What are some tips to building more structure around my business?
Initially I did not worry about how to manage growth. I was focused on just producing my product, getting feedback and increasing sales. I use excel for a lot, including tracking my finances and sales. As I have grown, it's become unwiedly. I know I need to start using some tools to help keep my business more organized, but I got so behind in this that I don't know where to start. It seems overwhelming to not only learn about my options, but then to figure out how to transfer all of my data now. And I am so busy with trade shows and other every day business tasks. Has anyone else been in this situation? How have you tackled getting your business more organized. Thanks.
It appears you are active enough and if you also have sufficient cash flow I would retain a book-keeper pronto. There is the risk of the present moment and the down-the-line risk. Get a hold of this matter right away. Once that is done it would be a good time to sit down and set a road map for the future of your business. You are the driver and whether you choose a bumpy or smooth road is up to you.
Are you looking for something mostly in the customer management, marketing, and sales area? If so, possibly Infusionsoft or Entreport might be worth looking at. They're both very popular with the online marketing crowd and can help with marketing automation, follow-up and customer tracking.
If you're looking for something more project management oriented, possibly BaseCamp, Trello or Asana would be good places to start your search.
If CRM, ZOHO or salesforce.com are worth looking at.
If you need it narrowed down further, please add what area of your business you're trying to focus on or what you'd like to accomplish. But my guess is Infusionsoft or Entreport to track where your leads are coming from, send offers and follow ups, and track purchasing history to customize your sales funnels.
What do you think?
Since we really don't know what is going on, the best option would be to hire a business coach to help you get everything organized and make recommendations on how to better run the business.
Another thing you should consider is hiring a book keeper to keep track of your financials. Talk to your accountant and he/she should be able to recommend the financial software they use and a book keeper to enter the data.
If you aren't skilled in managing or do not want that job, hire someone with good business skills to do that.
Hi Carrie ,
Two things which are very evident from what you have asked is that you are now pretty satisfied and confident about your existing growth . Number two is that you are mostly involved in product research , sales and marketing .
Being the owner and eventual bearer of all risks and rewards i would suggest you to change your focus to building an ERP platform for the company including a CRM module. This should be strictly done with a cost and time budget and supervised by you with KPI's.
Delegate your existing tasks to someone you trust and has the same energy and background of your product and company. Just track the KPI's of these areas through targets and actual achievements on a periodic bases.
Best Of Luck,
You are facing good problems, Carrie. There are many people envy you.
However, this is the time where your first vicious mistake going to happen. This come from researches and observations of SMEs I had from passed 17 years.
No real trick in doing good business, what you need to possess are to hold the same level of caution to ensure every step is carefully executed. I am not asking you not to take risk, but just make sure every step you take is carefully executed.
Back to a "more structure around your business", I see two levels of actions:
1. engage the best people to fill up your back office
2. adopt some applications that not affecting your operation much but greatly improve you data processing - this is normally a strategy for a newbie to adopt some organized software.
The above 2 actions are essential with little guarantee of success. Contradict? Yes, it is. This is because you never have experience in managing these type of people (especially, lack of that field of expertise), you tend to be bullied by them. Software for someone who lack experience can become a burden rather than help. For newbie, to avoid too big setback and still able gain some benefits, choosing software to reduce data processing as top priority help you to make decision.
Engage best people, you need to get trustworthy one as top priority. Next, you need to know how to manage them, because the approach and expectation will be different. The best people will advise you the best processes and software to use at the same time. THEREFORE, I will rank BEST PEOPLE over good software at this point.
Too expensive? get yourself an Interim C-level professional + some young energetic creative full time employee. Very good coach/ mentor may be useful if he or she is an expertise in the subject matter.
Careful + best people + some software application => a progressive and steady growth for you - all the best
It is not easy. You need to get some help go put a plan together. Outside help will probably be for the best. If cost to get it done, but Start up business can't try do it all themselves. I advise companies on this all the time. I am sure a simple format of Business Execution Planning will be for the best. Focus on These factors: Relationship Management, Roadmap to Revenue, Customer Success and Administration. Happy to help with this if you are interested
I'm not well-versed on tools to manage finances so I'll stick to general organization and productivity tools.
For Customer Feedback: There are a lot of great tools for this. Off the top of my head, GetSatisfaction jumped out to me but this might be a more comprehensive list: http://blog.clientheartbeat.com/customer-feedback-software/
For general organization: I'd recommend getting a good task manager to organize all of your tasks. Unfortunately, I still haven't found one that meets all of my criteria and updates fast enough so I just have a Google doc with all of my tasks that I order roughly by priority and group into sections. This might sound old-school and daunting but every task manager I've used slows down too much at scale and takes way too long to add a task. With my "task manager", I can add a task in less than 5 seconds, order it just as quick, access it in anywhere, and do a full text search.
Once you've figured out what tasks to work on: have structured discussion threads on tools like Basecamp, etc. for each big project. And avoid email! It's easy for stuff to get buried and/or disorganized in email. A structured discussion thread lets you see everything about a particular project in one place when you want to see it.
A database can be helpful to organize large amounts of data, it also enable you to create custom queries and reports that would help you to better analyze your data. Excel files can be exported into the more standardize CSV or XML format which can then be easily imported into many database systems. The interface you would use to access and manipulate your data would depend on your particular requirements and experience.
Try 17hats.com - it covers ALL aspects of what you'll have to accomplish. You set it up and start using for all NEW business activities, after a few weeks you'll most of the business operations running smoothly and almost automatically- then gradually add the old clients (or hire someone to add it).
Hello Carrie ,I was in the same situation as you mentioned ,I advice you to record you all transaction on excel sheets , as two colums only recievings & expenses with dates along with attached documents , once you need to hire experts or use any soft system then easily can transfer all transactions at any time , with you all the best .
The good news is that this is a very common problem. Of course, that does not solve it.
Walter made some great points. I don't know how long you have been in business, but there are always basic things to work through.
First is to delegate or outsource everything non-critical to directly serving the customer/client OR the important things that you are not necessarily good at.
Longer term, you have to recognize that the most important thing is to get your business so it is not totally dependent on you and that your business is an important asset to build for the future. I don't know if it will be of any help, but I just recently did an online training event talking about the relationship of creating freedom for yourself as the owner and maximizing the value of your business -- likely your most important asset.
You can watch a recording of that online training event, if you have an interest, by going to this link: http://bit.ly/1KHS7Yj
You need management level data analysis not looking through spreadsheets. It's time to look at pie charts and animated bar graphs - the kind a CEO gets. Get someone to write a VBA script for you and tell them to put in some drill down, so you can get the raw stuff whenever you need it.
The first obligate step is CRM. There are a lot of free tools to start and learn, for example http://www.freecrm.com.
Richard Stern-Managing growth structure has to do with creating an Action Plan.
The Plan sets out the operations and financial health of the company to support expansion.
Writing the Plan provides management with the opportunity to see how each department of the company along with staff is supporting current business requirements and their capacity to handle more business and their ability to manage the challenges that will be a part of growth.
At the same time management can apply the financial and staff requirements by department