they’re costly to update later and often lead to you being dependant on your designer/developing forever (or until they stop designing/developing). Know the ballpark figure for website builds. Ask your friends, consider the value to your business, get quotes. Consider having the website and emails set up on your own hosting account. Hosting doesn’t have to be expensive and having everything billed to you means you can adjust your strategy in the future with ease. There is plenty of other considerations when creating a new website or updating an existing website, get in touch if you need some quick advice or want to discuss a build or upgrade. In Short: Set up your website so you have support now, access to make changes and freedom to move in the future. We don’t have a content calendar Sharing the work your company does in a natural, engaging way is an art. You want to be generous, funny, helpful but also not spend hours crafting content that might not move the needle in your business. Creating a content calendar helps your team plan out the framework for your consistent monthly content. You can still add posts on the fly but these fill in the gaps in your schedule. By implementing simple software to plan content copy, images, categories, publication dates and ensure approval of content, you’ll be organised and more likely to stay on-brand and in your social followers feeds (by being rewarded for consistent content by social networks). As an example, Twitter’s Agency Playbook recommends: In Short: Plan the baseline for your posts and fill in the gaps with daily content. We don’t have a knowledge base When you’re considering the valuable IP that makes up your business, you need to value the documented systems, processes & business information that are included in your knowledge base. For most companies, only part of this information is stored in cloud storage files (with no culture compelling employees to update them) and the rest is stored in employee’s heads. By having your information stored in multiple places and everyone too busy to update anything, steps in your process get missed, staff get mixed messages around what to do and people start relying on their managers to tell them again and again what to do. How do you solve this in a sustainable way? By building a culture that thinks about the bigger picture (training new staff, the value of the company, calmer systems) and has as simple process to quickly document what they’re doing, you’ll have a calmer work environment and less need for managers to repeat themselves. In Short: Winning company cultures provide breathing space for employees to think longer-term, documenting what they do for other employees and new hires. We don’t know how to outsource People make outsourcing seem easy and they’re lying. Some simple tasks do take more time to outsource than to do yourself. Some tasks present an over-sized risk to your company if the freelancer or contractor has bad intentions. If you can’t train, you might not be able to outsource. You can waste so much time hiring, training and in new meetings that could have been avoided. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t outsource, it just means that you need to take it slow and cover your bases. Some things to note before outsourcing: Referrals from friends are gold. If they outsource to a company they love, get the contact details of the company and give your friend a hug. Outsourcing amplifies. If you’ve got solid processes, you get more done. If you’ve got chaos, you’re about to light a fuse. Think software first. Outsourcing is more expensive than software and is less reliable because we’re all human. Get advice on whether software exists to automate the process before hiring someone to do the task. Think automation second. You can set up simple automations to make your life easier e.g. posting to your blog triggers posting to social or moving a client to a stage in your CRM triggers an email asking them to leave a review. Start with hiring for a task. Hiring a writer for your blog has limited variables and set deliverables. You want two blog posts per week with that content distilled down into 8 social media posts (with images). You want the posts to work for your simple SEO strategy and want to quickly see visually if the content meets your strategy. Set turnaround time, set task and a set price lead to more certainty. Set appropriate software permissions. Most software allows for you to set people up as users rather than admins with limited access. If you need to make someone an admin for a specific task, give them co-admin access and set yourself a task to downgrade their access later. Use a password manager. It’s painful to spend the few hours to set it up and then the first week or so to get used to adding in your master password but you will sleep 1% better at night knowing you can revoke access whenever you want. Create a human-centred, simple way to document processes. It makes things clear, helps if a team member leaves and adds value to your business if you wanted to sell one day. These are just some basics to get started and each situation is unique. Get in touch if you want to discuss how you can dip your toes in the water of outsourcing. In Short: Outsourcing amplifies but be careful about what you’re amplifying. We have a leaky sales funnel Marketing is expensive! You spend so much time and effort to get people to come to your website or book a sales discovery call and they’re not converting, not trialling, not buying. It’s at times like this that you need to take a step back, spend some time to create a workflow map that includes your sales process, get customer feedback then start to experiment, test and refine your offering. By having increased visibility in the areas that you have control over, your whole team can focus on getting feedback, trialling new processes and refining your offering until your sales increase. In Short: If your sales process isn’t getting the conversions your company needs, take a step back, build a workflow map, get customer feedback and start testing new ideas. We’ve outgrown Gmail and Outlook Gmail or Outlook got your company to where it is but your inbox is busting at the seams. Most of your employees spend the best hours of their morning responding to email, starting group emails, forwarding emails to each other and trying to find the latest version of that file to attach to their email. Short-term fixes are using more advanced Gmail or Outlook features and moving more conversations out of email & across to other communication channels. Thinking longer-term, you’re going to need a simple help desk solution that is set up for personal and group inboxes, you’ll need a set of saved replies to speed up responses, you’ll need a FAQs section or a knowledge base for clients (& SEO), you’ll need reporting and a way to share the email load and you’ll need to be able to jump into other software while you’re reading someone’s email. Email can be the silent killer in a business unless you get organised, stay simple and use the right tools for the size company you’ve become. In Short: Email processing can eat up the most valuable and energetic part of your day. Enhance your process or upgrade your system to empower your company’s growth.