Yes, it is November and it is the time for the proverbial “What Are You Thankful For” posts and articles. It is also where you see everyone on Facebook listing out their daily diatribe of what they are thankful for. This time of year typically makes most people stop and think about giving thanks, Facebook just makes it easy. Now is also the time of year where I am working with all my clients to help them get their marketing and blogging schedules together so they can face the new year ready to go. As I meet with each and every one of them and try to help them stay on top of everything that has to get done – especially before the end of the year – the conversation always comes up on how to be more organized, what can save me money, how do I work smarter not harder, the list goes on.
So it got me thinking. I should put together a list of “must haves”. My “what am I thankful for and could not live without” list. My husband and I obviously rely heavily on technology for our work. I mean, duh, you have no choice when you are married to a technology expert. But every year something changes and as I look back on all that has happened, it is hard to imagine not having the things on my list while I work. So this “What Am I Thankful For” list is in regards to my running my business.
1. My iPhone – Wow. What an invention. I even posted the question of what are you thankful for on my Facebook page and the responses were overwhelming towards the iPhone. I asked one of my friends and business owner her thoughts and she agreed – iPhone. And who could blame her? Almost every item on this list mentions an “App for that” and it is true. The iPhone allows me to run my business from virtually anywhere. Email, contacts, my calendar, the Internet – all at your fingertips and it instantly connects you with whatever you need to do to run your small business. I look back and laugh at all the extra steps we had to take to accomplish things we do now with a few taps on our iPhone. Simply amazing. If you are not on the iPhone bandwagon – get there. You will not regret it.
2. Trello – this is an online “work in progress” board that everyone in your company can log onto to see the status of projects. You can also create checklists, attach photos, drawings, and deadlines that will email you reminders. You can organize each project, called a “board”, and assign project managers to it. You can archive past projects as well if you need to refer to something you did in the past. Best part – totally free. And of course, there is an app for that. So you can add something to your to-do list when you are on the go. This app is also perfect for remote teams as you can simply drag and drop projects to another board — it’s a way of keeping your team in the loop especially in meeting a deadline. Here’s an article from Time Doctor to discuss more on how to use Trello for remote teams.
3. Quickbooks Online – in full disclosure, I am a recent convert. I was über careful about my Quickbooks and ridiculously anal with it. So I kicked my feet and screamed all the way through this process. And sadly – that was unnecessary. It really has been a huge help. Not only can my husband see and fill out his own receipts and invoices, but I do not have to worry about sending my accountant my QuickBooks file periodically. You simply invite them to have “Accountant” access so they can jump on and see everything you see. And of course, everything is online so back ups are taken care of. And once again, there are apps for that, so you can fill out sales receipts on the go when you are in the moment. Genius.
4. Neat Receipts – as I mentioned above, I am anal when it comes to keeping track of my business. I used to keep every single receipt of every purchase, so naturally it was a paperwork nightmare – and difficult to store. I have boxes of files with our receipts – even when I just bought a cup of coffee when I was with a client. But as of January this year, I went paperless. So now, my handy little scanner is scanning all of those crazy receipts and I have categories listed in the software that match the categories in Quickbooks so I can pull up a receipt instantly and print it off, email it, you name it. It’s so handy – especially if someone else needs the receipt for something.
5. Square – this is one of my favorites. Who would have thought years ago that small businesses could have the ability to swipe credit cards from anywhere and not be charged out the wazoo for it? Super convenient, I can run a card from my desktop and of course, from my iPhone – yes, there is an app for that. My Square account lets me play with the big boys. And they just announced last week that they would eliminate waiting periods and transaction limits. They are here to play.
6. WordPress – a simply genius web platform that puts the control back in the lay person’s hands. Starting out as mostly a blogging interface, WordPress has really come a long way with its capabilities and functions. Now you can build fully functioning websites that can also be a web store and more. Or if you are into simplicity, it can still just be a blog. The beauty is that you can log on and update your info in seconds. No more calling the webmaster and being charged every time you want a simple change. I used to have clients that kept a running list of all the items they wanted changed on their website. They would wait until they had a certain number before they called so they would not be overcharged by their webmaster. Ridiculous. This is your business and your website. You should have the control. WordPress makes this happen.
7. My Red Velvet Rope Policy – back in 2007 I met a wonderful person named Michael Port and took his coaching program, Book Yourself Solid. It changed my life – and my company philosophy. Lesson #1 in that system is called the “Red Velvet Rope Policy”. It simply states to only work with the people that energize and inspire you and motivate you to do your best work. Analyze the qualities – not necessarily the circumstances – of the people you want to work with and surround yourself with those people. Be bold, brave, and fully self-expressed when you are marketing so you attract them and you will love what you do every day. This method is not hard, but it is courageous in the beginning when you are trying to get your business off the ground. But once you do it, trust me, you will never go back. I truly love all of my clients and can not imagine not working with such amazing people on a daily business.
8. Constant Contact – I have been using this system for six years now. It was truly ahead of its time then and continues to grow and adapt to new and emerging technology. For those of you that don’t know, it is an email database system that stores all of your email addresses and lets you send email newsletters, postcards, invitations, standard emails, etc. to your network. They have newsletter templates you can use, you can create your own if you wish, or you can have their designers do it for you. They house all the emails, so they handle all the drama that goes with sending out large volumes of e-mail. If one is kicked back due to a bad address, they let you know in the email stats and you can take care of it from there. I also like that it is a monthly fee that is a flat rate, and you are not charged per email you send out. So you can stay connected to your network every day if you wanted. And of course, there is an app where you can add people’s email addresses on the go – so you can keep you database up to date wherever you are. There are also WordPress plugins so you can have people sign up for your newsletter right from your website.
9. Being My Own Boss – I’m pretty sure this goes without saying. Now mind you, I still have deadlines and projects and things that have to be done on time and to someone else’s satisfaction, but that is easy to do when you adhere to the Red Velvet Rope Policy (#7). The beauty of this point is that I didn’t totally realize how important it was to me until some of life’s larger situations came up that I had to deal with. Things like children being born or needing me for a million different things. Or when my mother was so sick and I was the only one who could do anything about it – because I could. I consider myself super fortunate that I was able to handle her passing the way I wanted and needed to. This wasn’t something I could have done if I was not my own boss.
10. Other Business Owners – this is one that took me a long time to appreciate. In the beginning of being a novice business owner, I thought that everything had to be figured out on your own or for a very steep price. Not true. Other small business owners WANT to help you and are happy to do so if you ask for help. There is an unspoken camaraderie that motivates us all to help one another. We share best practices, mistakes, wins, losses, and lists like this one that can help one another run their business better. Think of these people as your own personal Board of Directors and include them when you need help. I recommend joining your local Chamber of Commerce and start developing these relationships so you can have someone to lean on when you need it.
That pretty much sums up a brief list of what I am thankful for. Honorable mentions also include Contactually, my MacBook Pro, Time Capsule, Pandora, a second monitor, Social Media, and wine. I could go on, but I want to hear from you. What, as a business owner, are you thankful for?