5 Tools that Changed the Way I Do Business

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I write about lots of tools, but mostly tools that help you do a better job with marketing or social media or SEO. Today I want to spend some time sharing tools I use to run my business.

Like so many folks these days, I’ve assembled a team that includes in office staff, remote staff and third party collaborators for projects and specific business services.

I’ve spent  many years juggling communication and managing projects in what could only be described as something akin to a stack of file folders laced with email.

I tried this project management tool and that task list making tool, but once I totally reframed what a project could be, the tools became incredibly more useful.

What we’ve begun to realize is that business is little more than a series of systems. And every system, a series of processes, and every new initiative, simply a project, and every project simply a series of tasks. Okay, stay with me here, but when you start to view your business with this kind of thinking, you can start to organize everything around the smallest unit possible – the task.

So, now a task is as simple as reading an article or sending an email. When you start to adopt this view you can start to see how you might organize and track the fact that most everything you want to accomplish in your business can be deemed a project (and remember a project is just a bunch of tasks.)

We use Asana to organize everything as projects. Asana makes it very easy to create and report on tasks associated with projects and, of course, you can bring anyone from outside into a project. The key to making this tool really click for me was when I decided anything can be a project. My daily plan, our weekly staff meeting, even my goals for the year are now in Asana as projects. The net effect, as Asana rightly promotes as a value proposition, is far greater organization and far, far less internal email.

We turned to Pocket as a way to organize content. We save content to read later, content related to a research project, content that we want everyone to see, and content we are curating for clients.

We starting employing Smartsheet as a way to create marketing and editorial calendars for clients and found that it allowed us to think about projects and proposals from a spreadsheet mindset instead of a document mindset. When I started doing this, proposals got a lot easier to create because I thought about money and backed into them. Mind you, this isn’t the best or only way to create plans, but it’s another way to view the same problem from a different angle, and I can’t tell you how important that distinction is when you’re trying to keep your creative muscles engaged.

Documenting processes via Process.st was the next big step in embracing our systems thinking. Imagine the value of creating assets out of your proven processes and then turning those assets into checklists that allow anyone in your business to immediately grasp how to make decisions. We divided our processes up by creating a functional org chart that focuses on what needs to be done rather than who’s doing what. This step allowed us to create a giant list of the processes that need eventual documenting and the subsequent priority in terms of tackling the creation.

Lastly, we improved our communication internally and externally using a tool called Hipchat. Hipchat is instant messaging powered by chat rooms. This way we can create team chat windows that allow for individual chats and group chats and segregate them by topic. We can also share files and links and initiate audio and video chat sessions on the fly. Essentially, this is chat organized and structured with search.

Some of these tools have cross-over functionality, but we’ve adopted and integrated them in a way that I believe will make our business run better and ultimately make it more valuable.



Asana, Hipchat, Pocket, Process.st, Smartsheet

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